Chelsea return to the Bridge on Saturday as they desperately look for something to cling to in the run in. The Blues’ final chance of a trophy disappeared on Saturday at Everton, leaving them little to play for. Can they produce an unlikely, and possibly unwanted, Europa League push with a victory at home to high flying rivals West Ham?
The term transition period is often overused in football, but it feels very apt here. Not for the players, but for the fans. Chelsea under Roman Abramovich have been many things, but they’ve always been contenders. 2010-11 was the closest they had come to a dull run in, but even then they had a late push for the title. These next two months will be most redundant in the Abramovich era so far.
Getting used to two months of football with no stakes will be a massive transition for the Chelsea fans. Many of them would have seen the club in worse shape, but that was some time ago. Luckily, they have a game against some pretty bitter rivals to ease the shift in focus. Those rivals come to town with much loftier ambitions than Chelsea currently have.
In an extra blow to Blues fans, they face a West Ham side who are having a great year. They’re in the top five, and they’d move fourth with a win here. The Hammers made it into the draw for the FA Cup semis, with a replay against Man United to come.
Opposing West Ham will be the driving force here, as the fans search for something to care about. That’s unlikely to be the Europa League, given the July start date for the sixth placed side. It could be that we see a very different Chelsea side over the next few games, with Guus Hiddink completely free to include young talent.
Giving a few young stars a run out would help galvanise some support, as it would feel like the team is building towards something. Giving fringe players experience could help going forward, but is Hiddink worried about going forward? He’s already said he’s gone in the summer. He’ll want to leave with the best record possible, now that the trophies are gone. He could end up playing a full strength team.
John Terry should return for the Blues, which will likely push out youngster Kenedy. Eden Hazard is a doubt after he missed out last weekend, while Diego Costa is suspended. He could be set for a long suspension too, which may give Bertrand Traore a run in the side. He’s certainly proved himself worthy.
Whatever team starts, it’s easy to see them lacking motivation. The great shame is the swansong for John Terry will be a slow, uninteresting run of meaningless games. Hopefully they can be followed by a big summer, to avoid this scenario happening again in 12 months’ time but we won’t be banking on it.
LCN Verdict: 1-1 draw