From one bogey team to the next, Chelsea trundle their way towards an amicable resolution - i.e.: a top four finish - to this season to (quickly) repress once it is over. Last weekend it was Liverpool, Sturridging up like walking dead from the grave of mid-table to take a bite out of Chelsea's points haul and Suarez a draw from the jaws of defeat. This weekend it's Swansea and who knows what new antics their latest matchup will bring.
Swansea City became the first Welsh team to play in the Premier League (born: 1992) when an ex-Chelsea coach's tactics and an ex-Chelsea boy's hattrick powered them to playoff victory over Reading. While both Brendan Rodgers and Scott Sinclair moved on the next summer, their replacements haven't skipped a beat. In fact, they probably made things better.
The Swans look on course for a top half finish (improving from 11th) and have assured European qualification as well by winning the club's first ever (relatively) major trophy. Michael Laudrup, a graduate magna cum laude from Roberto Di Matteo's school of cool, gave direction to much of the pointless passing that Rodgers liked to do, while the Spanish invasion of Wales has been a shoo-in for all the "bargain of the season" awards. Michu, Chico, and Pablo cost less than £10 million combined.
It was the latter of the three who twisted the dagger in the hearts of Chelsea fans with his 88th minute equalizer in the reverse fixture earlier this season, upstaging Michu and his 17 league goals (fourth best) that is just about the greatest thing ever to millions of fantasy football players. Meanwhile, somewhat quietly, Chico Flores has ascended to the top of the charts in several defensive categories, including interceptions (3.4/game, highest for a defender) and tackles (3.5/game, second highest for a defender after Pablo Zabaleta).
Chelsea first met Swansea in the Premier League under a Portuguese manager. Not Jose, Andre was his name, incentivization was his game. Fernando Torres opened the scoring and we should've known that was a harbinger of strange(r) events to come. Ten minutes after scoring - during which time Ramires doubled Chelsea's advantage - Torres earned himself a red card for an overzealous striker's tackle. One step forward, two steps back - do the Torres shuffle; he wouldn't score again for another 1000+ minutes. And although Chelsea went on to win 4-1 and it was good, it would be their first and last win over the Swans.
Later that season, a Neil Taylor own goal from a wayward (redundant!) Jose Bosingwa cross gave Chelsea - once again reduced to ten men, this time thanks to Ashley Cole - a lucky draw. Then, the last time around, quick to assimilate the Chelsea DNA of scandalous headlines, Eden Hazard followed Torres & Cole in the red card parade, the Belgian winning extra points for creative use of a live prop. This in itself would not have been a problem as the match finished once again in a draw, but a fortnight earlier Branislav Ivanovic decided to gift the League Cup to Swansea - a generous gesture from a care-Bear who already had plenty of trophies in his cabinet.
So, if you're keeping track, for Chelsea, that's three red cards and one win in the five meetings, no wins in the last four, one goal in the last three (Victor Moses's one and only in the league), and no goals in the last two. Good times...
Chelsea: Winners of six in a row and nine of the last ten at Stamford Bridge ("that Bridge is poison," said Bell Biv Devoe when reached for comment), they're also riding a three-match unbeaten streak since the FA Cup semifinal defeat. Oriol Romeu aside, a fully healthy, if certainly not fully rested squad is available for selection. Three points should be the minimum expectation.
Swansea City: Winless in the last seven (with four defeats) away from home and winless in the last five overall, Swansea has hit a real rough patch since winning the League Cup. "Nothing left to play for" is the cliché befitting this situation. Laudrup's men also have a clean bill of health.
So, 5-0 to the Swans?
Date/Time: Sunday, April 28, 15:00 BST; 10:00 A.M. EDT; 7:30 P.M. IST
Venue: Stamford Bridge, SW6
TV Information: none (UK); Fox Soccer Plus (USA); Star Sports 2 (India)
With Tottenham Hotspur dropping two points on Saturday away to Wigan, Chelsea are back in the driver's seat for a top four finish. A win here, combined with a likely Arsenal loss to Manchester United (kicking off one hour after this one), would propel the Blues back into third, three points ahead of Spurs and two points ahead of the Gunners, with the best goal difference of the three.
On a final note, the referee for this game will be Mark Clattenburg, in charge or his first Chelsea match since that match. Why not allow for the possibility of him actually performing his job well, just like the previous 18 times he had done it? Or at least well enough for top flight refereeing work. Thanks.