Blues likely to pass City test
TEAMtalk feels Chelsea will continue their flying start to the season at Eastlands and pass their first real test of the season with ease. Roman Abramovich may no longer be the wealthiest owner in the Premier League but no one is richer when it comes to the quality of the assets he can put on the playing field. His Chelsea side can prove that on Saturday when they take on Manchester City at Eastlands in their first real test of the season. Win and Chelsea would make it six straight league victories and if they do then the rest should be worried that the defending champions could be over the title horizon by Christmas. They might also bring home to City owner Sheikh Mansour - whose estimated £560billion fortune makes Abramovich's net worth of £7.16billion (according to the 2010 Forbes list) seem poverty-stricken by comparison - the difference between assembling a balanced team and purchasing star individuals at inflated prices. Take no notice of Chelsea's first defeat of the season in midweek when they went down 4-3 in the Carling Cup to Newcastle at Stamford Bridge, or City's midweek defeat at West Brom. The fact is that the only two trophies which matter to Chelsea - the same goes for the rest of English football's top sides - are the Premier League title and the Champions League. The Carling Cup has become little more than a chance to look at the reserves in a competitive environment or to ease injured players back into action, while the FA Cup is expendable if it impinges on the big two. Which is why the big guns will be back against City. There was a time when Chelsea's fortunes rested on John Terry and Frank Lampard. That is no longer the case, and Lampard's extended absence after hernia surgery has not created the void it might once have done. Chelsea these days are the supreme team with strength in depth, a fine balance and an attacking intent which they never possessed in the Jose Mourinho era. Ashley Cole might not be the best-loved footballer in England but the sight of him bombing down the left flank is one of the most thrilling in the game. He gives Chelsea width and fluidity which is a potent addition to the movement provided by Didier Drogba, Nicolas Anelka and Florent Malouda up front. Chelsea might not play such pretty patterns as Arsenal and they might not be as devastating on the counter-attack as Manchester United but there is a remorseless fluency and power to their play under Carlo Ancelotti. Drogba puts it down to the stability in the side, the core of which have now been together for six or seven years. He explained: "The fluidity comes because we know each other so well now and that makes things easier for you on the pitch. "That understanding is there because we've been together such a long time so we know more or less what we have to do." It is also there because of the hunger. Because players such as John Obi Mikel and Michael Essien and Drogba, too, realise that this side, under a composed and confident manager, have a real chance of lifting football's biggest prizes. Chelsea have secured five straight league wins over West Brom, Wigan, Stoke, West Ham and Blackpool, scoring 21 goals with just one conceded. But tomorrow, albeit against a City side with defensive problems, is the real challenge. It is a fascinating duel. Sheikh Mansour's hastily-assembled stars against the established order of Abramovich. Money beyond reason against money for seven seasons. The smart cash is on Chelsea.
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