Sunday, 26 December 2010

Big Match Preview: Chelsea Under New Pressure As Arsenal Vow Vengeance.

CHELSEA’S desperate bid to get out of the red is putting further pressure on coach Carlo Ancelotti as the champions prepare to face Arsenal today hoping for their first win in five Premier League matches.

The big freeze has taken hold in England this December but Ancelotti faces a spending freeze implemented by hatchetman Ron Gourlay, the man who foolishly axed assistant manager Ray Wilkins six weeks ago.

Roman Abramovich’s billions have bankrolled the Stamford Bridge club for seven years. They won the double last year but will still announce a loss of around £44m. In 2005 they announced a record deficit of £140.5 and losses since Abramovich took over amount to more than £500m.

But under new UEFA rules cooked up by president Michel Platini, a club is only allowed to make a maximum loss of around £38m over the two years before the 2013-2014 season, or they will be banned from playing the Champions League.

Abramovich’s cost-cutter Gourlay believes his carefully negotiated eight-year kit deal with adidas - worth £30m a year – could see the club survive within those parameters – if they curb spending. Manchester City, backed by Abu Dhabi Sheik Mansour’s oil money, are in a similar position.

But Ancelotti, who has seen his side slump from runaway leaders to mere contenders since the Wilkins sacking, is under pressure to bring in reinforcements during the January transfer window, with captain John Terry insisting the squad is not as strong as it was last year when they won the double.

Gourlay can take the credit for that – he refused to renew the contracts of Joe Cole and Michael Ballack and cut win bonuses. And he let centre-back Ricardo Carvalho join his old boss Jose Mourinho at Real Madrid for a cut-price £6m.

Manchester United, Manchester City, Spurs and Arsenal are all reported to be ready to spend in the New Year. United want Atletico Madrid’s £12m David de Gea and/or Liverpool goalkeeper Pepe Reina for £18m, City are after Wolfsburg’s £33m striker Edin Dzeko and Arsene Wenger may make a £10m move for Bolton centre-back Gary Cahill. Spurs boss Harry Redknapp is ready to bid for Everton’s Steve Pienaar, who will be available for a cut-price £3m as he is out of contract in the summer.

Rumours that Chelsea would end Carlos Tevez’s unhappiness at City or Fernando Torres’s depressing season at Liverpool now look highly unlikely. Both would cost around £40m while another Ancelotti target, David Luiz, would ruin Gourlay’s economic plan, costing £20m. A potential £15m move for Anderlecht’s Romelu Lukaka is unlikely to happen either, unless Joe Cole is sold to Mourinho’s Real.

All this will be worrying Ancelotti as he prepares for the Emirates today with Gunners boss Arsene Wenger insisting his side MUST gain revenge of the woeful 2-0 defeat at Stamford Bridge in October.

Beaten 1-0 by Manchester United last time out, a result which knocked them off the top of the Premier League, Wenger said: "Of course this is a must-win game. We are confident over taking Chelsea on at home. But it’s a big challenge. We need an intelligent game full of dynamism. That is the only way we can win these big games.

“We have mixed feelings because we came out of both games against Chelsea and Man United this season thinking we could have won and that there wasn't a difference between the teams.

"We are a very young side. It's about how well we respond to what happened to us at Chelsea and Man United that will be the decider for our season.”

Wenger added: "Chelsea have gone through a period where results are a bit less good but that can happen to anyone in this league. We have seen recently that any team, when you think they are on the brink of breaking through, can have a hiccup. Maybe it's just the quality of the league.

"You never know whether it's the best time to play Chelsea. But have a little bit less confidence than they had in October. We want to put a top-level performance in at the Emirates and show we are masters at home."

Who the hell is Neal Collins (nealcol on Twitter)? See Happy Holidays.

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