Come kickoff on Saturday at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea could find themselves in fourth place, and staring at the very real possibility of moving even further down. To avoid that rather alarming circumstance, the Blues need to find their winning mentality starting with the English Premier League game against Wigan. Chelsea’s misery was compounded when they went down 3-2 to Newcastle, after initially coming back and then taking the lead, only to let it all go to waste by conceding yet another late goal.
Reading had earlier snatched a draw from the jaws of defeat by scoring two goals in the final five minutes at the Madejski Stadium against the Blues. Those results have left Chelsea looking rather nervously at the teams below them rather than having to look up towards the Manchester clubs. Spurs can go two points ahead of Chelsea and into third place with a victory over Newcastle, while the likes of Everton and Arsenal are only four and five points behind respectively.
Overall in the last ten games, the Blues have won only three, not something that Rafa Benitez would have envisaged when he took over as manager, amid much criticism, from the hugely popular Roberto Di Matteo.
Only Juan Mata and Frank Lampard, the two who scored in the loss to Newcastle, have looked anything like world-class players over the past few weeks, in a squad brimming with full internationals. Demba Ba remains a doubt after breaking his nose in a clash with Newcastle defender Fabricio Coloccini – even through the Chelsea striker trained Thursday with a special mask.
Petr Cech (finger) also could miss out through injury, while John Obi Mikel and Victor Moses are with Nigeria as they prepare for the Africa Cup of Nations final against Burkina Faso. Eden Hazard, though, returns after serving a three-match suspension for kicking out at a ball boy. If Ba is not fit to start, the onus will fall on Fernando Torres yet again, with the Spanish striker failing to reignite following the arrival of his favorite manager Benitez.
Oscar was brilliant for Brazil against England in their friendly at Wembley, and the Chelsea fans will be hoping the playmaker brings that form against Wigan.
The Latics could welcome back top scorer Arouna Kone into the starting lineup, after the striker’s return from the Africa Cup of Nations, while Emmerson Boyce is doubtful. Chelsea have a stellar record against Wigan, having won 12 of their 14 previous encounters, and the Blues might just need to find that form of old to get their stuttering campaign back on track.
Wigan midfielder James McCarthy has hailed the impact of manager Roberto Martinez as the Latics gear up for their annual spring offensive to avoid relegation starting with the trip to Chelsea. It is a measure of McCarthy’s quality that he has already made more than 100 Premier League appearances for the Latics since his move south from Hamilton in July 2009.
Projected Lineups :
Azpilicueta, Ivanovic, Cahill, Bertrand
Hazard, Lampard, Mata
Caldwell, Figueroa, Alcaraz
Stam, McCarthur, McCarthy, Beausejour
Espinosa, Di Santo, Maloney
Key Stats :
- Rafael Benítez’s 22 points is the worst return from 13 games of any manager under Roman Abramovich.
- Chelsea have won six of their last seven home matches against Wigan in all competitions.
- The Blues have won just two of their last five league games, with two draws and a defeat leaving their grip on third place in doubt.
- Wigan only have one win in their last 12 Premier League games.
It’s going to be a tough game for us considering we’re nowhere near our very best, but Wigan isn’t a very strong team especially at the Bridge. 3-1 to Chelsea.