Chelsea happy to win ugly, says midfielder Mikel
London: Chelsea midfielder John Obi Mikel insists the free-scoring Premier League champions will be happy to win ugly against Stoke on Saturday.
Carlo Ancelotti’s side have made an astonishing start to their title defence after following their 6-0 rout of West Brom on the opening day with another 6-0 victory at Wigan last weekend.
The Blues, who scored a Premier League record 103 goals last season, have picked up where they left off in May, when an 8-0 win against Wigan clinched the title.
Stoke’s defenders, who conceded seven goals at Stamford Bridge last season, could be forgiven for experiencing a few sleepless nights at the prospect of facing Chelsea in this mood.
But Nigeria international Mikel knows there is little chance the league leaders will continue to beat teams with such ease.
As a defensive midfielder, Mikel takes as much satisfaction from a hard-fought 1-0 win as his team’s forwards do from a high-scoring victory.
“We all have a good understanding at the moment. I think it’s pretty much working out as we want it to all the time,” Mikel told Chelsea’s website.
“We know we’re not going to score six every game, if you manage one and get three points it’s all we need, but at the moment it is enjoyable to be a part of it and playing, and I hope it keeps going like this.”
While Chelsea are clearly in the groove, Manchester United gave a less convincing display in their 2-2 draw at Fulham last weekend.
It is still early days in the title race, but United boss Sir Alex Ferguson was unimpressed with the way his team twice squandered the lead at Craven Cottage to fall two points behind the Blues.
Ferguson will expect a far more dominant performance against West Ham, who have lost their first two league matches, at Old Trafford on Saturday.
Tottenham, fresh from qualifying for the Champions League proper for the first time in nearly 50 years, travel to bottom of the table Wigan with boss Harry Redknapp looking forward to a few days off during next week’s international break.
Redknapp led his side to victory over Young Boys in the Champions League play-off round in midweek, but he has no plans to strengthen his squad before the window shuts on Tuesday. Instead he will go on holiday with his wife Sandra.
“After the game on Saturday against Wigan, I just want to take my wife away for five days, which I probably will do in all honesty,” Redknapp said.
“I don’t see anything happening in the transfer market and I am not too bothered if it does or doesn’t. I have not pressed the chairman to buy anybody.”
How Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson must wish he could say the same.
Hodgson’s team host West Brom on Sunday looking to bounce back from a 3-0 defeat at Manchester City which raised serious questions about morale at Anfield.
The Reds looked woeful for long periods and Hodgson also has to deal with the potential departures of Javier Mascherano and Dirk Kuyt, who have both made it clear they are interested in offers from Barcelona and Inter Milan respectively.
Hodgson is willing to let Mascherano leave if the price is right, but he could force the Argentina midfielder to feature against Albion if his future hasn’t been resolved.
“Going into Sunday’s game, I think I am entitled to have the player available for selection if he is going to continue to be a Liverpool player,” Hodgson warned.
City will aim to build on that Liverpool win when Roberto Mancini’s expensively assembled squad travel to Sunderland, while new Arsenal defender Sebastien Squillaci, signed from Sevilla on Thursday, won’t feature when the Gunners take on Blackburn at Ewood Park.
Fixtures (1400GMT unless stated):
Blackburn v Arsenal (1145GMT)
Blackpool v Fulham
Chelsea v Stoke
Man Utd v West Ham (1630GMT)
Tottenham v Wigan
Wolves v Newcastle
Aston Villa v Everton (1500GMT)
Bolton v Birmingham (1230GMT)
Liverpool v West Brom
Sunderland v Man City