Stadium: Stamford Bridge
Referee: Mike Dean
Kick-off: 8:30 PM (IST), Saturday, 9th of February
In an interesting fixture, Wigan Athletic travel to London to pay a visit to Roman Abramovich’s Chelsea, who are currently precariously perched in third position, well within reach of the chasing pack. With 46 points from their 25 games thus far, Chelsea are just 1 point clear of London rivals Tottenham, 4 clear of Everton, and just 5 clear of yet another London rival, Arsenal. With Rafael Benitez’s interim reign already under heavy fire, concession of a Champions League spot would not go down well at all with the supporters, and one feels that a certain Russian would have made him well aware of the fact.
Wigan, on the other hand, are in a crisis of their own, with Reading having leapfrogged them in the league table, pushing them into the final relegation spot in the process. With instability at its peak at Stamford Bridge at the moment, however, they will be viewing this fixture as an opportunity to make some serious work of, and take away a morale boost along with more than one point, if they can.
Chelsea: W D D D L
With just one win in their last six games in all competitions, there is no doubt that Chelsea’s Rafael Benitez experiment is a failing one. While some of the young players have gotten their thirty seconds of fame, the fans have made it quite clear what they think of their current manager, and it will take a miracle from hereon if we are to see the Spaniard at the helm come the beginning of the new season. From a comfortable lead just a few weeks ago, Chelsea’s gap over Tottenham now stands at a meagre point, putting them at very plausible risk of missing out on Champions League football altogether next season. Thus, with the chasing pack hungry for blood, the Blues will do well to put together a much better performance in front of their home fans than they have done thus far under Benitez, if they are to hold on to that Champions League spot their Russian owner holds so dear.
Wigan: W L W D D
With seven losses in their last twelve league games, as opposed to just one win, Wigan have been one of the few teams in free fall after a fairly positive start to the season. Yet, with a 2 – 2 draw in each of their last two outings, and 2 goals scored in the game before, Roberto Martinez might be forgiven for being slightly optimistic ahead of his team’s visit to Stamford Bridge, which has not been a favoured venue for the Latics. However, he faces a selection crisis up front, with plenty of players in the medical room, leaving him few options to choose from, although depending on whether the good side of Chelsea or the bad side of Chelsea shows up, selection might not make that big a difference.
Chelsea: Oriol Romeu, John Terry, Petr Cech, Demba Ba, John Obi Mikel, Victor Moses.
Wigan: Ryo Miyaichi, Antolin Alcaraz, Ivan Ramis, Albert Crusat, Michael Pollitt, Ben Watson, Emmerson Boyce, Fraser Fyvie.
With three goals and an assist in his last three games, Juan Mata has been the main driving force behind Chelsea this season, just as he was towards the end of the previous one. What is even more important is that those three goals have made a difference of five points to his side, without which they would currently be sitting below Arsenal, in sixth place in the league. Thus, with no reason for this form to change, one can expect him to add to his tally of 10 league goals, and 9 league assists this season.
One of the players who work their socks off every game, without trying anything too fancy to hog the spotlight, Maloney has been a very important part of Wigan’s campaign, especially with the lack of attacking options for Martinez’s side. While 3 goals and 5 assists may not be too much to boast of, it does make a significant impact when it comes for a relegation threatened club, as short on attacking support as Wigan is. In addition, Maloney is the persistent type of player that Chelsea hate defending against, and should cause them some trouble on more than one occasion.
Two entirely different scenarios, depending on which Chelsea turns up. As already mentioned, there is a good side to Chelsea, and there is a bad. With Mata and Hazard playing, Chelsea seem like possessing a potent, creative attack up front, while in their absence, the attack falls flat on its face, almost inevitably. Thus, depending on which Chelsea turn up, all three results are quite possible.Published 09 Feb 2013, 12:49 IST