Chelsea v Charlton Athletic

A chance to put even more pressure on the chasing duo of Liverpool and Manchester United, who kick-off their match almost immediately after this one finishes. A win and our lead will be stretched to 19 points, albeit temporarily.

Charlton’s last visit to the Bridge in the Premiership will be remembered for two reasons: the previously unimaginable sight of Claude Makelele scoring from the penalty spot, his first ever goal for Chelsea; and John Terry being presented with the Premiership trophy. It was a magnificent day, one that will stay with me forever. It’s doubtful whether this match will prove to be quite so memorable.

Charlton are the only team to have defeated us at home since Jose Mourinho took over, their win coming via a penalty shootout in the Third Round of this season’s League Cup.

But Eidur Gudjohnsen has insisted there will be no element of revenge today: “We don’t look back on it as a horrible defeat,” he said on Friday. “Disappointing, yes. But we have got bigger things to think about.”

Indeed we have.

Maniche may be handed his debut after his loan move from Dynamo Moscow earlier this month. The Portugal international has struggled for match fitness since signing but is expected to be on the bench today. Gudjohnsen is likely to be given the nod in his place.

Arjen Robben is suspended after being sent off last weekend for ‘over’ celebrating his winning goal against Sunderland. Shaun Wright-Phillips could benefit although Damien Duff is also in contention. Michael Essien is still out recovering from ankle ligament damage sustained in the win over West Ham three weeks ago.

Up front, Hernan Crespo will continue to deputise for Didier Drogba who is away on African Cup of Nations duty with the Ivory Coast (he scored the winning goal against Morocco yesterday before coming off injured). Carlton Cole, who was once on loan at Charlton, will start on the bench.

Alexei Smertin, who is on a season-long loan at the Valley, is ineligible, while the Addicks’ January transfer window signing, Everton’s Marcus Bent, may have to settle for a place on the bench.

Prediction: Charlton have halted their rapid fall down the table in recent matches without ever looking overly comfortable. Against West Ham and Birmingham they were the inferior team for long periods but managed to win both matches 2-0, which suggests we’ll have to be careful today particularly with Darren Bent continuing to impress up front.

Mourinho’s record against the Addicks in the Premiership couldn’t be better, three wins out of three, and they haven’t taken a point off us since humbling us 4-2 at the Valley on Boxing Day, 2003. Everything points to an eleventh successive Premiership victory, Mourinho’s fiftieth as Chelsea manager. 3-1.

Related links:

Chelsea 1 -1 Charlton Athletic · Update

Read columnist Jonathan Dyer‘s match report here.

See Gudjohnsen’s goal here (downloadable zip file).

Match reports: BBC Sport; Sky Sports; ESPNSoccernet; Sporting Life; Official Chelsea FC Website; The Guardian; The Independent; The Times; Daily Telegraph.

Related links: