Manchester City win 2012 Community Shield

Manchester City came from behind and withheld late pressure from Chelsea as they claimed their first silverware of the 2012/13 season thanks to goals from Carlos Tevez, Yaya Toure and Samir Nasri.

Chelsea had taken the lead through Fernando Torres just before half-time but a blistering second half blew them away, a late Ryan Bertrand goal merely a consolation in an enthralling start to the new football season.  Continue reading

Chelsea win the Champions League

 
Finally, they’ve done it. A season that looked to be disastrous under Andres Villas-Boas ends with Chelsea winning the double under Roberto Di Matteo.
At times, it wasn’t pretty. Organised and resolute defending where the team knew their strengths and weaknesses, or negative football – call it what you like, it’s effective. Chelsea have won the Champions League, beating the mighty Barcelona on the way as well as Napoli, Benfica and Bayern Munich.
They’ve had their graft and determination greeted by luck, but you make your own luck. Bayern had 43 shots on goal to Chelsea’s 9, but 22 of Bayern’s were blocked; even the most stout believer in defensive positioning coming before overplayed heroics would have to admit that that is fantastic defending. Gary Cahill and David Luiz were incredible, while Ashley Cole put in a Man of the Match performance, putting to bed (ahem) the claims that he’s finished as a top-flight full-back.
There were horrible Munich misses, with Mario Gomez perhaps the worst perpetrator. But Chelsea had an effect on some of those misses – pressure on players contributes to them snatching at shots, bodies flying in puts an attacker off. Stats won’t show that. They did have their luck, though – they’re lucky that Arjen Robben’s penalty in extra-time was dreadful. It really did just feel like it was their night.
Of course, the only stat that really matters is this: Bayern Munich 1 – 1 Chelsea after 90 minutes.
 
Munich
(picture from Markus Unger on Flickr)
The way the game was played was no real surprise; Bayern set out to retain the ball, keep possession and keep creating chances. Chelsea set out to frustrate and then counter, just as they did against Barca. They were organised and they did have periods of slight domination.
And yet, after winning the FA Cup and the Champions League, Di Matteo’s full-time job at the club – we’re told – is still not set in stone for next season.
Roman Abramovich has always wanted the Champions League, and now he’s got it. He apparently also wants the style to go with the winning; he wants to be entertained. Fine. Give Di Matteo the chance to bring in his own players, as this is still Villas-Boas’ side. Allow him to build his squad, implement the style that Roman wants and keep that winning feeling.
Cahill, Luiz, Bertrand and Mikel have all now played in a Champions League final and won. Ramires and Daniel Sturridge have played large roles in a victorious campaign. Petr Cech, Juan Mata, John Terry and Frank Lampard are all winners of the highest regard. Marko Marin is coming in in the summer, as will others no doubt. These are the foundations. They can win ugly, now give Di Matteo a season or two to make it pretty.
There were plenty of signs of good, attractive, intelligent play from Chelsea on Saturday night. There were periods where they seemed to attack at will – maybe Bayern allowed them to come out a little so that they could then counter, but it didn’t work all that well as Robben, Franck Ribery and Gomez all had poor games (partly due to Chelsea’s defending).
One move in particular showed that Chelsea can strut with the best of them: a low cross was met with a cheeky backheel from Drogba on the edge of the box; Lampard squared it intelligently for Salomon Kalou, who tested Manuel Neuer at his near post.
The late equaliser, though, after Thomas Muller had stolen in at the back post to give Munich the lead, had no perceived grace about it. A thunderous header from a thunderous man who cut a forlorn figure for most of the game but didn’t once show any sign of frustration. He chased, he harried, he lost out most of the time – but Didier Drogba knew his role. He would get his chance eventually, and good God did he take it.
And with what was possibly his last kick for Chelsea, he crowned them champions of Europe.
 
Drogba celebrates
(picture from rayand on Flickr) 

The post-match celebrations seem to irk a few which, with Twitter in its default setting of OUTRAGE, was no real surprise. EVERYTHING John Terry does is AWFUL, of course. ALL. THE. TIME. Terry decided to celebrate in his full Chelsea kit which he must have been wearing under his suit, which he was wearing in the stands due to his suspension.
 
