Big Mick will be hoping for a disciplined performance. (©PAphotos)
by Rory Hall
, read by 121 people.
After a disappointing draw with West Ham last Saturday, the last thing Mick McCarthy would have wanted, or needed, was a trip to Stamford Bridge. It's a tough place to go at the best of times, but the home side's phenomenal record there this season make it an entirely different prospect for Wolves.
Chelsea's record at home this season is beyond comparison, having played four and won all of them, scoring 14 goals along the way and not conceding once. So, needless to say, anyone in the starting eleven for the Wolves will be wondering how they can go about doing their job effectively. How does Doyle break down such a solid defence? How do Hahnemann, Craddock, Foley et al. keep a returning Didier Drogba at bay?
All these questions will have been looked at, in length, during training this week and Big Mick will, we hope, set his team out to make sure the scoreline doesn't get out of control and look to take advantage of any defensive lapses or opportunities to hit Chelsea on the break - something that is far easier said than done; even if you get past the back four, you're then faced with the task of beating Petr Cech.
It's not entirely bad news for Wolves going into this game. There is still no sign of Frank Lampard making a return to the first team and with Carlo Ancelotti fielding a strong side against Spartak Moscow in the Champions League, there may be some tired legs out on the pitch come Saturday afternoon.
The Blues will be buoyed by Drogba's return to the side after a fever ruled him out of the game at Villa; a game in which Chelsea looked a shadow of their former selves; devoid of ideas and lacking penetration. Ideally, that would be the side that turns out to face Wolves; it's the only thing that might give Mick and his side some hope that they can snatch a win.
That isn't to say Wolves are turning up just to be turned over - but at the same time, realism in these matches is important. Wolves will know they are the weaker side here and will play accordingly. It will be a defensive performance utilised to frustrate Chelsea into forcing the play and making mistakes.
The fixture last year is something McCarthy may use as a benchmark for his side. Chelsea ran riot over the away side and scored three of their four goals in the first 22 minutes; Mick will be adamant that his side contain this initial burst that saw them dead and buried by half time. If they can put in a performance akin to that in the second half of last season's clash, they may still walk away with nothing, but at least their pride will still be in tact.
The last thing the side need at this moment in time is a defeat similar to that which local rivals West Bromwich Albion suffered at The Bridge on the first day of the season. To head home on the end of a drubbing could be a huge psychological blow to the players, and McCarthy will need them to be in the right frame of mind to take on the likes of Arsenal, Manchester City and Manchester United in the coming weeks.
Disclaimer: The views in this article are that of the writer and may not replicate those of the Professional Footballers' Association.