John Terry may have come through his Swedish test unscathed but he faces an altogether more daunting challenge this Sunday. This weekend he faces Liverpool and in particular an in form Luis Suarez fresh from scoring four goals against Chile. Last time Terry came up against a world class forward he was humiliated in a 5-3 home defeat to Arsenal, fellow suspect Suarez will arguably present an ever more potent threat than the one posed by Van Persie.
All is not well at Stamford Bridge. Damaging defeats to QPR and Arsenal have seriously dented what had been an impressive start under Villas Boas. The Pensioners defence has looked alarmingly porous with the decline of Cole and Terry now plain to see. They currently sit nine points behind the imperious City and any more slip-ups will see the title move further out of sight.
It was at this time last year that the wheels came off for Carlo Ancelotti`s men. In that dark period Chelsea’s form dipped so drastically that there was real danger of failing to make the Champions League places. In the end they rallied well but Ancelotti failed to keep his job. Villas Boas has a younger and more vibrant squad than his predecessor but he will be wary of history of repeating itself. He can expect a fierce test of his sides fragile confidence then Liverpool come to town.
Liverpool have stuttered of late and Daniel Agger was admirably candid when he claimed their performance against Swansea was tantamount to a bunch of headless chickens. However the Reds tend to raise their standards for the crunch games and Chelsea will not have forgotten how Liverpool triumphed in last seasons corresponding fixture courtesy of a Raul Mereilles strike. Mereilles has since jumped ship to the Bridge but Dalglish will be confident of masterminding another victory.
Villas Boas is well aware of the expectation placed on him by his boss, but his increasing haranguing of referee’s suggests the young gunslinger is feeling the pressure. Last season Chelsea still managed to finish second because United were their only challengers for the title, but now City have truly joined the top table. November is very early to play catch up to two rivals, particularly when the very same rivals have better squads than you do.
Liverpool will kept it tight at the Bridge and look to hit the Blues on the counter attack by utilizing the long range passing of Adam with the pace of Downing and Suarez.
If the evidence of Arsenal’s quick breaks are anything to go by then the Chelsea back four is in for a long afternoon. At the other end Torres continues to toil away searching for consistency and his previous sharpness in front of goal.
Juan Mata is an excellent acquisition but he is no David Silva and Drogba now looks decidedly washed up (in any case he is suspended). Villas Boas will be uneasy when he schemes to find the best solution to break down a stubborn Liverpool defence whilst preventing one of the worlds finest players from permeating his perforated rear guard. At present his side looks ill equipped to do either.
Lose on Sunday at Chelsea could find themselves 12 points behind City, an almost insurmountable deficit. The young manager is quickly learning about his new habitat and its unforgiving nature. He knows losing on Sunday is not an option.