Last night Chelsea chose to lay up. By presenting a weakened front against Liverpool last night in the English Premier League they effectively declared that they knew they were going to finish outside of the Champions League qualification spots.
What this means is that the Blues now have to defeat Bayern Munich in their own Allianz Arena in order to qualify for the 2012/13 Champions League. Lose and they start their next campaign in the much less lucrative Europa League.
Although a pragmatic move by caretaker manager Roberto Di Matteo, a man who already has to move mountains to secure his post full-time, it is one with many permutations.
On Saturday in the FA Cup final Chelsea demolished a lost looking Liverpool. They bullied the Reds attack –at least until Andy Carroll rumbled into the red strike force –and they were clinical once they had stretched play and allowed Didier Drogba to run at goal.
Last night, though, Liverpool saved a miniscule amount of face as they walloped Chelsea’s lesser side 4-1. However, by not going for this match Chelsea have ensured that the only way to make Europe’s most sought after competition is by winning the whole thing on the 19th of May.
They will have to do this without Ramires, who is in sensational form, and without John Terry or Branislav Ivanovic at the back. It is a big ask, but that does not mean the rest of the team need rested 11 days before the event.
Di Matteo can be cagey. He needs this final, or he is out the door. Many of his older players may be on the way out as well. In that position, should they not be going for 100% in all competitions?
Oh, yeah. Chelsea’s Russian oligarch owner only cares about the Champions League. If they don’t make it this year, Roman, you’ve got a hell of a wait till you get another crack at it.