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Preview: Triumph or tragedy - Chelsea v. Wigan

You know, we might as well go ahead and win this Premier League thing. I mean, we've come this far right?

Leader of men.

The what: Premier League, round 38 – Chelsea v. Wigan Athletic
The where: Stamford Bridge (42,051)
The when: May 9, 4pm local time (11am EST)
The how: Fox Soccer Channel (Dish 149, DirecTV 619)
The referee: Martin Atkinson

"Nobody here even thinks about anything other than a victory. To fail would be a disaster. For me, it would be the worst blow in my career, but with our fans at Stamford Bridge behind us we believe that’s impossible. If you analyse the numbers and statistics in our season, then Chelsea deserve to be champions and yet we know we must still win on Sunday to confirm our achievement. We will forget the nerves and we know we will have to play with our heads and be patient. I am totally convinced we will be champions."
-Florent Malouda, players' player of the season

Wigan —
15 (36 points)
League Form: DLWDLL
Team: 29 Vladimir Stojkovic, 25 Mario Melchiot (C), 5 Gary Caldwell, 2 Steve Gohouri, 31 Maynor Figueroa, 27 Mohamed Diame, 7 Paul Scharner, 24 James McCarthy, 15 Jordi Gomez , 9 Jason Scotland, 8 Ben Watson, 11 Victor Moses, 20 Hugo Rodallega, 12 Mike Pollitt, 6 Hendry Thomas, 17 Emmerson Boyce, 39 Jordan Mostoe, 14 Charles N'Zogbia, 4 Antonio Amaya
Doubtful: N'Zogbia (foot)
Injured: Kirkland (finger), Bramble (ankle), Moreno (hamstring)
Suspended: None
Ineligible: Scott Sinclair (on loan from Chelsea)
Leading scorer: Rodallega (10 league)

Wigan manager Roberto Martinez is confident. So, too, is his chairman Dave Whelan. Who's to say they should not be? The Premier League's most inconsistent side already owns a win, 3-1 at the DW, over our CFC. They also hold claim to results over both Liverpool and Arsenal, only a few short weeks ago. This match does not represent, by any stretch, a half-testimonial, half-tribute to the champions-elect of England 2009-10.

Previous meetings with Sunday's visitors have provided an assorted variety of late drama. Last-minute winners from Frank Lampard, Arjen Robben and Hernan Crespo; the aforementioned defeat this season; a costly draw in 2007-09, co-starring Emile Heskey. In fourteen matches, the Chels have won nine and lost three (27 goals scored). Our first-ever meeting - in the 1979-80 FA Cup - was 1-0 to Wigan at the Bridge. None of that, please.

Martinez will be unable to selected regulars Titus Bramble and Chris Kirkland. He will also be without the services of on-loan striker Marcelo Moreno. Vladimir Stojkovic appears to be the favorite to fill in for Kirkland - good for Chelsea. Stojkovic was, let's say, not at his best - if he has a best - in last week's 2-2 draw with Hull City. There it is, Stojkovic to have a blinder then.

Threat will arrive via a competent front three. N'Zogbia and Rodallega are said to be in Voyeur's sights. Moses was highly touted ahead of his move to Wigan from Crystal Palace.

1 (83 points)
League Form: WWLWWW
Team: Cech, Hilario, Turnbull, A Cole, Kalou, Alex, Drogba, Terry, Malouda, Lampard, Deco, Anelka, Zhirkov, J Cole, Belletti, Ballack, Kakuta, Sturridge, Ferreira, Bruma, Ivanovic
Doubtful: None
Injured: Mikel (knee), Essien (knee), Borini (groin), Carvalho (ankle), Bosingwa (knee)
Suspended: None
Leading scorer: Drogba 33 (26 league)

"We could score our 100th goal of the season tomorrow, but I’m not interested in records. We need to score one more goal than Wigan. I believe that we deserve to stay top of the list."
-Carlo Ancelotti

Deserved, perhaps. Making it actually happen, a different prospect altogether. And that would be the issue, particularly if you are a Chelsea supporter.

From a piece by Giles Smith on the official website ...

"Where do these people get their confidence from? I wish I shared it. Only Wigan? Call me old fashioned - and call me, more to the point, neurotic - but I started worrying about Wigan about three minutes after the whistle blew at Anfield."

We are hardly the optimist. Some would say - many, in fact - that to be a Chelsea supporter requires a pinch of masochism. Never easy, it is to be a fan of the famous CFC. This, my friends, is what makes us who we are. This, my friends, is what will make a win on Sunday that much more satisfying.

Kind of demented? Yes. The Message, clear.

The club received news this week that Mikel, following minor knee surgery, would miss the remainder of the season. The Nigerian should be fit for the World Cup, meanwhile - excellent news. His absence for club, however, has been less of a factor than many may have thought.

Ballack has performed well in the anchor role. As mentioned many a time, give ze German time and he will dissect with the class of a master surgeon. Our makeshift midfield, which has just recently included Malouda, continues to excel. Our front three, with the addition of the enigma (Salomon Kalou), has been inspired. Yes, inspired and Salomon Kalou were just featured in the same sentence. Make note.

What else need be said? Let the initial leg of an historic double come to pass.

the starting XI
Bane-Alex-BJT-A. Cole

Potent Potables —
• Chelsea have won only one of their last five final day games in the Premier League.
• Wigan have never drawn on the final day of a Premier League season (W2, L2)
• Wigan have won just three or 18 away league fixtures this term
• Chelsea need three goals to set a new league record for goals in a season (97, Man Utd 1999-2000)
• Net five and the Premier League's first-ever century, last achieved in the top flight by Spurs (111, 1962-63)
• Chelsea’s 33 goals in their past eight home league games is the finest top-flight run since Spurs' 34 goals in '65
• Chelsea have conceded only 12 goals from open play all season
• The mighty Drogs is seeking his third career Golden Boot

It's time. Carefree. KTBFFH —

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