Friday, November 03, 2006

Chelsea Monthly Preview: November 2006

So we enter November, the winter is drawing in and overcoats start to come out. It’s what could prove one of most important months of Chelsea's season so far. Lots of important games, against tough teams, in three competitions. The fixtures will be coming thick and fast, and there will surely be opportunities for all members of our squad to get a game and contribute.

The month starts in spectacular fashion, with a Super-Sunday visit to Three Point Lane our first port of call on Bonfire Night. With Man Utd putting pressure on us in the league and potentially three points clear by this time, this will be an important game to win. A London derby against a Spurs side running to a bit of form, but still not the force they were last season. Given that we will have two extra days rest from European excursions and the strength of our squad, with Sheva now finding his shooting boots too – and that it’s Tottenham – three points should be safely acquired.

Then back to the Bridge for the next round of the Carling Cup, against Martin O’Neill’s Aston Villa. When they last visited earlier in the season they managed to grind out a point against a Chelsea side who dominated but couldn’t finish their chances. They are taking this cup seriously, but fortunately so is Jose so we should see a slightly changed but still strong side out. Our home record would seem to point to a victory, but this will be no easy game. I think Chelsea will win, but it may have to go to extra time at least in order for us to get the result we want. With cheap tickets too hopefully a full house will be in attendance and get behind the team and push them toward victory.

If there is extra time, it shouldn’t have as much of an impact as our fixture the next weekend is what will likely be, with all due respect, a relatively easy match against Andy Boothroyd’s Watford. With a number of draws but no win this season and near the bottom of the league, pitted against our quality and almost invincible home form this should be a formality. If Watford raise their game it could be difficult, but at the very least we will grind out a win here. However, if we create as many chances as against Portsmouth and start putting them away, then it could be the cricket score we’ve been threatening for some time now, and Sheva could really fill his boots. But definitely three points.

A week later and West Ham are the visitors to the Bridge. West Ham have just ended a run of 8 successive defeats, so are on a little bit of a high. The prospect of a big derby against the champions could see them raise their game. We will have to have our concentration and performance levels at their highest for this game. It seems that West Ham have this annoying habit of unsettling us and performing well, when you think they haven’t a hope. We’ll need to play well, but again at home I can’t see anything else than Chelsea winning.

This is followed by a potentially difficult trip to Germany in the Champions League to face Werder Bremen. We only need a draw or even a 1-0 defeat to confirm qualification. Bremen are in good form and held Barcelona at home, and I think a battling draw would be a good result in this match, and that is the most likely result, which would then see us qualify for the knockout stages.

The month ends with two big away fixtures which could potentially determine our eventual league position.

The first of these is arguably the most difficult. Man Utd away. United are in red-hot form at the moment, playing some great attacking football, scoring goals, getting win after win and keeping pace with us on points at the top of the league – leading only on goal difference. I’m sure they won’t change their game to suit us, and will be going for the win, as indeed will we. Hopefully we’ll have our best players at their best form. If we do, we can beat them. If not we may have to settle for a draw, which won’t be bad result against Man Utd at the moment. Rooney and Ronaldo will be the danger men for United, and if we can keep them quiet we have a chance. Will be an intriguing match.

Bolton away is our last match of the month. Of course the Reebok stadium holds many good memories from the last two seasons. Bolton have been in terrific form, getting very good results while not playing well. However with them having lost 4-0 to Man Utd it remains to be seen how they respond. We should feel confident of getting the points here.

At the moment both Man Utd and Chelsea are winning game after game, keeping pace with each other. Something has to give soon, and this could be an important month in the title race. Get the results we need and we could be set to push on ahead of the rest in the title race. Lose the potentially difficult games and we could be a long way behind. Even more so, we could be out of the Carling Cup too. It could be a difficult month. But I fully expect us to come through it relatively unscathed, top of the league, through to the next round of the league cup and having secured our place in the group stages of the Champions League.

It should be a very interesting month, all in all.