Gale: No Hassel?

  • 200/1 on Cole netting first in a 2-1 win at Chelsea -
    Click for full odds with Surrey Sports.

Tony Gale reckons that Chelsea will be going in to the clash at Stamford Bridge this weekend with one eye on their games against Spurs and the Hammers next week in the two domestic cup competitions.

Chelsea face Spurs in the Worthington Cup semi-final second leg next week, holding a 2-1 advantage from the first leg, and face the Hammers again in the FA Cup fourth round just three days later.

That, thinks Tony, is likely to mean Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink being left out again this Sunday for the league encounter, and he explains: "I don't know if Hasselbaink will play at the weekend or if they are saving him up for the Worthington Cup next week and the FA Cup game - which I think are the big games of the week for them.

"He may not play this weekend then be fit for the cup games - we will have to wait and see on that one.

"I don't think they have given up on the league, but being so close in the Worthington Cup and with the FA Cup being such a big competition their eggs will be more in that basket than the league.

"They have got a great chance for qualifying for the UEFA Cup but I can't see them qualifying for the Champions' League now."

Tony's former club Blackburn Rovers fielded a weakened side in their FA Cup win over Barnsley on Wednesday night - and Tony was shocked.

"The FA Cup is still THE cup competition in the world and I don't think anyone should treat it lightly," he insists.

Chelsea's 4-0 demolition of Norwich on Wednesday night was certainly impressive, and Tony adds: "Norwich did quite well in the first game but Cudicini probably kept Chelsea in it then and they missed their chance.

"When it went to the Bridge I thought there would be only one winner, particularly as Norwich had about 10 of their first team players injured.

"Chelsea put them to the sword, Norwich were very weak, and I don't think they really had a chance. It was like a training session in the end with their passing and moving and getting their pattern of play going."

Having two games against the same opposition in the space of a few days can, according to received wisdom, lead to grudges being brought over to the second game.

But Glenn Roeder will be hoping his back four, in particular, can stay out of trouble at the weekend.

Any of the players on four bookings - Seb Schemmel, Christian Dailly, Tomas Repka, and Nigel Winterburn - would miss either a fourth round replay, if there is one, or the game at Bolton in the league through suspension.

Tony says: "I remember having some games on the spin, I think in 1985-86, against Ipswich up there on the snow. The game was replayed twice and we had them in the league as well, and you seem to get to know the player you are marking so well, and him you of course, and if there are any running feuds the games are too close for comfort.

"But quite frankly I'd like to see it to happen, because then we will know the first game has been really played at pace.

"The game earlier in the season at Upton Park was an excellent game of football. West Ham really came out of the blocks quickly and Chelsea didn't really know what had hit them.

"But after that, for the last hour of the game, Chelsea were the better side, quite honestly and were unlucky not to get a point.

"Hasselbaink scored one, hit the post, and Shaka was in great form. It was a great game of football and if the next two games are like that they are going to be super.

"Chelsea are a good side on their day, there is no doubt about that, but they are inconsistent."

Tony is optimistic of the league run-in and explains: "If you look at the fixture list there are a lot of teams below West Ham that they have to play in the league at home, so I think they have done particularly well to have the number of points they have on the table so far."