Don't get your hopes up that the Guardian were wrong about Didier Drogba missing Sunday's crunch match against Manchester United - Andre Villas-Boas has just confirmed that he'll be missing the services of the Ivorian ace at Old Trafford this weekend, leaving him with a selection dilemma between Nicolas Anelka and the scuffling Fernando Torres at centre forward. Probably. He might also do something strange, because he's like that.
Didier had some high intensity training today (Friday), but it is too soon for him to go out for the Manchester United game. Ross Turnbull is a doubt as he picked up a knock in a reserve team game, I would say he is 80 per cent likely to make the game. Hilario also picked up a big knock to his hip, but one of him or Ross will be on the bench.
-Andre Villas-Boas. Source: Fulham & Hammersmith Chronicle.
I really, really really REALLY hope that the goalkeeper news is irrelevant, because I would guarantee you it means we're having a very bad day indeed, but Villas-Boas has pretty much drawn the line under Drogba's potential participation in this match (although hey, a return to full intensity training is good). Chelsea will miss the Ivorian off the bench, especially with the potential of facing a United defence that looks fairly weak - the prospect of Drogba coming in as a with Johnny Evans tired in the second half is something that would have kept Sir Alex Ferguson on his toes - but it's better to keep him around for the long haul than risk him in one game, no matter how important.
With Torres scuffling and Anelka showing far better form as a wide forward than as a number nine (his indifferent performance was something control of the Sunderland game was achieved in spite of, rather than because of), the striker situation does not look fantastic for Sunday's game, which means that the key battle will probably end up being a) in the left wing zone, where Juan Mata gets to take on not-really-right-back Chris Smalling and b) in the centre, where Wayne Rooney, Anderson and one of Phil Jones and Michael Carrick will be up against Chelsea's presumed midfield triangle.
The former should be fairly straightforward, but the midfield is more tricky. Chelsea's best hope is probably that Ferguson makes a mistake and goes with Carrick over Jones - I notice that nobody is laughing over the price they paid for the 19-year-old now - but when you need the opposition manager to screw up in order to win a key battle, that's a pretty easy way to tell that you're in trouble.
It's going to be interesting to see how Villas-Boas addresses the various issues with the team, but he's better equipped to deal with this than anyone else, so we'll just have to wait and see. United are the better side on paper and are at home, so should be favourites to win, but Chelsea are certainly better than anyone else they've faced this season and if the Blues don't make any catastrophic defensive errors (cough David Luiz cough cough)... well, who knows?