Underpowered Chelsea face defining moment
Chelsea 1 Wigan Athletic 0
Monday 11 April 2011
Chelsea head to Old Trafford for tomorrow's all-important game against Manchester United in the Champions League at full strength, but seriously underpowered. Alex and Yossi Benayoun returned from injury to complete a clean bill of health for the Premier League champions for the first time this season.
The team, however, is still nowhere near its best, and the chances of them overturning a 1-0 deficit from the first leg at Stamford Bridge look remote. Manager Carlo Ancelotti talked about Chelsea needing to "do 100 per cent in everything" if they are to win at Old Trafford, but then moaned that his players are trying to win games with individual skill rather than team-work.
There were moments against Wigan - particularly when Chelsea started the game using the 4-3-3 formation of last season and the first half of this – when things looked better. But, generally, their play was of the more disorganised variety that has crept into their game of late. Much has been said about how the future of Ancelotti as manager depends on getting the victory they need at Old Trafford, and Benayoun said: "Everyone knows it's the most important game of the season. We have to save our season and try to qualify."
They still have hope. Things might just suddenly click into place at Old Trafford and Chelsea could rediscover some of their energy to play with the power of old. However, logic suggests that is unlikely, and the odds are very much in favour of United, leaving Ancelotti's future hanging on the whims of Chelsea's owner Roman Abramovich.
The best thing for Chelsea would be Fernando Torres finally justifying that £50m transfer fee. The striker came off the bench for an entertaining half hour, but not even the Spanish-style sunshine could inspire him and he missed the best chance of his Chelsea career so far from a ball by his old Liverpool team-mate Benayoun, when Ali Al Habsi made a fine one-handed stop to deny him.
Wigan came to Stamford Bridge having lost 8-0 there last season, and were beaten 6-0 at home earlier this campaign. As if to demonstrate how Samson has lost his strength, this time Chelsea won 1-0, thanks to a scrappy goal from a corner, struck by Florent Malouda after Torres had appeared to impede Al Habsi.
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