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Premier League

  • 5 January 2011
  • • 19:45
  • • Molineux Stadium, Wolverhampton, West Midlands
  • Referee: M. Halsey
  • • Attendance: 26432
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Wolves - Chelsea Preview: Branislav Ivanovic set to return to shore up leaky defence as Michael Mancienne misses out

Wolves - Chelsea Preview: Branislav Ivanovic set to return to shore up leaky defence as Michael Mancienne misses out

TEAM NEWS

Wolves


Mick McCarthy will face a midfield headache as he will be without captain Karl Henry and on-loan Chelsea youngster Michael Mancienne, who so often fills in in the middle of the park.

Striker Kevin Doyle is pencilled in to return from a thigh injury on the day of the game, but it could prove too quick a turnaround to get the Irish forward into the game, so expect top scorer Sylvan Ebanks-Blake to lead the line.

Stephen Hunt, who fractured Petr Cech's skull while at Reading, will start and will likely be roundly booed throughout by the travelling support.

Possible starting XI: Hennessey; Zubar, Berra, Stearman, Elokobi; Jarvis, Edwards, Foley, Milijas, Hunt; Ebanks-Blake.

Chelsea

Carlo Ancelotti faces no fresh injury or suspension worries, but that's not to say the Italian will not be tempted to ring the changes after seeing his side fritter away a lead to Aston Villa on Sunday.

Defender Jeffrey Bruma may face the chop despite being adamant that he was not at fault for Emile Heskey's goal in the 3-3 draw at home, with Branislav Ivanovic returning from suspension.

Possible starting XI: Cech; Bosingwa, Ivanovic, Terry, Cole; Ramires, Lampard, Essien; Anelka, Drogba, Malouda.

Breaking the record books

Few sights in football are as disheartening as a downbeat Yorkshireman managing a struggling side, and few Yorkshireman are struggling as much as Wolves boss Mick McCarthy, yet the former Republic of Ireland manager continues to go about his business at the bottom of the league with a wry smile.

And for relatively good reason: Wolves simply aren't playing that bad this season and results are likely to come. But after losing twice to Wednesday's opponents last season, it'd come as something of a shock if the Midlands outfit engineered a victory against a side that they have lost to in their last six encounters.

Yet if they did so, the Molineux faithful would be forgiven for doing cartwheels through the town as three points could send Wolves as unfathomably high as 15th.

A year of decline?

This time last year, Chelsea were top of the table having lost just three times in the league. Fans of the champions need not be reminded of how far they've fallen this season. But for those of us who aren't, let's have a chuckle.

The champions have now won just once since being defeated by Sunderland at home in early November, and have drawn as many games after 20 games this year (5) as they had throughout the entire of last year's double-winning season.

Yet despite the poor record and the lowly fifth position, the Blues are only six points away from the two Manchester sides that top the table. Victory over Wolves could see Ancelotti's side go back into the top four.

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Players to watch

W. Hennessey

Position: Goalkeeper

Games: 0

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The Welsh goalkeeper will have to be at full capacity to deal with the triple threat of Drogba, Anelka and Lampard, and his performance will be pivotal to his side's fortunes.

Put simply, if the stopper is able to put up a force field on his goal-line, then Wolves could get something out of this game.

D. Drogba

Position: Attacker

Games: 0

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A spent force? Past his sell-by date? Or just not at the races? Chelsea's talisman for the last five seasons certainly hasn't been anywhere near his best this season, and this has undoubtedly hindered his team's ability to fire up the table.

But at 32, the Ivorian, who scored both goals in the 2-0 win at Molineux last year, is far from being a shadow of his former self, and it is surely only a matter of time until the former Marseille man gets back to the sort of form that has defender's changing their underwear at half-time.

Editor's Prediction

After beating Liverpool, a team dramatically on the wane, recently, it is tempting to think that Wolves will do the same to a side similarly losing its powers and the home side - who certainly have not played as bad as the league table suggests - will give the champions a fright with a combative approach. But surely Chelsea's bleak form can not continue for much longer? Expect Hennessey's goal to come under fire throughout and for Chelsea to make it a whopping two wins from nine games.

Last Five Matches

Head To Head

Wolverhampton Wanderers

Chelsea

Wins
1
0
4
Wins

Betting & Predictions

Reader's Predictions

Wolverhampton Wanderers FC WOL
Wolverhampton Wanderers FC Wolverhampton Wanderers
Draw
Chelsea FC CHE
Chelsea FC Chelsea
80%

Top 3 Predictions

Wolverhampton Wanderers FC WOL
0 - 2
Chelsea FC CHE
Wolverhampton Wanderers FC WOL
0 - 3
Chelsea FC CHE
Wolverhampton Wanderers FC WOL
1 - 3
Chelsea FC CHE

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