Wasn't it nice, this weeklong break from the tyranny of La Rafalución? We even made it through a Wednesday without Chelsea Chelseaing themselves in hilarious ways. I almost felt like living a normal life. Things were in order, nobody was dividing by zero. I almost forgot about the whole Dear Leader cluster[fun]. Or was that just the alcohol? Speaking of which, we're out of beer. CRISIS!
Alas, all good things must come to an end. We're back to the grind and the muck, bliss giving way to the "poisonous" fumes of the noxious Stamford Bridge atmosphere. Don't forget your gas mask, Señor! Or do forget it; you seem invincible anyway. The Unsackable One! Take THAT, Jose.
Date/Time: Saturday, February 9th, 15:00 GMT; 10 A.M. EST; 8:30 P.M. IST
Venue: Mustard Gas Field @ Stamford Bridge, SW6
TV Information: none (UK); Fox Soccer (USA); ESPN HD (India)
People obviously REALLY care about this match. Third league fixture in a row not televised in the UK, yet Fox Soccer decides to once again screw all the FoxSoccer2Go subscribers over by once again putting Chelsea on the main channel and wasting even more of that lovely $170 subscription fee. I honestly cannot wait until all this moves to NBC next season. Fox Soccer OUT!
Chelsea: Stephen gave you the injury news earlier, including the mystery knee inflammation - i.e. "old & slow man's disease" - for John Terry. But no worries, because as always, the perfectly timed midweek internationals proved enormously useful, ensuring that every single other even remotely capable defender played all sort of minutes instead being all criminally lazy and kicking back with an ice cold beverage of choice. Thanks, FIFA!
One man who has had plenty of down time is amateur kickball enthusiast Eden Hazard, scourge of ballLADs. His very first match in the Premier League came against these athletic Wigan types, and now his very first match back, reborn as a child-hating phoenix, comes against them as well. So welcome back, Eden. Only Ryan Bertrand did not miss you. And NOW, as a freshly minted member of the All-around Terrible Human Being™ Society, you're truly Chelsea for life. (I hope.)
Of course it's not quite the same Wigan Athletic that Hazard & Chelsea faced back in August, the biggest difference being one Victor Moses who has since seen the light glinting off the rubles and journeyed down to the capital. Alas, Moses himself will miss out, on account of the AFCON final that he will be contesting alongside John Obi Mikel and Kenneth Omeruo.
Wigan: Roberto Martinez has persisted with his 3-4-1-2 formation even though it has netted him a grand sum of one league win in 12. Him and Mr. Interim Failure should really get together and swap notes on tactical stubbornness, methinks.
There is one thing that Wigan are very good at currently, and that's injuries. PhysioRoom has them tied with Aston Villa on nine, to lead the English Premier League. Well up, physio crew! This being Wigan, half these people are no-names, but pretty much every defender including captain Gary Caldwell, Antolin "not a prison island" Alcaraz, and greatest Barbadian footballer of all time Emmerson Boyce are all set to miss out.
In a strangely familiar prognostication, on any other day, in any other season - Wigan have never won at Stamford Bridge, mind - this would be an absolute breeze without even a hint of a singular bead of sweat. But this is now and now is ... well ... it's dumb. Wigan have managed two 2-2 draws on the trot (and five total on the season, which seems oddly remarkable) and I'd put good money on that same result popping up for the third straight time on Saturday*. Ugh.
Viva la Rafalución!
* Since CLEAN SHEET is no longer the new win, and WIN is certainly not the new win, let's all agree that 2-2 DRAW is the new win.