Writer: Andy Leggott
Date:Friday August 18 2006
In what we hope will be a regular feature for the coming season, we ask the editors from rival sites for their view on the upcoming fixture.
First up is the Vital Chelsea editor, Merlin.
City ..... Ideal opposition or potential banana skin?
A mixture of both. With our form not quite being what it should have been in pre-season, due to players returning late from the World Cup, we`d be a little worried about entertaining one of the big four. However, we shouldn`t belittle City, after all in our title-winning year in 2004-2005 you managed to take four points off of us. Last year only Charlton managed to take anything away from Stamford Bridge in the Premiership, however first games of the season are usually tight with everyone wanting to impress. Therefore whilst it has all the potential to be a banana skin, I can see us narrowly winning a close encounter.
How have your new boys fared pre-season?
Mixed fortunes really. Shevchenko has shown flashes of why he`s rated so highly and his clinical finish in the Community Shield has given us hope that we have finally found twenty goals a season striker. Ballack hasn`t long returned to training but looked sharp in patches against Celtic. Sadly a hip injury picked up against Liverpool has put his place in jeopardy for Sunday. Kalou has shown some good touches but will obviously need time to settle in the Premiership. Mikel has surprised us all with his sheer size and after being out of action, due to the legal wrangling going on, still looks quite sharp. He`s definitely one for the future.
Do you see any threats in the City line up?
Joey Barton! I`ve always admired him for his competitive streak and despite him not being a household name I sort of half hoped we`d bid for him when he was going through his troubled spell. If he`s on top of his game there is every chance he could unsettle our midfield and knock them out of their stride.
Where will both teams finish?
I won`t comment on where we`ll finish, I don`t want to be the one accused of putting the mockers on our season. However, City will finish mid table as long as they don`t go on a run similar to that of last season where you couldn`t win a game for love or money.
Who do you expect to challenge you this season?
After winning the title comfortably for the last two seasons` I have this nagging feeling that this year will be a little different. Liverpool, United and Arsenal will all be out to prove a point. Liverpool believe they have the upper hand over us whilst United finished last season well. United have also finally strengthened their midfield. However, despite all the bluster coming out of Liverpool I suspect Arsenal will be our greatest threat. Towards the end of last season they got their act together and looked like the team that went forty-nine games unbeaten. Perhaps we`ll be fortunate and they`ll suffer from playing in a new stadium and the inherent risk of it being similar to an away game for the first few months.
Are Chelsea ruining football?
Ha! Ha! A common misconception amongst those who watch with envious eyes. Whilst I don`t wish to be drawn into a long debate, it`s my belief that any other club who was offered a similar chance to invest heavily would jump at the chance. Granted, we`ve been ripped off with a few transfer fees as clubs seek to plunder our wealth but then again it is money that is circulating in the game. They may dispute it but the cash we paid out for Joe Cole and Glen Johnson bailed West Ham out during a troubled period for the Hammers. You benefited when we signed Shaun Wright-Phillips (who`ll have a storming season this year), basically the money is staying in the game. As for suggestions that we`re creating a monopoly at the top of the Premiership, I can`t remember anyone complaining when Arsenal and United ruled the roost with monotonous regularity.
Drogba .... gamesmanship or cheating?
A little bit of both although I thought you were harshly done by last season when he blatantly controlled the ball with his hand for the goal. Thankfully, after making his gaffe on Match of the Day he knuckled down and showed some serious fire in his belly towards the end of the season. Hopefully, all the antics will be history this season.
Thanks to Gary at Vital Chelsea
Date:Friday August 18 2006
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