On Monday's lone Premier League encounter, Chelsea will travel to the Reebok Stadium to face Bolton Wanderers.
It is fair to say that this match is the clash between the wobblers. Both teams have fallen from positions of power and are experiencing bad times. Before October, Chelsea looked incapable of making the smallest error. However, a dramatic dip in form witnessed their worst run since 1998, in which they managed just two wins off their last 10 games.
Before Christmas, Bolton were near and about 5th in the table, with impressive wins over Newcastle and Tottenham. However, their blip in form started, ironically, in the reverse fixture against Chelsea .They haven't won in the league since.
Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti admitted that their blip in form was in part due to their pursuit of beautiful football, which made them vulnerable. However, he stopped short of saying that a reversal of tactics was necessary and instead said improvement was what was needed.
For Chelsea to win a game, we have to play well, play good football. We are not able to win a game if we are not able to play well. We played very well last season and when we didn't play well, we lost the game the same way we have lost them this season.
Our aim is to improve our football. This is the way to win the game. It is our philosophy. We don't want to stay back and maybe use the long ball or use the counter-attack. Maybe this is also the reason that if we don't play well, we are vulnerable.''
Chelsea find themselves 10 points adrift of leaders Manchester United and their faint hopes of retaining the title will require drastic improvements in their own performances in addition to a dramatic downturn in United's fortunes.
The Champions head to Bolton without their talismanic midfielder Frank Lampard, who pulled out off the game after a calf injury suffered during training. However, the Blues have a reason to be optimistic. In their last 15 visits to Bolton, they have won 12 and drawn three. They also come to this game on the back of a 2-0 win over Blackburn at Stamford Bridge last week.
Monday's visit from Chelsea marks the first game for Bolton since the passing of their legend Nat Lofthouse who played more than 500 games for Bolton scoring 285 goals between 1946 and 1960. It means Chelsea will face a tough atmosphere at the Lancashire club, especially after Bolton manager Owen Coyle urged the fans to celebrate Lofthouse's life during the match.
Coyle said, I think it's important that we as a club and Bolton as a town celebrate Nat Lofthouse's life on Monday night. I hope there will be a great atmosphere, and it would be nice if we could put in a big performance and get a result against Chelsea, recognising they are one of the strongest teams in the Premier League.
It will be a tricky tie for Chelsea against a Bolton side backed by emotion. Chelsea themselves need to get back on track and the game should pan out to be an intense, exciting affair.
Team News -
Bolton's new signing David Wheater will be included in the squad while , Klasnic, Stuart Holden and Gretar Steinsson will all hope to play a part after recovering from respective injuries. Chung-Yong Lee, S Davis, J O'Brien, Gardner and Samuel will play no part.
Chelsea have been dealt a blow through Frank Lampard's calf injury, sustained during training , and he will play no part. However, John Terry is expected to start after recovering from his back problem. Alex, Benayoun, Borini and Zhirkov are sidelined through injury.
In their last 14 encounters against Bolton, Chelsea are unbeaten. Bolton haven't managed a clean sheet against Chelsea in their last 20 League meetings and they have failed to score in their last four matches against the Londoners.
It is about time Chelsea got over their shabby patch, and considering their performances against Bolton over the years, it is a good place for them to start a winning run. Chelsea to win 2-0.