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Is a title challenge possible for Man Utd?

Manchester United
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Odd couple continue struggles

Take the most feared forward in the country, a man who intimidates defenders with his very presence. Add the costliest player in the history of English football as a sleeker, stylish sidekick. Add up the number of goals they have scored separately and multiply it: they should be far more prolific in partnership.

• Holloway hits out at penalty
• Blackpool 1-3 Chelsea

That, at least, is the theory. The indications at this embryonic stage are that Didier Drogba and Fernando Torres are ill-matched. Far from being soul mates, there are times when they barely resemble team-mates. The second date had a happier ending than the first for Chelsea but the conclusion is the same: the odd couple lack chemistry. They might not have a future together.

In one respect, that is obvious. Drogba celebrates, if that is the appropriate verb, his 33rd birthday on Friday. The scorer of 37 goals last season only has four in his past four months; such diminishing returns can be attributed to age. Meanwhile, after a delay encompassing five weeks and 405 minutes on the pitch, Torres still awaits his first Chelsea goal. The longer it goes on, the more of an issue it becomes.

Chelsea, predictably, argue otherwise. "We are happy about his performance," Carlo Ancelotti said. "He will score; it is not a problem. He is showing good movement and it is important that he is working for the team."

Torres was sharper than a sullen Drogba, livelier and likelier, but his finest form remains elusive. Moreover, their alliance, for the first time since Torres' unhappy reunion with Liverpool, convinced few beyond Chelsea themselves. The distance between them was, Ancelotti said, a tactic: "They played well with good combinations. I didn't ask them to play closer. I wanted them to spread the Blackpool defence."

With Nicolas Anelka neither used nor needed, Chelsea accomplished something that Tottenham and Liverpool, who lost, and Manchester City and Manchester United, who required late goals to win, could not and brushed Blackpool aside at Bloomfield Road. Admittedly, it was an ideal time to arrive, with Charlie Adam and DJ Campbell, talisman and top scorer, respectively, both banned, but a second successive win has revived dying title hopes.

Chelsea's is a revival that has begun at the back. Unconventionally, the centre backs are doing the centre forwards' job. While no striker has scored a league goal since Torres signed, David Luiz struck against Manchester United. John Terry emulated him with the opener against Blackpool before the latest signs of Frank Lampard's renewed reliability in front of goal.

He is shouldering some of the strikers' burden. Indeed, if the most in-form forward Chelsea own is Daniel Sturridge, on loan at Bolton, the most potent remaining may be Salomon Kalou, who played pivotal parts in each of Lampard's brace. "A fantastic impact," his manager added.

Scorer began as supplier. Terry met Lampard's corner with a controlled header. Having lost James Beattie with his run, the closest he had to a marker when he scored was Michael Essien.

In quiet control for much of the first half, Chelsea had more incision after Drogba's departure with an unspecified knock, a damning conclusion in itself. "We tied up Drogba and then on came Kalou," lamented Ian Holloway. He exerted an influence. Lampard sent Richard Kingson the wrong way after Ian Evatt tripped Kalou. Then, following a perceptive pass from the more involved Ivorian, a trademark run was followed by a composed finish.

"It just shows the quality they have got," Holloway added. "And you would hope so, spending that much: £300 million. In games like this of this magnitude when David's swinging his sling at Goliath, you need to hit him straight in the forehead."

David took aim on plenty of occasions, as is Blackpool's wont. Chances are a constant by the coast. Cech excelled to tip a Jason Puncheon shot on to the post and to claw away Evatt's goal-bound cross. Puncheon eventually drilled a low effort in to ensure that, still, no one has kept a clean sheet at Bloomfield Road this season. On loan from League One Southampton, where he was a fringe player, Puncheon is the latest addition to Blackpool's list of unlikely scorers. But as Chelsea are proving, uniting professional marksmen is no guarantee of goals.

MAN OF THE MATCH: Frank Lampard. This was classic Lampard. The most efficient player of his generation added two goals and one assist to his tally and worked from box to box with trademark dependability.

BLACKPOOL VERDICT: After a ninth defeat in 12 games, it will be touch and go if they stay up. The set-piece marking that led to the opening goal indicated why they have the division's worst defensive record. At least Puncheon and Matt Phillips troubled Chelsea with their speed, while Adam will return for the crucial clash at Blackburn.

CHELSEA VERDICT: Ancelotti is downplaying their title chances, arguing that Chelsea have too great a gap to close to overhaul Manchester United. The extended slump he termed "our bad moment" is over, however , and with a resolute determination, they resembled the Chelsea of old. Whether the 4-4-2 formation proves the long-term solution or not, Essien and Lampard have the makings of a formidable pairing in the centre of midfield.

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