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Stuart Dalgleish 20th Mar 2010 - 22:20

Injury-hit Blackburn set to feel Chelsea’s wrath

The last thing Sam Allardyce wanted to see after his team were deprived of several key players was Chelsea getting dumped out of the Champions League.

You can take it two ways; Chelsea (4/9) could be crushed and short of confidence but I would take it the opposite way - the Blues will want to bounce back in style and strengthen their chances of a first Premier League title in four years.

If Blackburn (7/1) were at full strength I would've expected them to make it really tough for Carlo Ancelotti's side, as they did when they knocked Chelsea out of the Carling Cup, but the hosts have lost the services of Paul Robinson, Ryan Nelsen, Gael Givet, Lars Jacobsen, Vince Grella and Franco di Santo.

It's harsh on Rovers as they are in the middle of a decent run at the minute having won their last four matches at home, and have lost only once in 13 league games at Ewood Park, keeping three clean sheets in three of the last four.

It'll be a big ask for stand in goalkeeper Jason Brown though to keep Chelsea at bay with an under-strength backline.

I think the former Gillingham stopper could be in for a busy afternoon, and wouldn't be surprised if the visitors stuck a few past him, as they did past regular keeper Robinson in the game at Stamford Bridge, a 3-0 win for Chelsea could prove profitable at 7/1.

You can take your pick as to which player will cause the most damage to Big Sam's team as the stats don't make good reading; seven Chelsea players have scored braces in their last nine Premier League matches with Frank Lampard (4/1 first goal, 13/2 to score 2 or more) doing it three times, Didier Drogba (11/4 first, 10/3 2 or more) three times and Nicolas Anelka (9/2 first, 7/1 2 or more) once.

French ace Anelka hasn't been on particularly great form other than that brace against Sunderland, having gone nine games without a goal. He does, however, enjoy playing against Blackburn and has scored more against Rovers (10 goals) than any other Premier League team.

Drogba too has a decent record against the Lancashire outfit, bagging four in his last five games against Blackburn, and the Ivorian has hit eight goals in his last seven league matches; he'll want to keep his impressive run going not just to help his team win the league but to stop Wayne Rooney picking up the Golden Boot.

The pick for me though would be Florent Malouda, the Frenchman seems to have been revived under Ancelotti and has been at the heart of all that's good about Chelsea recently, at 13/2 he looks worthy of a few quid for the opener but maybe 15/8 for anytime scorer could be a safer option.

Rovers, despite their recent impressive home form, are a whopping 7/1 to make it five Ewood Park wins (although they haven't even scored against Chelsea in the league since 2006), the draw wouldn't be such a bad thing for the hosts and that's a 3/1 chance while Chelsea are 4/9 to get the vital points in their chase for honours.

These next two fixtures for Chelsea are pivotal to their chances of winning the title, six points against Blackburn and Portsmouth, two potential banana skins, will see them clear at the top and with a trip to Old Trafford on the horizon - it will put it in their hands.

The visitors could be boosted by the return of their goalkeepers too, with Petr Cech and Hilario both coming through training this week, Ross Turnbull didn't do too bad but they look a lot stronger with Cech commanding the area.

Other than the keepers, Chelsea have no new injury worries, Michael Essien, Ashley Cole and Jose Bosingwa remain long-term absentees and Deco is still some way off returning.

Essien remains a big loss in the middle, they've coped ok without him and John Obi Mikel (25/1 first goal) hasn't looked totally out of place in his position but the Blues are a much more powerful outfit with the Ghanaian in the holding role.



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