With the fate of both teams in the Premier League decided this season, Chelsea vs Blackburn does not promise to have the same blockbuster appeal as the Premier League title race Manchester City and Manchester United are involved in.
The Blues will be looking to play their fringe ahead of next week’s Champions League final against Bayern Munich. Interim manager Roberto di Matteo has performed miracles at Stamford Bridge to get the low-morale, struggling side Andre Villas-Boas had under his charge into the conquering Chelsea that knocked out European champions Barcelona last month. The Italian is campaigning for the job on a permanent basis and his cause will not have been harmed by the FA Cup triumph over Liverpool last weekend. Chelsea’s guaranteed sixth placed finish is their worst final standing for a decade, but they can still be in the Champions League next season if they triumph against Munich.
With one eye on the final, Di Matteo is expected to select as few first-team dependables as possible, but some of his Chelsea squad will miss out on Munich due to suspension. John Terry’s red card, along with bookings for Branislav Ivanovic, Ramires and Raul Meireles in Barcelona, mean that starts against Rovers will give them a chance to play in front of the Blues fans for the last time this season. Defensive issues will be a worry in Barcelona with David Luiz and Gary Cahill not fit to return against Blackburn and they are being monitored on a daily basis ahead of Munich. John Obi Mikel will not be risked either on Sunday, as he recovers from a knee injury.
Chelsea’s second string will take on a Blackburn side who already know they will be playing Championship football next season. Defeat to Wigan at Ewood Park in midweek sealed their fate and Rovers fans are not expected to travel down to London in their droves. All season, there has been disillusion at Ewood Park over the management and the owners Venky’s, who have this week declared that they are not selling the club any time soon. Steve Kean could be out of a job for next season, so may see this game with Chelsea as his last one in charge of Rovers.
Kean will have to take on the Blues without Bradley Orr, who has been ruled out of the contest following surgery on his Achilles tendon. Paul Robinson and David Dunn, who have been two of the club’s best players this season, may also miss the game at Stamford Bridge due to injury. Dunn is a doubt after limping off in the first half against Wigan and Robinson is rated ‘touch and go’ by Kean following an ankle injury. Gael Givet also suffered with a problem against the Latics, but the Frenchman has been cleared to play after seeing a specialist.
After a turbulent season for both teams, this final fixture will be the chance to express themselves freely with nothing to change at the end of it. Chelsea cannot finish higher or lower than sixth, whereas Rovers are already beginning to plan for next season. The Blues, despite their apparent second-string team, will still have too much for Rovers and should finish the season with a win and good confidence as they head towards Munich.
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