Bridge Banter: Chelsea still a bag of nerves
Despite the improvement in league form at Stamford Bridge, and the return of clean sheets after John Terry’s recovery, life is still nervy and uncertain in SW6.
Following the 1-0 win against 10-man Stoke, and the midweek Champions League distraction, the FA Cup takes centre stage again, with the visit of Leicester City on Sunday.
On paper, it’s a straightforward home win, and a gentle stroll through to the semi-finals.
But Leicester, who lost last weekend and have slipped to mid-table in the Championship, will have 5,000 fans baying for glory.
Roberto Di Matteo has one eye on next week’s league games – against Manchester City and Spurs – so will field a slightly weaker side… which gives the Foxes hope.
Last weekend’s victory over the Potters got Chelsea back on track, but the finishing (apart from Didier Drogba’s fleet-footed moment of brilliance to score his 100th Chelsea goal) still lacks something.
The respective dress codes of the two managers spoke volumes. Tony Pulis (track suit, trainers) looked like he was taking part in a training session, Di Matteo (three-quarter length dark coat and suit) looked like he was heading for a funeral.
When Ricardo Fuller was sent off for an ugly stamp on Branislav Ivanovic it all looked so rosy for the Blues, but Stoke’s dogged defending meant the afternoon ended with a single-goal win, and the constant risk of a breakaway equaliser.
The clearest message to emerge from the match was the Matthew Harding fans’ chant: ‘We don’t want you here, we don’t want you here; Rafa Benitez, we don’t want you here.’ A banner proclaimed supporters’ desire to see Jose Mourinho back in charge, full-time.
“Today was a step in the direction of the top four,” said Di Matteo, adding ‘sometimes you have to win a little bit scrappy’.
Di Matteo’s belief in the neglected Salomon Kalou has yet to be fully justified by performances, but if the Blues grind out an FA Cup quarter-final win on Sunday, nobody will be too bothered.