Chelsea V Birmingham Preview!

Tonight we welcome in-form Birmingham to Stamford Bridge. After the stalemate at St Andrews earlier in the season its important (also becau...

Tonight we welcome in-form Birmingham to Stamford Bridge. After the stalemate at St Andrews earlier in the season its important (also because of the position United and Arsenal are now in) that we pick up an important three points tonight.

Frank Lampard is expected to shake off the calf strain he picked up during the win at Preston at the weekend but Juliano Belletti is out after the injury during the same game that forced him off.

For the second game running Carlo Ancelotti has announced his "intended" starting eleven for the game tonight and we welcome back Cech, Ivanovic, Carvalho, Ashley Cole, Joe Cole and Malouda to the starting eleven, six changes from the weekend.

It looks like Deco will be employed as the holding midfield Anchor man, a position (once he was moved there on Saturday) where he looked comfortable. The only issue I have with Deco playing there tonight would be that he will be under alot more pressure and will have less time and space to play his passes tonight. Of course it all depends on how Birmingham line up tonight, but in the form they are in I expect them to be up-and-at-it from the off so its important Deco realises that he needs to do the simple things right. He will also be expected to at times put his foot in and not shy away or go in too reckless.

Our back five to me is the strongest possible selection we could play. JT and Riccy back next to each other in the middle. The ever so solid Ivanovic one side and Ashley Cole the other, we look solid but also have the extended threat of both of them down the flanks. This is where its important for Deco to sit in and cover if Ash gets caught up field.

With Lamps and Ballack either side of Deco we look strong again in midfield. In my opinion I don't think that Lampard and Ballack get the credit they deserve for just how well they play together and compliment each other. They are probably two of the most comfortable footballers with the ball at the feet in the Premier League or at least up there with the best, and when we get on the ball and play our possession football these two are key.

With Malouda coming into the starting eleven with Joe Cole we are definatley going with the tried and trusted 4-3-3 formation. Malouda and Cole give the side a perfect balance and provide natural width. With the threat of Anelka and the how well he is playing at the moment, its important they they first supply him with the service he needs to his feet and to also get in and around him when he are attacking on the opposite side.

For example if Malouda is in possession on the left hand side, its important that Joe Cole tucks into the middle from the right hand side and vice versa. With the additonal threat of Lampard and Ballack also pushing into Birmingham's attacking third they will have their hands full tonight and whether or not Birmingham can deal with the treat we should be posing tonight is yet to be seen.

One thing is for sure, Alex McLeish has done a fantastic job there. They come into tonight off the back of beating Everton away in the FA Cup which is a great result in itself. They have held the likes of United, City and ourselves at home and Liverpool away in recent games in the League and they won't come to the Bridge tonight and look to lie down. McLeish could possibly name an unchanged side for the 10th successive game. They are well organised and a disciplined side. As with all football matches, at some stage they will have possession so its important that we defend as a team and as a solid unit.

Without doubt, with the way the league has formed in recent weeks, with United playing in the League Cup tonight and with Arsenal at Villa we have to pick up the three points. We have two games in hand and need to make them count. This is another must win game, and with the amount of games we have coming up in such a short space of time, we could really make our statement of intent to the rest of the league tonight.

So come on boys, get out there, get on the ball and play your passes. You will need to be patient as they won't be easy to break down, so tonight remember supporters, we have to be patient too. Right now I would happily take a 1-0 but of course ideally we always want more than that. So to everyone let's get up and at it tonight. Let's make our statement of intent and show this league who has the real class and quality when it comes to the title run in!

Here is the highlights of the stalemate at St Andrews a few weeks ago!

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