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Oct 23, 2009

ESPN Soccernet Preview: Chelsea v Blackburn

• Live on ESPN UK at 17.30 BST

After a morale-boosting win over Burnley in the derby last weekend, Blackburn have the onerous task of travelling to Chelsea looking to continue a run of form that has seen them win three of their last four games. However, Rovers have not beaten Chelsea on the road since 2003 and currently sit just three points off the relegation zone; while they have also been hit by the blow that on-loan striker Franco Di Santo cannot play against his parent club.

It is perhaps a good time for Sam Allardyce's men to visit Stamford Bridge, as Chelsea are suffering something of a crisis of confidence (especially from set-pieces), having lost their second game in three matches to Aston Villa. However, the Blues still have a 100% home record and are not a team that anyone in the Premier League looks forward to playing.

Chelsea will be hot favourites, as the return of Didier Drogba should boost their attack, while Rovers have yet to pick up a point on their travels this season, and were thumped 6-2 last time on the road to Arsenal.

Chelsea player in focus: Didier Drogba. Returning from his suspension in the Champions League, Drogba will be keen to prove that Salomon Kalou's claims for a first-team place remain stifled. The powerful striker has been on fire in the league, netting seven goals in nine games, and will be just as important defending from set-pieces as he will be in the attacking third.

Blackburn player in focus: David Dunn. A great performance in the derby against Burnley reminded everyone that Dunn still has quality. The creative force that makes Blackburn tick in the centre of the pitch, his battle will be to overcome the attentions of Michael Essien and give Rovers some attacking impetus. He will also be forced to track back to deal with Chelsea's considerable goal threat.

Key battle: John Terry v Christopher Samba. With a number of goals already conceded from set-pieces, Chelsea will look to their inspirational skipper to lead the response. Terry's ability to clear the lines will depend on some additional marking from his team-mates, but he will come up against the giant Congolese defender, who is Rovers' best hope of getting a headed goal. The 6' 6'' defender has played as a striker so, as well as keeping the Blues away from Paul Robinson's goal, Samba will also be tasked with causing problems in the opposition box.

Tactics: Carlo Ancelotti is still persisting with his diamond formation, with Deco and Lampard providing the creativity. Flying full backs provide the width, and he has now found the formula for playing Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka up front together. Rovers should play a containment game and flood the midfield, with David Dunn dropping back from his advanced role to help stifle the Chelsea attack. They will also look to take advantage of Chelsea's poor record from set-pieces.

Quotes: Carlo Ancelotti on the Chelsea spotlight: "The word pressure does not exist in my vocabulary. The [levels of] pressure for this work are normal. That pressure is not negative for a job."

Franco Di Santo on the game: ''Blackburn are paying my wages so I want a Blackburn win. I will go to the game because I have a lot of friends at Chelsea and my contract is still with them. I want to go to watch."

In the news: Chelsea have begun the fight against their worldwide transfer ban by appealing to the Court of Arbitration for Sport and requesting a suspension of the punishment handed out to them over the signing of Gael Kakuta. As a result of the ban, the Blues are likely to recall on-loan Blackburn striker Franco Di Santo back to the club in January.

Chelsea Team News: Chelsea could be without Jose Bosingwa (knee), Michael Ballack, John Obi Mikel (both knee) and Alex (groin) ahead of the clash.

Blackburn Team News: Vince Grella (thigh) and Steven Reid (Achilles) are both likely to be missing, while Di Santo cannot play against his parent club.

Probable Chelsea line-up (4-4-2): Cech, Cole, Carvalho, Terry, Ivanovic, Lampard, Essien, Deco, Malouda, Drogba, Anelka.

Probable Blackburn line-up (4-5-1): Robinson, Jacobsen, Samba, Nelsen, Chimbonda, Diouf, Nzonzi, Dunn, Andrews, Pedersen, Roberts.

Soccernet prediction: If Blackburn can hold off the attacking threat of Chelsea's stars, then they have every chance of claiming a draw, or even a win if the Blues' set-piece woes continue. However, Ancelotti's men have some momentum after beating Atletico Madrid and will be favourites at their Stamford Bridge home.

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