John Terry
(picture from Ronnie Macdonald on Flickr)
Terry wasn’t the only player to do this – the other players who were banned also did it, but they came in for significantly less criticism (i.e. none) than the former England captain did. Given that Terry isn’t a likeable human being in any way, it’s hardly surprising, yet the internet’s insistence that he shouldn’t lift the trophy was ever so slightly baffling.
The Champions League isn’t just won in the final, and Terry has played a magnificent part in the European campaign, not to mention some outstanding performances in other competitions this season. John Terry, to be blunt – and putting Liverpool to one side for the moment – has been fantastic this season.
So when his club, a club he has been with for over seventeen years and a club he has made more than 300 league appearances for, wins the Champions League, he’s allowed to be a little bit happy about it. His actions in the semi-final that brought him the red card were unjustifiable but that doesn’t mean he should be stopped from performing his duty as captain in lifting the trophy.
And the Roy Keane comparison is pretty nonsensical, as people are allowed to do things differently and that doesn’t make them wrong. Just as Terry’s actions could be interpreted as arrogant and twattish, Keane could be seen as a miserable, self-centred sod who didn’t want to celebrate with his team on one their defining nights. Cheer up, Roy – it’s not all about you.
Congratulations Chelsea – Champions League winners 2012.
 
Main picture from rayand on Flickr.

Have the media been unfair on Chelsea?

Andres Villas-Boas has had a tough few months. Appointed Chelsea manger under a sea of comparisons to Chelsea God Jose Mourinho, the 34-year-old was given the task of building a legacy at the Blues which would, eventually, see Chelsea return to the top of the English football pile.

 

Before Saturday’s win away at Newcastle, Chelsea had managed just four wins in ten games. They’d lost to QPR, taken a battering from Arsenal and lost to Liverpool twice. It hardly means the club are in crisis, but it certainly warrants comment.
There has been much talk about the eccentricity – and, at times, stupidity – of centre-back David Luiz. Mikel Jon Obi has taken some flak for being an ineffective midfielder. Aging stars such as John Terry, Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole are, seemingly, nearing the end. The form of Fernando Torres has been beyond a joke now for months and there is a genuine possibility that we will never see the Spaniard back to his best again.
But there has been very little criticism of Villas-Boas, and any criticism of Chelsea has – on the whole – been justified.
It is well-known that to win the Premier League is vital to Chelsea, and winning the Champions League is something at the very forefront of Abramovich’s mind. Villas-Boas himself said that not winning titles at Chelsea would be unforgiveable.
After last night’s comfortable and impressive victory over Valencia, the manager sat down for his press conference and, basically, attacked the press. He criticised what he saw as the “continuous persecution of Chelsea”.
“We have become your target,” he continued. “We accept that. But you have to accept that today was a brilliant win.”
Villas-Boas named Gary Neville amidst his rant, which is odd given that Neville has backed the manager in the past – although AVB is perhaps still unhappy with Neville’s description of Luiz.
Now, some points need to be made here, mainly regarding Villas-Boas’ astuteness. This rant takes the limelight away from his players, something that most managers do and is becoming more tedious with every passing press conference.
Villas-Boas protects his team and almost creates an ‘us against them’ mantra, something his constant shadow Mourinho is famous for. Again, this stance is getting old and tiresome.
The timing of the outburst is also rather odd. The ‘Ha! In your face!’ retort could have at least been saved until after Chelsea come through some difficult fixtures: Manchester City, Tottenham and Fulham all the before the New Year. Just as Chelsea’s form this season does not mean the club are in crisis, two 3-0 wins on the bounce is hardly enough to start readying the trophy cabinet for a new instalment.
Even so, on the whole, the press have been rather calm in terms of Villas-Boas’ managing of the club. Various writers at The Telegraph have stated that Villas-Boas is the right man for the job, and that Villas-Boas is not the problem at Chelsea – the players are. The Sun has led with a similar line, whilst also slating the Chelsea defence.
Villas-Boas, then, is clearly thinking of what is best for his team – whether that be in moving the limelight elsewhere or taking criticisms of Chelsea to heart. He has – compared to managers in the past who have been criticised by the press early on – got off lightly but the criticism of Chelsea has been continuous, something that AVB maybe sees as unjust.
On the whole, the press have been supportive of Villas-Boas but critical of the Chelsea team and wary of Abramovich. And those three stances are justified. AVB should be supported, certain aspects of Chelsea’s squad have either underperformed or simply cannot play at such a high quality as they have in the past, and Abramovich has a history of short-termism when it comes to managers.
Mourinho quit in September 2007 and, of the managers hired by the Russian billionaire: Avram Grant lasted the season, Luiz Felipe Scolari was sacked nine months into his tenure and Carlo Ancelotti was given the boot after his second season.
It is hardly surprising, then, that the majority of the commenters on Villas-Boas’ appointment back in June stated that he should be given time in the job and it is even less surprising that Abramovich’s short-termism is mentioned now when Chelsea perform below par – and produce below par results to match.
Granted, rumours regarding a possible return to the club for Guus Hiddink are needless and, in all likelihood, baseless. Provocative headlines such as “Time for AVB to start praying” and “Villas-Boas loses authority with every defeat” also don’t help, while using the phrase “dreaded vote of confidence” is a clichéd way of looking at a genuinely positive piece of news.
It is unfair to say that the media have agendas and it is surely incorrect to say that journalists will be disappointed to be writing positive things about Chelsea. But of course, column inches have to be filled so every minor, interesting development is expanded to 800 words of piffle.
But the media’s treatment of Chelsea has been surprisingly reserved, frankly. The negatives have rightly been commented on and the positives have rightly been pointed out (Didier Drogba was fantastic last night, and David Luiz put in a very calm, collected performance).
Perhaps one of the oddest points AVB made was that of the difference between the coverage of his side Manchester City.
“The approach to Manchester City is basically, ‘if they qualify, they qualify. If they don’t qualify, they don’t qualify’. We don’t get that margin, basically, from you guys (the media).”
City are top of the League, have a resoundingly stronger squad and at times look like genuine world-beaters. But when cracks have appeared, the flaws have been pointed out.
AVB sees the difference between City and Chelsea as one is wanted to fail, one isn’t. The real difference is that one is top of the League and flying – the other is on the edge of the top four.
Images from thesportreview and micheldf.

