Last season everybody assumed that the two teams battling it out for the title until the very end would be Manchester City and Chelsea, and to many people’s surprise it was Manchester City and Liverpool, with Chelsea tailing off as we entered the back end of the season. It seemed strange that they would succumb to third place as they did not suffer any defeats at the hands of the top 4 teams; in fact they managed to win all 4 games against champions City and runners-up Liverpool. Chelsea ended up only finishing 4 points off the top, and these points were tedious draws and losses that one would not expect Chelsea to yield to. Defeats at the hands of such clubs as Aston Villa, Crystal Palace and Sunderland eventually cost Chelsea the title, although you would expect these to be formality wins from Mourinho’s men.
In consequence to that it was The Special One’s job to find out what the problem is and fix it over the summer, the obvious problem would be the lack of goals from Chelsea’s front line. Fernando Torres only managed 5 goals in 28 appearances, which is poor for a £50 million striker; Eto’o likewise only recorded 4 goals with Ba on a preferably forgettable 1. It’s no surprise then to see that all three strikers exited the club during the course of the summer and have been replaced with clinical striker Diego Costa. I frequently suggested before the season got underway that whether Chelsea win the title or not is down to Costa; if he was as clinical as he was at Atelicó they would win the league, if he was a flop then they would struggle and be looking for more goals from midfield again. Luckily for the Royal Blues Costa has started in prolific fashion, managing an impressive 7 goals in his first 4 games, a Premier League record previously held by Sergio Agüero with 6. Moreover, Loic Remy has been brought in to add a bit more pace and bite to the attack, with a goal on his debut at the weekend and Didier Drogba waiting on the side-lines, Chelsea’s attack suddenly looks far more intimidating than it did a few months previously. It looks as if Chelsea have overcome their main demon as they finally have a prolific goal scorer, I’m not sure if the Chelsea of last season would’ve so easily overcome Burnley at Turf Moor after conceding the first goal.
Furthermore, although Chelsea had a formidable midfield with players who were exciting on the ball and likely to score goals, they lacked a controlling midfielder whom would frequently create chances for strikers and control the game when it came to nervous sections, especially considering the departure of Frank Lampard. Surely then the most ingenious signing of the summer is Cesc Fabregas, with the Spanish World Cup winner, now controlling games for Chelsea and creating goal scoring chances on almost every attack. It’s going to take somebody special to stop them and from what I’ve seen so far I can’t see anybody doing it.
Last season Chelsea’s strong-point was their defence, conceding the least amount of goals in the league; they’ve even managed to strengthen in that department, with the departure of Ashley Cole to Roma they have brought in Atelicó star Filipe Luis who has looked promising whenever he has been given the nod by Mourinho. Cahill and Terry’s partnership looks as solid as ever, despite Terry being 33 he can read a game better than any defender and always seems to find himself in the right place at the right time. Lastly Branislav Ivanović continues to stake a claim for the best right-back in the league with his powerhouse attacks, goals, and no-nonsense defending.
The entire nation will now be looking now be looking to Sunday as the title favourites take on the title champions, but is the game really as pivotal to Chelsea’s season as it is to City’s? City have already dropped 4 points this season giving Chelsea an advantageous start, and as Chelsea are away at the Etihad, it seems like the game is far more crucial to City’s season whereas Chelsea can afford to drop points. The Etihad was considered a fortress last year as only Mourinho’s men came away with 3 points; however the walls have already taken a hit this year as the Sky Blues were flabbergasted by Stoke City who came away with all 3 points as they won 1-0. It raises enigmas as to whether Mourinho will go out and attack a lacklustre Manchester City side, who although look improved against Arsenal still don’t look back to their best. Naturally Mourinho will probably try a more tactical approach and attempt to steal a goal on the counter attack resulting in a stubborn defensive performance to protect the lead for the duration of the match. Mourinho must see this as a great opportunity to take advantage of a City side that don’t look anywhere near as good as his Chelsea side do. Either way come Sunday tea-time we will certainly have a far better understanding of the calibre of the two title favourites this year, which may give us an early inclination of where the title might be heading this year.