Chelsea legend Pat Nevin isn’t the only one counting points gained and games left in the wake of the weekend matches, and in his latest column he takes the study of the campaign’s climax further still…
Work didn’t allow me to go to the game at Swansea on Sunday as I was up at Anfield checking out our main challengers in the title race. To be fair it was a great game and the atmosphere was extremely good. There had been plenty of hype but for once it appeared to be worth it considering the show the two teams put on.
Afterwards I was trying to do the maths (probably arithmetic to be more precise) to see just how things stood in the league table. As everyone in red around me repeated the phrase ‘We have it in our own hands now’, I immediately thought, ‘Yes I think ‘WE’ do. If we beat Liverpool they can’t catch US.’
I didn’t want to puncture their bubble, and also we like creeping under the radar, so I kept that quiet until I went off air. But then it dawned on me seconds later, it isn’t of course in our own hands. If we win all our games including Liverpool, and City win all theirs, they beat us by a point. I was crestfallen that this was the case but secretly very relieved, I wouldn’t have wanted to pronounce the wrong info re. Chelsea to the nation on 5 Live. I suspect I might have got the odd questionable remark on Twitter, don’t you?
Anyway we did rather quietly keep the pressure up by taking care of Swansea right after the Liverpool v City game. Having had a chance to watch it and analyse it now, we certainly deserved the points, had plenty of gilt-edged chances and the best of the play but Swansea were always dangerous even with 10 men.
There has been much talk about the sending off of Swansea defender Chico Flores which obviously had a huge impact on the game. First of all his initial yellow card: well compare and contrast that yellow for his foul on Willian to the second yellow Willian got against Aston Villa a few weeks back. Similar except that Flores’s attempted tackle actually did catch the player, so in the modern game yes, it was a caution and much worse than Willian’s at Villa Park.
As for the second card for the tackle on Schurrle, it was a clearly a foul and as such the referee was within his rights to reach for the red, but was it that cynical or just a bit of useless defending by a player getting himself in the wrong position? A foul yes, but another card? I thought it was harsh, but as we all know we have suffered that fate ourselves.
This however is the way of the modern game, it probably is the right decision the way the rules are interpreted, but I immediately thought back to the man I was sitting chatting to for half an hour before the Liverpool game in the press room at Anfield. Former England international Stuart Pearce would not have lasted 10 minutes in any game against me when we faced up if the rules had been this strict back then. He would have been allowed six of those type of tackles on me before the referee would even have considered having a quiet chat to him, never mind booking him, and for any youngsters reading this, no I am not exaggerating even slightly!
Oddly on Saturday I was at a Scottish Cup game where Rangers played Dundee United and clearly the referee had been transported – Tardis-like – from more than quarter of a century ago into the middle of Ibrox. It was proper ‘Old School’ and it was great to watch. A superb cup tie with great passion and if it had been a modern Champions League game with their card-happy officials it would have finished as a five-a-side match. But there you go, it is just the way of things I guess and of course some players don’t help officials by diving and rolling about. Naming no names here, there was one very obvious candidate for the Tom Daley award for diving at Anfield.
So for all the clamour beforehand to call that game a league decider, in actual fact Liverpool winning did quite the reverse, it served only to muddy the waters, just as I described at the start of this article. Manchester City are still in it, particularly if we can beat Liverpool. Liverpool can win it if they win all their games and we simply have to continue to win and hope. There are a couple of things worth noting, when we visit Anfield in a couple of weeks it will be an incredible occasion, the noise will be at least as extraordinary as any this season and the hype will be back up there too.
As I say that and get ready to sign off I realise I haven’t mentioned PSG and all that. The atmosphere and passion at the Bridge last week was also extraordinary, just as we all hoped and predicted it would be. Atletico Madrid await in the Champions League semi-final and it already looks as if it could well be a week to compare with any in the club’s history. Atletico themselves are having an unbelievable season, but they will be concentrating on La Liga too. They will not want to slip up just when they have clear water between themselves and the Barcelona-Real Madrid axis, so our heavy schedule isn’t to be considered in isolation.
Of course it is going to be tough but with Diego Simeone’s men twice and Brendan’s bunch in between, it is always worth remembering which English club is, in the widest sense, actually in the best position right now.
Still fighting for the Premier League title and also in at the business end of the Champions League, there isn’t even a question to be asked in my opinion. What’s more, we have our ‘new’ secret weapon. Demba Ba has come in and had an incredible impact with his two crucial goals in two games. Who’s to say that come the end of the season he isn’t the striker grabbing all the headlines.
Last week I asked who had scored most Champions League goals in a single season for Chelsea, and how many (including during qualifiers) they scored? It was a very tricky question that tripped up a few of you.
I have had it checked with the statman at the club, and it wasn’t Didier Drogba or Nic Anelka with his seven in 2010/11. It wasn’t Fernando’s haul in the 2012/13 season either when he got nine in the Champions League and Europa League. I asked only for Champions League goals. It actually was Tore Andre Flo with eight goals in the 1999/2000 campaign. Only one winner is allowed and this week it is Mohamed Zulkif Jelani from Gujarat, India.
That was very tricky I know, so this should be a little easier. Before Demba Ba, who was the last Chelsea player to score in a league win for Chelsea in Swansea against Swansea City? Answers as ever to me at [email protected]