Today is a big, big game, no question about it.
Stoke have continuously caused problems for us in the last couple of years and their physical Boltonesque approach mixed in with a bit more steel and the now famous Rory Delap throw seems to be a big issue for us. We lost there last year and again this year, albeit with not our strongest team, and today we face are nemesis again.
We’ve been undone with the long throws, we’ve been undone with the crosses into the box and the muscular / physical presence of the Stoke forward line, but they’ve not come up against Gallas and Vermaelen yet and today they won’t either as it was confirmed that Gallas would miss the tie later today. Sol Campbell is set to deputise and he will play alongside Vermaelen at the back. The rest of the team news sees Arshavin and Diaby both still out.
The team, based on the absentees should be:
Sagna – Campbell – Vermaelen – Clichy
Ramsey – Song
Walcott – Cesc – Nasri
With Rosicky, Eboue and Eduardo also available, the gaffer does have some options.
Arsene had his usual press conference yesterday and took time to talk about Stoke’s strength’s at both long throw in’s and set pieces in general, saying:
“His throws are dangerous because they are horizontal. So if anybody deflects the ball, you have no time to get it back. The ball comes like an arrow. It doesn’t come like a usual kick of the ball. It comes flat. You cannot really get in front of the striker but if one of them touches the ball it’s difficult to defend. However Stoke are good on set-pieces generally so I wouldn’t instruct my players to kick it out for a corner rather than a throw-in. We do not go for that. The problem is, with Delap, it is a corner already.”
With United not playing this week, and Chelsea play a tough game in Man City – with Carlos Tevez, we have every chance to close the gap.
“For us, we know that, no matter how Stoke plays, our solution on the day is to be efficient and to win the game. All the players are highly focused on this game because they know it’s a tricky one. But we know as well that, for us to have a chance to compete at the top – there is no choice.”
The game kicks off tonight at 5.30pm, so by then we’ll know the results of the early kick off at Stamford Bridge – remember, Chelsea have just come back from a gruelling tie at Inter Milan, so they will also be tired, despite Man City’s extra time outing against our opponents Stoke, in mid-week.
It’s going to be an interesting day of football, stay tuned…