And then there was one. There has been much debate about the relative standard, or lack of, in the Premier League this season but perhaps the biggest indication of the decline in performance comes from the fact that Chelsea are the last man standing in European competition this year.
The Manchester clubs floundered and Arsenal flattered to deceive and quite how Chelsea made it this far with all the upheaval at Stamford Bridge this term is anyone’s guess.
But with a storming comeback against Napoli in the last 16, coming from 3-1 down to win 5-4 on aggregate, the old guard at Chelsea who let the sacked Andre Villas-Boas down so badly pulled out the stops to give themselves one last shot at Champions League redemption.
It has been the holy grail of Roman Abramovich since his takeover in 2003 and you have to feel that although the Russian owner will have a few more opportunities to win Europe’s top prize, the likes of Didier Drogba, Frank Lampard et al are in the last-chance saloon.
That is something interim boss Roberto di Matteo should use to his advantage, although he should approach the rest of the competition with caution.
Di Matteo announced that he was ‘pleased’ with a Champions League quarter-final draw that saw Chelsea avoid the favourites and land Portuguese giants Benfica, but the Italian might be far from satisfied with the outcome at Estadio da Luz on Tuesday.
The Blues would have been relieved to steer clear of the brilliant trio of Bayern Munich, Real Madrid and, of course, Barcelona but the Londoners underestimate Benfica at their peril.
Chelsea are yet to win in four Champions League trips this season, being held at Valencia and Genk and losing at Bayer Leverkusen and Napoli.
Bwin make the Portuguese side the favourites to win the first leg at 27/20, with the draw at 9/4 and Chelsea at 39/20, and I think the odds compilers have got that about right.
For starters, despite an improvement after the sacking of Villas-Boas, there are still problems at Chelsea that Di Matteo has yet to address. The biggest concern remains their away form, which has been poor for some time: the Blues have won only one of the last six on the road, an FA Cup replay at Championship Birmingham, and lost four of their last five away from Stamford Bridge.
Their European away form isn’t much better – they are yet to win in four Champions League trips this season, being held at Valencia and Genk and losing at Bayer Leverkusen and Napoli.
And looking at the anaemic display at home to Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday, I think they could well struggle at the cauldron known to English fans as the Stadium of Light.
Jorge Jesus’ side have won 12 of their last 13 games at home, scoring a very healthy 35 goals in the process, and seem to have some extra motivation in the shape of Drogba, who is said to have mocked Benfica in a video on the club’s official website after the draw was initially made.
Jesus has reminded Drogba that Benfica have already done for Manchester United and that Sporting Lisbon beat Manchester City in the Europa League, suggesting the strength of the teams at the top in Portugal this season should not be underestimated.
I’m not going to make that mistake and I like the 27/20 that Benfica take a lead back to London in a week’s time.
I would also have a play on the Benfica half-time/full-time double result at 27/10. Benfica have scored a higher percentage of their total goals in the first half than anyone in the Champions League this season (67%) and can strike early once again.
Recommended bet: Benfica to beat Chelsea @ 27/20
Outside punt: Benfica to be winning at half-time and full-time @ 27/10
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