Chelsea Comment: Imperative to Put Sunderland to the Sword
A bittersweet feeling in West London. A deafening silence at the Bridge as the final whistle approaches. An emphatic 6-1 victory that tasted more like defeat. Well, enough with all the oxymoronic talk.
Chelsea's defense of the UEFA Champions League has indeed come to a premature end, and just about everyone has had their say on it.
Some believe they really didn't merit progression to the Round of 16, given their dismal showings in Donetsk and Turin. Others say they were unfortunate to fall short, given their 10-point tally, which is usually enough to secure a place, and their 16 goals, the highest total in this season's Champions League group stages.
Many have been cheeky enough to suggest Chelsea's luck has run out, whilst there are yet others who acknowledge the fact that the team has been significantly altered only just this summer and so they argue that expecting anything close to last season's unprecedented success was unreasonable to begin with.
Different people, different views. As always. Surely one thing we must all unanimously agree on is that the fear of Roman Abramovich's swinging axe didn't help Roberto Di Matteo when things first started going awry.
If I had to pinpoint it, I'd say the campaign spun off track after the Shakhtar game at the Donbass Arena.
Before the game in Ukraine, the Blues sat at the top of Group E, and by the end of it, they were in some trouble.
What followed on the weekend was the controversial Chelsea-United game that saw the hosts finish with just nine men. The confidence went spiraling down from then.
Now they stand ousted from the competition they had actually won some seven months back.
The rare sight of Fernando Torres taking his chances and that of Chelsea recording their biggest win in the Champions League meant little in the end.
Chelsea are possibly at the dawn of a new era, it was said in the summer. And yet one finds it difficult to figure where the club heads from here, given that there is little to no chance that the reckless managerial sackings will stop.
It is indeed one of the most testing times for Chelsea supporters. Hang on. I'm starting to sound a little too negative, ain't I?
Having said all this, the season is not even halfway through. There is still a lot that can be salvaged from the present campaign: five competitions to play for, all worth winning. There is no time for the players to just sit down and feel sorry for themselves.
As Rafa Benitez and then others after him have emphasized, a manager's only hope of winning over the fans is to register victories, so Wednesday's thumping of Nordsjaelland might just help turn a corner.
There were positives from the win, with David Luiz and Oriol Romeu in particular showing a lot of improvement, and the visit to Sunderland on Saturday comes at a good time, as I see it. The Black Cats are languishing down in 17th place, floating just above the relegation spots.
If there still is to be a title challenge, then it's time to set things into motion. Before Chelsea jet off to Japan for the FIFA Club World Cup, it is imperative that they leave the Stadium of Light with three points.
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