Chelsea v Portsmouth: Preview

 

 

                      

 Today sees Chelsea’s first competitive game since the Champions League defeat to Manchester United, at home to Portsmouth. As seems to be a fairly frequent event these days, it also marks the start of another ‘new era’ under yet another new manager.

With Didier Drogba still injured, Salomon Kalou at the Olympics, Andriy Shevchenko’s match fitness questionable, and Claudio Pizarro back on loan at Werder Bremen, we start the season with a bit of a striker crisis and Nicolas Anelka is expected to start up front on his own. The Frenchman certainly seemed to enjoy his pre-season games and according to Scolari has “looked good in training”, although psychologically he still needs a bit of work. Scolari suggests “he is quiet. If you say ‘good morning’ to him he will say ‘good morning’ back but if you don’t he won’t say anything.” And whilst I’m not really sure what all that is about, I definitely agree with Scolari that “we need to put fire in Anelka” this season.

Chelsea won’t be seeing players like Claude Makelele, Tal Ben Haim, Khalid Boulahrouz and Steve Sidwell who all departed in the summer although I’m sure our highly paid ‘world exclusive’ signing will work hard enough for all of them. A debut is expected for new signing Jose Bosingwa, whilst 19 year old Franco Di Santo could be named on the bench as back up for Anelka. Chelsea injuries include Didier Drogba, Andriy Shevchenko and Michael Essien, Deco is another possible absentee having sat out training Friday.

Last season’s FA Cup winners and this year’s Charity Shield losers, Portsmouth will be looking to improve on last year, which saw their most successful season in the Premier League to date. They’ve certainly had a busy summer in the transfer market, acquiring Glen Little, Ben Sahar, Peter Crouch, Omar Alieu and Younes Kaboul, although losing Sulley Muntari to Inter Milan.

Jermain Defoe and Peter Crouch could be the starting partnership up front (presumably with Kanu benched) whilst John Utaka and Papa Bouba Diop may both start in central midfield, with a start for Jerome Thomas a possibility following the departure of Pedro Mendes. Kaboul could start his debut on the bench as cover for Sol Campbell and Sylvain Distin and on the injury front, Harry Redknapp will be without Sean Davis, Glen Little, Noe Pamarot, David Nugent and Linvoy Primus.

 

KEY PLAYERS

CHELSEA

Frank Lampard – despite spells out injured, finished last season Chelsea’s top scorer with 20 goals (10 PL). Always a threat and out to prove he’s worth the new contract maybe?

PORTSMOUTH

Jermain Defoe – needs a couple to reach 100 career league goals and always seems to do well against Chelsea.

 

CLUB FORM

CHELSEA

Second place finish last season (88 points), 2 points behind the champions Manchester United. Chelsea have won their opening league fixture for the past six seasons, scoring three goals in their opening league games for the last two seasons. Chelsea are unbeaten in their last 21 league games, winning 15 and drawing 6, in fact, the 1-0 defeat away at Arsenal on 16 December 2007 was their only loss in 31 games. Chelsea currently have the best Premier League record in this calendar year (13 wins, 5 draws) and remain the only top flight club yet to lose a league game in 2008. Won 50 and drawn 18 of 68 games in all competitions at home (last defeat on 22 February 2006, 1-2 to Barcelona in the Champions League) and not lost a league game at Stamford Bridge since 21 February 2004 (1-2 defeat to Arsenal). Chelsea have kept 63 clean sheets in 114 Premier League games over the last 3 seasons and require only one more to total 250 in Premier League history.

PORTSMOUTH

Last season’s 8th place saw their highest in the Premier League with a points total of 57. From 6 attempts, Portsmouth are trying for their third winning start in the Premier League. Last season’s opening day draw to Derby (2-2) was the only time during the 2007/8 campaign for Pompey to drop points from a winning position. Portsmouth finished with four defeats last season, Manchester City (a), Blackburn (h), Middlesbrough (a) and Fulham (h), failing to score in the last three games of the campaign.

 

HEAD TO HEAD

Chelsea hold a 100% home record against Portsmouth in the Premier League, with Pompey dropping more points (29), losing more games (9) and conceding more goals (20) to Chelsea than any other side since gaining promotion in 2003. Portsmouth haven’t gone away from Stamford Bridge with a point since December 1988 (old Second Division) and haven’t taken all 3 points away for 53 years. More recently, the only points Chelsea have dropped to Portsmouth in 10 Premier League games was last season’s 1-1 draw at Fratton Park.

Home and Away

League (inc PL): Chelsea 29 wins, Portsmouth 19 wins, Draws 22

Prem: Chelsea 9 wins, Portsmouth 0, Draws 1

At Chelsea

League (inl PL): Chelsea 17 wins, Portsmouth 6, Draws 12

Prem: Chelsea 5 wins, Portsmouth 0, Draws 0

 

LAST SEASON

Chelsea 1-0 Portsmouth

Chelsea scorer: Frank Lampard

25th August 2007 – Ref: Alan Wiley

 

PREDICTION

Chelsea go into this game defending a 21-match unbeaten Premier League record and Pompey will no doubt be aiming to end our unbeaten home run which now stands at a phenomenal 82 games. The away side were unlucky not to get anything out of this fixture last season and no doubt Redknapp will set out to test Scolari in his first Premier League game in charge. Chelsea won’t get much space, so patience might be virtue. This game’s certainly not a formality in the fixture list – could be a tough start to the season for us.

 

TEAMS

CHELSEA (from): Cech, Cudicini, Bosingwa, Belletti, Terry, Carvalho, Alex, A Cole, J Cole, Lampard, Ballack, (Deco), Mikel, Anelka, Wright-Phillips, Malouda, Di Santo, (Shevchenko)

PORTSMOUTH (from): James, Johnson, Campbell, Distin, Hreidarsson, Utaka, Diop, Diarra, Kranjcar, Defoe, Crouch, Lauren, Cranie, Thomas, Traore, Kanu, Mvuemba, Wilson, Ashdown.

