Chelsea FC: Should Jose Mourinho Chase the Premier League or Champions League?

Daniel Tiluk@@danieltilukFeatured ColumnistApril 23, 2014

The man in the black hat, who wears no hat.
The man in the black hat, who wears no hat.Paul Gilham/Getty Images

Last night's Champions League fixture between Chelsea and Atletico Madrid was a predictable outcome.

Jose Mourinho aligned his side in a 4-3-3—with Ramires on the wing—looking to blank the game or possibly produce a counter-attacking goal to take back home. While goals failed to emanate from the Blues, Atletico were not much better in an attacking sense—due to Mourinho's defensive approach.

The nil-nil draw was an encouraging result for both teams, as there is still all to play for on 30 April at Stamford Bridge.

Which begs the question: What should Chelsea do with the Premier League?

The Blues' loss to Sunderland last Saturday felt like a mortal blow. Three points would have made Sunday's visit to Merseyside a potential title-deciding match but with a five-point gap, Mourinho's men will need more than victory at Anfield to secure the Premier League.

Chelsea demand nine points from three games, two Liverpool losses (one of which they can inflict) and Manchester City to lose or draw from their four remaining matches.

Mourinho's words that Chelsea "depend too much on other results," as noted by The Guardian's Dominic Fifield, ring true now more than ever.

It has become rather comical how the Premier League title race has taken shape.

Liverpool, who have no European obligation, hold an advantage by their lack of continental duties when compared to their English competition.

Petr Cech will not take part in Chelsea's final month of action with a separated shoulder, via BBC Sport.
Petr Cech will not take part in Chelsea's final month of action with a separated shoulder, via BBC Sport.Paul Gilham/Getty Images

The injuries suffered by Petr Cech and John Terry—reportedly of the season-ending variety, per BBC Sport—at the Vicente Calderon or Eden Hazard at the Parc des Princes as evidence.

The Blues have played 11 Champions League games this season—expecting not to accrue injuries over 1,000 minutes of additional football is fool-hearted.

In most years, contending teams in the Premier League are fighting on both domestic and European fronts—but this year is an exception. The Reds have been terrific down the stretch, destroying their opposition with acute attacking prowess. A major part of their success has been the ability to rest and game-plan for six to seven days at a time.

The only other top seven club in a similar circumstance would be Everton—who are also punching above their customary weight this season.

"Roberto, this isn't too bad you know!" "Yeah, it's wonderful!"
"Roberto, this isn't too bad you know!" "Yeah, it's wonderful!"Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Not that they wanted it, but other clubs, namely Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United and Arsenal—not to overlook Tottenham in the Europa League—did not have Merseysiders’ domestic "advantage."

That said, you still have to win the games you're scheduled and Brendan Rodgers' side has done what they must to sit atop the table.

It leaves the Blues in a precarious situation; their squad has taken a major body blow with two stalwarts of the Premier League's best defence now sidelined. It feels as if Mourinho must choose a competition—as Chelsea's Premier League boat has taken on tremendous amounts of water over the past weeks.

Hence, in many respects, Mourinho's decision could not be clearer.

Chelsea have a greater probability of winning two games against Atletico Madrid (H) and either Bayern Munich or Real Madrid in Lisbon, Portugal than beating Liverpool (A), Norwich City (H) and Cardiff City (A), then hoping for scenarios only conceivable in Disney movies.

If only...
If only...Julian Finney/Getty Images

The competitiveness in Mourinho could see him field Chelsea’s strongest available side three times over the course of nine days; though as Cech and Terry are likely to miss the Premier League's final three offerings, the Blues would be better served to combat fatigue with brain power.

As the great William Shakespeare hinted towards in Macbeth:

The time approaches

That will with due decision make us know

What we shall say we have and what we owe.

Mourinho knows his side's predicament and should see the Champions League as the prize Blues' supporters across the globe will clamour to “say [they] have.”

You hardly hear of Chelsea's sixth-place finish in 2011-12, do you? Just Didier Drogba beating Manuel Neuer from the penalty spot on that night of nights 23 months ago.

If Roberto Di Matteo's "big trophy with the big ears" makes its way back to Stamford Bridge for the second time in three campaigns—all else will be forgiven, all else will be forgotten.


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