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Premier League Preview: Portsmouth - Chelsea

Kick Off: Tuesday, 3 March, 19:45 GMT.
Fratton Park, Portsmouth

What is N.M.S?

Condition: New Manager Syndrome - [abbv; NMS].

Symptoms Include: Reversing form that was seemingly irreversible under the former, fallen, manager.

Possible Side Effects Of N.M.S: Cheery home crowds; increase in match-day revenue; and hope.

If ever there was irrefutable evidence for the immediate effect of NMS then look no further than both Portsmouth and Chelsea. Pompey found wins a rare treat under Tony Adams who, in 16 Premier League attempts, bagged maximum points on just two occasions.

Likewise Chelsea, under Luiz Felipe Scolari, looked like a fatigued giant no longer capable of even lifting their Middle-Aged mace, let alone smiting their opponent right in the mush to seal a win like they had done so many times under much-loved, characteristic, and suave stubble-sporter Jose Mourinho.

The higher-ups at Fratton Park and Stamford Bridge were quick to remedy their respective woes, and acted within half-a-season (give or take a few games). A prescription was required. A new manager needed to be brought in. The wretched run of form had to be halted.

Paul Hart is unbeaten at Portsmouth. Granted, he has only guided his side through 180 minutes of football, but during that time he has picked up four points out of a possible six. That is one shy of half the tally that Adams picked up in eight times as many games.

Guus Hiddink boasts an even more formidable streak and is not only unbeaten, but is yet to even taste what it is like to draw a league game, having fortified Chelsea's pretence to a Premier League challenge with three wins out of three that has seen the club rise into the lofty height of second, displacing competitive rivals Liverpool.

One of the aforementioned managers will lose their record on Tuesday evening.

Talking Tactics

Chelsea displayed an attribute during the weekend home game against Wigan Athletic that had previously escaped them ever since the days of Mourinho. Frank Lampard headed home a winning goal just moments before the game's death to prompt pundits to wax lyrical over the club's refinding of their never-say-die spirit.

Hiddink may well have reinstalled that characteristic in just a matter of weeks, and this could be an essential ingredient to any hope they have of silverware. The interim boss has already suggested in his pre-match press conference that he wants his side to translate the 'not knowing when your beaten' element of Chelsea's game, to the entirity of the season, but seemed to concede that due to Manchester United's quality in their squad, it could prove to be an insuperable task.

The Dutch journeyman though added that he wanted his club to be competing in the more notable games in May, nudging journalists imaginations to dates in Wembley and Rome.

Bouncebackability did seem to be a Jose Mourinho quality, but if Hiddink wants to honour his intimation of battling for the league crown while it is still mathematically possible, then he will expect nothing less than the full nine yards from each and every member of his ageing side.

How, though, can you stop these Pensioners? Well, Ashley Cole has recently declared how he misses Scolari. It is little wonder, as during the genesis of the Brazilian's Chelsea tenure, he placed great emphasis on the movement of both of his full backs.

During each game he could often be found on the touchline, literally positioning the full back closest to the dug-out as he vocalised precisely where either Jose Bosingwa or Ashley Cole should be every few minutes or so. Considering the short-term injury to Bosingwa, and the lamenting mindset of Cole, perhaps one route to potent attacks for Portsmouth could be flank bombardment.

Either Paulo Ferreira (who has been ineffective when called upon) or Michael Mancienne (who is not only raw, but a centre-back by trade, not a right-back), will start on the right.

Pompey have great luxury if Paul Hart decides to attack Chelsea via these routes. In Jermaine Pennant the Hampshire outfit have a player who can deliver a ball with sound efficiency, but he is unlikely to take on his man with a swift injection of pace. In a way, he is the anti-Aaron Lennon.

On the other wing they have the interchangeable pairing of Armand Traore and Nadir Belhadj, both of whom have built up a fluent understanding of the overlap.

Who, then, can you field up top to nod home these balls from the wide areas? In Peter Crouch, Portsmouth have not only a player that can revel in route one tactics by knocking it down to an in-coming runner who will lap up the second ball, but he is also a strong header in the box, and - despite his apparent awkwardness on the ball - he still has a sound enough touch. Then there is Nwankwo Kanu, too, who may be an option to come off the bench.

In order to combat this Chelsea will need to field height, and their players capable of dominating aerially.

Other than that the usual tactics will be in employment. As always - and it shall be noted here to avoid repetition in the 'Players To Watch' section - keep an admiring eye on lethal weapon Frank Lampard.

FORM GUIDE

Last Five Results

Portsmouth


Feb 21: Stoke 2-2 Portsmouth
Feb 14: Portsmouth 2-0 Manchester City
Feb 07: Portsmouth 2-3 Liverpool
Jan 31: Fulham 3-1 Portsmouth
Jan 27: Portsmouth 0-1 Aston Villa

Chelsea

Feb 28: Chelsea 2-1 Wigan Athletic
Feb 25: Chelsea 1-0 Juventus
Feb 21: Aston Villa 0-1 Chelsea
Feb 14: Watford 1-3 Chelsea
Feb 7: Chelsea 0-0 Hull City

TEAM NEWS

Portsmouth


Players are returning from injury for Porstmouth, but one of those - Aaron Hughes - is unlikely to be tested against Chelsea.

Squad: James, Johnson, Distin, Campbell, Hreidarsson, Pennant, Davis, Basinas, Kranjcar, Nugent, Crouch, Begovic, Belhadj, A Traore, Pamarot, Mvuemba, Gekas, Kanu, Little, Thomas.

Possible Starting XI: James - Johnson, Distin, Campbell, Traore - Pennant, Davis, Basinas, Kranjcar, Belhadj - Crouch.

Chelsea


Brazilian centre-back Alex will continue to deputise for Ricardo Carvalho, who is still recovering from a hamstring injury.

Carvalho's international team-mate Deco is suffering a similar injury.

Michael Essien has returned to training, but a return to first team action is still a number of weeks away.

Squad: Cech, Mancienne, Alex, Terry, A Cole, Ballack, Mikel, Lampard, Kalou, Anelka, Drogba, Hilario, Quaresma, Ivanovic, Di Santo, Malouda, Ferreira, Belletti.

Possible Starting XI: Cech - Mancienne, Alex, Terry, A Cole - Mikel, Lampard, Kalou, Quaresma - Anelka, Drogba.


PLAYERS TO WATCH

Portsmouth – Peter Crouch


Should the leggy targetman receive the right service, then he could cause a makeshift Chelsea defence all sorts of problems. Especially if they revert to the system Scolari could not help but love; marking the space, not the man. Crouch will need a man on him from set-play, otherwise he will not even need to jump to win the ball.

Chelsea – Michael Mancienne

It would be easy to highlight an attack-minded player. Nicolas Anelka and Frank Lampard are usually the favoured pairing, or Ricardo Quaresma may be highlighted too as he has a point to prove in a big league, but Mancinne too may be worth watching. He was called up to the England squad prior to striding out in a Blues shirt. We have been told of the promise, so lets see the performance.

Prediction: Portsmouth 0-2 Chelsea

Alan Dawson, Goal.com