Terry returned this past weekend from a four-game suspension for racially abusing Anton Ferdinand last year. The Blues immediately benefited from their captain’s return, as he headed in Juan Mata’s corner kick to give Chelsea an early 1-0 lead over Liverpool.
But before the first half was over, Reds striker Luis Suarez fell into Terry’s knee, and the centre-back collapsed to the pitch in a significant amount of pain. He was stretchered off the field, and Blues fans feared the worst.
Fortunately, the injury does not appear to be as serious as it looked. The Daily Mail’s Matt Barlow reported that Chelsea released a statement saying, “Today's MRI scans on John Terry's right knee thankfully show no significant damage to the cruciate ligaments.”
Barlow notes that preliminary estimates place Terry’s absence at anywhere from two to six weeks, and that doctors need to wait two more days for swelling in his knee to go down before they can properly assess the damage.
Terry’s last domestic appearance for the Blues was on October 6 against Norwich. Chelsea cruised to a 4-1 victory over the Canaries, and that gave them a four-point lead at the top of the table.
Without their stalwart centre-back, the team started slowly sliding down the table, and entered this weekend one point behind new leaders Manchester United. All seemed to be going well after Terry’s first-half goal, but then he was forced out of the game and Suarez eventually found an equalizer.
Now, the Blues have fallen behind Manchester City as well and are three points off the lead. Their last three league matches have resulted in a loss to United and draws with Swansea City and Liverpool.
There are certainly other factors besides Terry’s absence that have contributed to this decline. Chelsea had a more difficult domestic schedule and also had to deal with Champions League matches.
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In addition, keeping the spectacular form they were in to start this campaign would have been nearly impossible. But when a team’s confidence and level of play starts to drop, it needs leadership.
With a manager in his first full season and several young players with little Premier League experience, Terry’s veteran presence is vitally important. He has worn the captain’s armband since the 2004-05 season and has the ability to motivate his team in times such as these.
The schedule does not get much easier going forward. Even if Terry were to miss just two weeks, the Blues’ next two league matches are against an in-form West Bromwich Albion side at the Hawthorns and against defending champions Manchester City at Stamford Bridge.
This injury came at a terrible time for Chelsea as they needed Terry to help the team return to the level of play it displayed to start the season. Without him in the lineup, the Blues will fall further away from first place.