On a Sunday afternoon where the talking points for Chelsea will be the absence of John Terry and another lackluster performance under Rafa Benitez, Blues fans will take positives from the performance of Petr Cech.
He may have conceded two goals as Manchester City ran out 2-0 winners at the Etihad Stadium, but Cech's performance was of the highest order. It was the Cech of old, a performance that harked back to the days when he was rightly considered among the top few goalkeepers in the world.
It all came with the Czech nursing a broken finger too. Against Newcastle United—another game in which the Blues crashed to defeat—he fractured his little finger, but with the games coming thick and fast at Stamford Bridge, he has maintained his position as No. 1 and continued to perform when his team needs him the most.
Defeat to Manchester City leaves the Blues just one point above Spurs, who play their game in hand against West Ham United on Monday, while Arsenal's 2-1 victory over Aston Villa at the weekend means they are just two points behind in fifth.
Benitez was charged with steadying the ship at Chelsea following his appointment in November. The minimum target was to maintain a top-four presence, ensuring Champions League football for next season, but the way things have panned out in recent weeks, it's clear it will be easier said than done.
With Cech between the sticks, however, Chelsea have a player capable of helping them get there. While those in front of him failed to impress for large parts on Sunday, the Czech stopper put in a commanding display.
City huffed and puffed for the best part of an hour trying to break the Blues down, and when they thought they had, they were met by an inspired Cech. It took a moment of brilliance from Yaya Toure to eventually break the deadlock on 63 minutes, while Carlos Tevez's long-range effort was even better.
They were goals that would have foiled most goalkeepers, let alone the inspirational Cech, and with the fixture list showing no sign of letting up, he is going to be as influential as ever in the coming weeks.
Where the league is concerned, things are not drastic for Chelsea—yet. With a new manager introduced midway into the season, the club was always going to endure some tough afternoons. Sunday was certainly a reality check for where they stand in English football right now, but as they look to consolidate and move forward, having Cech within their ranks will bring comfort.
There has long been an ideal in football that great teams start from the back. The Blues have gone very much back to the drawing board to re-establish themselves as a force once more, and as they continue that rebuilding process, they have one vital element firmly in place. They just need to sort the rest out.
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