By Pat Johnston
Chelsea supporters should enjoy this moment with full gusto because it’s downhill from here. They have lived a charmed life lately but all that is about to change. The only way the descent does not commence on Saturday at the Emirates will be if their talismanic rabbit foot still has some magic remaining in it, but it is on borrowed time already.
Commencing with an FA Cup semi final on Sunday past, Chelsea began a journey of four fixtures of massive proportions and currently is perfect with two wins. From FA Cup survival to Champion’s League glory, to even remaining in consideration for next year’s Champion’s League, the Blues have been dealt an eight day congestion of fixtures that would galvanize any club.
The fact that they have won the first two defies the odds. But what seems even more of a long shot is the manner in which both victories have been achieved.
Sunday’s FA Cup semi final saw Didier Drogba reach into his top drawer and deliver as stunning a strike as has been delivered from the Ivory Coast native in recent memory: A moment of individual brilliance, certainly not something drawn up in a game plan. Then comes Martin Atkinson’s defiance of physics in awarding a second Chelsea goal. Digression- did anyone get a kick out of the fact that Atkinson was one of the officials on the end line for the Real, Bayern Champion’s league clash? The metaphors are flying: “like having a kidnapper babysit, …,” etc.
Then Atkinson spares Peter Cech the gallows for his demolition of Adebayor. Gareth Bale did more for Chelsea in that game than any player wearing blue and for all the wrong reasons! His cleaning up in the aftermath of Cech’s diabolics saved the Chelsea GK from dismissal. Somehow I cannot see all of this as part of the plan. Chelsea sure knew how to take it to Spurs once they lay down. That, I concede, was something the Blues did have some preparation for.
Then comes mighty Barcelona to Stamford Bridge and amazingly, Chelsea emerges as 1-0 victors. Anybody saying Di Matteo got it right is wrong. There is an old saying, “I’d rather be lucky than good,” and I can only imagine that was Di Matteo’s approach on the night.
Of course, I am being sensational and it is easy to acknowledge that Barcelona is the best team in the world and have been for some time. So it is acceptable to admit that anyone beating the Catalonians would require some fortune. But the degree to which Chelsea relied on the rub of the green was ridiculous.
Or perhaps even more likely, they didn’t rely on their luck and actually believe they went out and executed the game plan perfectly? If this is true, then I would be troubled as a Chelsea supporter. The “game plan’” succeeded due to fortune, not the plan itself. And that well has been tapped out.
Their form in April has been deceptively flattering. From an associate referee induced win against Wigan, to a draw in the West London derby against mid table Fulham, to a 12 man (Atkinson in Blue) decapitating of Spurs and the final blessing of a metaphorical plexiglass shield on their goal against Barcelona, Chelsea has been unconvincing and still boast three draws and a win.
The tides of fortune can only remain stable for so long. Overwhelmingly, the odds are Chelsea will be going against them Saturday in North London. And in the Nou Camp come Tuesday, they face an opponent who has the mastery of controlling the tide, and those tides will roll only in one direction, the end which Barcelona attacks.
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