The dullness of last weekend’s campaign opener made it seem more of a pre-season outing than the first of thirty-eight blood and thunder battles in the ‘best league in the world’. Elsewhere, throughout the country there were drama and goals aplenty, we though were restricted to a snooze fest of a first half, Harry’s poor tackle, Shelvey’s stupidity and the inevitable, but welcome, outcome.
It’s unlikely that this weekend’s game will be quite so uneventful given the opponents and all that is at stake. The opportunity is there to move six points clear of the champions and to immediately put both the Wembley hoo-doo and any fears of yet another slow start to bed.
That Chelsea were involved in one of the more exciting games of the opening weekend is to our advantage as two of their more unpleasant irritants will be unavailable. The studs of both Cahill and Fabregas’s boots took to the air and their wearers into the ref’s notebook and out of our game. Shame.
There is also no Costa and no Matic of course, there are reports though that both Hazard and Bakayoko have been in training this week so we can probably expect both to be on the bench. Moses will be back but I don’t know about Pedro, information on his recovery is proving elusive.
So, a depleted side but surely a club of such resources will have plenty of quality backup available? Erm… apparently not. Something strange has been going on down the Fulham Road as the number of rude exits from the back door hasn’t been matched by Rudiger like welcomes at the front. The German and Morata made their debuts in the loss to Burnley but Bakayoko apart, there’s no-one in the queue, or even likely to arrive before Sunday. Shame once more.
We on other hand are in better shape. We looked unbalanced for much of last weekend as the team was tilted towards defending Walker-Peters and if, as seems likely, the youngster gets another as there’s no word on Trippier, we’ll probably be slightly out of shape again. We will do until KWP gets the full confidence of Poch – which shouldn’t be long given the way he’s started. His MOTM award last week was generous, Atsu did give him problems, but in general he was composed and his use of the ball intelligent.
Wanyama’s back! Son is back! Winks is back! Hurrah! My guess would be for a similar side to last week with Son replacing Sissoko and Wanyama coming on for Dembele at some point, hopefully when we’re cruising along in the lead.
In Wilian, Morata, Batshuayi and Alonso Chelsea have players who can hurt us but if truth be told we’ll kick ourselves if we don’t win this one. They really are down to the bare bones. They’ll look to hit us on the break, similar to the semi-final, this time hopefully we won’t be so error-prone and can force a lead before Hazard or whoever comes off the bench.
Anthony Taylor is the referee. Taylor was in charge for two of the four league games we lost last year…
A good win would be a lovely thing.
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