The Opposition View - Chelsea
1) Chelsea`s managerial situation is quite fascinating. Are you in favour of Rafa Benitez carrying on beyond the end of the season, or would you like someone else? If so, any names that spring to mind?
I'm very firmly in the anti-Rafa camp I'm afraid and have been since the day he was appointed - sadly he'd done little to change my mind since. While obviously the Liverpool connection and comments riled many Chelsea fans, I think whoever the incoming manager had been would have been out of favour, simply because they were taking the place of Roberto Di Matteo, who everyone loved. Ignoring sentimental reasons for fans' feelings towards Di Matteo, he'd done nothing to warrant getting the sack. Ok so results hadn't been perfect, but with so many new and young signings, they were never going to be perfect all the time and we were a lot better off in the league before his departure than we are now.
Sadly, few names spring to mind for the job as we've already been through them all! My heart says I'd love Mourinho back, but my head says it wouldn't be a good move. He couldn't replicate his past achievements and sometimes things are better left as they are. I wouldn't mind Joachim Low, but it's difficult to determine how an international manager would adapt to the club scene, although he does have past club experience. Or there's always an up and coing manager like Gus Poyet, although a job like Chelsea may be a bit early in his career and patience isn't exactly one of Roman Abramovich's fortes! Personally I'd like to give Guus Hiddink the time he should have had originally, but whether he'd quit moneybags Anzhi is another matter.
2) Who are the player/s in form ahead of Wednesday's game?
Juan Mata has been our player of the season by a country mile and we just don't win when he's not in the side. His ability to unlock the most stubborn of defences is crucial and if Benitez bothers to play Demba Ba, Mata will be laying chances on a plate for him. Gary Cahill is another who's had a great season, it's almost now hard to imagine how we ever got by without him!
3) Is the title well beyond Chelsea now?
Probably in fairness. We've seen bigger margins overhauled before but even if we stop dropping silly points, we're reliant on the Manchester clubs slipping up and it just doesn't look like that will happen, especially not Manchester United with Robin van Persie. Their defence has been pretty shambolic this season, yet it's made no difference to them thanks to what Van Persie is doing at the other end of the pitch. We have to prioritise a top four finish now and continuing our form in the FA Cup would be great too, but I think the title has long gone.
4) What are your strengths and weaknesses as a team that you have noticed over the past couple of games?
We've had weaknesses in defence more or less all season which desperately need ironing out. Hopefully with Terry back we can finally have someone to take responsibility of the back line, which we've badly been lacking. Strengths-wise, we create a fair few chances with the Mata/Hazard/Oscar combination and the passing range and vision of Lampard when he plays, but with Torres up front (or invariably hiding by the corner flag) we've not had anyone to stick them away. Hopefully that will change with the arrival of Ba - if he ever starts a game.
5) Can you see Chelsea doing anything in the final week of the transfer market?
Not anything of significance. We still need another striker. If Ba gets injured (which isn't unheard of) then we're back to square one again, so another striker is pretty essential. But the noises coming of of Stamford Bridge suggest our January dealings are done and dusted, but I hope I'm wrong.
6) What Reading player do you rate the most and why?
Personally, I'm a huge fan of Adam Federici as I used to watch him most weeks when he was on loan at my local non-league club Carshalton Athletic. He was a brilliant 'keeper and a nice guy too, so I've always followed his progress since. He's not had the smoothest of rides since playing in the Premier League, but he's shown enough of what he's capable of for strikers to know they could be in a game against him. I'm also wary of Adam Le Fondre. He's been in great form of late and that, combined with our shaky defence, could well cause us problems if he plays.
7) Would you like to see Frank Lampard stay at Stamford Bridge beyond the end of the season or do you want to start bringing more youth through into the first team?
I don't see why both options aren't a possibility. There's no way Lampard should be leaving. He may not be the same player as four or so years ago, but he still contributes more than enough, as shown by what we miss when he's not in the side. His goals are crucial, not to mention his experience and influence in midfield, which you can't just buy. Being the age he is in the position he is, he can't play Wednesday Saturday Wednesday Saturday like he used to and I think he realises that now. So there's no reason why we can't keep him, play him in the games which suit his attributes and in the mean time, look to bring through the likes of Josh McEachran.
8) What's your prediction for the game?
Unfortunately I think we're playing Reading at a bad time. They've hit a good run of form recently, while we've gone in the other direction. I think with Terry back, we'll have more authority and leadership on the pitch than in recent weeks, which should spread through the side. I'll go for a Chelsea win, but a narrow one. 2-1 Chelsea.
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