While Chelsea’s big celebration was last week, they experienced their guard of honour this weekend as they welcomed last year’s rivals Liverpool to Stamford Bridge. Here are five of the most compelling talking points from the action in West London:
Liverpool’s Champions League hopes are over
It is never easy to play Chelsea – and it is certainly not easy to defeat them – but Brendan Rodgers will definitely have been hoping for more from his players this weekend. After all, some of Chelsea’s players had had the previous week off, while Liverpool had all week to prepare for what was a critical game in their calendar.
With two games to go, Liverpool now require United to lose both of their games (against Arsenal and Hull) while winning both of theirs (Crystal Palace and Stoke), improving their goal difference dramatically and unrealistically in the process. In other words, it’s over.
This is not a point to gloss over. There is simply no excuse for this spectacular fall from grace from Rodgers’ side, and I am not the only writer to suggest that this season has been a much more accurate reflection of this team’s ability than last year, when Luis Suarez was running the show for the Reds. Simply put, Liverpool have underperformed.
Whilst Chelsea’s performance was uncharacteristically sloppy, and whilst their fans may been hoping for a slightly more energised game, Sunday’s draw has taken Chelsea’s record against the best teams in the division on considerably. In the two seasons since Mourinho returned to the Bridge, he is yet to lose against Arsenal, United, City or Liverpool and has won nine of those clashes. The best manager in the league? There’s not even any room for debate.
Steven Gerrard was given a standing ovation by Chelsea fans as he was substituted towards the end of the game. Whether the applause was genuine or ironic remains to be seen, but one thing is for sure: much of Gerrard’s career has been shaped by dealings with Chelsea. From the ‘will he, won’t he’ saga of 2005 to the slip last year, the high-profile Gerrard will never forget competing against the Blue of London. Will he have regrets? You bet he will.
Chelsea striking out without Costa
One can’t fail to be impressed with how the Blues have performed without their centre forward Diego Costa, but Mourinho will be very keen to ensure that they do not risk points by missing a player of his quality next season. The Spanish Brazilian’s injury problems are likely to continue into next year, and as such, it is probably time for Mourinho to purchase a reliable a back-up. Expect this to be a priority for Chelsea this summer.
Will he stay or will he go?
Of course, when a side like Liverpool has a season such as this one, there will always be question marks regarding whether the manager should keep his post. There is no doubt going to be speculation as to whether Brendan Rodgers will keep his job next year. For what it’s worth, while I don’t think Rodgers has done enough to be dismissed, it must also be stated that the Northern Irishman has so provided no evidence of being able to match the tactical ability of Mourinho or the longevity of Wenger. If Liverpool get off to a bad start next season, it is likely to be goodbye Brendan.