Fernando Torres, Zoltan Gera, Chelsea’s title hopes and matchday 34 round-up

Fernando Torres: The anxiety is finally over


It took seven hundred and thirty minutes of club football but, eventually, it came. He was mocked, criticised, pitied, victimised and, in some sections, hated, but yesterday Fernando Torres went some way to putting all of that to rest. Yesterday, Fernando Torres’ Chelsea career began.
On his fourteenth appearance in the blue of Chelsea, Torres finally scored a goal. But it is not just the goal that will have pleased the Stamford Bridge faithful, the manager and the Spaniard’s teammates. Torres looked lively; he looked match-fit for the first time in a long time. Clearly, we don’t want to overreact to one goal just like everyone has done with the lack of goals but, in the same way, we don’t want to under-react.
Torres’ goal, a cool finish after a scrappy turn inside the West Ham penalty area, helped Carlo Ancelotti’s side to overcome a poor but determined Hammers side. The strike ended a goal drought of 903 minutes for both club and country. “There’s less pressure for me now. Now, I can enjoy it”, Torres said after the game, clearly with a huge weight lifted from his shoulders.
The relief could be felt from all around the ground. The traditional Torres knee slide into the corner was greeted with the biggest cheer of the evening. His teammates all piled on top of him, while the Chelsea coaching staff all stood on the touchline, applauding a player who they know will come good for them.
Torres joined from Liverpool in January for an astronomical price of £50 million. Immediately, he was derided by the majority of football fans, given that the former-Atletico Madrid talisman had had a difficult season with the Anfield club, therefore rendering the price tag even more preposterous. There was also the small matter of the complete lack of loyalty and class shown by Torres in the transfer.
But still, the criticism of Torres was unwarranted. Yes, he looked completely off the pace, his first touch virtually non-existent. He lacked the confidence to make runs into the right areas, looked unwilling to run with the ball never mind actually go past a player. Yesterday, Didier Drogba started up front, with Torres on the bench, and rightly so. Torres has been simply awful.
Yet, with the benefit of hindsight, this should have been expected. It would be difficult for any player to come into a side halfway through a season and fit right in. Torres had to adapt to a new a club in a new city, a new manager, new teammates, a new system. Many have questioned whether Torres can play in the 4-3-3 that Ancelotti favours – of course he can, it will just take time. Torres said it himself, post-match:  “It’s never easy when you arrive in January at a massive team like this”
Torres may well have been carrying an injury this season, too. He had a relatively poor World Cup in South Africa and, when he came back to The Premier League, he didn’t look the sharp, deadly forward that Scousers once loved and defenders loathed. There was always the pressure, though, for Ancelotti to play him, given the transfer fee and possibly pressure from above. Why would Roman Abromovic spend £50 million on a player to watch him sit on the bench, or even in the treatment room?
All of this makes the notion that Torres was expected to come in and fire Chelsea to the title somewhat ridiculous; it was never going to happen. Next season, though, will be different for Torres. He’ll have settled in properly, gained a better understanding with his teammates and learnt how to work in the Chelsea system.
Torres will get twenty goals next season, no doubt about it. All of those who were laughing at him, or willing him on, or simply just feeling sorry for him, can all now sit back and watch a master at work – Fernando Torres is back.
Fernando Torres went some way to laying his many ghosts to rest yesterday as he scored his first Chelsea goal in a 3-0 win over West Ham.
Fernando Torres went some way to laying his many ghosts to rest yesterday as he scored his first Chelsea goal in a 3-0 win over West Ham.

