In Search Of Positivity

It’s not often that a dead rubber ends up as one of the most important matches of the season.

For Chelsea, however, the trip to Marseille to round off the Champions League Group Stages presents the chance to right some recent wrongs and pick up a first win since beating MSK Zilina in late November.

With both teams already through to the last sixteen, neither can change position, and the opportunity to rotate and rest some weary legs will strike a chord with both Carlo Ancelotti and Didier Deschamps.

Ashley Cole and Nicolas Anelka are not part of the travelling party, and Blues supporters should expect to see more from Patrick van Aanholt, Josh McEachran and Daniel Sturridge. Jeffrey Bruma and Gael Kakuta will be hoping for involvement.

However, many have made the point that by playing a strong team in a meaningless fixture, a rare opportunity to play without pressure or expectation could be just the tonic to improve morale and steady the ship ahead of three make-or-break fixtures to see out 2010.

To that end, John Terry will be expected to lead the side as he continues his return from injury, whilst Didier Drogba is guaranteed a start as he makes an emotional return to the Stade Velodrome.

A lifelong OM fan, the Ivorian spent just one season in Southern France, but scored 32 goals en route to the UEFA Cup Final and is as revered today as he was in the 2003-04 season.

He is sure to receive a fantastic ovation and will ideally find his scoring form once again, for whilst he has scored eight goals so far this season, only four have come from open play.

Results so far mean that, as group winners, Chelsea will meet one of Inter Milan, Lyon, Valencia, FC Kobenhavn, Roma or AC Milan in the knockout rounds, with either Shakhtar Donetsk or SC Braga a possibility depending on how Group H finishes.

Despite the weather and additional expense at this time of year, a healthy Blues following has headed over land and sea to back the boys. Hopefully things go a lot more smoothly than they did in 1999, when a single goal from Robert Pires consigned the Londoners to defeat.