The pressure on boss Andre Villas-Boas cranked up another notch after Glen Johnson’s well taken goal in the dying embers decided a game that the Blues never looked like winning. It’s been rumoured that the former Porto coaches job is on the line after he reportedly fell out with owner Roman Abramovic despite the Russian spending £13 million on him as Carlo Ancelotti’s replacement. A decent, if uninspiring, start to the season hasn’t helped Villas-Boas’ cause although it would be unfair to criticise him just 12 games into his managerial career at Chelsea. The fact of the matter is that he hasn’t had nearly enough time to construct his own squad and implement his own ideas to full effect. Fans and pundit’s who likened him to former boss Jose Mourinho are now comparing their style’s and tactics to one another. One of the biggest criticisms of the Portuguese coach’s reign to date is his preference to play a high defensive line which is something that has come undone in the last couple of home games against Arsenal and Chelsea. John Terry’s lack of pace and David Luiz’s positional problems have been exploited time and time again this season and it’s no surprise to see they’ve conceded 19 goals league goals already with 11 coming at home. That is in stark contrast to Mourinho’s double winning debut season where the Blues conceded only 15 during the entire campaign. Under the ‘Special One’ Chelsea had a settled back four that was rarely altered and was the cornerstone of their success. Villas-Boas, on the other hand, can’t seem to make his mind up regarding a consistent for Terry with Luiz, Alex and Branislav Ivanovic all taking turns. Finding the right formula up front has also been a problem with the constant chopping and changing leaving players unable to build up any momentum. The form of Fernando Torres remains a worry whilst Daniel Sturridge staked his claim for the ‘number nine’ role coming off the bench to equalise last week. Villas-Boas will need to get his team selection and tactics spot this time around if he is to alleviate the pressure on his shoulders with a win against Wolves.
Mick McCarthy is another boss feeling the pinch of a poor start to the season with his Wanderer’s side now sitting fourth bottom after a run of one win in their last 10 games. That victory over Wigan before the international break was their first since beating Fulham at the end of August with the Midlanders taking two points from a possible 24 in between. Normal service was resumed last week as they were easily beaten by Everton at Goodison Park despite taking the lead through a Stephen Hunt penalty. McCarthy has been the subject of numerous moans and groans from sections of Molineux supporters with his team selection and substitutions all coming under fire in recent weeks. In fact the Wolves supremo has a similar sort of issue to his opposite number in the Chelsea dugout with his back four currently under pressure to stop leaking goals at such a rapid rate. Summer signing Roger Johnson was supposed to be the man to tighten up the back line and initially it looked like he had done just that. Unfortunately since the 0-0 draw with Aston Villa on 27th August they’ve failed to keep a clean sheet conceding 19 goals in just nine games. As an ex-defender himself McCarthy will surely be doing all he can to get his rearguard securely bolted before they make the less than daunting trip to West London.
Chelsea – 5th
Last Five: Lost 2-1 v Liverpool (H), Won 1-0 v Blackburn (A), Lost 5-3 v Arsenal (H), Lost 1-0 v QPR (A), Won 3-1 v Everton (H)
Potential Starting X11: 1. P. Cech 2. B. Ivanovic 26. J. Terry [C] 4. D. Luiz 3. A. Cole 12. J. Obi Mikel 7. Ramires 8. F. Lampard 10. J. Mata 15. F. Malouda 23. D. Sturridge*
Injury News: Villas Boas has no new injury concerns with Michael Essien the only long-term absentee.
Key Player: Daniel Sturridge
You’d have to say that last week was rather special for the strike after he won his first England cap and came off the bench to score Chelsea’s equaliser against Liverpool. Whilst the Blues went on to lose the impact Sturridge had was evident with his energy, strength and desire up front giving his side an extra dimension in the final third. He’s already stated he want’s to be the number one striker at Stamford Bridge and it’s likely Villas-Boas will heed that request.
Match Fact: Chelsea’s record against Wolves at Stamford Bridge is an impressive one and they are currently unbeaten in the Premier League against the Midland side. The Blues have won all three top flight games scoring 11 goals and conceding only two.
Wolves – 13th
Lost 2-1 v Everton (A)Won 3-1 v Wigan (H), Lost 3-1 v Manchester City (A), Drew 2-2 v Swansea (H), Lost 2-0 v West Brom (A)
Potential Starting X11
1. W. Hennessey 5. R. Stearman 14. R. Johnson [C] 16. C. Berra 3. G Elokobi 11. S. Ward 8. K. Henry 4. D. Edwards 20. N. Milijas 17. M. Jarvis 29. K. Doyle*
Injury News: Ronald Zubar is still out with a groin strain whilst Kevin Foley has been ruled out until Janaury with an ankle injury. Other than that McCarthy has no fresh injury concerns.
Key Player: Kevin Doyle
Goals haven’t flowed as regularly as usual for the Republic of Ireland striker despite his effort and commitment soaring to new levels this season. Playing up front on his own has seen Doyle take on extra responsibility and his constant running and closing down of defences will be a key part of Wolves’ game plan up against Chelsea’s weak defensive partnership of Terry and Luiz.
Wolves have failed to claim a league victory at Stamford Bridge for over 30-years with their last West London win coming in an Old Division One clash on 24 March 1979.
Last Time at Stamford Bridge
Premier League, 23 October 2010
Chelsea 2-0 Wolves
Malouda, 23. Kalou, 81
Referee: Lee Probert
Chelsea are continuing their transitional period under Villas-Boas and the constant comparisons with Mourinho and his title winning team aren’t doing them any favours. True, five of the starting line up against Liverpool were part of the 2004/05 title winning side but they are all seven years older and their new coach has identified the need for new blood. The likes of Sturridge and Juan Mata have performed admirably in amongst the experienced heads and those two should be the bright sparks against Wolves on Saturday. McCarthy’s side are desperately in need of a win to haul themselves away from danger with the dreaded festive period looming.