During the aftermath of Saturday’s game between Wolverhampton Wonderers and Manchester United, bookmakers had Chelsea restored at 6/1 to the reclaim their Premier League Title.
Confidence was high at the Bridge come Sunday, the build up to the game against Liverpool was more like what you would expect at a boxing match. Chelsea, an old fighter, seemingly out of the title race, were ready to throw some big punches to put themselves back in the mix.
Fernando Torres would be the man to lead this fight back and the stage was set for him to make his mark against his former club. However neither the punches, nor the goals from Torres came as Liverpool comfortably tamed Chelsea, and their former hero. Torres was out of sorts, leading to Carlo Ancelotti to defend his new £50 million man. “We have to give Fernando time to adjust to the shape”.
Time however, is running out if Chelsea are going to sustain a fight to reclaim their title. I happen to believe though, that there is still a glimmer of hope for Chelsea fans despite a disappointing afternoon.
While United have only just lost their first league game of the season, not many would have thought it would have come at the hands of Wolves. What next for United? A win against City and everything will be rosy again, United retaining their 4 point gap at the top of the table.
However a loss in their own backyard against their fierce neighbours and what then? In the 2008/09 season Liverpool went to Old Trafford knowing a defeat would put them out of the title race, they won 4-1. The following week United lost at Fulham, Liverpool beat Villa and the title race was back on.
United of course went on to win the title that year, but if history repeats itself and they do lose two games in a row again, the pressure will be significantly increased. The media will thrive on it, claiming United are losing their bottle, players will become itchy and performances will be further scrutinised.
United while having not hit top gear yet, have also not hit the sticky patch every team does in their season. Chelsea has well and truly had theirs and while they will be disappointed not to make up for United’s defeat, they will surely have overcome the problems they incurred over the Christmas period.
Chelsea with the signings of Torres and David Luiz can only get stronger, while United must restore themselves to winnings ways as quickly as possible.
While Torres failed to make an impact against his former club, I have no doubt he can be a success at Chelsea. There is too much class in the Chelsea team for him not to be provided with service to improve on his 9 league goals this season.
It can be argued maybe getting this game out of the way would be more beneficial for him. Chelsea have certainly been boosted by these two major signings during the transfer window.
The atmosphere around the ground before kick off was electric, with many fans having already purchased Torres shirts, banners were even seen in the ground, with fans already idolising their new striker.
It will take time for Ancelotti to find out what the best partnership is for his team to accommodate Torres but once he has, he will have one of the best forward lines in the world. The transfer of David Luiz was also a wise one to shore up the blues seemingly dodgy defence. The goal on Sunday showed a lack of communication and organisation between the players. If Luiz can adapt quickly to the Premier League, his partnership with John Terry could be crucial If Chelsea can get back in the hunt for the title.
Finally we can look at the fixtures ahead to show why Chelsea still has a chance of competing. United still have plenty of difficult games in which to drop points. Starting of course this Saturday in the Manchester derby, while I believe United will come out on top, this will still be a tough fixture.
Lose and as mentioned previously the pressure will only be increased on Sir Alex Ferguson’s men. United have to play Chelsea twice, which will obviously prove crucial.
Chelsea are currently 10 points behind united but should they win both these games, it will be reduced to 4 and Sir Alex will be telling his boys it’s squeaky bum time. Chelsea went to Old Trafford last season knowing only a win would do and it is no different this time round.
United also have to travel to fierce rivals Liverpool, who continue their rejuvenation under Kenny Dalglish, making it four wins out of five. More emphasis will be put on this fixture as Liverpool will be in no mood to help United achieve their record of 19th top division titles.
Arsenal are still within grasp of United and get the chance of closing the gap come the 30th April when United arrive at the Emirates. The timing of this clash is critical, so close to the end of the season, Arsenal will know losing this fixture that late on will surely end their title ambitions.
With all this in mind it is clear the next few months will be exciting ones as far as the title race is concerned. United are still the favourites but there is sure to be many twists and turns on the way. There are so many big clashes to look forward to and some big players are still yet to live up to their reputations this season.
This is what makes the Premier League the best league in the world, unpredictable and full of surprises. This weekend was no different, Arsenal comfortably 4-0 up at half time only to draw 4-4, United to capitalise with win at Wolves? Only to lose their first game of the season, and Chelsea to be revived by Torres? Only for him to be sniffed out and Chelsea comprehensively picked off.
This title race will go down to the wire.