Preview: Chelsea’s buildup to Saturday’s encounter with Norwich has been dominated by further troubling off-the-field reports. Following the FA panel’s report on John Terry’s charge of racially abusing Anton Ferdinand, Ashley Cole tweeted an expletive-containing tirade at the FA for the reports verdict on the left-back’s evidence.
Cole has since apologized, however the incident casts another shadow over the club and the behavior of its leading players. Yet, both Cole and Terry are expected to be in the lineup on Saturday.
The news has taken the shine off what has been a fine start to the season for the Blues. Chelsea produced arguably their finest result and performance of the season against Arsenal last weekend as to a large extent they put to bed the accusations that their place at the top of the Premier League was due in part to a soft opening schedule.
In contrast to the eye-pleasing invention and creativity that Chelsea’s summer signings have been recruited to try and instill in the side, the performance owed much to the kind of resilience that has been hallmarks of their play in recent seasons.
Against a side in Norwich without a victory in their first six league matches, there is an expectation that Chelsea will show the other side of their game—supplied by the likes of Eden Hazard, Juan Mata and Oscar.
Norwich suffered a morale-sapping 5-2 drubbing at the hands of Liverpool last time out and new manager Chris Hughton needs to begin picking up results to avoid a desperate battle against the drop. The only positive from that defeat was a first goal of the campaign for last season’s talisman Grant Holt. That the powerful striker only came off the bench to score, says much for his struggles to replicate the key contribution he made to Norwich’s impressive first season back in the Premier League.
With Norwich having scored just four goals in the league to date, Hughton really needs the 31-year-old to again be a threatening presence in opposition penalty areas.
Norwich could be boosted against Chelsea by the return of center-back Sebastien Bassong and midfielder Anthony Pilkington.
Chelsea’s only injury worry is the continued absence of Daniel Sturridge.
D: Ivanovic, Luiz, Terry, Cole
M: Ramires, Mikel
Oscar, Hazard, Mata
D: Martin, Barnett, Bassong, Garrido
M: Snodgrass, Johnson, Howson, Surman
Prediction: It is hard to see anything other than a comfortable Chelsea victory arising from this contest. Norwich have been blunt up front, while Chelsea should also take advantage of what looks to be a less than secure back line.
Chelsea 3-0 Norwich