Wigan Athletic v Chelsea

Our long-awaited defence of the Premiership title begins up north at the JJB Stadium with a match against newly-promoted Wigan Athletic, a club playing in the Premiership for the very first time (they were only elected to the Football League in 1978).

The Latics have a Roman Abramovich of their own, footballer-turned-businessman Dave Whelan, chairman of JJB Sports — hence the JJB Stadium — who has amassed an estimated personal fortune of £227m. Although only pocket money when compared to Abramovich’s immense wealth, if Whelan parts with the cash and manager Paul Jewell spends it wisely, the town better known for its rugby league could eventually become a permanent fixture in English football’s top flight — if they can survive the difficult post-promotion season, that is.

We travel to the JJB knowing we have a great opportunity to get our title defence off to the best possible start and Wigan’s historic first Premiership season off to the worst. Nothing less than three points and a good goal difference will do for most. A loss is almost unimaginable — although stranger things have happened in football.

The team has been strengthened by the addition of Shaun Wright-Phillips, England’s finest young player, and Asier Del Horno, Spain’s international left-back, and remains unbeaten through pre-season, defeating the likes of Benfica, AC Milan and Arsenal. We’ve looked as good as ever and improved with each subsequent match.

As expected at this early stage of the season, Jose Mourinho has a full strength squad to choose from. Only Wayne Bridge is likely to be less than match fit.

Mourinho’s starting eleven is anybody’s guess. Here’s mine: Cech; Ferreira, Terry, Carvalho, Del Horno; Makelele, Lampard, Gudjohnsen; Duff, Robben, Drogba. When you consider my starting line-up leaves Crespo, Joe Cole, Wright-Phillips, Gallas et al on the bench, you can see why it’s almost inconceivable we lose.

We’ll have an impressive away contingent at the match, having sold over 4,300 tickets for our first ever visit to the JJB Stadium.

It’s sure to be worth the effort; we’ll win 3-0.

Related links:

Wigan Athletic 0 – 1 Chelsea · Match Reports

Two words: Crespo. Phew! See his goal here (downloadable zip file).

BBC Sport; Manchester Evening News; Sky Sports; ESPN Soccernet; Official Chelsea FC Website; The Guardian; The Independent; Daily Telegraph; The Times; ITV Football.

Related links: