Chelsea vs. Wigan: A Preview
Chelsea's season has taken a definite turn for the better in the past couple of weeks.
Qualification for the last 16 of the Champions League was confirmed, and the Blues extended their winning streak in the league to three matches with a vital victory over League leaders Manchester City.
This means Andre Villas-Boas' men are now sitting in third place, seven points behind City.
The games pile up over the festive period, and a team's form over December and January can make or break their season.
More reasons for Chelsea fans to be optimistic can be found in the training ground bust-up between Micah Richards and Mario Balotelli.
Always a controversial character, Balotelli's latest act of disruption could cause a rift in a Manchester City dressing room that has never been known for team spirit.
After a long undefeated streak comes to an end, the reaction is vital and needs to be as professional as possible to ensure that the players do not dwell on the previous defeat.
A key example of this took place in 2004 when Arsenal's "Invincibles" were beaten by Manchester United after a staggering 49 games without defeat.
Arsene Wenger's men did not take this result kindly with spats and petty disputes continuing down the tunnel and poor conduct being shown by normally levelheaded professionals.
Will Frank Lampard Start?
The poor run of form that followed on from this defeat allowed Jose Mourinho's Chelsea to open up a gap at the top of the table that was never overcome.
City will host Arsenal this weekend, and the Gunners will be looking to capitalise on the hangover from the Citizens' unbeaten run and the disappointment that greeted their Champions League exit.
The injury problems that have hit Manchester United could handicap Chelsea's other main rivals for the title as Nemanja Vidic is out for the season while Darren Fletcher has been forced to take an indefinite leave of absence for health reasons.
Meanwhile Chelsea will travel to the DW Stadium looking for a fourth successive league win against a Wigan side that have only won once here all season, the longest any Premier League club has ever gone without a home league victory.
Roberto Martinez's side find themselves struggling in 18th position and will be looking for anything they can get in the buildup to Christmas.
As usual they have struggled for goals, finding the net only 14 times in 15 games this season.
Hugo Rodallega has misfired in front of goal while former Chelsea prodigy Franco Di Santo finds the net sporadically at best.
Wigan's key defender, Antonin Alcaraz, is a doubt to play after a rib injury last week and could be replaced by returning centre-back Emmerson Boyce.
Chelsea's record here is impressive with five wins in six matches, but Wigan could take heart from their famous 3-1 triumph against the Blues back in 2009.
Who will spearhead Chelsea's attack?
David Luiz will return from suspension, but the main issue with AVB's selection will be whether he decides to recall Frank Lampard, who has been fairly vocal about his new status as a substitute.
Lampard came on and netted the winning penalty against Manchester City, and has already managed seven league goals this season, tied with Daniel Sturridge at the top of Chelsea's scoring charts.
It will also be interesting to see whether Fernando Torres is recalled to the starting lineup as a means of injecting some much-needed confidence into the No. 9 before Didier Drogba leaves for the African Cup of Nations.
Final Prediction: I cannot see Wigan scoring against Chelsea, and I believe the Blues are starting to find their feet, improving with every performance. I predict 4-0 to Chelsea with Juan Mata, Daniel Sturridge and Lampard among the goals.
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