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PL Preview: Chelsea v. Birmingham City

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Revenge is at hand.


Who: Birmingham City
What: Premier League, Round 34
When: 19 April, 8pm local time (3pm EST)
Where: Stamford Bridge (42,449)
How: Fox Soccer Channel (DirecTV 619, Dish 149)

Why: Because, quite frankly, we should've battered them back in November. But, no, Ben Foster wasn't having it. Time to reintroduce ourselves.

Also, because the possibility of finishing second is very real. A win against the Brum and anything but for Arsene's ladies at White Hart Lane sees us level on points having played the same amount of games. Funny little world init There's also this little nugget: While we may have written off a repeat title, it's Carlo's job to make sure the club remains as competitive as possible when even a remote possibility of that remains. Less than a win tonight for Manchester United on Tyneside would just about keep the door ajar. Not really, but Carlo - and the players - has to believe.

The team
What do do, what to do. The obvious would be to continue with the side that defeated West Bromwich. Problem is that, of our six remaining contests, three are against Spurs, Manchester United (a) and Everton. Rotation would appear to be crucial in making sure we solidify our place in the Champions League next season. Resting the likes of a Drogba here so they are full-tilt for Spurs, etc., seems like a must. But that's just me. I expect Carlo to continue on with a similar team to the one that featured against West Brom.

Bane is carrying a slight hamstring problem, so I expect him to be rested. Bosingwa was excused from training today to attend to a personal matter. That would seem to rule him out as well. Paulo in, then. And I have no problem with that.

Nando probably has a decent shout to start, but I still expect him to get about 25-30 minutes in reserve. Many think this might be the day for him. I could care less - provided we win.

Preferred XI

The odd stat or two
• Chelsea have won 63 percent of their games this season when Michael Essien has been included in the side. Without? 20 percent.
• This one is interesting. Flo has the best minutes per chance created rate in the league this term. 24.2 minutes.
• We've kept nine clear sheets in 13 PL matches against Birmingham City.
• I don't like this one. Chelsea have won only three of 14 league games on Wednesdays in April.

Bonus: Carlo's pre-match presser as well as assorted news from ChelseaTV.