Well, just three days after an outing to the sun drenched city of Istanbul where our brave/courageous or apathetic/arrogant boys (delete as appropriate) suffered a setback in the Euro Big Cup first quarter-final play-off against Fenn Her Barchy (as spelt in the subtitles I inadvertently activated during the game and couldn’t work out how to get rid of) we travel to the small provincial town of Manchester for a super soccer game against the lesser famed football club in the area. No, not Bury, but Manchester City.
It was just a couple of years ago when quite a few of us Chelsea fans were aghast to find out that the bald, spherical-headed mannequin (no – not Tubby Benitez) who masquerades as the Chief Executive of our beloved club, had allegedly accepted an invitation to spend the evening (ahem) with a swarthy dark haired ‘oldie but goodie’ (in my eyes anyway) called Nancy Del’ Ollio but ended up with the silky voiced serial shagger that is Sven-Goran Eriksson. Despite all denials it did look for all the world that we were looking at him as a manager, despite having just employed The Special One. What utter madness it appeared to be at the time… but… how many of us would accept the human Rampant Rabbit now if it meant that Avram Grant would return to his plush office in the executive suite of Stamford Bridge?
In many ways, Citeh are very similar to us, or at least were. Like us, they played football in the shadow of a far more successful club, and like us were perennial underachievers. Whilst their more famed neighbours racked up trophies like Kerry Katona collects invoices from The Priory, Citeh have had to live off of memories of distant FA Cup victories and even more distant top division honours. Until recently our honours records were strikingly similar. Of course things changed with the dramatic intervention of the Silently Smiling Oligarch, Roman Abramovich, with his allegedly, yet consistently unproved, dodgy history. Citeh now find themselves owned similarly by a man with very deep pockets and an equally allegedly dodgy history. Thaksin Shinawatra despatched Stuart Pearce as we did Claudio Ranieri and set about funding an almost completely new team. The result… mid table obscurity. But most Citeh fans would concede that progress has been made and that The Shagger has started to build something for the future. Having said that, anything for them is better than the regular relegation battle scenarios they’ve suffered for as long as I can remember.
So which Chelsea will turn up? The sad truth is that under The Fat Controller, no-one, least of all the team, seems to have any idea. Will we be spurred and stung by the midweek reverse, or will we slide into title oblivion with a display similar to the rubbish served up last week, or against Liverpool? The result is wide open in my view, because despite hitting a poor patch, Citeh are still capable of delivering body blows… just look at the double they’ve done this year over United. One thing is for sure, our earlier 6-0 hammering of them will be something they want to rectify, and despite the obvious disdain they and their supporters will have for yet another bout of triumphalism from their neighbours they will still want to win this game and gain position in the Premier League.
From our perspective I expect Grant to tick the big player boxes again, with Michael Ballack maybe sacrificed to appease Frank Lampard and our clone of Michael Essien with one of our off the peg right-backs, probably Paulo Ferreira getting the nod. Didier Drogba will probably be the lone striker as Grant dishes out yet more appeasement sweeteners in the faint hope that the big Ivorian won’t jump (a floundering?) ship this summer. As for the rest… well have fun guessing folks.
My prediction? A good chance of rain with temperatures dropping… oops, sorry… try again… Doctor Who will make a steady start despite the earlier start time… oops… sorry again… my match prediction… a dour game settled by a single goal will be the best outcome, but in my heart I feel this could be a 1-1.
There’s a shed load of information and stats on the BBC match preview page.