Chelsea slumped to a potentially costly defeat away to Crystal Palace this afternoon, with a John Terry own goal dealing a near fatal blow to their title aspirations.
The Blues came into the match on the back of a fabulous 6-0 win at home to rivals Arsenal, and they were expected to inflict a similar scoreline on a relegation threatened Palace, increasing their lead at the top of the league to four points before Manchester City and Liverpool faced tricky fixtures later this weekend.
But now Jose Mourinho’s side face the prospect of dropping to third if their two title rivals earn wins. The manner of the defeat was reminiscent to the loss at Aston Villa only two games previously, with Chelsea going a goal down, and being unable to break through a stubborn rearguard, despite the gulf in quality between them and the opposition.
But this should take nothing away from their two respective opponents, with both Villa, and Crystal Palace today showing more than enough quality going forward not to be branded with the ‘park the boss’ cliche.
Here are three key talking points from Chelsea’s loss to Palace:
1. Fernando Torres actually hinders his side
The trials and tribulations of the now 30-year-old Spaniard have been well publicised during his stay at Stamford Bridge, but it is now glaringly obvious that Torres is no longer a danger for Chelsea up front; and today, there were times where he was actually detrimental to the Blues as they chased the game.
Torres’ passing was woeful, his touch non-existent, and in front of goal, he was as accurate as a piglet throwing feathers at a dart-board.
The worst incident came near the end of the game, when Torres was gifted the ball via a sloppy bit of play from the Palace defence. Effectively through on goal, the ‘striker’ turned and punted the ball over the top of Speroni’s goal.
It was Chelsea’s last chance of the 90, and Torres personally shouldn’t be afforded many more.
2. Midfield still an issue for Mourinho
When Chelsea signed Nemanja Matic in January, many thought that would be the end of the problems in the centre of midfield for Mourinho. Powerful, imposing, and as we saw with the shot against Manchester United, surely able to be Frank Lampard’s successor.
This is not the case, as in the game against Palace, Matic’s passing was uninspired, and his shooting left much to be desired. When without both David Luiz and Lampard for the best part of 30 minutes, Matic alone was charged with providing the ammunition from the centre, and he failed miserably.
It is clear that he needs a more technically gifted midfielder next to him, and the search for the perfect Chelsea midfield will surely start up again this summer.
3. Stop Hazard. Stop Chelsea?
Chelsea’s Belgian wizard has been one of the standout players this season in the Premier League, and he remains the Blues’ best attacking outlet. His slaloming runs from the wing and confidence to get at defenders has arguably been a key reason for Chelsea’s rise to the top spots of the league this season.
But Crystal Palace effectively stifled the youngster in the 1-0 win, with their aggression and sheer drive leaving Hazard little or no room in which to manoeuvre.
The Blues were unable to unlock the Palace defence, with Pulis’ Stoke days influencing his team makeup. It proved very effective against a toothless Chelsea outfit, and by smothering Hazard, Palace were able to relieve their opponents of their most dangerous weapon.
What do you think or the defeat? Can Chelsea recover? Let me know in the comments below…