With its phenomenal comeback against Napoli in Leg 2 of the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday, Chelsea fans, including myself, are now drunk with confidence that the team can save some face in what has been a less-than-memorable season.
So how many more memories can the Blues create in the next two months? I’ve come up with five predictions that will make this summer in West London one in which Chelsea fans can exorcise the demons of the last six months...
Didier Drogba has four goals in his last four UEFA CL games.
The draw for the UEFA semifinals will be held Friday (Sky Sports, 11:00 GMT) and the seven potential clubs the Blues may face next fall into three major categories: the fairly good draws (Apoel, Marseille); the average draws (AC Milan, Bayern Munich, Benfica); and the bad draws (Barcelona, Real Madrid).
If Chelsea gets Apoel or Marseille, advancing to the semis is a pretty good possibility, while draws against Bayern Munich, Benfica or AC Milan would prove challenging but doable considering the mini-spurt the Blues have shown the last three games. If Barcelona or Real Madrid—the two strongest sides on planet earth—come up, the team will really have its work cut out for them.
So five of the seven possibilities are good for Chelsea and a little luck would really help the only English side remaining in the tournament. The semis will be held April 17-18 and April 24-25.
Juan Mata has been Chelsea's best player this season.
On Sunday, Chelsea faces Leicester City—the only Championship League side left in the FA Cup—at Stamford Bridge, so a victory should be expected. With Manchester City coming up on Wednesday, Roberto Di Matteo may rest some of his Old Guard, but the Blues' bench should be strong enough to find a way to beat The Foxes and advance to the semifinals.
The six English Premier League sides that could be on the horizon—Everton, Sunderland, Tottenham Hotspur, Bolton, Stoke City and Liverpool—are all in poorer form than the Blues at this particular point in time, so expectations of grabbing at least one piece of silverware this campaign are warranted. Liverpool, who seems to give Chelsea fits, would be the worst opponent to have to run into, but with visions of sugar plums now dancing in their heads, no one would be surprised should Chelsea win the FA Cup on May 5.
John Terry and Petr Cech are the heart of the Blues' defense.
Now sitting in fifth place (49 points) in the Premiership, three points back of Arsenal (52 points) and four points back of Tottenham Hotspur (53 points), Chelsea has more than enough time and games (10) to make up the ground and secure one of the two UEFA spots left fighting for. Arsenal has been fantastic of late, winning four straight, but Tottenham has lost three straight and seems to be in the same nervous boat Chelsea has sailed in for much of the season.
The biggest games for Chelsea to gain points while holding the clubs it is chasing to nothing are at Manchester City Wednesday (ESPN2, 3:55 p.m. ET/12:55 p.m. PT), vs. Tottenham Hotspur at home on March 24 and at Arsenal on April 21. Matches the Blues need to win are at Aston Villa (March 31), hosting Wigan Athletic (April 7), at Fulham (April 9), at home versus Newcastle (April 14) and QPR (April 29) and the season finale at Stamford Bridge versus Blackburn (May 13).
A match that may may make or break Chelsea’s chances at CL qualification will be May 6 at Anfield against pesky Liverpool, the one team that can really ruin both the Blues’ FA Cup and UEFA dreams.
Roberto Di Matteo is a perfect 3-0 so far as interim manager.
With the club suddenly jelling, everyone healthy and a perfect 3-0 record under his belt, interim manager Roberto Di Matteo should stay where he is until June. Talk of Rafael Benitez, Fabio Capella, Pep Guardiola and Harry Redknapp has cooled off a bit this week, and Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo reportedly said Tuesday that Jose Mourinho will be staying at the Bernabeu next season.
So with momentum slowly gaining and three straight wins in which the Blues have outscored their opponents 7-1, Di Matteo has won the love of his players and may actually think he could get a shot at being the man at Stamford Bridge next season.
Fernando Torres could be headed back to Spain this summer.
Life has been awfully tough for Fernando Torres in London’s bright spotlight, and whether it’s talk of the five goals he’s scored for Chelsea since being obtained in January of 2011, the record-setting contract or his constantly being left out of the Blues’ starting lineup, a move elsewhere would probably be OK with El Nino.
Legendary England international Alan Shearer has reportedly advised Torres to leave the team or possibly run the risk of suffering an early end to his once-illustrious career. A trade to his former La Liga club, Atletico Madrid, was bandied about last month, and a team like Malaga could also use the services and attendance draw Torres could bring.