They were being touted as the next Invincibles by many. Some had already predicted them as this season's English champions. They are Manchester City.
The other team was being loathed and criticised by media in epic proportions when they had a minor dip in form. The football pundits and rival fans denounced them of having any chance to win the title. They are Chelsea.
Over the last two weeks the scenario has changed completely. Earlier this week the millionaire boy's club Manchester City saw their European dreams crash tragically. Then yesterday Chelsea heaped further misery by ending their undefeated streak.
On the other hand, Andre Villas Boas's so-called bunch of "aged has-been" players delivered brilliant performances to defeat Newcastle, secured their spot in the knock-out rounds of Champions' League in style and rounded it up with a confident win over high-flying league leaders Manchester City to keep the title race wide open.
With a string of superb wins in mind we make five bold predictions for Chelsea for the rest of the season.
"We're seven points adrift in this Premier League at the moment and with so many teams competing for the title, it's nothing." - Andre Villas Boas after his team's impressive win over Manchester City.
The match was predicted by many as a do-or-die for Chelsea's title hopes. A loss would have meant falling 13 points short of the top, but more importantly a huge blow to the squad's morale.
The pundits, rival fans and everyone had predicted an outright City victory against a team who were seen as title outcasts from the start. The impressive wins over Newcastle and Valencia were seen as a one-off by many.
With only two minutes gone and Balotelli putting the Citizens in the lead, it all seemed that Chelsea were doomed for another humiliating defeat. The Blues' desperately staved off waves of attacks, but the Chelsea faithful kept their patience and trust in the team. Chelsea slowly picked up their pace and then took the game to City, who crumbled under pressure. End of 90 minutes and the scoreboard at Stamford Bridge read Chelsea 2, Manchester City 1. The verdict was out.
Chelsea are just seven points from the top with more than half of the season still left to be played. The players have started to blend in pretty well and with a couple of signings in January to fortify their bench, Villas Boas' men could very well claim back their spot at the top of the Premier League.
This season saw the triumph of Michael Platini's decision to give teams from smaller divisions equal chance to compete against the top giants. His plan just performed too well, much to the disappointment of several top clubs.
This season of Champions' League football saw the biggest group stage casualties for top clubs like Manchester City, Manchester United and FC Porto. Chelsea too went into their last group stage match against Valencia with the prospect of missing out on European football, after some lazy performances put them in the do-or-die situation.
Chelsea, among the others, was least expected to make the next stage, given their poor form. But the West Londoner's delivered a memorable performance, only shadowed by the individual exploits of one Didier Drogba, to enter the knock-out stages of the competition as group leaders.
The Champions' League has been the only thing missing from the Blues' rather impressive trophy cabinet. The most-coveted trophy in Stamford Bridge has eluded the Blues' somehow or the other. They are one of those unlucky teams to have reached the closest to winning it, but have never actually won it.
But this season the Blues' have at least two big teams less to play. Moreover, ending as group leaders means they will face the power-houses only in the last-eight stages, by which time they can already develop their flaws.
Chelsea are currently in a transitional phase, with many of their older players leaving or making space for young bloods to take over their place. This season might actually be the last chance for the likes of Terry, Lampard and Drogba to win the most-coveted European champions medal.
With Chelsea gradually attaining their right combination of youth and experience, it might actually turn out to be the greatest stage-leaving performances from the Blues' aged squad. As proved over the years, whenever the odds are badly against them Chelsea delivers—and this time the odds of them winning the Champions League are of mammoth proportions.
So this season might turn out to be the one in which the Chelsea squad, the fans and owner Roman Abramovich were able to see their dreams come true.
A team on a emphatic winning run and road to recovery with their 50 million forward warming the benches implies two things: bad business on part of the club and doom for the forward's future.
That is what has happened over the last couple of weeks in Chelsea. After a month of below-par performances that saw their title credentials almost ending off, the Blues' have bounced back in style to resurrect themselves with their latest 2-1 win over league leaders, bringing them back in the title race.
But Fernando Torres has missed the action so far, making only minor appearances hither-thither. More than the superb performances of an aging colleague or the rise of a promising youngster, it has been his dismal on-field efforts that has resulted in his fall down the pecking order.
Until the last few weeks, Drogba seemed destined to leave Chelsea with his contract talks stalled, his below par performances attracting predictions that he was nearing the end of his career. It only seemed a matter of time before Drogba would see out his contract and move to some other club. But his performances in the past few matches has not only ended such talks, but also forced Chelsea to rethink their decision on the Ivorian.
Drogba's superb performances have also meant that Chelsea's under-performing star striker has to do with short cameos. Torres has been sub-par at best during his nearly one year stay at Stamford Bridge and he has failed to convert the opportunities that has come his way. The 50 million deal is undoubtedly Chelsea's worst business decision in the Abramovich era and already voices are rising as to the feasibility of keeping such a player in the payroll.
Critics are pointing out that Chelsea should sell him at the earliest chance to square off their losses (however nominal that may be), otherwise they might face the prospect of getting no buyer for their expensive discard. With Torres clearly falling out of Villas Boas' favour it might get tougher for him to force his way back, given he has Drogba to compete against.
Chelsea are being linked with a host of "promising and performing" youngsters and it seems Villas Boas might splurge in the transfer market to fortify his squad, whilst offloading some non-performers. With Drogba in top gear now, it seems the axe might fall on Torres. Chelsea will try to sell him at the maximum price available to fund their bid for some other player.
This month might well decide the decision and Torres could be heading out of Stamford Bridge well before the close of the winter transfer window.
These season might not have started the way everyone would have expected Chelsea to start, but nonetheless there was one thing to cheer about amidst the gloom. Daniel Sturridge.
After impressing everyone last season during his loan stint in Bolton, the former Manchester City youngster has really hit top gear in the new season. His performances have been nothing short of spectacular, which has made him an obvious choice in Villas Boas plans. The rise of Sturridge this season has in a manner led to Anelka's sudden exit, as the youngster's exploits meant Anelka was forced to the bench for most part of the season.
He has already found the net seven times in his eleven Premier League appearances so far, which also implies his impact on Chelsea's attack. Villas Boas has successfully used him in the wings and Sturridge, on his part, has caused opposition defenders plenty of trouble with his fast pace and skillful dribbles.
Though at times he seems a bit selfish, which will be sorted out with more experience, he has undoubtedly the potential to develop into a world class striker. If he continues his blistering run all through this season, which seems plausible right now, Sturridge might emerge as the Premier League's—as well as Stamford Bridge's—hero come the end of the season.
Chelsea have won their last four matches in flying colours.
They beat Wolves, Newcastle and Valencia, registering 3-0 wins in each case. Thereafter, they inflicted league leaders Manchester City their first league defeat this season in a superb display of grit, determination and quality football.
Chelsea had been written off during their performance dip in November by critics who predicted Villas Boas's men would struggle to retain their top four spot, leave alone title aspirations. Their ouster from the Carling Cup, preceded by some humiliating defeats, heaped further criticism and damnation for the Blues.
But Chelsea have since bounced back and silenced their critics. They have kept their Champions League aspirations intact while the two super-performing clubs from Manchester have crashed out. With their latest win, Chelsea have also kept their title hopes alive.
It all seems to imply that Chelsea are back on track and this time they are all the more wary, having learned from their earlier mistakes. The momentum they have generated over the past two to three weeks have been tremendous and Terry & Co. look determined to keep that going. The determination that was visible in the squad last night was both inspiring and promising. This form might see the Blues' registering one of the biggest comebacks in Premier League history and going unbeaten in the rest of their Premier League matches, to be crowned as the Champions of England again.