Chelsea FC: What the Blues Must Do to Salvage Their Season
It's been quite a poor season for Chelsea.
Since being crowned European Champions in May 2012, the Blues have been eliminated from four different competitions. They lost both the UEFA Super Cup and the FA Community Shield, and were knocked out in the UEFA Champions League as well as the English League Cup.
In addition, Rafael Benitez's side sit 12 points behind leaders Manchester United in third place.
It's certainly been a hard season for Chelsea fans. The team started off well, with 22 points from their first nine EPL matches and great away wins against Tottenham and Arsenal, but they soon went downhill.
Nevertheless, there's still hope for the Blues.
Here are five ways for Chelsea to salvage their season:
Win Either the FA Cup or the Europa League
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We'll start with an obvious one.
No matter what, Chelsea must win at least one trophy this season. With the English Premier League virtually unattainable, the Blues should set their sights on the FA Cup and the Europa League.
It would be hugely disappointing to see Chelsea go from winning the Champions League and the FA Cup last year to being trophyless this season. If Rafa Benitez wants any chance of extending his contract, he will need to bring silverware to Stamford Bridge in May.
Start Demba Ba in All Knockout Matches
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With Chelsea's hopes of winning the EPL looking bleak, the team should focus on their cup matches. Both the FA Cup and the Europa League are reasonable targets for the Blues and it is important that they win at least one trophy this season.
Fernando Torres has shown glimpses of his old self this season but he has been disappointing most of the time. On the other hand, Demba Ba has looked great since leaving Newcastle, with three goals in four starts.
You would expect the Senegalese striker to score more times than Torres this season so it would be wise for Rafael Benitez to play Ba in all knockout ties.
Crush Teams at Home
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The 2009/10 season was great for Chelsea. Not only did they win the domestic double but they were also superb at home. The Blues scored a record 103 league goals that campaign with 68 of them coming at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea crushed teams at home that season. They beat Blackburn Rovers 5-0, Wolverhampton Wanderers 3-0, Sunderland 7-2, Aston Villa 7-1, Stoke City 7-0, and Wigan Athletic 8-0. It was amazing to watch and made Blues fans proud of their team.
Chelsea will probably not win the EPL this year but they can still make their supporters happy with some big home victories.
Rafael Benitez's side will play Wigan Athletic, Sparta Praha, Brentford, West Bromwich, West Ham United, Sunderland, Tottenham Hotspur, Swansea City, and Everton at home before the end of the season. A couple of big wins in these matches would make a big difference to the current atmosphere inside Stamford Bridge.
Give a Contract Extension to Frank Lampard
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Chelsea fans would see the 2012/13 season in a more positive light if Frank Lampard signed a contract extension. The Englishman's best years are behind him but he is still a great player and Blues fans would love to see him stay at Stamford Bridge for at least another year.
As of now, it looks like Lampard will be leaving Chelsea and that owner Roman Abramovich isn't doing anything to stop the 34-year-old. But there are still four months before the end of the season and it would be smart for the club to offer the legend a one- or two-year deal.
Finish in the Top Three of the English Premier League
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Last season, Chelsea qualified for the Champions League by winning the competition itself.
This year, with the Blues already eliminated from the tournament, they will have to finish in the top four of the English Premier League to play in the 2013/2014 Champions League.
Even with six draws and four losses so far this campaign, the Blues find themselves in third place, four points above fourth-placed Tottenham and seven points above Everton in fifth
It would be surprising to see Chelsea drop out of the top four altogether, but Rafael Benitez must force his team to play better to possibly close the gap on Manchester United and ensure their rivals remain in the rear-view mirror.