04 April 2013

Ouchies all around

Far be it from me to wish harm on a rival player, even the likes of Ashley Cole, but I'm not above noticing injuries. A while back, I bemoaned how many games our men have lost to injury, an epidemic that has worsened after Diaby's torn ACL. Now, however, it seems that what comes around goes around, as our rivals for a top-four finish have seen key players go down to various injuries, some serious enough to knock them out for several weeks, if not the remainder of the season. Keep in mind that I'm not relishing the potential advantage these developments grant us, but I am aware that the advantage exists, not that we should need any further motivations to go out and grab every point available already.

Each of these players have picked up these injuries in the last week or two and will therefore miss at least a few Prem matches (not to mention their Europa League matches). In cases where a return date says "unknown", that's all it means for now. It could mean that the club just hasn't released details yet, or it could mean that the injury is severe enough that a meaningful prognosis just can't be made. Abou Diaby, for example, has no return date because his return is so far off into the future that it's pointless to pick a date. Check the chart for a current list of the walking wounded (or sitting, as it were).

Each team, Chelsea and Spurs, have three players nursing injuries. Lennon is scheduled to return this weekend, but his groin and hamstring problems are chronic, dating back to earlier in the season. Given how much of his game depends on his pace (read: all of his game is pace), he may be somewhat diminished upon his return.  It's not like Spurs desperately need him against Basel , so he'll probably rest ahead of their Sunday match with Everton. Defoe is out for three weeks, meaning he'll miss the Everton match, and Spurs is looking quite thin up top. Bale will have to rely on Adebayor, who is not scoring because he is not seeking a new contract at the moment. Aside from their actual absences from the pitch, Bale will find less space to maneuver without Lennon's pace to stretch defenses or the threat of Defoe scoring, hypothetical though that may be. Defenses will be able to key on Bale even more fiercely until one or both men is back at 100%. Most seriously for Spurs, however, is Lloris's knee injury. He had ligament trouble a few years ago, and I can't find details on whether the current injury is related to that. Some sites list him as available and training; others suggest he's out for a while. One way or another, his absence is huge, as it forces Spurs to bring back Brad Friedel and to recall 19-year old Jordan Archer from his loan-spell with Wycombe.  Even when Lloris does return, he may find his mobility hampered somewhat.

On to Chelsea. Their back line has been ravaged of late, with Cole's hamstring, Cahill's knee, and Romeu's ACL (not to mention Terry's knee injury). The first two will return soon, but Romeu is done for the season. Cole's hamstring is likely to be a persistent, lingering issue, and, like Lennon, Cole needs his speed. He does have other assets, of course. With Cahill, his knee will also knock him out for at least two weeks, leaving Chelsea with precious few options on defense. Ryan Bertrand will likely get put in, but after him, Chelsea doesn't have a defender with more than eight starts to his name. With John Terry in and out of the line-up after his own knee injury in November, Chelsea's defense looks all the more fragile. Were it not for Petr Čech, Chelsea would be leaking goals left and right. It's a testament to his quality that Chelsea has only conceded 32 Prem goals thus far. Whether he can continue to withstand the pressure behind a makeshift back-line will be interesting to see. A last, quick note, even if it is a bit spitefulgiven Abramovich's reluctance to give new contracts to players over 30 (Terry is 32) and how well Chelsea's defense has held up without Terry, who is only appeared in eight games, could this be Terry's last season in a Chelsea uniform? Food for thought. Delicious food for thought.

Back to the matter at hand, both Chelsea and Spurs go into brutally cluttered schedules down the home stretch. Both have three matches in the next seven days, and to get through that stretch, not to mention the remaining Prem schedule, was going to be tough enough at full strength. Now, both Benitez and Villas-Boas have to figure out how to juggle players to avoid conserve energy and protect players. In the meantime, we can observe as we rest up for our trip to West Brom.