For Chelsea and Carlo Ancelotti, Saturday’s game against Wolves is just another opportunity to acquire three points and continue their 100 per cent home record. The Blues will be slightly wary of a European hangover, after their comfortable 2-0 win following a long trip to Moscow — but know they should still have more than enough to beat one of the divisions strugglers.
Indeed, if Ancelotti was worried about the artificial pitch at the Luzhniki injuring some of his players, then perhaps he should have even graver concerns about his upcoming opponents. Harsh? Perhaps, but Wolves lead the league in fouls conceded this season and, despite McCarthy’s protests to the contrary, do not enjoy a reputation for playing a clean and fair game.
The Italian is restricted in some of his options — Frank Lampard’s injury continues to drag on, while Alex’s problems might force Jose Bosingwa back into right-back action — but can rely on a fully fit strikeforce to get him through.
Baring a few returnees the Blues will still be fielding a relatively young and inexperienced bench, however, and Wolves might feel they will not have to worry about a gamechanging substitution if they can keep their illustrious opponents at bay for an hour or so. Neverthless, especially with early season rivals Manchester City to face Arsenal on Sunday, the chance to grab all three points should be one the champions take.
Out For Vengeance
Mick McCarthy might have been quick to jump to his players’ defence last week after their relatively clean draw against West Ham, but it seems the absence of Karl Henry does more than he to improve the discipline of his side.
The midfielder, along with on-loan Chelsea youngster Michael Mancienne, is unavailable for the game, leaving McCarthy with a paucity of midfield options that has forced him to recall 19-year-old David Davis from a worthwhile loan spell at Walsall. That would be a problem any week, but in the week you want to pack the centre of the pitch at Stamford Bridge it could spell disaster.
Nevertheless, McCarthy has a hard-working corps of players at his disposal that he knows will put a shift in for him. And, in the likes of Matt Jarvis and David Edwards, he has players that caused problems for the Blues last time they visited west London.
But it is defence, more than midfield or attack, where the former Republic of Ireland boss will be hoping his side will be at its sharpest. They will need to be, as Chelsea’s blistering attack will be sharpening their knives for another sizeable victory.
Carlo Ancelotti welcomes back Didier Drogba from a virus for the visit of Wolves, along with Jose Bosingwa and Ramires who have recovered from the mild problems that caused them to be left at home for the midweek Champions League win at Spartak Moscow.
Alex and Daniel Sturridge are doubts with thigh and ankle injuries respectively, while Frank Lampard is not yet ready to return from a niggling groin problem.
Probable starting XI: Cech; Bosingwa, Ivanovic, Terry, Cole; Essien, Mikel, Ramires; Anelka, Drogba, Malouda.
Mick McCarthy will be without defender Ronald Zubar for the trip to Stamford Bridge. The Frenchman has missed much of the campaign and is only scheduled to return to training on Monday after various leg injuries.
Elsewhere, young midfielder David Davis has been recalled from a loan spell with Walsall to provide squad cover in midfield, as both Karl Henry (suspension) and Michael Mancienne (ineligible) are unable to play. Greg Halford’s loan exit to Portsmouth is the other loss for Mick McCarthy’s side.
In better news, midfielder Stephen Hunt could be close to a return to action after finally resuming full training and reserve matches after a long-term foot injury.