Chelsea's away success gives Cluj clues
Bolton 0 Chelsea 2
Monday 08 December 2008
Whether or not Match of the Day goes out in Romania, Cluj should ensure they have a tape of Chelsea's last two matches before playing at Stamford Bridge in the Champions League tomorrow night.
The frustrating home defeat by Arsenal last weekend and Saturday's straightforward success at Bolton will tell them all they need to know about the London club's weaknesses and strengths respectively.
Ray Wilkins, the assistant manager, and Michael Ballack even spelt it out. "At home, teams have come and blocked the middle of the field against us and it's been a tad difficult for us to break them down," Wilkins said in his understated manner. "Perhaps at times we haven't worked hard enough to prise that open." When Chelsea emerge from the visitors' dressing-room, however, then as Ballack put it: "The other team at home wants to win as well and they have to play a little bit more offensively because of the home crowd. You could see Bolton were a little bit more open so we had a little bit more space."
Space and pace; and how brilliantly they are equipped to exploit one with the other, as Jose Bosingwa and Ashley Cole break down the flanks, with passers of the quality of Deco and Ballack between them and Frank "lungs" Lampard bursting between penalty boxes to help Nicolas Anelka (right) finish things off.
A new record of 11 successive away wins in the League is the result, with 26 goals against one allowed, although in Europe this season all has not worked so well. Against less gung-ho opposition than the likes of Bolton and Stoke, two draws and a defeat (including a 0-0 in Cluj) have left Chelsea needing a win tomorrow to ensure that they qualify ahead of Bordeaux.
Failing to do so would be a messy blot on the copybook of Luiz Felipe Scolari, who would then be thrust into further conflict with the board over purchases in the January sales. Last week Scolari told a supporters' forum that he wanted "one or two more players" but one or none – and preferably the latter – is the club hierarchy's preference as they move towards breaking even in two years' time.
The manager must decide whether to press for Portugal's Under-21 striker Orlando Sa, who has spent a week training with Chelsea. Ironically, Scolari's case would be stronger had he not been able to bring the best out of Anelka, whose header against his former club from Bosingwa's cross on Saturday brought his 15th goal of the season and smoothed the way for the latest success on the road, before Deco's acrobatic scissors-kick.
"Anyone who finishes above Chelsea will win the League," said Bolton's manager Gary Megson, whose team are another of the seven with more wins away than at home this season.
Cluj, if they have that Match of the Day tape to hand, will find Alan Hansen arguing that Didier Drogba should be brought in tomorrow, but they are more likely to find him kept back in the dugout while Anelka starts.
Goals: Anelka (10) 0-1; Deco (21) 0-2.
Bolton (4-5-1) Jaaskelainen; Steinsson, Cahill, A O'Brien, Samuel (Somlarek, 80); Davies, Nolan, McCann, Muamba (Gardner, h-t), Taylor; Elmander. Substitutes not used: Al Habsi (gk), Shittu, Riga, Basham, Odadeyi.
Chelsea (4-1-4-1): Cech; Bosingwa (Ivanovic, 89), Alex, Terry, A Cole; Mikel; Kalou (Ferreira, 83) Lampard, Ballack, Deco; Anelka. Substitutes not used: Cudicini (gk), Sinclair, Mineiro, Stoch, Woods.
Referee: H Webb (S Yorkshire).
Booked: Bolton Davies, O'Brien; Chelsea Ballack.
Man of match: Terry.
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