Preamble: Evening all! Put your favourite tipple in the fridge, break the seal on that bag of salty snacks, perhaps slip on that big comfy jumper. It's Monday. It's night-time. It's football. Which must mean it's Monday Night Football with Richard Ke …
They said WHAT?
Oh, I geddit. Very good, very good. Try and make a fool out the MBMer. No one in football could possibly be that pathetically, sickeningly, ignorantly, stone age …
Oh … Oh I see.
So they said … And they've been … Which means that … Ah. OK.
Right then, folks. It looks like we'll have to cope without Messrs Keys and Gray's always-spot-on-and-never-in-any-way-cliche-ridden analysis. Shame. If you want to have your electronic say on the issue, Anna Kessel has written an excellent piece for the sport blog, as has Paul Hayward, while Georgina Turner has written for Comment is Free, all with far more eloquence and authority than I could hope to muster here. Suffice to say – urgh.
Meanwhile, this is an important evening for both Chelsea and Bolton. Carlo Ancelotti's side trail Manchester United by 10 points, despite returning to winning ways against Blackburn last week, while Wanderers' season needs a bit of a shot in the arm after four games without a win (one of those a defeat at Stamford Bridge). For the visitors John Terry is in the squad but rated doubtful, Frank Lampard is out. Bolton hope that Stuart Holden is fit and could give a debut to craggy defensive stopper David Wheater.
Tonight's teams are in:
Bolton: Jaaskelainen, Steinsson, Cahill, Knight, Robinson, Petrov, Muamba, Holden, Taylor, K Davies, Elmander. Substitutes: Bogdan, M Davies, Ricketts, Wheater, Rodrigo, Blake, Cohen
Chelsea: Cech, Bosingwa, Ivanovic, Terry, Cole, Ramires, Essien, Mikel, Malouda, Drogba, Anelka. Substitutes: Turnbull, Ferreira, Kakuta, Sturridge, Bruma, McEachran, Kalou.
So Terry and Holden both fit, Wheater has to wait for his chance.
This is quite cool, courtesy of @the1steleven on Twitter. Really emphasises the gap between Chelsea and the summit.
Pre-match email dept. "Hello John," begins Cormac Hayes. "Was I going mad or did I hear you interviewing Fergie for Sky after the Birmingham game on Saturday?" I'm afraid you're going mad. I was busy listening to Nigel Pearson and Brian McDermott explain their mild satisfaction at Reading 1-1 Hull.
Sky's MNF coverage is just about to begin – let's see if they make any mention of the elephant in the room …
"Seven visits and seven wins," begins stand-in David Jones. "An astonishing record for Chelsea here at the Reebok Stadium. We're here in high-defintion …" Look, it's over there, in the corner. The big grey thing with the trunk …
Nope, no reference. They've not even got the MNF-style electric notepad and giant graphic machine. Wonder if Gray was the only one who knew how to use it and Sky didn't want Jame Redknapp breaking it. Redknapp and Eidur Gudjohnsen are filling Gray's shoes. For those of us who interest ourselves in these things, it's been an interesting day of Sky politics. Sky News have been all over the story all day. Sky Sports have completely ignored it. The elephant snuggles down and gets itself comfy. He's going to be there all night.
Here's Owen Coyle: "It will be an emotional night," says the Bolton manager, in reference to the fact that this is Bolton's first home game since the death of Nat Lofthouse. "I'm pretty sure Nat will be looking down and it's important that we give a good performance."
Robin Hazlehurst emails in to remind me of my own sexism scandal (40th over onwards explains the picture). Thanks for that, Robin. All I can say is that it was 'banter', I didn't know the mic was on and I'm not that kind of MBMer.
Plenty, by which I mean hundreds if not thousands, of tributes to Lofthouse both inside and outside the Reebok. Kevin Davies has the Lion of Vienna's name on his captain's armband this evening.
Click-clack, click-clack … the teams emerge from the tunnels, and arrange themselves around the centre-circle for a minute's silence …
… absolutely impeccably observed by everyone at the ground. A very poignant moment.
Peep! Anelka and Essien, clad all in blue, kick things off.
1 min: Steinsson dinks a cross in after a little hesistancy from Essien, and then Muamba almost wriggles his way straight through the middle.