 

REFEREE

Mike Dean (Wirral)

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Should John Terry Stick With It As Chelsea Captain?

In an article on this blog yesterday, I questioned the wisdom of John Terry’s recent comments directed towards Manchester United, or more specifically Sir Alex Ferguson, although at the time my main concern was the apparent lack of substance to his statements. However, some of the headlines in the press yesterday have only stood to highlight another problem or two the Chelsea skipper may well have created for himself as a result of his remarks to the media.

You see, whilst talking about new Chelsea manager, Luiz Felipe Scolari, what John might have actually said – as quoted in one paper – is, “A top manager will always make a difference. And we’ve got a top manager again.” But what he’s actually quoted as saying in yet another glaring headline is “Now that we have got a proper manager” – clearly words which don’t exactly cast the Chelsea captain in a particularly good light. And whilst I wouldn’t disagree with JT if he was to question the credentials of the previous Chelsea boss – I mean, I did it often enough myself last season – there are plenty out there who might argue it’s not the smartest move if he wants to show Capello he’s capable of conducting himself in a professional manner.

Anyway, back to my original point at John’s sudden interest in public debate through the media, and I’ve got to say it’s not something I’m all that comfortable with. His popularity outside of Chelsea has been on the decline for years anyway, partly the usual side effect of success but also as a result of the apparent lack of discipline he allowed to creep into his game. So, to risk giving his detractors even more ammunition by publicly going a couple of rounds with the opposition at the start of a season during which he’ll be getting a verbal battering for his Champions League slip anyway, just doesn’t make sense.

I just don’t understand how a player in his position, who’s been in the game as long as he has, can be so naive. We all know the press will interpret interviews whichever way it suits in order to sell the most copies and by willingly countering comments from the opposition, he’s just opening himself up for further criticism no matter what he’s actually said. Because despite the headlines suggesting Terry’s taken a pop at Avram Grant, when you read the interview in full, it becomes clear the Chelsea captain isn’t blatantly criticising his former boss, and maintains he did a decent job in the aftermath of TSO’s departure.

Terry says “Avram got a lot of criticism but he did well. Managers can be good in some departments and weak in others.” (I’ll assume making the tea was his forte then, but I digress). John goes on “But we had it out. Everyone spoke to the manager and said where we felt we could improve as a team, how we could improve training and certain things off the pitch, and he listened to them.” To me, that just bears out what I’d said all last season – here was a manager who was so clueless, his players had to instruct him – and yet JT’s still managed to offer a very generous defence of him.

JT certainly had a much bigger role to play at Chelsea last season, in a dressing room that must have taken a lot of holding together once Mourinho went through the back door so suddenly. Of events around last season, Terry says “I think I had to step up another level as captain last season. The circumstances of last season demanded I take on extra responsibility. We had Avram, who was very good, and Steve Clarke and Henk Ten Cate. But we’ve got such a big squad and it’s not just the players who are playing but those who don’t play who need to stay motivated. That became my job, to speak to the manager. Sometimes you have a three-way conversation when the manager would explain why a player wasn’t playing. If a manager tells you why you’re not playing it’s easier to deal with it. If a manager isn’t telling you why, or how you can improve to get in the team, that becomes frustrating. And that was something I arranged last year.”

And here’s where the problem’s created, because whilst I can see why he was forced into the role of go-between during some pretty bizarre goings-on at the club last season, his boundaries have become blurred. Whilst he was always a tremendous captain for Chelsea and a pretty good example of what wearing the armband should mean to a player, last season saw him lose sight of this principle role – no doubt as a direct result of this new ‘role’ off the field. He was being pushed into being more than just the Chelsea captain to such an extent it was probably inevitable that he’d start to believe it.

Indeed, his reaction following our Champions League defeat to Manchester United at the end of last season surely demonstrates exactly how much responsibility he felt he had on his shoulders. I mean, I’ve heard plenty of suggestions that his was a total over-reaction to the defeat, almost to the point of being choreographed and yet if he believed he’d both captained and ‘managed’ the losing side, is it any wonder his grief was two-fold?

Anyway, having picked himself up and dusted himself down (not the easiest thing to do while facing the likes of Rio Ferdinand, Wayne Rooney and Owen Hargreaves on England duty you’d assume), Terry states “I had to remind myself I’m the captain of Chelsea and that I have to lead the players. And I had to focus on the new season, the new players and the new manager.” Poignant words, because for me, that’s exactly what John Terry needs to do – remember he’s the Chelsea captain.

We have a new manager now – in the words of a certain paper, a proper manager – and by all accounts, this isn’t one who’ll need anybody else doing the job for him. Indeed, Terry already speaks very highly of his new boss, who he suggests has “that charisma Mourinho had.” The Chelsea captain says “Tactically he is very aware and when he talks everyone listens. He has that aura about him. He doesn’t speak very often but when he does he gets the attention of everyone. We needed that. He likes to have a laugh and joke. He also has that fear factor. We haven’t really seen that side of him yet but I’m sure we will. We’ve all read the stories about him. I’ve even watched the video (of Scolari punching Serbia defender Ivica Dragutinovic) and when he occasionally raises his voice you think ‘Oh there it is.”

The new Chelsea boss however, argumentative or not, appears to have opted for a peaceful start to the season, so far avoiding being drawn into verbal fisticuffs with the opposition by the press – an example it would be very wise for John Terry to follow if he is to go back to doing what he used to do best – being the Chelsea captain.