Premier League round-up: Matchday 34
Sunderland return to winning ways while Arsenal fade again
A round-up of all the scores and scorers from the Premier League, matchday 34.
If there is somebody to blame, it is me.” Those were the words of Arsene Wenger after his Arsenal side all-but-ended their Premier League title hopes with a 2-1 loss at Bolton.
A late Tamir Cohen goal compounded The Gunners to defeat but, in truth, the game at The Reebok summed up Arsenal’s season – lots of wasted chances, and punished for it. Daniel Sturridge gave Bolton the lead in the first half and Kevin Davies could have doubled it early in the second half, Wojciech Szczesny saving the striker’s penalty. Robin Van Persie did equalise for Arsenal just a minute later but Cohen popped up in the last minute, heading home to send Bolton 8thand leave Arsenal nine points behind Manchester United with four games to go.
Arsenal knew that they had to win to at least keep the pressure on United and second-placed Chelsea, who recorded a comfortable victory over West Hamat Stamford Bridge, with a certain Spanish striker finally finding the net.
Frank Lampard put The Blues in front in the first half, smashing home from inside the box and, with Robbie Keane and Carlton Cole both wasting excellent chances for West Ham, Fernando Torres showed them how to do it, clumsily turning inside the area (mainly due to the fact that the pitch was sodden, almost Sunday league-like) and finishing well. Florent Malouda rounded off an emphatic victory, firing in from twenty-five yards to leave West Ham bottom of the table, but only two points from safety.
Leaders Manchester United also recorded a win on Saturday but they too wasted chances – although superb defending from Everton, in particular Phil Jagielka and Sylvain Distin, kept them at bay for large periods. It was another late goal, though, that moved United ever-closer to that treasured 19thLeague title – Mexican Javier Hernandez heading in from two yards after fine wing-work from Antonio Valencia.
Valencia’s former club, Wigan, were the victims of a rousing Sunderland victory at The Stadium of Light, despite The Black Cats struggling with injuries. Danny Welbeck, Phil Bardsley and Asamoah Gyan were all forced off for Steve Bruce’s side but a powerful performance from Jordan Henderson and an impressive display from Stephane Sessegnon guided the North-East side to their first win in ten matches.
Mohamad Diame did put The Latics in front with a superb 30-yard strike but Gyan equalised, nodding home a header at the near-post. Henderson then fired the hosts in front with a great finish from twelve yards before Sessegnon won and then converted a penalty to put Sunderland 3-1 up. Sessegnon then turned provider, giving Henderson his second goal of the game, before Franco Di Santo scored from close-range as a consolation. Sunderland now sit 10th, seven points above 18th placed Wigan, although Bruce insisted after the match that Sunderland were not safe.
The side below Wigan, Wolves, failed to overcome Fulham as the sides settled for a 1-1 draw. Steven Fletcher scored for Wolves but Andrew Johnson equalised late on for the London club. Hughes was sent to the stands during the game after his furious reaction to a booking.
Another relegation-threatened side, Blackpool, were forced to settle for a 1-1 draw but can be aggrieved as three decent penalty shouts were all turned down. Newcastle’sPeter Lovenkrands capitalised on Blackpool mistakes to smash in from twenty-five yards, but DJ Campbell equalised with a clever flick.
