Belfast Telegraph

Blues let football do the talking

Chelsea believe the statistics speak for themselves in response to Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini's "small team" taunt.

Pellegrini likened the approach of Jose Mourinho's side to Stoke following Sunday's 1-1 Barclays Premier League draw at the Etihad Stadium, when Chelsea record goalscorer Frank Lampard rescued a point for the hosts.

Assistant first-team coach Steve Holland, undertaking media duties prior to Wednesday's Capital One Cup third-round tie with Bolton in place of Mourinho, said: "Chelsea have scored 16 goals in five matches this season, which, without being petty, Manchester City have scored eight in five. Twice as many goals in five matches.

"Jose has always been very clever tactically against the bigger clubs. Last year proved that. I'm sure he'll continue down that line.

"I don't think there's any need to respond beyond that.

"We'll just continue with our work and try to win as many football matches as possible."

The draw helped Chelsea more than City, with the Blues leading the standings and five points clear of their opponents after five games as they look for a first title in more than four years.

Bolton are opponents who come with some nostalgia for Chelsea.

Two goals from Lampard at Wanderers secured the 2-0 win which confirmed Chelsea's first championship in 50 years in 2005.

It was surreal for many to see Lampard, after 13 years and 211 goals for Chelsea, scoring against the Blues, who now believe themselves to be credible title contenders once more.

Chelsea last won the title in 2010 and finished four points behind City in the first season of Mourinho's return.

Holland added: "Last year we hoped. This year we believe. There is a difference.

"This year there is a greater belief than last year. We feel the depth that we have in the squad, the balance that we have in the squad.

"Physically, mentally, tactically, the team has progressed and the team is ready to put on a real challenge.

"But we also know there will be other clubs that feel the same and it will be a difficult contest right until the end."

Chelsea are still to finalise their squad for the visit of Wanderers, but changes are certain.

Midfielder Ramires is out with an abductor muscle injury, striker Diego Costa (hamstring) is unlikely to feature but goalkeeper Petr Cech could start.

"We have had a small group of players that I'm sure have been frustrated in the first couple of weeks not to have played more and will get an opportunity to show what they can do tomorrow," Holland added.

The goalkeeping situation is intriguing after Cech was displaced as first choice by Thibaut Courtois, but there are no guarantees which stopper will play in which competition.

"It will be just judged on merit on a week-to-week basis," Holland added.

The League Cup, as the first silverware of the season, is on Chelsea's radar and they do not plan to take Bolton lightly, despite Wanderers recording just one league win and twice needing extra time in the competition.

"To have a trophy on board March time puts you in a good place for the conclusion to the season," Holland said.

"(But) it's a game we have to be wary of, give full respect to the opposition. I think that will be the case.

"We had an experience against Swindon, who were League One, last season that was uncomfortable. We survived it.

"You underestimate clubs and teams in a lower league at your peril. You'll be in trouble if that's the case."

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