Three wins in 10 Premier League games doesn’t read like the form of a team with aspirations of qualifying for the Champions League. That’s the situation Chelsea currently find themselves in after the late loss at Newcastle six-days ago. It also marked the third time in four league games in which Rafael Benitez’s men had sacrificed a winning position and leaves them just a point ahead of fourth placed Tottenham. To say the heat is on Benitez would be an understatement as the demand for improvement continues to grow. The Spaniard’s popularity with the Stamford Bridge supporters continues on a downward trajectory and its doubtful victory over Wigan would arrest that. However, there is one glimmer of hope and his name is Frank Lampard. The midfielder’s 197th goal for the club demonstrated that he still capable of creating something extraordinary out of nothing and remains a key figure for Chelsea. Rumours are gathering that the 34-year-old will be given a new one year-deal and, on current evidence, it might be a necessary step.
Wigan find themselves in familiar territory battling for their lives in the bottom three and won’t be relishing a trip to Stamford Bridge where they’ve never tasted victory in eight league visits. Roberto Martinez’s side have recorded just one win in their last 12 games but are gearing up for their customary late dash for survival and will hope break their barren run at Chelsea with a victory to kick-start that. Martinez will hope to capitalise on the loss of several key player for the home side and with three draws in their last four there is a growing belief in the Latics camp that they can avoid the drop.
Demba Ba could feature for Chelsea after being fitted with a protective mask after sustaining a broken nose at old club Newcastle last week. Petr Cech is a doubt with a broken finger but Eden Hazard returns after completing a three-match ban.
Wigan will assess Arouna Kone’s fitness after his return from African Cup of Nations duty, while a hip problem could force captain Gary Caldwell to the sidelines.
What the managers said this week…
“The international break is normally a problem, but this one we can consider positive.Ashley Cole winning 100 caps is amazing, a great achievement for anyone and for a player in the England squad which is very competitive it is even better. Frank’s was a great goal. He was scoring goals for us already and he is doing well. Again, 94 caps is a fantastic achievement and he can make 100 which would be really positive because it will mean he is fit and doing really well.” Rafael Benitez praises Ashley Cole and Frank Lampard after England’s win over Brazil on Wednesday (ChelseaTV)
“There was clear frustration and disappointment the last time we visited Chelsea, because the performance was deserving of a positive result which never came. The refereeing decisions made defeat even tougher to accept, but on the flip-side it made us realise that we were capable of going anywhere in this division and performing at our best. I think the game made us understand what is needed when you travel to this venue in order to give yourself the best chance of taking a positive result, and although we’re taking on a side looking for a reaction we too are hoping to bring something home from the game.” Roberto Martinez insists his players know what is required of them ahead of the visit to Chelsea (Wigan official club website)
Wigan have scored only nine times against Chelsea in 15 Premier League meetings with the Blues plundering 38 along with recording 12 wins.
Prediction: Chelsea 2-0 Wigan Athletic