The third 1-1 draw of the weekend came at Villa Park where, after Kenwyne Jones had given Stoke the lead, Darren Bent equalised with a superb header to earn Aston Villa a point, with manager Gerard Houllier absent from the match due to being in hospital.
Tottenham’s hopes of reaching that coveted fourth spot were practically ended as they drew 2-2 with a resilient West Brom. Peter Odemwingie did give The Baggies the perfect start but Roman Pavlyuchenko and Jermain Defoe, scoring his 100th goal for the club, soon turned things around for Spurs. An exquisite goal from Simon Cox, though, meant that all was square at White Hart Lane.
Birmingham City put in a lacklustre display but all credit must go to Liverpool for what was a fine performance – Maxi Rodriguez scoring a hat-trick, with Dirk Kuyt and Joe Cole getting on the scoresheet to send Liverpool to an emphatic 5-0 win. Birmingham’s defending was shambolic, but all the more painful to watch due to Liverpool’s quick movement and fine finishing.
Manchester City face Blackburn tonight to round off matchday 34.
Matchday 34 results: Manchester United 1-0 Everton; Chelsea 3-0 West Ham; Sunderland 4-2 Wigan; Wolves 1-1 Fulham; Blackpool 1-1 Newcastle; Liverpool 5-0 Birmingham; Tottenham 2-2 West Brom; Villa 1-1 Stoke.
Matchday 35 fixtures: Blackburn-Bolton; Blackpool-Stoke; Chelsea-Tottenham; Sunderland-Fulham; West Brom-Aston Villa; Wigan-Everton; Birmingham-Wolves; Liverpool-Newcastle; Arsenal-Manchester United; Manchester City-West Ham.

EPL: Gera could go, says Mark Hughes
“Hopefully we can persuade him to stay”, says Hughes
Zoltan Gera could leave Fulham this summer with manager Mark Hughes unable to guarantee the Hungarian midfielder first team football.
Fulham manager Mark Hughes has admitted that Hungarian midfielder Zoltan Gera could leave the club this summer as the Welshman is unable to guarantee the former-West Brom maestro first team football.
Gera has made just ten Premier League starts this season and has only managed two assists, with his solitary goal of the season coming against Manchester City in November.
Gera has barely featured under Welshman Hughes in 2011, making just seven appearances from the bench, and the midfielder, who also likes to operate on the wing, has refused to sign a new contract, with his current deal coming to an end this summer.
Hughes, though, looks set to make a late bid to keep Gera at the club, reports The Fulham Chronicle: “I will have a conversation with him to see where we are. He will probably wait until the end of the season to see what’s on offer, but hopefully we can persuade him to stay.”
Hughes continued: “He wants more first-team football and, at the moment, I can’t guarantee that to anybody.”
This season, Hughes has preferred to use Dickson Etuhu, Clint Dempsey and Simon Davies, with Moussa Dembele playing just in front of the midfield, and Gera has struggled to break into the first team side, despite making thirty-eight League appearances last season under Roy Hodgson. Gera was named Fulham Player of the Season last term, largely down to his vital goals in their Europa League campaign.
Fulham currently sit 12th in The English Premier Leaguewith six games to go but are only five points above the relegation zone after what has been a largely underwhelming season for The Cottagers.

