After missing his side's 4-1 FA Cup win over Cardiff last week, Chelsea captain John Terry will return to the Premier League leaders' starting XI for today's tricky trip to fifth-from-bottom Wolves. Having been granted personal leave by Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti to travel to Dubai and resolve his marital woes, the former England captain's availability for selection provides a timely boost for the travel-sick Blues, who have won just once away from home in the league since November.
With one point from their last two league games, Chelsea have seen Manchester United close the gap at the division's summit to a single point. But despite Mick McCarthy's Midlanders' form - they have lost once in their last four league games - Ancelotti will be confident of preserving the Londoners' 100 per cent top-flight record against a side who sit just one point above the relegation places. McCarthy, however, insists Chelsea will not have it all their own way.
"There is a sense throughout the league that teams just aren't invincible any more," he said. "I don't think it is because Chelsea, Manchester United and the rest are any worse. I just think that maybe the rest of us have got a little bit better, a little bit more streetwise and players know how to nick a result off them." With Chelsea having faltered in recent away games, last week's defeat at Everton followed a 1-1 draw at Hull, McCarthy believes his own team's collective desire to avoid relegation will prove more telling than targeting the Blues' shaky away form.
"It doesn't matter about anybody else's away record if we are not playing well," said McCarthy. "It renders it irrelevant if we play well. We're on a good spell and I'll take us playing like we did against Spurs and Liverpool - that's what it will take." Wolves will need to play substantially better than they did at Stamford Bridge earlier this season: on that frozen November afternoon Chelsea scored three goals in the opening 22 minutes to romp home 4-0.
Of that win's three goalscorers, forward Florent Malouda is the only one available today. Ghanian enforcer Michael Essien [two] remains a long-term injury absentee, while Joe Cole - the subject of fresh transfer speculation this week - faces a late fitness test. After being rested against Cardiff, Nicolas Anelka is expected to partner Chelsea's top-scorer and African Player of the Year nominee Didier Drogba up front. Broken ankle victim Ashley Cole remains sidelined.
But home goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann is preparing for a stern test whatever the visitors' line-up. "Chelsea are going to be sniffing blood after their last two away games," he said. "That probably doesn't help us - but they're at the top for a reason, they can do everything." Wolves are without Stephen Ward, Andy Keogh and Michael Kightly while David Edwards is closing in on a return from an ankle injury.
firstname.lastname@example.org Wolves v Chelsea, KO 7pm, ShowSports 1 & 2