Amongst all the Champions League and FA Cup excitement, Chelsea supporters could be forgiven for forgetting that the club is involved in a hugely competitive battle for fourth place. Victory in the Champions League final cannot be relied on, and the Blues know that qualifying for next season’s competition is a must.
Wednesday night’s match against Newcastle at Stamford Bridge is a six-pointer, pure and simple. If the Blues beat their North East rivals it will be a three-way race between the, Arsenal and Tottenham for third and fourth place; if the home side lose, the Premier League season is virtually over.
For both sides this match’s importance would have been unthinkable at the beginning of the season. It would have taken an extremely optimistic Magpie to believe they would still be in the hunt for Champions League football in May. As for Chelsea, most at the club would have been expecting them not necessarily to have won the league, but to at least still be in competition for it.
As it’s turned out, in terms of the league at least, Newcastle have had a fantastic season, while Chelsea have had a terrible one.
Newcastle, who had been on a fantastic run of six league wins in a row, were embarrassed away to Wigan at weekend and will be desperate recover quickly but there probably couldn’t be a worse time to play Chelsea.
Notably, strikers Didier Drogba and Fernando Torres are each in their best periods of the season and, generally, the whole team will likely still be in high spirits from the making the Champions League Final. Although David Luiz and Gary Cahill are still injured, Branislav Ivanovic will return to the centre of defence, following his three-game suspension.
Newcastle will come to Stamford Bridge with confidence, though. They got a 2-2 draw this time last year when they were a significantly more average side.
Although Chelsea are in high spirits, there is more pressure on them than their opposition – it was expected that they would finish in the top four. For Newcastle, although they will have gotten their hopes up now, it would be a delightful bonus.
When the sides met in December Chelsea triumphed 3-0 over the Magpies. They should have the ability to beat them tonight once more.