Premier League Preview: Hull City vs. Chelsea
Kingston Communication Stadium, Kingston Upon Hull, England
Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2010, 19:45 GMT
League leading Chelsea will travel north to the home of Hull City for the rearranged fixture from early January, when heavy snow caused the Hull local authorities to cancel the match, despite the Hull City ground staff's best efforts.
In the opening game of the season, the Tigers traveled to Chelsea's Stamford Bridge stadium to kick off the 2009-2010 Premiership season, and nearly scored a massive upset.
In a game in which the home team had the lion's share of the ball in the final third, it was the Tigers that struck first.
Stephen Hunt, who was booed every time he touched the ball because of his incident with Chelsea keeper Petr Cech—he fractured his skull in a freak collision whilst playing for Reading, managed to take the East Yorkshire club into a one-goal lead.
Hull City's Andy Dawson took a free kick from the halfway line that dropped at the edge of the box. George Boateng's daisy cutter shot was blocked by Cech, but the ball fell into the path of the onrushing Hunt, who poked the ball inside the near post.
The lead didn't last for long. The Blues came right back with a dubious free kick just outside the box, but Didier Drogba was just too good for Boaz Myhill in the Hull City goal, and the scores were level at the half.
For much of the second half, the Tigers soaked up the Chelsea pressure and looked to be on their way to getting a well deserved point from a very good afternoon's work.
In stoppage time, however, Drogba, ever the opportunist, chipped the ball back from the touchline as the ball was about to go out, in a speculative hope that someone would meet his cross.
Fortunately for the Blues and Drogba, the ball floated over the high-reaching Myhill to give Chelsea all three points.
This time the two clubs' fortunes are very different, with Chelsea sitting atop the Premiership and the Tigers second bottom.
Carlo Ancelotti's team has weathered the storm of the Africa Cup of Nations. It was supposed to be the Londoner's Achilles heel, but they have not lost in the absence of their top African players.
Hull City boss Phil Brown will be without the services of the long-term injured Ian Ashbee and Jimmy Bullard, as well as Seyi Olofinjana, who was on duty at the ACN. The game may be too early for his return.
The Yorkshiremen will be without Algerian internationals Kamil Ghilas and Dean Marney, who have not recovered from recent knocks, and centre back Kamel Zayette may need a late test to prove his fitness.
Ancelotti will still have the services of all of his African players with the exception of Michael Essien, who sustained a knee injury during the tournament. The Blues will also be without Brazilian Juliano Belletti, who has a calf injury, and Jose Boswinga, who is suffering from a knee injury.
For Brown and Hull City, it would not be expected for them to get anything from this fixture. But after such spirited performances against Arsenal, Manchester United, and Spurs recently, Ancelotti will be expecting another battling performance from Yorkshire's finest.