The Kings Road will no doubt be alive with a euphoric energy this afternoon. From the Chelsea songs being sung as Blues fans march in unison to Stamford Bridge to the Chelsea Brass Band that greet you in when you arrive and the face painters, balloon artists and mascots. Today will be a day of celebration for Chelsea fans everywhere. This afternoons match against Sunderland will have the feeling of an exhibition prolonging the four year wait of Chelsea players and fans, to see the Premier League trophy lifted at Stamford Bridge again.
Mondays defeat away as West Brom will be far from all Chelsea minds today as the team arrive to finish their season and collect their trophy. Since clinching the title on 5th May there has naturally been a dip in the intensity levels for which The Blue have played but Jose Mourinho will not want to be upstaged on what should be a day of great satisfaction for him and his team. Mourinho will also be quietly aware of the defeat Chelsea suffered at The Bridge last April to Sunderland which severely damaged his hopes of securing a Premier League title in his first season back in England and ended his undefeated record at home. Chelsea have not beaten The Black Cats in their last three meetings and Mourinho´s competitive nature will want to end the season with a win and a satisfied sense of revenge.
With Cesc Fabregas suspended and Brazilians Oscar and Ramires missing out through injury Stamford Bridge should see the continued transition of youngster Ruben Loftus-Cheek into the first team. Loftus-Cheek who has not looked over-awed by his presence in the starting 11 will have taken some essential experience from the defeat at West Brom and Chelsea fans everywhere will look forward to his continued presence in and around the first team next season, along with several others of The Blues successful youth team.
One man that is certain to feature today is Captain and record breaker John Terry. Today´s game and subsequent lifting of the trophy will mark the end of what will have been a very gratifying season for the 34 year old. Terry has been imperious this season in the Chelsea back four, and The Blues have an equal best defensive record in the League with Southampton having only conceded 31 goals. At the other end Terry has equaled his best goal scoring tally of 8 this season and is now the highest goal scoring defender in the history of the Premier League with 38 in his 15 seasons in the top flight. Terry will also equal Gary Pallister´s record of winning the Premier League title and playing in every minute of his team´s campaign. A remarkable feat for a defender who once “Couldn’t play twice in one week”.
Today´s match may have a hint of sadness for many Chelsea fans as it will likely see the final appearance of Chelsea legend Petr Cech. Cech has been Chelsea´s most successful goalkeeper ever and joins Sixties and Seventies goalkeeping hero Peter Bonetti in the list of Chelsea legends. Cech has won 15 trophies with The Blues and many consider him to be Chelsea´s best ever goalkeeper. How suitable it is then that he will enter to a guard of honour today and a truly deserved raptuous ovation.
Today´s opponents Sunderland arrive at the Bridge in a celebratory mood of their own after securing their survival with some great fortune and defensive heroics against Arsenal at the Emirates on Wednesday. The Black Cats secured the vital point they needed to avoid the drop. Today will mark the first return to The Bridge of Patrick Van Aarholt who despite being on the books at Chelsea for six years never made the break through into the first team. Van Aarholt has been essential to the Sunderland side this season and will return with his head held high after a successful first season in the Premiership. Van Aarholt should be joined at the back by goalkeeper Costel Pantilimon who was in inspired form to keep out the Arsenal attack on Wednesday. The Black Cats have been revitalized under Dutch Manager Dick Advocaat and will be able to play with a sense of freedom this afternoon for the first time this season.
For Chelsea players and fans however, today will mark the culmination of four years in the waiting. With the strength and success of the first team mirrored by the Youth team in winning the Youth Cup, the Under-19s winning the UEFA Youth League and the Chelsea Ladies reaching the FA Women´s Cup Final, now is a great time to be a Chelsea fan. The headline though today will be the Premier League title so for Chelsea fans everywhere, enjoy.
Contribution by Stephen Tew