Match of the weekend: Chelsea v Manchester United
Chelsea would normally be favourites for any home
game, but their recent poor form means a lot of people will be backing United
to win this one. They have not been in outstanding form, but they seem to be
the only top team able to grind out results. This is a huge game for Chelsea.
If they lose, they will be six points adrift having played a game more, and
that could be a fatal blow to their title hopes. A win would send them above
United on goal difference and might be the spark they need to get their season
back on track. I would expect to see Didier Drogba back in the starting line-up
after he was dropped against Tottenham. Nicolas Anelka did not impress in his
place, and Drogba will be needed to exert physical pressure on the in-form
Nemanja Vidic. I don't imagine Sir Alex will make too many changes to the
United team, which is bad news for Dimitar Berbatov. He might be the Premier
League's top scorer but he cannot be relied on to deliver.
Under pressure: Carlo Ancelotti
There's no way Ancelotti's job should be on the
line, but it seems that the curse of impatience in modern football has struck
again. Chelsea have just won the double - a feat that used to buy a manager
another three or four years, no questions asked. I don't know if Ancelotti has
tricked certain people at the club into thinking success comes easily or automatically,
but it doesn't. Chelsea's biggest problem is their lack of squad depth,
particularly their young players - but Ancelotti has only been there 18 months
and cannot be held responsible for that. The only thing I would like him to do
is give young Danny Sturridge a bit more playing time. Sturridge looks like a talent,
and must be getting frustrated. He will look at the success Danny Welbeck has
enjoyed playing every week at Sunderland, and may well be asking Ancelotti for
a loan move come January.
Player to watch: Ryan Shawcross
The Stoke defender will get no end of abuse when
he visits Arsenal, having broken Aaron Ramsey's leg last season with a tackle.
But that's what it was - a tackle, not an assault. It was mistimed but not
malicious; Ramsey was just a bit too quick. These things happen in football,
and you cannot eradicate injuries - Antonio Valencia shows that breaks can
occur even if there is no contact. Arsene Wenger has stirred this up, and he
seems to want everyone to play a non-contact sport while wearing gloves and
stupid things around their necks. It is not fair to vilify Shawcross, who is
lucky to have a strong manager behind him in Tony Pulis. Pulis has been forced
to defend his team's style many times, and he will not change anything at the
Upset of the weekend: Blackpool v Tottenham
This could be a real shoot-out. Both teams throw
men forward, and neither can keep a clean sheet for love nor money. Tottenham
clearly have the better team, but Blackpool have sprung their share of
surprises this season and this could be another on account of the openness of
the game. Ian Holloway is going all-out for wins, and he already has six.
Another six before the end of the season should keep them up. Holloway is a
brave manager, playing 4-3-3 against everyone, and he is an honest, open man.
He allows his players to go out and enjoy themselves on the pitch, and he looks
after them. He is such a genuine, enthusiastic man you can hardly imagine any
player giving him less than 100 per cent.
- Carlo Ancelotti
- Didier Drogba
- Manchester United