Stamford Bridge, London
September 24, 2011; 14:00 GMT
Lowly Swansea, negotiating their way in the top-flight division of English football, meet one of the sternest tasks in the English Premier League – Chelsea FC at home. Andre Villas-Boas’ men have been left licking their wounds after a 3-1 loss at Old Trafford to Manchester United, in a game where the Blues generally gave a terrific account of themselves even if their wasteful ways in front of goal continued.
Chelsea regained some semblance of pride with a morale-boosting penalty-shootout win over Fulham despite playing with just ten-men for most of the game. However, expectations that Chelsea could ride roughshod over Swansea will be tempered with the knowledge that Sturridge could be sidelined for the clash.
The close links between the two sides are evident – Frank Lampard, Chelsea’s vice-captain and arguably its fulcrum spent a loan spell with the Swans in 1995-96 when he was still a West Ham player. And Scott Sinclair scored Swansea’s season opening goal. Lampard also doffed a hat to ex-Chelsea reserve squad coach Brendan Rodgers who is currently managing Swansea, before adding ominously that there’s be no special treatment for the visitors, “And with Brendan going there, the attachment has been even more so. Swansea are my second team in the Premier League, but they won’t be when they come to Stamford Bridge.”
Swansea will nevertheless be happy with their progress thus far, especially considering they managed a 3-0 win over West Bromwich Albion at home. Their away form remains patchy and their small-team status might be cemented at Stamford Bridge.
Swansea’s most famous supporter is Catherine Zeta Jones, who is arguably more famous globally than the club, but it will take more than a supportive message from her to turn the odds in the visitor’s favor.
Team News and Tactical Brief
The Blues will be without Daniel Sturridge who has impressed on the right, thus far, even if he had a forgettable outing against Manchester United. The former Manchester City youngster tore a knee ligament, and will in all likelihood be replaced by Nicolas Anelka who could very well be playing his last season with the Blues.
Petr Cech, who had to be rushed to hospital after a head-on collision during the Carling Cup game with Fulham, will be available. The custodian who complained of dizziness has been cleared of any serious health problems. Alex, the usually reliable tank in defense, was sent off by Chris Foy for a professional foul against Kerim Frei of Fulham and will sit this clash out.
The rested Ivanovic should partner Terry in defense, while Luiz might be brought on as a substitute. Lampard, Meireles and Ramires will make up the midfield. While Mata and Anelka should flank Torres up front.
Probable Starting Line-up: (4-3-3) Cech; Ashley Cole, Terry, Ivanovic, Bosingwa; Lampard, Meireles, Ramires; Mata, Torres, Anelka
In contrast, Swansea have real headaches in picking a solid starting line-up because quite a few of their players may sit this clash out. Brendan Rodgers will be short of central defenders as both Alan Tate and Steve Caulkner are nursing injuries, the former a broken leg and the latter a knee injury.
Kemy Agustien, who is out with a hamstring injury, will also miss the clash at Stamford Bridge. While striker Craig Beattie is also out, his presence may not be missed with both Danny Graham and Leroy Lita available for selection.
Danny Graham failed a back-related fitness test for the previous game against West Bromwich Albion, but will most likely play in this game. Neil Taylor has also seemingly shaken off a blow to the head, and will feature in the first eleven or at least on the bench.
Swansea might seek to take the game to Chelsea, seeing as how the Blues have shown a tendency to concede against the run of play, by playing two strikers up front. He insists however that his team will not open up and let Chelsea walk all over them.
Probable Starting Line-up: (4-1-3-2) Vorm; Taylor, Williams, Monk, Rangel; Britton; Dyer, Gower, Sinclair; Lita, Graham
1) The last time Swansea won at Chelsea, was almost 86 years ago in 1925.
2) 3 wins, 1 draw and 1 loss equals Chelsea’s worst ever start to a league season after Roman Abramovich purchased the club.
3) Swansea deserve the Premier League fair play award so far, having conceded the least number of fouls, a paltry 31, and have seen just 4 yellow cards thus far.
4) Chelsea’s home form is traditionally reliable with no losses this season at home, while Swansea have just one away victory in their last 8 league games.
5) Swansea’s first goal this season was scored by Scott Sinclair, a former Chelsea man.
TheHardTackle’S PLAYER TO WATCH OUT FOR
Neil Taylor (Swansea)
Swansea’s Neil Taylor has ruled himself fit to face Chelsea, which will certainly come as welcome news to Rodgers and The Swans. Taylor, on the left, will be a threat to Chelsea’s perceived defensive weakness on the right – with Ramires and Bosingwa his only obstacles. Taylor’s penchant to throw himself into challenges, with little regard for his own well-being might just be the dare-devilry his team needs on its left flank. It will be interesting to see how he matches up against Ivanovic who might get drawn out to the right in a bid to counter Taylor. If Taylor is deemed unfit for the game, the relatively lackluster Bessone will take his place, and Chelsea might breathe a lot easier.
Chelsea 3-0 Swansea
Chelsea remain clear favorites to win this game at Stamford Bridge. Swansea’s travelling woes are well documented and with Torres on the ascendancy and eager to forget memories of his spectacular goal miss against United, you could expect the Spaniard to get on the score sheet. Terry and Ivanovic will prove too strong a central defensive pairing for Swansea to consistently threaten and get the better of.