Blackpool v Chelsea, Premier League, March 7, 2011
“Chelsea have lost a few games this season and I think we can produce a shock result. Chelsea will come here expecting to beat us and there will be no pressure on us.” – Craig Cathcart.
Really? No pressure? Are you sure?
Blackpool may have over achieved for much of this year’s Premier League season having beaten the likes of Liverpool twice and recently turning over Tottenham 3-1, but the Tangerines are now knee-deep in the relegation mire. Sitting in 15th spot, just four points above the drop-zone, Blackpool are inching back towards the Championship. Lose on Monday night, and the battle to beat the drop could really be on.
Making matters worse is Blackpool’s form. It’s diabolical.Â The Seasiders have lost seven of their last eleven matches, losing to Birmingham, West Brom, Sunderland, West Ham, Everton and Wolves in that period. As if it needs pointing out, these clubs are hardly the elite that dominate the top spots in the division.
With Arsenal, Tottenham and Manchester United still to play this year, whilst tricky trips to Blackburn and Fulham await in the next few weeks, Blackpool have no games this season where the pressure is off. The cliche that every game is now a cup final applies. If Blackpool want to be amongst the big boys next season, they need to try and pick up points in every game remaining this campaign.
Blackpool, though, have major selection problems ahead of the Pensioners’ arrival. Striker DJ Campbell will be missing after he lost his head and was sent off in last weekend’s 4-0 drumming at Molineux. IanÂ HollowayÂ will also be without inspirational captain Charlie Adam who isÂ suspendedÂ for collecting 10 yellow cards this season, leading the gaffer to admit “We wouldnâ€™t have got promoted last season without Charlie and DJ, so no doubt we are going to miss them.”
With Marlon Harewood now on loan at Barnsley, Blackpool look down to their bare bones when it comes to their offensive options. Luke Varney, Sergei Kornilenko, James Beattie and Brett Ormerod represent the most likely options for the Tangerine attack, whilst Andy Reid couldÂ waddle back into middle in the absence of Adam.
Compared with Blackpool’s headaches, it’s far more plain-sailing for Carlo Ancelotti. Buoyed by his team’s 2-1 win over Manchester United, a certain degree of the feel-good factor has returned to Stamford Bridge, and the Blues will be expecting to continue their upwardÂ momentum at Bloomfield Road.
Yet overplaying Chelsea’s hand is ill-advised.
SummarisingÂ the bullet-points of things still wrong in west London; Fernando Torres still hasn’t settled, Chelsea’s formation still looks out of whack, John Terry’s inconsistency remains, Frank Lampard has largely lost his goalscoring touch, doubts hover over whether John Obi Mikel is really top class, while Carlo Ancelotti’s long-term position at the club remains unknown as questions of mismanagement in theÂ WilkinsÂ affair and finger-pointing over the decision to allow Daniel Sturridge to leave on loan continue to dog the club as the season approaches its conclusion.
Moreover, Chelsea are still by no means certain of even finishing in the top four this season. By the time they kick-off on Monday night, the Blues could be back in fifth place if Spurs beat Wolves on Sunday. Further, the gap to Manchester United could also be back to 15 points as Chelsea’s quickly diminishing title hopes take another massive nail in their coffin.
Of course it’s not all bad news for the Blues. Petr Cech, Branislav Invanovic and David “Sideshow Bob” Luiz are all top performers in their defence. Elsewhere Nicolas Anelka impressed in the away match at Copenhagen in the Champions League to remind onlookers of his enduring attacking prowess. But the fact remains that any slip-up over the run-in would mean Chelsea’s total league sum would be the worst yet of the Roman Abramovich era.
Such black marks could be removed should Chelsea triumph in the Champions League. Well, that’s the silver lining many Blues fans will be clinging onto until they finally exit the European scene.
Perhaps blinded by the triumph over the Red Devils, most will likely ignore that fact that Chelsea have already lost five on the road this season as they favour a Chelsea win against Blackpool. They’ll hark back to the 4-nil thrashing in the reverse fixture earlier in the year to carve out the chasm which separates the two sides. That chasm, as Jimmy Armfield pointedly observes, which isÂ facilitatedÂ by the fact that “one of the players from Chelsea who is coming here this weekend is on Â£130,000 per week. That is more than the whole of the Blackpool squad put together.”
So really Chelsea should win this match. The bookies seem to think so to pricingÂ Blackpool a whopping 11.200 to win on home yet.
And yet we’re backing the draw.
101gg predicts: Blackpool 0 – Chelsea 0