For all the dominance they’ve displayed this season, Chelsea were uncharacteristically under par against Manchester United last weekend.
The title-chasing Blues looked nothing like the side that had appeared to romp their way to the Premier League title, losing to 2-0 to United without putting up much of a fight.
And in the club’s post-mortem into the performance, they have come up with one overriding theory, above all else, that they believe explains why they were unable to keep up with the Red Devils to complete a hat trick of victories over them this term.
Before the game, key wing-back Marcos Alonso was forced to pull out of the match with a mystery illness, while Diego Costa and Victor Moses were said to be feeling unwell during the 90 minutes.
Certainly, looking back at their respective performances you can see that they were both far from their best. Moses was even withdrawn from the game just nine minutes into the second half, which further disrupted Chelsea’s balance after they had to move Cesar Azpilicueta to the left and draft in Kurt Zouma on the right side of defence.
But what could have caused this bug to run through the squad? According to a report in The Guardian, the club believe it was because of a team meal that the squad embarked on at the behest of manager Antonio Conte on the Thursday before the game.
The Italian boss has organised several meals like this in order to promote team bonding and squad cohesion but it would appear as though this one backfired slightly.
Though it’s no ‘lasagne-gate’, the defeat came at a costly time and saw the side’s lead at the top of the table cut to just four points. With Tottenham’s form looking so impressive at the moment, the Premier League title race has been cracked back open ever so slightly.
Chelsea face Tottenham in an FA Cup semi-final this weekend, and the club are hoping that the key trio will be free for the encounter.
But while enough time has passed for them to make their recoveries, they will be without first choice goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois again after he injured his ankle taking part in some promo work for the NBA.
Defender Gary Cahill may also be missing after he reported ill on Tuesday with the same bug that affected his teammates.
It’d be a bit much to suggest that Conte was to blame for his players falling ill, but he certainly may think twice before making another reservation any time soon.