Chelsea and Norwich locks horns at Stamford Bridge on Saturday. Chelsea will be hoping to build on last week’s hard-earned victory over West Brom, while Norwich will want to rebound quickly from their shocking 4-0 defeat to MK Dons in the Carling Cup.
Chelsea have had a stuttering start to the Premier league campaign, but will be buoyed by Florent Malouda’s late winner at West Brom. The Pensioners failed to break down Stoke on the opening day of the season, despite a decent performance from Fernando Torres. Chelsea then laboured on their way to a 2-1 victory over the Baggies at Stamford Bridge last week.
Torres seemed to be en-route to rediscovering some of his erstwhile form after an energetic performance against West Brom, but the Spaniard’s input last week was less impressive. Torres may yet find his first team position under threat from Didier Drogba, Nicolas Anelka and the upcoming Daniel Sturridge and Romelu Lukaku.
Last week Andre Villas-Boas’ charges fell behind early to a Shane Long goal. Chelsea were much improved in the second half, however, with Jose Boswinga especially impressive from his marauding right back position. Nicolas Anelka equalised for Chelsea in the 52nd minute, before Malouda won the game for the Pensioners in the 83rd minute after turning in a Boswinga cross.
Norwich have made a steady start in their return to the Premier League, drawing 1-1 away to Wigan and at home to Stoke City. The Canaries fell behind to Wigan after a Ben Watson penalty in the 19th minute on the opening day, but equalised through Wes Hoolahan.
A Richie De Laet header from a Bradley Johnson cross gave Norwich a 36th minute lead against Stoke. John Ruddy then saved a 62nd minute Jonathan Walters penalty to preserve the Canaries’ slender lead. There was disappointment for Norwich at the death, however, as a Glenn Whelan cross was headed home by Kenwyne Jones to help the Potters snatch a draw.
Norwich’s encouraging start to the Premier League will have boosted confidence, but The Canaries morale will have taken a significant hit after the heavy loss to MK Dons.
Chelsea have bolstered their squad with the £23.5m signing of Juan Mata this week. The winger adds a much needed creative element to Chelsea’s attack and the Spaniard should at least make the bench for Saturday’s encounter.
Boswinga should continue at right back after two impressive displays for the Blues, while Branislav Ivanovic could be given his first start of the campaign after replacing Alex against West Brom. David Luiz has resumed full training, but Saturday’s match will likely come too early for the Brazilian. Hilario will continue to deputise for the injured Petr Cech.
Andre Villas-Boas has an interesting dilemma with his front three. Anelka started against West Brom and rewarded his manager with a goal, while Malouda also staked his claim for a starting berth by scoring the late winner after replacing Salomon Kalou.
Torres was replaced by Didier Drogba in the 58th minute last week, but the Spaniard is likely to be given another chance to rediscover his scoring form against one of the Premier League’s weaker teams. If Villas-Boas sticks with his 4-3-3 formation, he could well choose Anelka and Malouda to flank Torres.
Paul Lambert has shown his willingness to use his squad in the opening two matches. The Norwich manager made five changes last week, with Wes Hoolahan and Andrew Surman dropping to the bench despite impressing in the opener against Wigan. Leon Barnett, Kyle Naughton, Bradley Johnson, Anthony Pilkington and Chris Martin came into starting line-up and almost helped Norwich to an invaluable three points.
Wes Hoolahan and Daniel Ayala picked up hamstring and knee injuries respectively against MK Dons and are doubts for Saturday’s match.
Chelsea are clear favourite entering Saturday’s encounter and the Pensioners should secure a comfortable victory.
Chelsea: Hilario, Bosingwa, Ivanovic, Terry, Cole; Ramires, Mikel, Lampard, Malouda; Anelka, Torres.
Norwich: Ruddy, Naughton, Barnett, De Laet, Tierney; Fox, Crofts, Surman, Hoolahan; Morison, Holt.