After last Sunday’s 1-0 defeat at home to Liverpool, the international break will have been an unwelcome one for Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti. As his players departed around the world to play for their countries on the back of another defeat and no immediate chance to rebuild again, the Italian reunites with his players and knows their minds must focus on a crucial period of upcoming games, starting at Fulham on Monday night. Three consecutive wins had helped the Blues pull themselves back into the top four after a dismal run of three wins from 11 matches between November and January. With Manchester United slipping to their first Premier League defeat away to Wolves last weekend, fourth-placed Chelsea had the perfect opportunity to close the gap on the league leaders going into their clash with Liverpool, a chance they wasted in falling to defeat with another disappointing performance as they remained ten points behind Sir Alex Ferguson’s pace-setters.
The loss was their seventh in 25 Premier League games this season and second home beating after November’s 3-0 reverse against Sunderland. When you consider Chelsea have not lost that many matches in a full season since 2003/04 and were only beaten ten times in 120 matches under Jose Mourinho, it shows the Blues are suffering one of their worst seasons’ in recent memory. Going into the Liverpool game they already needed to win every league match in order to equal their 86-point haul that won them the Premier League title last season. Now with that defeat, they must take maximum points in order to finish on 83 points, the same total they picked up two seasons ago in finishing third. Much more likely however, with 13 league matches remaining and a possible subconscious focus on the resumption of the Champions League knockout stage, the Blues will surely drop further points between now and this seasons’ close, with a 79-point total amassed in 2003/04 likely to be rivalled as Chelsea’s worst campaign in the last seven years.
In other news, Chelsea’s versatile Serbian international defender Branislav Ivanovic has signed a contract extension, potentially allowing the player to remain at Stamford Bridge until 2016. Ivanovic, 26, was picked up by former Blues boss Avram Grant in January 2008 for around £9m from Lokomotiv Moscow and has made 99 appearances for the club, winning the Premier League last season as well as two FA Cups during his time in London.