Two weeks ago, Chelsea were losing their manager of just 10 months, on the brink of an FA Cup exit at the hands of Birmingham City, we’re all but out of the Champions League, and fourth place seemed like only a dream.
Now, had you asked the most optimistic of Chelsea fans, they may have said they could squeeze past Birmingham, put up a fight against Napoli, and might secure 5th spot.
So, Friday 16th March is here, and Chelsea are eagerly anticipating the Champions League draw, preparing for the FA Cup Quarter Finals at home to Leicester, and looking to catch Tottenham for third place, after their recent slip up.
Never have 3 games and one week meant so much in a clubs season. Despite unconvincing victories over Birmingham and Stoke, they followed them up with a superb win against Napoli, leaving neutrals shocked, and confused at what had been going on at Stamford Bridge.
Roberto Di Matteo smirks on, but can a manager who has simply just walked into the job have changed that much? No new signings, no new formation, and Fernando Torres hasn’t started scoring again, yet.
Obviously, the biggest test for them is the Champions League. Winning it is still beyond belief, with Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich all in superb form. But, the draw could see them face APOEL, Marseille, or Benfica in the next round, which are all very winnable games for this rejuvenated side. Even AC Milan wouldn’t be a terrible draw, as Arsenal made them look very average at the Emirates, despite being trounced in Milan.
Should they stumble up against one of the other three teams, they surely have nothing to lose, and in Barcelonas case, have a score to settle with. So surely the semi-finals are not out of reach, which would ultimately be a fantastic achievement this season.
After progressing in the FA Cup, they are just one game away from Wembley, and 3 wins from taking home the trophy, one which their manager will be very fond of, after that fabulous final against Middlesbrough in the 90s.
Expect a strong, quick Leicester side at the Bridge on Sunday, but expect a weakened Chelsea team to do the job, and surely another 90 minutes for Torres to break his duck, which could definitely be pivotal for Chelseas end to the season.
Liverpool and Tottenham are both still in the FA Cup, the former looking for a domestic cup double, but their form has meandered recently, so are very beatable should they draw them in the semi finals or the final. With Everton, Sunderland, Stoke, and Bolton also in the draw, with Chelseas recent return to form, few would be shocked should they be on the Wembley turf in early May.
Despite woeful mid season Premier League form. They currently sit 3 points behind 4th place Arsenal, and just 4 behind 3rd placed Tottenham, who have experienced sudden loss of form, at a crucial time.
With 10 games to go, the gap could easily be breached. Spurs are in freefall, losing their last 3 games, and although Arsenal have won their last four, they still look far from convincing, and themselves have some tough fixtures ahead.
The next two fixtures are definitely the most important, facing Man City away, followed by Spurs at home. But, should they pick up maximum points elsewhere, they could easily afford to drop points at the Etihad, but beating Tottenham at Stamford Bridge could be vital in the run-in.
Should the above happen, and Chelsea managed to take home some silverware, battle through to the Champions League last 4, and qualify for the 2012/13 version, what would be in store for Roberto Di Matteo?
Club legend, poor start to his managerial career, but would it be worth Mr.Abramovich giving him a go at the job? Few could argue against the achievement if he did end this season well, and with the players seemingly on his side, he might just get a crack at leading Chelsea to glory, unless Roman carries on with his trigger finger, although most of his big targets seem to be ruling themselves out of the job day by day.
At the moment, it is all ifs and buts for Chelsea, although a lot of good can come from the crisis ridden campaign still, and if it does, then all this might all just get swept under the carpet.
By Brad Smith