Manchester City have a bit of a reputation for not being able to defend a Premier League title, but no one could have imagined Jose Mourinho and his defending champions would be so far behind their rivals before the end of September.
Regrettably for Mourinho, that is exactly what has happened, and a huge gap has opened up between Chelsea and City, with only four games gone. One of said games saw City hammer Chelsea, and the Blues looked so far removed from the title winners of last term it was hard for their fans to take.
Now, with the news that Thibaut Courtois is out for ‘a long time’ according to Mourinho, Chelsea fans are fearing the worst domestically and rightly so.
Obviously the jokes about allowing Petr Cech to leave for Arsenal are bound to come, but in Asmir Begovic the club have an adequate replacement – in fact, they have a better number two than most sides have a number one.
That being said, as Mourinho claimed, to lose the best keeper in the league, and arguably the world, is a huge blow no matter who you are.
For Chelsea right now, it is catastrophic.
Their defence is unsettled and looks to be a few yards off the pace (a pretty generous assessment when it comes to Branislav Ivanovic), and to lose someone who digs them out of the many holes they find themselves in cannot be good.
The back four must now stop giving away penalties – not that it was ideal before, but with Courtois in goal, you always felt Chelsea stood a chance – and have to have the protection from the midfield duo they’ve been lacking so badly this term.
Begovic was Chelsea’s best player against City, yet the Blues still lost 3-0. It is not just the goalkeeper who determines the results, and for now, the club have a couple of players who have really pulled their weight – and the rest have been abject.
Eden Hazard and Diego Costa look like Tesco Value versions of themselves, and the less said about Cesc Fabregas and Nemanja Matic the better.
Praying for City to drop points is one thing, but quite if Chelsea can even get eight points to claw it back is another. The way their team is playing at the minute, they certainly won’t.
That being said, the Blues still have an abundance of quality in the team – Pedro was a brilliant addition, has taken to life at the club like a duck to water and looks the real deal.
Even Radamel Falcao showed what he could do against Crystal Palace, although the goal mattered little come the full time whistle.
Chelsea have class in their side and they have one of the best managers out there.
A manager who has not yet won the Champions League with the club, and claimed when he re-joined for a second time that in his third year, when the final was at his old stomping ground, the San Siro, people should expect Chelsea to be there.
On paper their group looks easy enough to navigate through – although their travel time will hit them hard – and even if the club come second, Mourinho loves to remind people that’s when he is at his best and has won it both times after said occurrence.
Last term, Chelsea topped their group, drew PSG and crashed out with an abject performance. That cannot happen again.
They secured domestic dominance with the treble last season – this year they have to make headway in Europe and Mourinho will want to make his first final with the club.
It could be the last chance for John Terry to actually cover himself in glory in a final as well, instead of being the penalty villain, or even less desirably, the suspended skipper turned full kit wanker.
No team have ever retained the Champions League, and Barcelona will be very aware of that. Chelsea, when they are on top form, are a match for anyone in Europe, no matter who they are.
Ironically, the Blues look more like a cup team this season – and incapable of actually turning it on consistently enough to win a league title. That being said, there have only been four games played, but usually they tell you enough.
They did last term – for Chelsea and City, and will probably do so again this time out.
The stage is set for Chelsea this term – and by Christmas, they might not even need to worry about their domestic obligations in terms of the league, leaving them free for a clear run in Europe.
However, as Chelsea fans know only too well, investing so heavily in a cup competition can come back to haunt you if the decisions don’t go your way. Ghost goals, scandals of Stamford Bridge and penalty shootouts have all punished the west London club in the past – and there is nothing to say it won’t happen again.
Luck plays a huge part in the Champions League, and Mourinho could well be better off hoping he is the Lucky One, not the Special One this season if his side want to make their mark on European football.