Chelsea versus Manchester City. Nobody ever said this would be easy, but at the rate that this week is going Stamford Bridge will be flattened by a freak tornado tomorrow. Or we'll lose, or something. I guess. That would be bad too.
This, of course, is Rafa Benitez's first match in charge of the club, and I suspect the home faithful will show their displeasure at Wednesday's double-blow of the loss of Roberto di Matteo and the appointment of a man many of them despise. It won't be easy for Benitez to get the fans on his side, but fortunately the supporters will be cheering on the players even if they're rather miffed at the choice of manager.
Although we'd been having lots of off-the-field drama recently -- the managerial switch occured one day ahead of the FA dropping the Mark Clattenburg case and every closet bigot in the country falling all over themselves to tell us that falsely accusing a white man of racism in the country is worse than the original crime -- things are going pretty poorly on the field as well.
Since the 5-4 League Cup win against Manchester United, Chelsea have drawn against Swansea City and Liverpool, lost to Juventus and West Bromwich Albion and notched a solitary scalp in the form of Shakhtar Donetsk. And even that win took a last-gasp header following an indifferent performance. It's Benitez's task to turn things around, and that means he'll have to dramatically improve Chelsea's overall cohesiveness. No more of this broken team stuff.
Manchester City, meanwhile, are in fine form domestically (they're still unbeaten in the league, although Aston Villa did knock them out of the Capital One Cup). That said, they've been fairly poor away from home and their Champions League campaign has gone fairly embarrassingly. Losing to Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid can happen to the best of us, but getting one point from two matches against Ajax? Not so much. Oh, and you should expect Roberto Mancini to play with a three man back line at some point. This will happen for no discernible reason.
Last season Raul Meireles and Frank Lampard scored to end City's unbeaten run at Stamford Bridge, part of a winter renaissance that extended Andre Villas-Boas' Chelsea career by a few months. Three managers later, and we're looking to do the same thing, only this time the match feels like a bit of an afterthought.
Football is weird.
Chelsea will be missing both John Terry and Frank Lampard. They will also be missing Roberto di Matteo, who won the Champions League six months ago and is no longer managing the team. This is still really really surreal you guys.
Manchester City, meanwhile, are sweating on the fitness of both Vincent Kompany and Gael Clichy, with Micah Richards still out as well. They seem to be down a striker on top of that -- Mario Balotelli's been having some back problems, but Chelsea-killer Carlos Tevez is still available and ready to ruin our collective weekends.
Date/Time: Sunday, Nov. 25th; 4:00 pm GMT, 11:00 am EST, 9:30 pm IST.
Venue: Stamford Bridge, London.
TV information: Sky Sports 1 (UK), Fox Soccer Channel (USA), ESPN (India).
Chelsea need a win here in order to move back into third place -- Romelu Lukaku helped West Brom to a 4-2 win against Sunderland at the Stadium of Light on Saturday to push the Baggies two points ahead of us. City, meanwhile, have been knocked off their perch atop the league by Manchester United's easy home win against QPR.
Ceterum censeo Torrentem delendam esse