Saturday at 12:45 will see our boys head north to the home of Manchester City, in what many are describing as our first real test of this season. That may be true, but it’s also a chance to settle a score from the last one too.
City, as if I need to tell you, took six points off us last year and despite this and well over £100 million invested in the squad, still managed to miss out on a Champions League place, disproving the maxim that you can buy the league.
That said, they are now rightly seen as one of the ‘big teams’ in the Premiership, having replaced Liverpool as the team expecting Champions League qualification as a minimum.
We of course have also benefited from such investment, with Roman’s millions not only buying our club with Champions League qualification already secured, but also a raft of quality players too, yet it was Mourinho who shaped it into a winning formula.
Since then much has changed, a slew of managers have come and gone, some succeeding and others failing spectacularly, finally our club and evolved to something befitting Roman’s intentions.
The team has moved on too, we now have our extra special one in Carlo Ancelotti, who’s evolved and improved upon the house that Jose built, and he’s transformed the way our team play. We have a youth system that’s producing, a financial model that’s almost financially viable, we evoke minimal controversy, and we’ve dropped the ‘boring’ tag.
City would do well to follow our model, however they as their own supporters will admit, still have some way to go. We can’t criticise their spending and nor can supporters of any other club that’s been successful. United, Arsenal and Liverpool in the past have all invested large sums for sustained success, or in the latter’s case, mediocrity.
City though, have thrown it all together in double quick time, surpassing even our own spending sprees to attain parity with the top teams, and this is where they could fall short. They have no spine or any recognised leader on the pitch, many of their players are yet to adapt to the Premiership, or gel with one another, and Chelsea’s relative stability and the squad familiarity should see us through tomorrow.
Mancini himself see’s the challenge facing his team, not just against Chelsea but in the season overall, stating; “Chelsea will probably win the Barclays Premier League easy because they are a strong team and they have played together for many years. They have a fantastic manager but they have been working towards this in the past. Chelsea have won the Premier League three times and played in the Champions League for many years.”
He added; “We have bought strong players, young players. Some of our players have played in the Champions League for many years, like David Silva and Yaya Toure. Mario Balotelli won the competition with Inter Milan last season. Serome Boateng and Kolarov play for their national teams.” However he recognised City’s current injury crisis could play a part saying; “When all these players are together we can change everything. When we recover all the players, we can do better.”
Ancelotti himself seems confident enough, with injuries keeping Lampard, Kalou, Benayoun and Bosingwa out of the starting line up, selected his team early for the match, naming Petr Cech, Branislav Ivanovic, Alex, John Terry, Ashley Cole, Michael Essien, John Mikel Obi, Ramires, Nicolas Anelka, Didier Drogba and Florent Malouda as the players who will start the match.
When asked why he’d done so, the amiable Italian responded; “I prefer to have a team ready to play, I’m happy in that I don’t have difficulties. Last season was fantastic and we maintained the same squad, so this season it’s easier to work with these players. If you always change nine or 10 players it’s more difficult.”
Asked about our upcoming opponents he said; “Manchester City is a strong team, players with a lot of skills, but it is a game, and we have to do the same, do our best and show our football for 90 minutes. Every game is a test, and this is an important test, it is also a test for Man City tomorrow. It is a match against one of the most important teams in the Premier League.”
Seeing the similarities and differences between the club, Ancelotti stated; “We did the same when Roman started to be the owner, now we don’t need to spend his money because we have a good squad and young players who are improving. There is no reason to spend money now.”
Despite us supporters wanting to put one over on City as revenge for last season, Carlo feels differently; “That is the past, we have more confidence than last year, we are in a good moment and we can do better than we did last year at Manchester City.”
We hope so Carlo, we really hope so.