Chelsea’s 2-0 win over Stoke City on Monday ensured they would top the Premier League standings on Christmas. The Blues have been the stand-out team of the 2014-15 season and rightly deserve to sit atop the table going into the second half of what promises to be an excruciating campaign. However, how significant is the lead at Christmas.
A look back over the standings since the inception of the Premier League since 1992 shows more than half the sides in the lead ultimately finished the season off the pace.
Liverpool capitulated a certain title late last season and history suggests only the two Manchester sides and Chelsea have gone on to win the title in the past decade. Liverpool also slipped during the fine 2008-09 season under Rafa Benitez but the greatest surrender still remains the 1995-96 season when Newcastle United let go a ten point lead to United. Kevin Keegan’s side self-destructed from March and slid their way down much to the delight of Alex Ferguson’s pack of wolves.
Chelsea though remain best placed to win the title this season but there will be twists and turns till we reach May. Jose Mourinho though will have history on his side and will take inspiration from his past 7 triumphs. Never has the Special One surrendered the title while his team was top at Christmas, twice at Porto, Chelsea (first reign in the early 2000’s), Inter Milan and once at Real Madrid.
Why are Chelsea best placed: The Stamford Bridge side are running like a well-oiled machine, with hardly any flaws despite some minor glitches. The Blues have been enterprising, looked unstoppable when at full flow but what stands out has been their ability to grind out results when they haven’t even played well. Nemanja Matic has arguably been the best player in the side with his tireless work in fron of the defense while Cesc Fabregas has set the ground running since his summer move from Spain along with Diego Costa. Monday’s 2-0 win over Stoke City showed why exactly lead the standings; they weren’t at their sumptuous best, yet made it look like a routine victory at the Britannia under testing conditions. As we have seen in the past, Mourinho’s teams have been parsimonious is defense, and its well known that teams with the best defensive stats win the League.
Potential Barriers: Chelsea’s next five Premier League games against West Ham, Southampton, Tottenham, Swansea and Newcastle however look tricky and any minor slip means that Manchester City would take advantage. The Ficture-Congestion could also have a negative effect; Mourinho simply tries to win every tournament that he wins. The two-legged League Cup semi-final against Liverpool would be a serious distraction while there are FA Cup commitments besides the tricky round of 16 clash against PSG over two legs in the Champions League. One result here or there could spell disaster.
Verdict: Well, it’s too early to whether John Terry will be on the podium to lift the title in May; but who would even bet against them. Till then though, there is a lot to unfold.
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Edited By: Ankur Bhatt