Chelsea can’t afford to do a Liverpool tonight


Chelsea face Champions League surprise package Newcastle at Stamford Bridge tonight as sixth place takes on fifth.


By James Dickenson

Chelsea face Champions League surprise package Newcastle at Stamford Bridge this evening, as sixth place takes on fifth.

Di Matteo’s players are sure to have one eye on their F.A. Cup final against Liverpool on Saturday afternoon, not to mention their Champions League final versus Bayern Munich on the German side’s home turf on May 19.

However Chelsea can ill afford to copy their Saturday opponent’s approach to the midweek’s fixtures, that saw Fulham come to Anfield and win 1-0.

Liverpool lie in eighth, now only ahead of their West London conquerors on goal difference, and sit three points behind their eternal rivals Everton.

The Reds league campaign has been as good as over for months now, and they run the risk of ending the season without any European competition next term. Two cups will be scant consolation if this situation occurs, when you factor in the considerable outlay Kenny Daglish blew on sub-standard players in pre-season.

Chelsea are still in with a shout of Champions League football, which is fundamental to their chances of success in the future. A club used to playing in the top tier of Europe, they need to be mixing it with the best to attract star names to the Bridge.

Fans will say Chelsea can secure Champions League football next year even if they don’t finish in the top four, by winning this year’s trophy. That is quite a challenge, and no side in Europe would relish taking on the German heavyweights Chelsea face in the final, especially in Munich.

If Chelsea beat the Geordie’s tonight – quite possible considering Alan Pardew’s side were turned over in their last outing 4-0 by Wigan – and Spurs fail to win away at Bolton, then the Blues will sneak into fourth place just two points off Arsenal in third.

Barring a spectacular collapse – not out of the question with this Arsenal side – then the Gunners should finish behind United and City. That leaves three sides vying for the final CL spot. An intriguing battle between Spurs, Newcastle and Chelsea awaits.

For Chelsea, they cannot rely on beating Bayern to keep dining at European football’s top table next season, they need to secure fourth to be sure. And the form they have shown since Di Matteo took over suggests that is not unreasonable.

The Italian cannot risk fielding a weak side this evening in case they lose, and fail to make the top four, and then lose in Munich. A great start to his Chelsea managerial career would begin to unravel in front of his eyes.

Liverpool put out a second string last night and got beat at home by Fulham, who looked very impressive themselves. That result has lowered the club’s mood ahead of Saturday’s final, and further weakened their domestic league position.

Chelsea should know that it is best to go into a final with your squad brimming with confidence, and a win against Newcastle this evening would do exactly that.

So the warning is there for Di Matteo, don’t mess with your team selection and risk an embarrassing defeat like Daglish.

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