2 min: It's a right mess in the Chelsea defence right now. Terry's clearance drops straight to Holden on the edge of the box, but the American swats his shot straight at Petrov who is a) about five yards wide of goal and b) about five yards offside.
3 min: Another Bolton attack and another half-chance, Davies failing to fully connect with a header after Elmander's flick. This has been a searing start from the hosts.
4 min: Poor pass from Robinson gives Chelsea a first opportunity to put their foot on the ball, and Taylor serves notice of Bolton's high-tempo intent by bundling into Ashley Cole.
6 min: Taylor thwocks a pass at Elmander's chest and the former Toulouse man does well control before choosing the wrong option in finding Davies, Holden having made a storming surge down the right.
7 min: Pass, pass, pass from Chelsea, with Bolton looking to strangle the space.
9 min: Taylor flicks on Holden's sweeping long ball and as Davies and Terry challenge for it down the touchline, it's the Chelsea captain who comes off worst. He's hobbling slightly, but looks like he's going to run it off.
GOAL!!! Bolton 0-1 Chelsea (Drogba 11) What a strike from Drogba! From 30-odd yards he has what seems an overly-optimistic swing at goal, but the ball feints one way before going the other and past a despairing and utterly flummoxed Jaskelainen.
12 min: "Stunning strike from that lad Drogba, take a bow, son," offers Shooby Taylor. At first it appeared a goalkeeping error, but the slow motion really does the strike justice.
14 min: "Poor old Jussi, that ball moved more than I did on Saturday night," reckons Chris Hunt. That'd be on the way home rather than on the dancefloor? If you were busting moves like that I'd recommend seeing your doctor. Or possibly a psychiatrist.
16 min: Holden wins a free-kick and swings it in himself. Cahill gets a touch at the far post, but can only divert the thing wide.
18 min: "Re. the minutes silence, I'm glad it was actually a minutes silence," writes Dan Pressland. "Why and when did that awful 'minutes applause' come about? As well as being less moving, there is nothing quiet like a stadium being completely silent with contemplative fans, then when the whistle goes the noise of the crowd absolutly lifts the roof off." I must say I prefer the silences, they can be very moving. But I'm not anti-applause. Depends on the circumstances, perhaps. Ramires gets upended by Muamba and is getting up very, very gingerly.
19 min: A loose touch from Anelka breaks up another Chelsea attack. He's been very out of sorts of late. Apart from the goal, Ancelotti's team haven't really shown much in this opening 20 minutes. Yes, I know. And apart from the Second World War the 40s were quite a good decade.
21 min: "I'm having trouble finding a snidey website, so you're my lifeline," writes Chris Taylor. "Only 11 minutes in and I'm already feeling that you are my new, ahem, lucky pants. Your words, my joy." Are lucky pants a bit of a myth? Does anyone actually have a pait of lucky pants? Bolton force a couple of throw-ins, progressing down the right and Taylor's whipped cross is nodded away by Bosingwa for a corner …
22 min: … Petrov hits the first man. Poor set piece.
24 min: Knight lofts the ball over the top, but with Elmander closing in Ashley Cole is cooler than a frozen cucumber. Still, Bolton have the upper hand here.
25 min: Drogba wriggles clear down the left channel and slaps a shot into a relieved Jaaskelainen's chest.
27 min: The Reebok goes so quiet momentarily that the only sound are the screams of Owen Coyle on the touchline. Muamba trips Ramires once more. He's on a tightrope, baby, nine miles high.
29 min: A fine, fine block from Zat Knight prevents Anelka putting Chelsea two up. Essien spliced the defence with a lovely through-ball, Anelka's clean through, but the big defender sticks to his task superbly.
30 min: At the other end, Cech makes a really cracking save to keep out Matt Taylor's header. This is threatening to become a very entertaining game indeed.
32 min: Muamba can't quite control his header as the ball bobbles forward. He's a frustrating player – at times you wonder why he's never played for England. Then a few seconds later you get the explanation.
33 min: Drogba muscles and bustles his way through a couple of challenges, before pulling back in the direction of a surprisingly-advanced Ashley Cole. The defender can't quite turn the ball goalwards, however.
36 min: A sumptuous little Drogba flick gets Essien scurrying into the Bolton area. He in turn finds the Ivorian but the ball just won't drop. At the other end, Elmander has a shot blocked. Good, open stuff here.
