Chelsea’s hard-fought 0-0 draw at Atletico Madrid may have given them the slight edge in their Champions League semi-final but it came at a high price.
Petr Cech is out for the rest of the season after dislocating his shoulder while skipper John Terry is also unlikely to return unless the Blues make the final next month. To make matters worse, both Mikel and Lampard picked up crucial yellow cards that ruled them out of the return leg at Stamford Bridge next week.
With Samuel Eto’o also injured and start player Eden Hazard battling for fitness, the battle-weary Chelsea troops are an echo of the team that somehow managed to lift the trophy in 2012. It was a makeshift team skilfully managed by Roberto Di Matteo that overcame Barcelona in the semi-final and Bayern Munich in the final that year.
Just as in 2012, the Blues face a critical Premiership encounter ahead of the Champions League. Di Matteo fielded a weakened team and lost at home to Newcastle, effectively surrendering their hopes of qualifying for the Champions League with a top four finish. Their only way back into the competition was to go on and win it, thus eliminating Tottenham when Didier Drogba’s penalty secured the European crown.
This weekend, Chelsea travel to Anfield to face Liverpool who are on the brink of winning the title. Chelsea’s woeful league form has seen them drop five points behind Liverpool, although Man City would be back in the race if the Blues were to win at Anfield. Jose Mourinho has voiced his anger at the FA for insisting on the match being played on the Sunday, just three days before Chelsea’s Champions League clash with Atletico.
The Portuguese coach has threatened to field a weakened team rather than risk further injuries but could face sanctions from the FA as a result. Whatever team turns up at Anfield, they will of course try to secure an unlikely victory but it is Liverpool that will be enjoying Mourinho’s predicament most of all. With both Chelsea and Man City failing to beat Sunderland last week, the title is already in Liverpool’s hands.
Liverpool will not underestimate Chelsea but even a draw would be good enough to keep the Reds in firm control of their destiny. Mourinho has made it clear where he believes Chelsea’s priorities should lie and history suggests that he is almost certainly correct.