Chelsea are poised to soar to improbable heights this season
A thrilling last-gasp victory Wednesday night at Stamford Bridge against Shakhtar Donetsk put Chelsea’s will to win on full display. At the same time, it also cemented the fact that a Champions League and Premier League double is the Blues’ for the taking.
It’s a lot less unfathomable than you may think.
With the victory, Chelsea pulled themselves closer to the Miners in Group E of the Champions League. While both teams are now 2-1-1 with seven points, Shaktar Donetsk hold the advantage via away goals. Behind them, Juventus are third with six points at 1-3-0, and Nordsjaelland are last with one point at 0-1-3.
This only raises the stakes for Chelsea’s Nov. 20 clash with the Old Lady.
At the least, the Blues only need a win and a draw in their final two fixtures to guarantee themselves a place in the 16-team knockout stage of the competition. However, the club would surely prefer to advance solely off a victory against the Italian league champions.
Chelsea share the same amount of success in their Premier League campaign.
At 7-2-1 the Blues are second in the table, only trailing leaders Manchester United by a single point. After Manchester City—third behind Chelsea by a point—the next closest team to the defending Champions of Europe are six points behind.
Now three months into the season, the Blues are in striking distance of winning both competitions.
How will Chelsea finish?
If Chelsea are going to pull off the improbable double—last accomplished by Manchester United during the 2007-08 season—they are going to be carried to glory by the brilliant play of their midfield.
During the offseason, owner Roman Abramovich dished out a total of £63 million to bring in midfielders Eden Hazard, Oscar and Victor Moses.
After making a name for himself at Lille over the course of five seasons, Hazard has done just as much in only three months at Stamford Bridge.
After scoring in his debut—an exhibition against the MLS’ Seattle Sounders FC—Hazard registered a goal, four assists and a penalty won during the Blues’ first three league contests. During that span Chelsea scored eight times, meaning the 21-year-old had directly contributed to six of those goals. On the season, the Belgian international has a total of four goals and seven assists in 16 total appearances.
Oscar, too, has proven to be a sight to watch for the Blues this season.
In eight league appearances, the Brazilian international has only picked up an assist. However, in four Champions League appearances Oscar has netted four goals and an assist. His goal mark has him tied for second in the competition behind Cristiano Ronaldo’s five. What’s even more impressive is the fact that he’s accomplished this on only seven shots compared to Ronaldo’s 27.
Oscar actually made his debut in the Chelsea starting lineup in this competition, starting the Blues’ Sept. 19 matchup with Juventus. The Brazilian rewarded manager Roberto Di Matteo for his faith by netting his first two goals for the club in the span of two minutes. Since then he’s added two goals against Shakhtar Donetsk over the last two fixtures.
While he hasn’t seen much of the pitch this season, Moses has made the most of his opportunities.
Just a week ago, the 21-year-old only had two starts, a goal and two assists to his credit this season—all in the pretty meaningless Capital One Cup. He only appeared in three league matches as a substitute for the Blues.
However, in the last four days Moses made his first start in the league—against Swansea City on Saturday—and has now netted two goals in his last two matches. The second—a 94th-minute header against Shakhtar Donetsk—may very well be considered a competition-saving effort.
Although his appearances have been few and far between, the Nigerian international has impressed during his short time on the pitch. After the week he’s had, expect Di Matteo to give the youngster a lot more playing time.
But while the three new additions to the club have played tremendously, they all pale in comparison to the stellar campaign that last season’s Chelsea Player of the Year, Juan Mata, is having.
In 15 appearances for the club this season, Mata has registered seven goals and 10 assists. Both marks serve as team highs.
But in a game that favors a more “what have you done for me lately?” style approach, the 24-year-old Spanish international is simply thriving.
All seven goals and 10 assists have come in Mata’s last 10 games. Even more impressive is the fact that he’s registered at least a point in nine of those games.
The unheralded leader of this club, Mata is ready to help Chelsea accomplish something no club has achieved since Milan during 1988-90—repeat as Champions League winners.
If the Blues are to do that, as well as claim their fourth Premier League title in nine years, they will need their midfield to continue playing at an elite level.
So far, I’d say that £63 million is proving to be one heck of a bargain.
You can follow Sebastian on Twitter at @SP788