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Chelsea preview

Wednesday March 14th 2007, City of Manchester Stadium. Live on Sky Sports.

Probably the last thing Stuart Pearce needed this week following a disastrous FA Cup exit was a re-arranged midweek game. Not only that but it sees a visit by the current Champions who are desperately clinging onto their title and need all the points they can get.

Added to this mix is the Sky cameras are present at the match along with the media hordes, sharpening their pencils and ready to read the last rites in anticipation of the axe falling on Pearce after another defeat.

The fall-out from Sunday has not been pretty, with Pearce (again) forced to defend himself amidst reports he has two games (Chelsea and Middlesbrough) to save his job - although other reports suggest it is irrelevant how the rest of the season pans out.

The comments from Richard Dunne ahead of the Blackburn have now been seized upon, with reports suggesting cracks in the camp, and that Pearce has 'lost' the dressing room. One suggestion was that an unnamed player called training at City a 'joke', and I know that one summer signing was dismayed at the training set-up in comparison to his previous club.

The players who did attempt to applaud the fans at the end of the game were given short shrift - with Chris Bailey pointing out this could have a detrimental long-term effect.

Pearce has likened the current situation to the Alamo, but perhaps a more fitting comparison would be to portray Pearce as King Canute, desperately trying to turn back the tide that is closing in on him.

The board have remained steadfastly silent thus far, offering neither support nor the poisoned 'vote of confidence', but it may well be that they are a little tied by the current takeover situation and could just be hoping to scrape through the rest of the season before bolting out of town, with at least Premiership status secured.

The worry for Pearce is that it appears he has lost the support of the crowd (who incidentally played a large part in him being appointed), and history shows that whilst fans do not run the club, once they turn against a manager it is inevitable that they will be shown the door.

The problem is excasperated for Pearce by the fact that the very problem with the side - goalscoring, is firmly laid at Pearce's door. The current striking options - Samaras, Corradi, Vassell and Dickov (the jury is still out on Mpenza) were all brought into the club by Pearce at a cost of around £10 million and have failed to deliver.

The defence has been strong on the whole (although more error prone than last year), the 'keepers have not really put a foot wrong and the midfield have been effective enough without the support of forward line.

It is the strikers who are the problem, and Pearce must be held accountable.

Corradi - who I described as a 'poor mans Luca Toni' when he signed, has proved anything but. Vassell is a confidence player who has failed to show any apart from short spurts. Dickov has been a wash-out and Samaras - the brunt of fans derision, has gone from a 'prospect' (albeit an expensive one) to a young player who is hiding from the ball.

bbcsport ran a lengthy feature today looking at the City career of Pearce thus far, and had the following graph to look at his season by season comparison - which does not appear to favourable:



Lest we forget there is actually a game taking place tomorrow then, and it is difficult to see anything but a Chelsea victory. I am interested to see what side Pearce selects, as he may roll the dice and gamble on a Mpenza-Sturridge partnership to shake things up. More likely though I expect Pearce to try and keep it tight for as long as possible against a Chelsea side who are suffering through injuries, but still grinding out results.

Pearce will be delighted to somehow come away with a point from this game to stretch the cushion to the bottom three just that bit further, and a 0-0 would suit just fine but Chelsea should have too much for a side whose confidence and morale are badly damaged.

Prediction:
City 0 Chelsea 2