“I think there is a phrase that is interesting: the person that you are is a triumph in the person you want to be. Today it was a win of personal values and human values.”
So said a bullish Andre Villas-Boas following Chelsea’s impressive 3-0 victory over Valencia midweek. Clearly, the defensive Portuguese was not happy with recent press coverage of his side and had seemingly borrowed a book from Eric Cantona’s shelf in order to vent his ire.
Nonetheless the manner of the victory and the defensive, accusatory nature of Villas-Boas’ mood since was firmly Mourinho-esque, even if prior comparisons to the current Real Madrid boss have been lazy at best.
Not so this time. Knowing he needed a strong performance and Champions League qualification to save his job, Villas-Boas reverted to a playing style that echoed the all-conquering Blues of his predecessor, with a deep-lying defensive line, pace down the flanks and Didier Drogba as the attacking fulcrum.
Drogba thrived in the role, a throwback to his physical and technical peak several seasons ago. Should he continue this form into Monday night, Chelsea have a real chance (at 7/5 to win) of cutting the ten-point gap on leaders Man City.
Particularly now that Villas-Boas has firmly ramped up the off-field tactics too, attempting to initiate a siege mentality that worked so well under the man they called the Special One.
Villas-Boas no doubt sees creating an “us vs them” atmosphere as the best way to boost team morale during a transitional period, while at the same time deflecting the attention away from his side and on to Monday’s opponents, by claiming that Manchester City have not been subjected to the same media pressure as his own charges.
So as the attention shifts to City (15/8 to win), it’s likely they may feel a tad flat following their Champions League exit midweek. Roberto Mancini himself said that, with ten points, City would have qualified comfortably any other time had they not been handed such a difficult group.
It will be up to Chelsea to once again start strongly against notoriously slow-starters City, who can’t afford to dwell on any sense of Euro injustice at a ground where there’ve won just twice in the Premier League era.
They’re missing Micah Richards and Aleksander Kolarov, and Mancini will once again have to decide which combination he plumps for upfront. His decision may well be shaped by the news that one half of the partnership that nullified the threat of Roberto Soldado the other night, David Luiz, is out suspended.
Luiz’s absence coupled with Alex’s transfer-listing may see Chelsea opt to bring Ivanovic inside and recall Jose Bosingwa, so Mancini may well decide that a more physical approach is needed up top, so Edin Dezko (7/1 to score first) may keep his place alongside Sergio Aguero
The draw is priced at 23/10, and given Chelsea’s recent goal glut and City’s season average of three a game, the odds of 10/11 on 2-3 goals could well be the bet of choice for those undecided on which way this will go.