Munich a step too far for tired Chelsea

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Anfield last night roared in a way it has not done for some time as Liverpool dismissed a shambolic Chelsea side to score a Premier League home win, something that has become increasingly rare.

A dismal first half performance from Roberto di Matteo’s side left them 3-0 down at the break, which could have been worse had Stewart Downing not missed a penalty kick in stoppage time.

The men from Stamford Bridge looked bedraggled and worn out, while the lesser-seen replacements for the rested regulars performed like bit-part men often do.

They can be excused for feeling a little jaded after having to play ten games in a month and a day, but this is the price of season end success and must be borne.

Over-reliance on key players will be worrying Di Matteo as he prepares his team for their last shot at avoiding a season of Europa League football when they take on Bayern Munich in the Champions League final.

John Terry and Didier Drogba have been noticeable leaders in turning around the club’s fortunes since the period of disjointedness and infighting under Andre Villas-Boas.

The latter of the two was rested as he attempts to struggle through the few fixtures left and exert what are possibly the last morsels of influence he will have at the club.

Drogba’s alternative, Fernando Torres, is improving steadily but his complete return to form has not yet happened and his ability to affect the outcome of matches comes and goes.

Chelsea captain Terry was present at Anfield, but only in body. It was a first half to forget for the club’s talisman and his bad day at the office sent ripples through the rest of the team.

Terry has been playing with injured ribs for a while and, up to last night, had been dealing with it very well, putting in a number of resilient performances.

Merseyside was witness to exertions finally catching up on the ex-England captain and the severe repercussions his poor form it can have for the rest of the side.

It also gave a sign of how rudderless they can seem without his direction and will have sown seeds of fear over how the Blues defence might perform when Terry is forced to look on from the stands of the chameleon-like Allianz Arena.

Other worries concerning his replacements abound; Branislav Ivanovic is also suspended, while doubts remain over whether David Luiz and Gary Cahill will recover from their respective hamstring injuries in time – the latter of the two is reportedly more likely to miss out.

Absences are one problem, but the fact that many of the more influential members of the side in this past couple of months look out on their feet is an equal concern.

Determination can only take you so far; once fatigue starts to have a controlling hand concentration begins to slip – in Terry’s case, you literally slip – and mistakes are made.

Mistakes of this ilk were effectively exploited by a lately disappointing and profligate Liverpool team on Wednesday evening, so you can count on one of the triumvirate of goal gluttony that is Mario Gomez, Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben to capitalise.

Di Matteo looked pained on the Anfield touchline – a grimace that is likely to remain if he is unable to re-energise his players for one last occasion on May 19.

The Liverpool rout may even prove to be a blessing in disguise as it confirmed that Chelsea could now only return to Europe’s elite club competition next season by triumphing in the final.

This means Sunday’s curtain closer is effectively a dead rubber and all those expected to be involved in Munich can be given a rest.

A few extra days off could make the difference between winning and losing there, but the rigours of such a congested period coming at the denouement of a season will be hard to shake off in only ten days.

It could be the puff that had propelled Chelsea to a dramatic season finale may leave them foundering once they get there.

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Didier Drogba
European News
Premier League
Fernando Torres
UEFA Champions League

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