Big game follows big game follows big game, which means no shortage of football for former Chelsea winger Pat Nevin to get his teeth into in this week’s column, beginning with those high-profile happenings on Merseyside…
I have been scratching my head ever since the final whistle went at Anfield, though not because I was confused as to why we won. In fact anybody who has bothered to watch Chelsea with an open mind this season will know why and how we ensured we wouldn’t lose this massive game. It was yet another perfect, defensive, quick-breaking, organisational masterclass, just like the away games at Arsenal, Manchester City and even Manchester United early on. The most recent case in point before the weekend was of course over in Madrid against Atletico. So in reality there should be no confusion.
Maybe there could be a little puzzlement about how Jose could pitch up at the all-conquering Anfield with as many as eight first team starters injured or rested, and yet still waltz away with a 2-0 win and the three points in the bag. That still wasn’t what confused me, What really perplexed me was why I felt so ridiculously happy after that particular game, above just about any other this season.
Maybe it was partially because the media were openly preparing for a Liverpool coronation. In the lead up it did rather tip over from hope into expectation on our TV screens and in a few newspapers. Jose obviously was cast as the villain of the piece, all he needed to do was twirl a waxed moustache and generate a diabolical laugh to fulfil the caricature. On the Friday I was on a radio show trying to explain Chelsea’s position of feeling a bit hard done by at the moment. First there was genuine amazement that anyone had the gall to disagree with the storyline portrayed over the past few weeks. That of course was followed by the expected hate-filled tirades on Twitter. You can sometimes find such a nice bunch on there, willing to listen reasonably to you and discuss your points with charm and humour.
And actually the word hate in there is interesting, because there does seem to be a lot of hatred out there in some areas of the football fraternity, though of course it is almost certainly just the vocal minority. Actually I do not hate any team. In fact I do not even mildly dislike any particular club to be honest. As a Hibs fan I am OK with Hearts, as a Chelsea man I can’t say I hate Arsenal or Spurs to be honest, and as an ex-Everton player I can honestly say I don’t particularly have any negative feelings against Liverpool. In saying that there is a dilemma, why did I get such inordinate pleasure from Sunday’s win at Anfield if I have no particular dislike of that club?
Well partly the press build-up I grant you, and the ex-players do seem to dominate the media agenda which does grate a bit, but really it was partly beating a very good side, partly giving us an outside chance of getting back in the title race though that is a very, very long shot still. In actual fact it is probably the history. Theirs, which was fantastic a few decades back, ours and the recent shared history of games between us, particularly in Europe. It was a great win and one to be savoured but it also built on the belief that however good Atletico Madrid are, and however well they are doing in La Liga, we can take on anyone and find a way to win as long as we get a fair crack from the officials.
So this is again the most important match of the season and it is going to be a hugely tense affair. One of the big advantages Chelsea have is of course Jose’s knowledge of the opposition having hung out in the same city as them for a few years. So there are no surprises looming, they are a good team, but Jose knows their personnel and their style and that always helps.
We also have the home advantage but then again an away goal would be incredible for the visitors, especially if they score first. On the other hand, Chelsea have been here before whereas this is pretty new territory for the current generation of Atletico players.
There is of course the counter argument about who will be most affected by injuries and suspensions. I would argue John Terry, Frank Lampard, Petr Cech and Mikel (all with massive Champions League experience) trumps Gabi and Arda Turan, if the latter doesn’t make it.I could go on, but let’s be honest it is anyone’s game, it is too close to call and it may come down to which coach makes the right decisions at the right time, which I reckon is good news for us.
Before signing off and travelling down to the Bridge to cover the game for Chelsea TV, I couldn’t finish without congratulating Tomas Kalas for his performance against Liverpool at Anfield. Every single player in the team was splendid in his own way; Azpilicueta was quite simply 10/10 while Ash was fabulous too. Tomas was however incredible considering he was drafted into this high-profile, highly stressed, tense affair which needed superb concentration to stop one of the best attacks in Europe, and he took it in his stride. A wonderful and memorable 90 minutes for a man with a huge future as a Chelsea player. We don’t have to worry too much about him stepping in again.
And so to the quiz. Last week I asked what the score was last time Chelsea played in Madrid before the 0-0 draw. There were a few guesses but most of you managed to get there quite quickly in that it was a memorable game against Atletico when we drew 2-2 on 3 November 2009. Didier scored our two and Sergio Aguero had a brace for the home side on that occasion.
Chelsea cruised through the group stage on that occasion having beaten Atletico 4-0 a few weeks earlier at the Bridge and more of the same would do nicely on Wednesday. There can only be one winner each week and the randomly drawn lucky guy this week is Harry Cooper from Middlesex. The prize will be on its way soon.
This week to have a chance of winning a prize signed by one of the players, could you tell me which current first team squad member was born furthest away from Stamford Bridge? Answers as ever to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Good luck with that and it hardly needs saying, the game against Atletico needs every fan at the game to make as much noise as possible to spur the team on. There is no doubt that will help make it a very special night.