Terry and Bridge overshadow clash


LONDON, February 26 – Although one team is chasing the Premier League title and the other homing in on a Champions League place, Saturday's clash between Chelsea and Manchester City will see attention focused on John Terry and Wayne Bridge rather than the two clubs' respective ambitions.
All eyes will be on Terry and Manchester City defender Bridge as the pair meet for the first time since the scandal that led to the Chelsea captain losing the England armband.

It has been suggested that before kick-off Bridge will refuse to shake the hand of his former club-mate, who last month was alleged to have had an affair with Bridge’s former partner, the mother of his child.

The pair were expected to remain international colleagues, but Bridge has told the English Football Association that he does not want to be considered for the World Cup squad in light of the scandal.

Premier League leaders Chelsea granted Terry leave earlier in the month so he could travel to Dubai to patch up his marriage, but the Londoners would prefer to concentrate on moving four points clear of second-placed Manchester United rather than worrying about off-pitch distractions.

Carlo Ancelotti’s side need a victory to restore morale after losing to Inter Milan in mid-week, when Chelsea’s problems were further compounded by a calf injury to goalkeeper Petr Cech.

The Czech Republic international was stretchered off in the second half in the San Siro and he is set to be missing for a number of weeks.

"It is a huge blow to lose Petr," admitted midfielder Frank Lampard.

"He has been in fantastic form as everyone knows and he has always been up there with the best in the world and no-one wants to lose that."

Cech will be replaced by Henrique Hilario and although the 34-year-old is used only occasionally, he rarely ends up on the losing side when he does play.

"Hilario has never let us down at all," Lampard said. "He has been brilliant every time he has come in whether it is for one game or a run of them."

City know that silverware will elude them yet again following their 3-1 FA Cup fifth round replay defeat at Stoke on Wednesday.

That setback, plus the sending off of forward Emmanuel Adebayor, has increased the pressure on manager Roberto Mancini, who only replaced Mark Hughes two months ago.

Hughes was sacked because his expensively assembled side drew too many matches, mainly because the defence couldn’t stop leaking goals, but the City fans have yet to warm fully to Mancini’s more cautious approach.

City expect talismanic forward Carlos Tevez to return for the Chelsea game after he spent time in Argentina on compassionate leave because his partner went into premature labour.

Fresh legs are certainly needed as City had to play half an hour of extra time at Stoke with 10 men after Adebayor was sent off.

City defender Vincent Kompany was not looking for excuses however.

"We’ll be prepared for the match, which is going to be difficult, but we can go there and get a result," the Belgium international said.

"We’re professionals and we are looking at things positively. We still have a lot to play for in the league and we’re at a stage of the season where we’re right in the thick of things near the top of the table and we should leave any negatives behind us.

"There are many teams who would love to swap places with us and be challenging for a Champions League spot and we mustn’t lose sight of that."