Gene Hackman and Mick Hucknall's Monkey
Date: Saturday 6th December 2008Years ago, it was often said that Chelsea were little more than a rich man’s Bolton. As both sides prospered, the adoration of their respective pragmatic managers increased among their own fans, but so too did the brick-bats flying in from football fans and pundits across the country.
Much has changed since then, but the two sides have remained somewhat in tandem. A backroom staff member promoted to the top job before being swiftly given the boot. Followed by a manager aiming to move away from the route-one tactics of his predecessor, and looking to play a more passing game.
Of course, comparing Scolari with Gary Megson might be seen as absurd to some, and they would be right. One is a Brazilian, well respected, World Cup winning manager, who has the look of an Oscar winning actor. The other is a supporter alienating, cup competition hating manager from Manchester, who has the look of a possible product of a love affair between Mick Hucknall and a monkey (that's a bit harsh on the monkey - Ed).
However, while their pasts may be poles apart, their ambitions are the same; to finally drag their sides out of the shadow of their former managers while still keeping a similar level of success. And it has to be said, they are both having a fairly solid crack at it thus far. Scolari’s eye catching Chelsea side have been terrorising defences (especially away from home) while Megsons’ Bolton, having a hit a purple patch, have stormed up the league and are now on the fringes of Europe (similarly, with results proving easier to come by away from the Reebok Stadium).
With all that in mind, it makes Saturdays game an intriguing prospect; Bolton, in form but suspect at home against a Chelsea side in the midst of a wobble, but imperious on the road. Can the Whites really upset many peoples’ favourites to win the league and record a third successive win?
I think so, though we’ll have to defy history in order to do it. The Blues have won on their last five visits to the Reebok Stadium, and have done so without even conceding a goal. However it is unlikely that Chelsea will have come up against a Bolton side as buoyant as the one they’ll meet on Saturday after comfortable wins against Middlesbrough and Sunderland. And with the absence of Ricardo Carvalho, you’d have to fancy the home side at least ending their barren goalscoring run at home against the men from the Kings Road.
The telling aspect of this game for me will be how Megson chooses to approach it, against Liverpool in the first half we were disastrous, giving time and space to attackers down the flanks. If this happens tomorrow with the likes of Bosingwa and Cole bombing forward we could be looking at a cricket score. However teams have been discovering recently that if you close down the fullbacks Chelsea struggle to break teams down. If we can manage that, then there is a good chance of at least a point tomorrow.
Prediction: Bolton 1 - Chelsea 1