Chelsea feeling blue after Champions League exit
Hailed as an unstoppable force when its Premier League title defense began with five successive wins, Chelsea is now facing the prospect of ending the season without a single trophy.
No wonder billionaire owner Roman Abramovich looked so glum at Old Trafford on Tuesday as the last realistic prospect of glory ended in the Champions League quarterfinals at Manchester United.
Chelsea could lose the Premier League trophy and FA Cup to Man United despite signing Spain striker Fernando Torres and Brazil defender David Luiz to strengthen its squad in January.
''It is disappointing always if you are part of a big club and you don't win a trophy the whole season,'' goalkeeper Petr Cech said. ''After winning a double last season everyone thought we were going to become the (best) team. We had a good start to the season and then the season became difficult. We were going well in the Champions League so far until the games against Manchester United.''
Third-place Chelsea will now focus on qualifying for next season's Champions League by finishing in the top four. Tottenham is fifth, five points behind the London club with seven rounds left to play in the season.
''Those seven games will make a big difference,'' Cech said. ''If we finish second the season will not be remembered for trophies, but it will be remembered that we finished second with our heads up ... we have to pick ourselves up and get ready for next season.''
Already 1-0 down from the first leg of the Champions League quarterfinals, Chelsea lost 2-1 at United on Tuesday and had to play the last 20 minutes with 10 men after Ramires was sent off.
Such is the shock at Chelsea's collapse that even its in-house TV station asked Cech if the changing room had been affected by the arrival of the new signings in January.
''You could see the team is together,'' Cech said. ''If you are not together and you go down to 10 men losing 1-0, the team falls apart. But we didn't do that.''
Torres is the fall guy for Chelsea's malaise, having failed to score in 11 games since joining from Liverpool for 50 million pounds (then $80 million) on the final day of the transfer window.
But it could be Carlo Ancelotti, the sixth manager of Abramovich's eight-year reign, who pays the price.
Claudio Ranieri left after the 2003-04 season having failed to mark the start of the Abramovich regime with a trophy. Previous back-to-back league titles weren't enough to save Jose Mourinho when United became champion again in 2007, the Portuguese manager leaving a month into the following season.
Mourinho's replacement, Avram Grant, was ditched after only one campaign, the Israeli leaving after losing the Champions League final to United.
Luiz Felipe Scolari, Brazil's 2002 World Cup-winning coach, had even fewer games in charge than Grant before departing in February 2009.
Guus Hiddink was a temporary appointment and couldn't be persuaded to stay despite winning the FA Cup, which Ancelotti also won along with the league title at the end of his first season in charge.
''I'm not concerned,'' Ancelotti said to questions about his future. ''I have to work and try to do my best. It is not my decision to stay or not to stay here.''