Chelsea’s hopes of securing a second successive Premiership crown was shot dead on Saturday, after the Blues draw at the Britannia Stadium left them trailing the leaders by eleven points with a game in hand. Most Chelsea fans had resigned themselves relinquishing our title after the Liverpool game, regardless of most broadcasters maintaining the chase was still alive, but even Ancelotti focused all ambitions on Wednesday nights Champions League tie.
The biggest change from the starting line up was Bosingwa replacing Ivanovic, as the Italian normally selects a strong aerial prowess to combat Stoke’s long and direct approach, but equally surprising was his decision to leave Torres on the bench.
Ancelotti’s rotation policy was understandable considering the straightforward formality Stoke City normally present. Preceding Saturday’s game the five previous league encounters have resulted in Chelsea winning all, scoring 15 goals and conceding 2. It was also 36 years ago since Stoke last defeated the Blues, but they came close in a high tempo affair where either side could have claimed victory.
With Cech’s outstanding performance and Drogba registering on the scoresheet, Ancelotti’s decision to leave the Serbian and Spaniard seemed a stroke of genius, but Torres’s omission from the start can be considered twofold, both to preserve him for Manchester United and because he has only managed one shot on target since his arrival.
Although Liverpool fans will gloat and glorify the economical shrewdness of the selling of Torres for a British transfer record, it is clear the Chelsea faithful will be recompensed of his shortfalls by the inevitability of goal gluts. Presently, El Nino is struggling, not for form or fitness, but the one thing that comes most natural to him above all else, scoring goals.
Still searching for his first goal in seven appearances, critics have become too eager to refer to a deserted pace and unhappiness, yet the gulf of class is still evident without his goal scoring touch. His movement on the ball is gracious and awareness to create space for him and others is second to none. He even tracks back to engage the occasional dispossessing challenge, something Liverpool accused him of never doing.
The number 9 has had problems settling in, and arguably needs a full pre-season to enter the swing of things at Stamford Bridge, but to compare him to flop Chris Sutton or even Andrey Shevchenko is out of context, particularly as the Spaniard netted 65 goals in 102 league appearances for Liverpool before joining in January.
Ancelotti has already attempted to relieve the pressure by publicly stating it is not important for Torres to score. With a good rest on Saturday, and all the focus placed on our European ambitions, Carlo will hope Torres starts to ignite the Bridge in the way everyone expects him to. It’s not a case of if, but when …