Derby host the Blues as the never ending fixtures continue and this televised FA Cup third round clash will be a real test for Chelsea. Read on for our match preview and the latest news.
Given Chelsea’s well documented struggles on the road this season it is no surprise that the TV executives chose this game for coverage. With the home side flying high in the Championship, Jose Mourinho’s men will have to be at their very best here to avoid being one of the big news stories of the weekend.
Whilst they are slowly and quietly going about their business and doing well in both the Premier League and the Champions League, there is no doubt that their form away from the Bridge will have to improve if this campaign is ultimately to be deemed a success. Draws at Arsenal, Spurs and Man United are no disaster but defeats at Newcastle, Everton and Stoke are not good enough, nor is a record of just three away wins from nine Premier League away days (prior to the New Year’s Day trip to Southampton).
Of course, a win at St Mary’s, coming on the back of the fine home success over Liverpool, could put a different complexion on this one but whatever happens against the Saints this will be a tough task. The Blues played nine games in a frantic December and this will be the second of three away matches in 11 days. Whilst Southampton, Derby and Hull are not the three hardest matches Chelsea will play this year, tired legs are sure to start to impact on performance levels.
Of course, the Rams will face similar issues and whilst their squad doesn’t have the depth or talent of the Blues’, the home side faced two fewer games throughout December. They will also be roared on by the home support and have the benefit of this game being, for them, effectively a cup final. Chasing for lost causes with mental and physical fatigue is far easier for the underdog than the overwhelming favourite and the visitors will have to guard against complacency and apathy.
Derby have been something of a revelation under new boss Steve McClaren, the former Boro and Twente (oh, and England if we HAVE to remember that) boss replaced Nigel Clough in September and they are now (prior to the New Year’s Day match against Wigan) unbeaten in nine, winning eight of those. Whilst it could be argued they are actually better away from home, they will still put up stiff opposition for what is sure to be a much changed Pensioners XI and as such we think the visitors could struggle.
Class dictates they should win but on balance, with the myriad factors considered we expect McClaren’s men to just about have enough to earn a draw and given they have scored 13 goals in their last four home games we fancy it to be a high scoring one.
LCN Verdict: 2-2 draw