37 min: Drogba goes down on the edge of the box under challenge from Steinsson. A very dangerous position this …
38 min: … whipped a couple of yards over by Drogba. "I'm pretty sure the minutes applause came in as it was realised that for certain fixtures knuckle dragging neanderthals would start chanting abuse and shouting disparaging remarks," writes Bill Chilton. "Anyway, turns out Sky suspended them today." Ba-dum tish.
GOAL!!! Bolton 0-2 Chelsea (Malouda 41) What an odd goal. Bolton fail to clear a corner, the ball bobbles about a bit, and from the second attempt Malouda threads the ball past Jaaskelainen. One of those oh-it's-a-goal goals.
43 min: The Reebok again is cloaked in silence and no wonder. It's been very even really, yet they're on the wrong end of 2-0.
44 min: Almost an outrageous goal from Elmander. Davies dinked a ball over the top and as Cech came out, the Sweden striker made contact with a bizarre half-bicycle, half-helicopter kick and the keeper just managed to bundle away for a corner. Which, rather too predictably, came to nothing.
45+1 min: "Big Sam is doing quite a decent job on Sky this evening," reckons @adflord on Twitter. "Doesn't say quite as much as Gray - maybe no bad thing..." Aye, it's not been too bad. Anodyne, but not overly irritating.
Peep! Peep! That'll be half-time then.
Half-time lucky pants news dept. No one, not one of you out there, have a pair of lucky pants. And as the MBM readership are, of course, an entirely representative cross-section of the global community, we can proclaim, without question, that lucky pants are indeed a myth.
Half-time snack news dept. Just a cuppa. Tea is waiting for me at home – roast lamb and my homemade flatbreads.
Yeah, I make my own flatbreads. What of it?
It's hard to say what Bolton can do to get back into this. They've really not played that badly, but Drogba spanking in a stunner, a bit of poxy defending from a corner … and, well, that's more or less that, isn't it? An early goal would make it interesting, though.
Peep! Bolton kick off Half II: Return of the Half. "When I was younger I thought I had a pair of lucky underwear," writes Eric Patterson enigmatically. "It turns out they were in fact not very lucky." Oh.
46 min: Wait a minute … what's this from Mark Walsh. "I will admit to having a pair of lucky pants, two in fact. They're Ralph Lauren with horses all over them and I wear them every time I go to the races. God I'm sad." Neither side seem to want the ball here, a bit of hot-potato stuff to get things going again.
48 min: Heavy touch from Elmander goes out for a throw, but he and Petrov look to have a bit of creative spark. If Davies and co can act as a bit of footballing kindling, we may have a half-decent analogy on our hands.
49 min: Cech wallops the ball away … Cahill heads clear. Really not settling down since the break. "I'm assuming most of the MBM readership wears the same pair of pants every day, maybe changing it once every six months," writes Paulo Padilha. "I guess that would make those pants occasionally lucky, but probably unlucky most of the time. Not that I speak from personal experience."
51 min: Taylor's studs make contact with Drogba's ribs and as the Bolton man tells his opponent exactly what he thinks, Drogba rolls up his shirt to make a point. Quite what the point is unclear, because I can't see any studmarks. Probably just as well really. The free-kick is smuggled away by the hosts.
52 min: "When I was younger, I had a pair of lucky socks that I always used to wear when I went to watch Wigan (RL) play," writes Steven Johnson. "They were falling to bits, and my mum eventually threw them away. This coincided with Wigan's domination of the game disappearing too. Some say it was the game being professionalised that leveled the playing field in rugby league, I say it was my mum throwing away my lucky socks."
53 min: Bolton howl for a foul, but Essien gets Chelsea surging clear before offering the softest pass in the vague direction of Anelka you'll sever see. Bolton break and can't get a shot on goal. Chelsea do likewise and someone's offside. End to end stuff all of a sudden.
55 min: Davies hands Anelka possession in the centre circle. Look out …
GOAL!!! Bolton 0-3 Chelsea (Anelka 56) Anelka to Drogba to Maouda to Essien to Drogba … and it drops back out to Anelka, who buries the thing past Jaaskelainen.
58 min: Bolton have no one to blame than themselves for that one, Davies's pass the catalyst for what is almost certainly a game-ending goal.
