Sunday’s clash between Liverpool and Chelsea saw another massive twist in the title race as Jose Mourinho’s side prevailed by two goals to nil over Rodgers’ Reds. This result has profound implications for the title race, and with that in mind, here are five thoughts from the biggest game of the season:
1. Steven Gerrard’s slip could be the defining act in this year’s Premier League season.
It would be cruel to criticise Gerrard for the mistake that allowed Demba Ba to open the scoring on Sunday, but the reality is that the skipper’s slip could have effectively ended Liverpool’s title hopes. With Mourinho playing his usual and frustrating ‘blend’ of defensive football, Chelsea never really looked like scoring apart from that incident. It changed the game irreparably, of course, forcing Liverpool to take initiative, when Rodgers would no doubt have taken a point before the game.
For Mourinho, 1-0 is almost the ideal scoreline and his side were able to sit back and counter, eventually leading to Willian’s second goal and the two-goal cushion. Gerrard has been a fantastic servant for club and country, but the reality is that his mistake could mean he has kissed goodbye a last chance of lifting the Premier League trophy.
2. Mourinho is still the best tactician in the league.
There has been lots of talk about how Mourinho has lost something of his spark this season, perhaps instigated by rumours that the Portuguese failed in his quest to succeed Sir Alex Ferguson at Old Trafford.
Whilst the rumours may be true, the fact is that no one can really compare to the Special One in the way that he can tactically drill his team to completely counteract the threat of the opposition. With their brand of attacking, swashbuckling football, Liverpool have torn apart the best teams in the league this season, but they weren’t able to play their natural game at Chelsea, with Mourinho’s weakened defence still able to nullify the threat of Suarez and Sterling.
3. Is there a Plan B at Liverpool?
Brendan Rodgers has rightly taken a lot of plaudits in the last few weeks, but this has to constitute a bit of a failure of the in-vogue Liverpool manager. He knew what Mourinho’s side would do, but his side failed to adapt to it and when frustrated, they had no alternative to the way they have played all season.
In practice, this meant that they were reduced to taking potshots from outside of the area and the reality is that with so little space afforded them by Chelsea’s back four and Nemanja Matic and Jon Obi Mikel, potshots were never likely to be the source of their salvation.
4. Chelsea are not dark horses for the Champions League.
It seems like most people aren’t giving Mourinho’s Chelsea much chance of actually lifting the Champions League with the majority believing that the winner of the tournament will be whichever side wins in the Bayern/Real Madrid clash. The game at Anfield confirmed what I have thought for quite some time: it would be churlish to write off Mourinho.
Liverpool are arguably the form team in Europe at present and yet Mourinho was able to create a gameplan that completely nullified their strengths. Sure, he relied on luck, but the fact is that luck exists in football and the good teams make their own luck. It would take a brave man to bet against Mourinho coming up with a similar plan to stop Madrid or Bayern, and if Chelsea can overcome Athletico at Stamford Bridge, I’d make his side slight favourites for the final, regardless of who they are playing.
5. Chelsea do Man City a favour.
Whilst the win at Anfield will not necessarily give Chelsea a chance to lift the title, it has certainly done the Citizens a big favour now. If City win their remaining games then they will win the title, a hope that looked rather lost as they drew with Sunderland.
City’s final big test will be against Everton, but even the Toffees are not the terrifying proposition they were a few weeks ago. Martinez’s side appear to have somewhat run out of steam, and Pellegrini will almost certainly feel that his side are capable of getting a result at Goodison Park next Saturday. If they do, and they go on to win the title, one would think Mourinho might be receiving a bottle of a fine Chilean red this summer.
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