Time: 4:00 PM BST (8:00 AM PST), Sunday September 18th.
Location: Stamford Bridge, London.
Preamble: After a midweek jaunt in eastern Europe, Chelsea return to the Premier League against newcomers Blackpool, the second new-promoted team forced to travel to Stamford Bridge early due to the cruel whims of the schedule list. Chelsea find themselves top of the league, with 17 goals scored to just one against, and their 100% record isn't in serious danger against the newcomers. After Blackpool, things get a little more difficult - a home game against Arsenal will follow a tricky away match against Manchester City. It's vital to get three points tomorrow in order to build up a four point buffer going into some of the tougher fixtures of the season.
Opposition: Blackpool are fun. There's no getting around that. They play pretty, attacking football and they've won themselves a lot of fans (me included) with the way that they will take the game to the opposition no matter what. Sometimes, that gives them freak results - 4-0 away at Wigan (less of a freak in retrospect) and 2-0 away to Newcastle are impressive for any team, let alone one that was playing in the Championship last year. However, the willingness to bomb forward is likely to be exploited by the top teams, and Arsenal gave them a lesson about life in the Premier League when they trounced the Tangerines 6-0 at the Emirates.
Manager Ian Holloway has claimed to have studied Glasgow Rangers's 0-0 draw at Old Trafford and that he will be drawing from their playbook, but the truth of the matter is that it's unlikely that Blackpool will come to Stamford Bridge and sit deep. While that might be the best way to get a point out of the match for the visitors, their players have played one style for long enough that the temptation to get forward will probably be too deep. Look out for Charlie Adam, whose role as the central attacking playmaker is pivotal to Blackpool's moves forward. When he's on, the young Scotsman can dominate matches - he put the team on his back for their victory at St. James' Park - and Chelsea will probably have to assign Jon Obi Mikel to shut him down if they want to avoid sharing Newcastle's fate. The last time these teams met, Chelsea were victims of a 3-1 loss at Stamford Bridge. It'd would probably be best to avoid that this go around.
Injury Report: Chelsea are still without the services of Frank Lampard and Jose Bosingwa, who are both automatic first team choices when fit. While Lampard's understudies in midfield have acquitted themselves marvelously in his absence, right-back has been more problematic. Both Branislav Ivanovic and Paulo Ferreira have failed to impress, with Ferreira in particular providing the opposition with a promising avenue of attack. Bosingwa is expected back to full fitness shortly, and if his rehabbing goes well he'll be playing with the reserves on Friday. Expect Ivanovic at right back and one of Yossi Benayoun and Ramires to play as the left-central midfielder.
Stat Report: The strongest attack in the Premier League against the weakest defence, while Chelsea have home field advantage? Prepare for a goal-fest - this is Chelsea's best chance to score ten in a match all season. With Blackpool's relatively potent attack, we should be prepared to concede a goal, but Chelsea should be expected to score four or more without a problem. Yikes. Prediction: 4-1 Chelsea.
Win probability starts at 72.3%, and point expectancy is a touch over 2.3. Let's get this done.