Gera, who has been named Hungarian Player of the Year three times and has made seventy-one appearances for his national side, is clearly unhappy with how he has fallen down the pecking order so quickly under the new manager. Gera revealed last week that he intended to run down his contract, while his agent revealed that a move to another English club was not entirely impossible.
“It is not impossible at all that Zoltan stays in England,” Vladan Filipovic told Hungarian station Digi Sport Television. “We’re open to any possibilities; it can be that he stays in England in case of a good opportunity. Gera still has a lot in his career, four or five good years.”
Greek side Olympiakos are also rumoured to be interested in the thirty-one-year-old and, one would imagine, many Premier League clubs would be attracted to a player who can play all across the midfield and just off the striker; his ability to use both feet and quickness of movement will also be big selling points.
Elsewhere in Premier League transfer news (the summer transfer window is getting closer so prepare yourself for many, many transfer stories over the coming months), Manchester City striker Carlos Tevez is rumoured to want out of the club, with The Telegraph claiming that City are ready to sell their captain to Inter Milan or Juventus, who are apparently waiting in the wings for the Argentinean.
Tevez has stated before that he feels homesick and would like to move somewhere closer to home, instantly making the former-Manchester United forward a prime transfer target. The lack of quotes and actual naming of sources in the linked article, though, make me a little sceptical regarding the validity of the story. No offence, Mark Ogden.

EPL: Title race not over – Ancelotti
Ancelotti insists the Premier League title race is not over yet
Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti has insisted that the Premier League title race is not yet over, after his side defeated Birmingham 3-1 last night.
Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti has insisted that the Premier League title race is not over after seeing his side comfortably defeat Birmingham 3-1 on Wednesday night.
With Tottenham and Arsenal playing out a thrilling 3-3 draw at White Hart Line and Manchester United drawing 0-0 with Newcastle United on Tuesday, Chelsea now find themselves in second position, above The Gunners on goal difference.
United are six points ahead of both Chelsea and Arsenal but have to face both sides in the coming weeks, but Ancelotti knows that the title is pretty much United’s to lose:
“We are six points behind and it will not be easy to close that. Our aim is to win every game and after that see how our position is. It will not be easy but that is our aim,” Ancelotti said, according to the BBC.
The Italian manager continued: “We have to believe until the referee whistles for the end of the game.”
Two goals from Florent Malouda and one Salomon Kalou gave Chelsea victory over Birmingham, with a Sebastian Larsson penalty their only reply, but, elsewhere in London, one of the games of the season was taking place.
First half goals from Theo Walcott, Samir Nasri and Robin Van Persie (for Arsenal) and Rafael Van der Vaart and Tom Huddlestone for Tottenham meant that the North London derby had seen five goals in a frantic first forty-five minutes.
Van der Vaart scored a penalty with twenty minutes to go and, while Spurs manager Harry Redknapp said it “was a great game to be involved in”, Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger remained adamant that his side will continue to fight for the title.
The Frenchman said: “They have an outstanding attitude. We’ll fight like mad for the next game. We can do it”.

These articles originally appeared on sports website Sports Haze, which is now defunct.

Lucas Piazón signs pre-contract agreement with Chelsea


Chelsea look set to sign Brazilian wonderkid Lucas Piazon in a deal reportedly worth £10 million.

