Chelsea players nervously await team selection
Jose Mourinho's attack on the five Chelsea players he believes have done nothing this season may have raised the tension among his players, but the reckoning will be tonight when he picks his team to face Aston Villa. For Andrei Shevchenko above all, this will be the moment when the £30m man learns just how disenchanted his manager has become with their performances.
Shevchenko had started just two of the last six Premiership matches and given Salomon Kalou's failure to make an impression in the last two draws at home, which have allowed Manchester United to draw clear at the top of the table, the Ukrainian international has made it clear he expects to start tonight. Should Mourinho keep faith with Kalou, it will be the strongest sign yet that his belief in Shevchenko is exhausted.
The picture is complicated slightly by the slim hope Chelsea have that Arjen Robben will be fit to play tonight having missed the last two games with a muscle injury he picked up in training. With Michael Ballack suspended, Robben could come back into the midfield alongside Frank Lampard, Claude Makelele and Michael Essien leaving the striking place alongside Didier Drogba up for grabs.
Kalou was among those who Mourinho named as having failed to perform this season and, like Shevchenko, he is perceived in the club as one of the players who did not sign on the manager's recommendation but that of the Chelsea hierarchy. Privately, some players feel that it is always those who did not come specifically on Mourinho's say-so who are exposed to his wrath.
There is disbelief at Chelsea at the contribution of Ballack this season, a player who was definitely signed on Mourinho's recommendation. Equally there has been surprise at the club that the Germany captain was not among those named by Mourinho on Saturday as having underperformed. With four goals this season, Ballack may have done more than Shevchenko but much less than was expected.
Khalid Boulahrouz's future also rests heavily on whether he is selected tonight with John Terry still out and Mourinho desperately short of centre-backs. Following his despair at Paulo Ferreira and Geremi's failure to dominate in the air against Fulham on Saturday, should Mourinho ignore Boulahrouz again tonight there would seem to be little hope at Chelsea for the out-of-favour Dutchman.
Emergency call 'started off dumb, but got pretty serious'
Argentinian scored 'rabona' wonder goal for Tottenham in Europa League – see it here
Latest in Sport
Mario Balotelli comment: Time running out for 'lost boy' to shine at Liverpool, or anywhere
Cristiano Ronaldo applauded by Liverpool fans after master-class for Real Madrid, despite Manchester United ties
Angel Di Maria injury latest: Argentina international set to play in Manchester United vs Chelsea match
Liverpool vs Real Madrid match report: Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema run Reds ragged at Anfield
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo
- 1 This 'woman calls police to order pizza' story isn't going where you're expecting
- 2 Watch what happened when food critics were unknowingly served McDonald's
- 3 Jimmy Carr's controversial Oscar Pistorius joke goes a bit too far at the Q Awards
- 4 Ottawa shootings: Bruce MacKinnon's cartoon is the perfect tribute to soldier Nathan Cirillo
- 5 Of course, teenage girls need role models – but not like beauty vlogger Zoella
Of course, teenage girls need role models – but not like beauty vlogger Zoella
Cameron is warned 'no possibility' of UK reducing immigration and that bid to bring in quota on migrant workers would be illegal
Support for EU membership 'at highest level since 1991' with most Brits wanting to stay 'in'
Thousands with degenerative conditions classified as 'fit to work in future' – despite no possibility of improvement
Residents should throw a street party and mix with immigrant neighbours, councils told
London bus driver 'kicks gay couple off for kissing'