Charlton v Chelsea

The only two teams in the Premiership with 100% winning records clash at The Valley.

Charlton have made an impressive start to their campaign, winning four out of four, and have the Premiership’s top scorer in Darren Bent who looks like being a bargain signing at £3m. Danny Murphy has also looked back to his best, aided by the battling qualities of on-loan Blue Alexei Smertin who, incidently, is not allowed to play today under the terms of his loan deal. Jermome Thomas and Dennis Rommedahl have also impressed.

We on the other hand have made a slow and unimpressive start to the season and haven’t looked anywhere near our peak in five Premiership games, yet we find ourselves top of the table with fifteen points and no goals conceded. It seems we’re conforming to the well worn adage that league winners record victories even when they’re not playing at their best.

Historically Charlton away has been somewhat of a bogey fixture for us — who can forget the Christmas-ruining 4-2 thrashing in 2003? — although Jose Mourinho has a 100% record against Alan Curbishley’s team, winning two from two. Both games were memorable for very different reasons: last November’s meeting at The Valley saw us record a staggeringly impressive 4-0 win, whilst May’s end-of-season, already-won-the-Premeirship home game saw the bizarre sight of Claude Makelele scoring his first goal for us from a rebounded penalty to win the game 1-0. It’s difficult to imagine either scenario arising again this afternoon; we’re not yet in 4-0-winning form and Makelele scores about as often as Arsene Wenger sees bad fouls commited by Arsenal players.

Injuries shouldn’t be a major concern, although we’re without left-backs Asier del Horno, who sustained a thigh injury last week against Sunderland, and Wayne Bridge. William Gallas will reluctantly continue to deputise at left-back, with Ricardo Carvalho maintaining his place alongside John Terry in the centre.

Claude Makelele might be rested after a few injury niggles and Eidur Gudjohnsen is still out with a leg injury.

Prediction: The most interesting aspect of today’s encounter is how Alan Curbishley approaches it. He’s spoken in the press of ‘attacking’ rather than setting out the obligatory Chelsea-stifling 4-5-1 formation. It’ll also be interesting to see how Danny Murphy copes without Alexei Smertin alongside him. Smertin’s presence has allowed Murphy a lot more freedom and he’s shown some impressive form for it — but will he be as effective without the Russian’s presence?

It’s unlikley to be a high scoring game; Charlton have yet to concede at home this season and we don’t ever concede. It wouldn’t come as a surprise to see Darren Bent score, but I just cannot see it happening. 0-2 and a record sixth consecutive Premiership clean sheet.

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Team news · Update

1 Cech; 13 Gallas, 26 Terry, 6 Carvalho, 20 Paulo Ferreira; 8 Lampard, 4 Makelele, 5 Essien; 11 Duff, 16 Robben, 9 Crespo.

Subs: 23 Cudicini, 14 Geremi, 24 Wright-Phillips, 10 Cole, 15 Drogba.

Charlton 0 – 2 Chelsea · Update

See Crespo and Robben’s goals here (downloadable zip files).

Match reports: BBC Sport; Sky Sports; ESPNSoccernet; The Observer; Official Chelsea FC Website; All Quiet in the East Stand; Sunday Telegraph; Independent on Sunday; Sunday Times; The Independent; Daily Telegraph; The Times; The Guardian; Daily Mirror.

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