Football

Chelsea must pick themselves up for game of the season

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Chelsea must pick themselves up after tasting defeat (©GettyImages)
Chelsea must pick themselves up after tasting defeat (©GettyImages).

It perhaps says more about the fickle nature of football than anything else that no sooner had the full time whistle blown on Chelsea’s 2-1 defeat against Manchester City that the knives were out for Roberto di Matteo.

 

Of all the club’s in the Premier League, Chelsea and their trigger-happy owner are the least likely to offer a lengthy honeymoon period.

 

Four straight wins with Di Matteo at the helm, new found confidence and the catharsis of the Italian seemingly sweeping all of Andre Villas-Boas work (at least, temporarily) to one side had helped return the feel-good feeling to Stamford Bridge.

 

And for a brief while, their rejuvenated charge up the league table and into the top four looked to be moving at an unrelenting pace.

 

Gary Cahill’s fortuitous second half goal briefly gave the Blues hope of completing their revival under Di Matteo. F.A Cup and Champions League turnarounds – the latter perhaps offering false of a new dawn reminiscent of the Avram Grant led charge to the Champions League final – were done and dusted, now it was only the league conundrum that needed addressing.

 

The morning after the night before bought with it some harsh home truths. Di Matteo's selection of Fernando Torres over Didier Drogba formed the focal point of his detractor’s arguments, while their insipid display added weight to the claims that all that glitters in west London wasn’t gold.

 

The truth about Chelsea and their latest interim boss lies somewhere in the middle.

 

An away win against City was always likely to be a tall order, and would have tested the Blues even if they were in the midst of their Mourinho-based pomp.

 

Twenty games in a row Roberto Mancini’s side have now won at the Etihad Stadium – a new Premier League record – while they haven’t tasted defeat at their home fortress since Everton were the visitors back in 2010.

 

Di Matteo also had good reason to believe Torres could deliver the goods and test the City backline in a different way to Drogba.

 

His double against Leicester wasn’t the full-stop in the Spaniard’s saga it was made out to be, but he certainly looked a different player to the one that has lurked tentatively around the fringes of games this season.

 

With Joleon Lescott and Vincent Kompany absent Torres was tasked with pulling apart a weak looking back line with his pace and movement.

 

As he trudged off to be replaced by Drogba, Torres cut a frustrated figure, seemingly at a loss as to what had just happened and how it will all end.

 

Torres’ regression to his former state was aided by the fact he was forced to feed off scraps for much of the game, although when he did have the ball at his feet his touch often let him down.

 

While Chelsea were stuttering and spluttering up north, Tottenham were doing their own impression of a team unsure of itself in London.

 

It is at times difficult to put the finger on why Spurs have fallen away so dramatically of late; their performances have barely dropped yet they have taken only five points from their last six league outings.

 

Other times it is easy to see what afflictions blight Redknapp’s men. Gone is the snap and crackle of their early season encounters with a narrow, staccato version of their former selves in its place.

 

Aaron Lennon’s absence has harmed them, while injuries have not been so kind to Redknapp’s men this season and their drop off in goals has been alarming.

 

All the while Arsenal have marched on relentlessly, picking up three valuable points last night against a side and on a ground where both Tottenham and Chelsea have walked away empty handed from in recent weeks.

 

It is either fortunate or a slice of bad luck that fate has thrown the two together this weekend.

 

Five points separate the two teams after last night’s action and Saturday’s early game offers both a chance to claim victory in a huge defining game, but one that is easily more winnable fixture than in their recent outings against the teams at the top.

 

Chelsea will rest upon their remarkable record against Spurs at Stamford Bridge, which hasn’t seen a Spurs win in west London since 1990.

 

Tottenham, for all their loss of belief will pray that after going on the road to face their rivals and playing well without picking up points, that they are due a big win away from White Hart Lane.

 

With Arsenal above and beyond both teams now and seemingly brimming with a confidence both Tottenham and Chelsea could only dream of, it appears the battle for the final Champions League spot will boil down to straight scrap between two stuttering teams.

 

It is hard to under estimate the importance of top-tier European football for both teams; Spurs need it desperately to continue on their upward trajectory and attract the big names they have been linked with while the prospect of there being no Champions League football at Stamford Bridge is almost unthinkable.

Wednesday proved to be a seismic night in the outcome of both the Premier League title and the final occupants of a top four spot. Saturday has the makings of an even bigger day for the future of both these teams.

Topics:
Tottenham Hotspur
Football
Chelsea
Premier League
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