The FourFourTwo Preview: Chelsea vs Norwich
Both sides must win. Simple.
You could argue that Norwich have more to play for in attempting to ensure top-flight survival, but this is a huge game at both ends of the table. After Chelsea’s catenaccio-inspired victory at Anfield last weekend, the Blues retain the faintest glimmer of Premier League title hope.
- Chelsea 1-3 Atletico (CL)
- Liverpool 0-2 Chelsea (Prem)
- Atletico 0-0 Chelsea (CL)
- Chelsea 1-2 S'land (Prem)
- Swansea 0-1 Chelsea (Prem)
- Man Utd 4-0 Norwich (Prem)
- Norwich 2-3 Liverpool (Prem)
- Fulham 1-0 Norwich (Prem)
- Norwich 0-1 WBA (Prem)
- Swansea 3-0 Norwich (Prem)
Yes, they rely on both Manchester City and Liverpool dropping points, but such have been the twists in this fascinating season that anything’s possible.
What’s also possible is that Jose Mourinho now goes 100% for the league after Wednesday night’s Champions League exit to Atletico Madrid. There will be no resting of players with Lisbon in mind. All focus will be on getting two wins against the Canaries and Cardiff, a pair of teams who look the most likely for the drop, and seeing what happens elsewhere.
Fernando Torres’s direct running impressed in his 67 minutes against his former club and it was something of a surprise when he was substituted. With the Spaniard, Samuel Eto’o and Demba Ba all much of a muchness this season, goals from any member of Mourinho’s forward line will be a welcome boost. Expect to see Andre Schurrle, who only played 13 minutes midweek, also come to the fore.
A lot has been (rightly) made of Norwich’s horrendous run-in. When you have Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal as your final four league games while immersed in a relegation scrap, the last thing you need is for the biggest crisis club of that selection (United) to bring in a living legend as temporary boss and give the place a lift.
Would United have won 4-0 if David Moyes, not Ryan Giggs been in charge? Probably not. Such has been the Canaries’ season: one of ifs, buts and maybes.
Ricky van Wolfswinkel hasn’t scored since the opening day, Leroy Fer has been solid if unspectacular and the defence more porous than previously. As Sunderland have suddenly burst into form, Norwich have surrendered and dropped into the bottom three.
It’s the goalscoring that's been the biggest worry; Van Wolfswinkel, Johan Elmander and Gary Hooper (top scorer with just six) have failed to convince.
Twenty-eight goals is a measly return, as is five defeats on the spin. If it was hoped Neil Adams’ replacement of Chris Hughton before early April’s six-pointer at Fulham would inspire an upturn, but that has failed to materialise. Robert Snodgrass has the talent, but perhaps not the team-mates to help.
It will take a monumental change in fortunes for the Canaries to sing in west London.
Petr Cech has returned to training following his dislocated shoulder and may feature for Chelsea, who will be without midfield runner Ramires for the rest of season because of a retrospective red card from the home defeat with Sunderland. For Norwich, centre-back Joseph Yobo should be fit after a calf injury.
Key battle: Willian vs Bradley Johnson
Brazilian schemer Willian has steadily improved in his first Stamford Bridge campaign and provided both defensive discipline and attacking verve in his half-hour cameo against Liverpool at Anfield last Sunday. Though he could hardly miss after Torres’s assist, the brilliantly afroed former Shakhtar man should be the principal supply line to the Chelsea attack.
Norwich midfield anchor Johnson is a tenacious operator, who never gives less than total effort to the Canaries’ cause. Though they lost 4-0 at Old Trafford, Johnson was crucial to a gameplan which focused on turning United’s back four with long balls.
The Chelsea back-line isn’t known for its lightest of steps, so a similar tactic may pay off.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- N'wich 1-3 Chelsea (Prem, Oct 13)
- N'wich 0-1 Chelsea (Prem, Dec 12)
- Chelsea 4-1 N'wich (Prem, Oct 12)
- N'wich 0-0 Chelsea (Prem, Jan 11)
- Chelsea 3-1 N'wich (Prem, Aug 11)
Perhaps the most surprising part of the Atletico game was Mourinho’s desire to go so hard so early. Sunday was a masterclass in restraint. So too the first half on Wednesday until Atleti’s equaliser just before the interval. But, needing to score, the Special One brought on Eto’o for Ashley Cole after 55 minutes to open up the game.
Five minutes later, Diego Costa scored a vital second away goal to all but kill the tie, even if it required what Mourinho described as "an impossible save" from Thibaut Courtois to deny Chelsea shortly before that hammer blow.
At his best when reactive, Mourinho gave control to the opposition and Atletico capitalised. Don’t expect Adams to send his team out to control and dictate, but invite Chelsea onto them. If the former Everton man can keep his team compact – like Sunderland, Crystal Palace and others this season – Norwich could get a result.
Facts and figures
- Chelsea have had win/win doubles in 4 of their last 5 meetings with Norwich.
- 13 of Chelsea’s 15 home matches against bottom-six teams since 2011/12 have had at least 3 goals.
- 7 of Norwich’s last 10 trips to top-six teams have had at least 4 goals.
- Norwich have trailed at half-time in 12 of their 18 away matches this season.
Best Bet: Over 4.5 Goals @ 3.90
More FFT Stats Zone facts • Find the best odds with Bet Butler
Even if it’s not Chelsea’s natural game, they should win. 2-0.