Chelsea v Bolton Wanderers

A fortnight of football apathy is, thankfully, over and we return to the passion and excitement of the Premiership. Those who insist that England’s top league is ‘boring’ should be forced to sit through an international break featuring two England games; I’m sure they would soon change their tune.

Jose Mourinho has railed against those who continue to ludicrously label his team ‘boring’ this week, saying: “I think they were very happy when Chelsea was a losing side. At that time football in England was not boring for them.

“We have to live with this kind of mentality and give the answer at the right time.

“My only doubt sometimes is that the critics have an intention or the critics are people who do not understand football well.”

Mourinho has also warned his players against any post-international break lethargy, which seemed to affect the squad last season. Today’s opponents took a point at Stamford Bridge last November on the back of international action, and points were also dropped at Aston Villa and Man City in similar circumstances.

“Last season every time we had an international week we lost some points,” Mourinho said earlier this week.

“I think this season we have a squad who can fight a little bit against that. We have more solutions.

“I can rotate a little bit, I can use players who have not been involved in international week to try to give some fresh blood to the team.”

Bolton have proved tough opponents at the Bridge during the Abramovich era, taking all three points in a 2-1 victory courtesy of a John Terry own goal in 2003/04, and nicking a point last season after coming from 2-0 down. Revenge of sorts was forthcoming when a Frank Lampard brace secured Chelsea the title at the Reebok in April.

A tough, industrious side, Bolton play the much lambasted 4-5-1 formation and have achieved great things using it (for a team of their standing — no offense intended). Their manager, Sam Allardyce, took them into Europe for the first time this season after finishing fifth in last season’s Premiership.

This season they currently find themselves in a similar position, but have been unimpressive in reaching the giddy heights of the top five scoring only 9 goals in their 8 games, whilst losing twice to Everton and Wigan. A lot of the unnecessary criticism of the Premiership has been levelled at Allardyce for the way his team plays, but given what he’s achieved using it (on a tight budget) no-one really has the right to complain.

In team news, Damien Duff is out for a month after undergoing surgery on a knee injury picked up on international duty with the Republic of Ireland, while Wayne Bridge is unlikely to feature as he continues his comeback from a serious ankle fracture sustained in February. Shaun Wright-Phillips picked up a minor ankle knock during the England – Poland game so is unlikely to replace Duff in the starting eleven, meaning Joe Cole will probably start unless Mourinho employs Gudjohnsen in a midfield role. Carlton Cole will be on the bench after impressing for England U-21s.

Prediction: To record our ninth successive League win this season we’ll have to overcome the resolute, set in stone 4-5-1 formation much favoured by Allardyce, and any post-international break hangover. Overcoming ten-men-behind-the-ball formations at the Bridge has become a necessity nowadays as the vast majority of visiting teams employ such tactics. A deeper and slightly higher quality squad should take care of the latter. A reasonably comfortable 2-0 is on the cards… although it wouldn’t come as a surprise to see the Trotters score from a set piece given their aerial prowess. A draw or better would extend our unbeaten League run to 38.

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Chelsea 5 – 1 Bolton Wanderers · Update

You know that old adage about football being a game of two halves? Well, at half-time Chelsea were 1-0 down and lucky to have eleven men on the field after Stelios Giannakopoulos put the visitors ahead in the fourth minute and Michael Essien got away with a dangerous looking tackle on Tal Ben Haim, fortunately escaping with a yellow card.

God only knows what Jose Mourinho said to the players at half-time, but whatever he said it worked. The Portuguese genius switched to three at the back by taking off Del Horno and replacing him with Gudjohnsen. During nine blistering minutes of play, from the fifty-fifth minute till the sixty-fourth, Chelsea scored four goals: Drogba stabbed home after Jaaskelainen failed to deal with a Lampard free kick; Lampard then scored after Drogba set him up with an exquisite back-heel; Lampard scored again from a free kick twenty yards out after Bolton’s Ricardo Gardner hand-balled (and was sent off); then Lampard set up Drogba from a corner — the striker volleyed home brilliantly at the near-post. Devastating.

Obviously Bolton had little in the way of a reply having been reduced to ten men. Gudjohnsen compounded the visitors’ misery by scoring a fifth, a composed strike after breaking down the left.

Sam Allardyce is sure to make a lot of Essien’s tackle and subsequent lucky yellow card, but that’s football. The mighty Blues were simply too good in the second half. Boring, boring Chelsea indeed.

Nine games, nine wins this season and thirty-eight games unbeaten. Awesome. And to make the day even more memorable, Arsenal’s faint hopes of winning this season’s Premiership title all but disappeared at West Brom.

See Drogba, Lampard and Gudjohnsen’s goals here (downloadable zip files).

Proper match reports: BBC Sport; Sky Sports; Manchester Evening News; ESPNSoccernet; Sporting Life; Official Chelsea FC Website; The Observer; Sunday Telegraph; Independent on Sunday; Sunday Times; The Times; The Independent; The Guardian.

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