The Guardian are reporting that Piazón will join Chelsea from São Paulo when he turns 18 (next January) after signing a pre-contract agreement worth £10 million.
The Daily Mail suggest that Chelsea are closing in on the youngster, who rejected Juventus in favour of the English side, but with the fee potentially rising to £8 million.
Piazón has been dubbed the ‘new Kaká’ by many, mainly because the Real Madrid star also came through the São Paulo youth system. Piazón is more of a striker rather than an attacking midfielder like Kaká, though.
São Paulo recently purchased striker Luis Fabiano from Spanish side Sevilla and it is thought that this sale will help them pay for the 30-year-old.
Piazón has never played for his club at senior level but has been scouted by Chelsea for two years. He is currently playing in the South American Under-17 championship and will have a medical after the tournament this month. He will, according to reports, be officially unveiled as a Chelsea player in January.
It is believed that, while Juventus offered a similar fee, the Serie A side could not match the wages being offered by Chelsea. Piazón would join a large contingent of Brazilian players already at Chelsea, with defenders Alex and David Luiz already plying their trade for The Blues.
Piazón is widely considered as one of the brightest stars in Brazilian football, his talents on the ball and speed leading many clubs, including English side Liverpool, to track the youngster.
But it looks as though Chelsea have won the race to sign the Brazilian. He’s the not the first Brazilian player to be dubbed the ‘new Kaká’ (and he certainly won’t be the last), but Chelsea fans should be excited to see such a clearly talented, youthful individual join what is essentially an aging side.
He’s one for the future, which should give Chelsea fans great encouragement and reassurance over owner Roman Abramovich’s long-term commitment to the club.
This article originally appeared on sports website Sports Haze, which is now unfortunately defunct.
Image from goal.com

Why Chelsea are still title contenders in the Premier League

“I think either Arsenal or ourselves will win it”, said Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson at the end of February. 

At that time, Chelsea were fifteen points off the top, leading many to believe that the Premier League title race was between Arsenal and Manchester United, with United the clear favourites.
As is always the case in football, however, it’s not quite that simple. To say, with over three months of the season remaining, that a side five wins away from the top is out of the title race is hasty to say the least.
Ferguson made those comments shortly before his United side thumped Wigan 4-0. Just two weeks before, the Red Devils lost to Wolves away from home, which was their first loss of the season. Wins against Manchester City and Wigan suggested that normality had returned, with United winning games without actually performing particularly well.
Defeats away to Chelsea and arch-rivals Liverpool mean that United are three points above second-placed Arsenal, who have a game-in-hand. The Gunners meet United this weekend in the FA Cup and also face their old nemesis at The Emirates Stadium on the 1st of May.
While United have faltered of late, Chelsea have been picking up results, quietly going about their business, with manager Carlo Ancelotti dismissing his own side’s title credentials whenever questioned, so that attention is not drawn to his club.
Between the 14th November and 27th December, Chelsea didn’t win a Premier League game, succumbing to defeats against Sunderland, Birmingham and Arsenal.
In the last seven games, though, they have lost just once (against Liverpool) while the victory against United at the start of March, and the second half performance in particular, has led some to believe that The Blues could still be crowned champions for the fourth time.
There may not have been many stand-out performances for Chelsea recently, but they’re getting points on the board, fighting and battling for results every step of the way. The win against United was clearly important but emphatic victories over Blackpool, Sunderland, Bolton and Blackburn mean that Chelsea currently sit fourth in the table, nine points behind United, with ten games left to play (they, like Arsenal, have a game-in-hand over United and Manchester City).
Ten games left to play means a possible thirty points can be won. They play City next in the Premier League while Tottenham and United face Ancelotti’s side within the last four games of the season.
But, on the whole, their run-in will please Ancelotti. They face Wigan, Birmingham and West Ham before May, all of whom are struggling for form. Ancelotti will also expect to gain three points over West Brom, Newcastle and, on the last day of the season, Everton.
United have a startlingly similar run-in, with Bolton, Newcastle, Everton and West Ham all to play, as well as Arsenal and, six days later, Chelsea. Their  final game of the season sees Blackburn, who will surely be scrapping for their lives by that point, play host to the current league leaders, whereas Everton will have very little to play for other than pride.
Arsenal have West Brom, Liverpool, Tottenham and Aston Villa to play before that crunch match against United, which will surely be seen by Chelsea as an opportunity to make up yet more ground.
Just as the outcome of the relegation battle is impossible to predict this season, the title race seems to be wide open and certainly isn’t a two-horse race. Ferguson was wrong to rule out Chelsea, although this could have been purely mind games. The Manchester United manager, though, could regret such public statements, as Chelsea look to claim the Premier League title for the second season in a row.
There are just over three months left to go in the Premier League – that’s plenty of time for Chelsea to catch up.

This article originally appeared on sports website Sports Haze, which is now unfortunately defunct.