60 min: Elmander is tripped, sort of, by Drogba, giving Bolton a dangerous free-kick …
61 min: … slapped into the wall by Taylor. "According to the Guardian's own Middlesbrough-based Billy Bragg, Sir Alex Ferguson uses his lucky pants a lot, but Mick McCarthy doesn't," writes Robin Hazlehurst. "Which sounds plausible, although I don't thank him for the image of Lord Ferg in his crackers."
62 min: Fabrice Muamba is replaced by Mark Davies, and Martin Petrov makes way for Rodrigo.
64 min: Robinson hammers into Ramires, whose been in the wars a bit today. "I have a lucky Leeds United Shirt from around 1995," writes Dave Hill. "I wear whenever I brew, and I've made some really nice beers with it too!" Hang on. A lucky shirt for brewing? Isn't that a bit like having a pair of lucky trousers for doing the hoovering? No scratch that. I like the idea of lucky items for any task. Anyone got a vest they only wear while brushing their teeth?
66 min: Predictably, this has gone flatter than three-day-old dandelion and burdock with the lid left off. Davies, Mark not Kevin, can't quite get on the end of what I think was an Elmander flick.
67 min: "A lot of things can go wrong when you brew," reprimands Dave Hill, "especially all grain, so sometimes you need some luck!" True enough - my one attempt made an undrinkably foul substance that needed chemical disposal. Another Bolton error gets Anelka scampering away once more, but Knight again sticks to his task.
70 min: OFFSIDE! Davies surges forward from midfield and feeds Elmander. He's clean through but a) he's offside and b) Cech saves anyway. Bolton have missed Lee Chung-yong today, but Davies has brought a little of the Korean's thrust.
71 min: McEachran has been introduced at some point – apologies for missing that. Mikel seems to have made way.
GOAL!!! Bolton 0-4 Chelsea (Ramires 74) Another slightly shambolic goal from Bolton's point of view, coming as it does from a throw in 40-odd yards out. Essien gets clear down the right too easily, Anelka latches onto his cross. His shot is blocked, but the rebound drops out to the Brazilian, who beats Jaaskelainen from 12 yards.
75 min: "Pleased for Ramires. Been given too much criticism, hard to settle in the PL coming from Portuguese Liga. Coming good same time as Meireles?" notes my sometime podcast colleague @Zonal_Marking on Twitter. The aforementioned midfielder is replaced by Kalou.
77 min: "John, as my new MBM talisman, how would describe yourself in lucky pants terms?" ponders Chris Taylor. "Roomy, comfortable and dependable? Or something stylish and racy that might be found clinging to the manly parts of Freddy Ljungberg?" I'm not sure if I can answer that without compromising myself. Chelsea are rampant now – this could get even uglier for Bolton.
78 min: Elmander volleys a couple of yards over the bar.
80 min: Chelsea's fans have cranked out a couple of chants. "Andy Gray! Channel Five!" sounds like the latest. Not sure who should be most offended by that one.
81 min: Again Davies shimmies and shuffles his way into the centre of the box, and yet again he's a foot or so from getting on the end of a team-mates pass. This time Cech coolly plucks the ball from his forehead.
83 min: Anelka tumbles in the box under Robinson's clumsy challenge. Looks a nailed on pen to me, but because it's 4-0 no one really complains when the referee waves play on.
84 min: Holden wastes a decent position as Bolton break away, but Wanderers just want the final whistle now.
86 min: Anelka thumps a shot at goal and it's well saved by Jasskelainen. "Does this mean then that Chelsea have found their mojo again?" ponders @adflord. It certainly suggests that Bolton have lost theirs. They've been very poor since the first goal really.
88 min: Another solid stop from Jaaskelainen as Anelka snaps in yet another attempt. He's like a werewolf with the smell of blood in his nostrils.
90 min: Three more minutes for Bolton to endure.
90+1 min: Cole dinks a clever angled effort onto the roof of the net.
Peep! Peep! Peeeeep! Another super save from Jaaskelainen after some exhibition stuff is very nearly finished off by, yep, Anelka. But that's the last act. Foy puts Bolton out of their misery.
Right, that's it from me. Thanks, as ever, for all your emails, especially those involving pants. Cheerio!