Chelsea supporters, Blues players, Rafa Benitez, Roman Abramovich: how long will it be until everybody is put out of their misery?
Not long, if you believe the massive gamble on Benitez to be the next Premier League manager to leave his post that happened yesterday, but even if the notoriously inaccurate snowball of ‘next manager to go’ bets proves to be just that, it is hard to see the former Liverpool boss lasting the season at Stamford Bridge.
The abuse that was hurled his way from the crowd when he made his home debut against Manchester City in November was nasty and hostile, and if anything, it is getting worse.
As the insults rained down on Benitez throughout the 90 minutes of the 2-2 draw with League One Brentford in the FA Cup, the Spaniard must have been wondering why he is putting up with it.
He can’t be enjoying himself and as trophy after trophy slips from his grasp – the only reason he took on what was always going to be a tough gig – the whole experience is going to do more damage to Benitez than just sitting at home with his feet up.
Chants of ‘you don’t know what you’re doing’ towards a man with such a decorated CV might seem churlish, but that is the feeling of the fans and it is not going to change.
Granted, Benitez has long mastered the art of the truly bizarre substitution and his refusal to bring on Demba Ba when trailing at Brentford on Sunday seemed like the actions of a stubborn man obtusely sticking to his guns.
But it was the performance at Griffin Park that would worry Blues fans the most.
You might say that, unlike Tottenham and Liverpool on the same day, at least Chelsea didn’t get knocked out, but they probably deserved to and coming off the back of the inexcusably anaemic display at Swansea in midweek – you would never have guessed that Chelsea needed two goals to reach a major final – it makes you wonder if the players are really with the manager, as they appeared to be a few weeks ago.
I think not, and with the crowd most definitely not with Benitez, I see a bumpy road for Chelsea from now until May.
The next bump in that road will, in my opinion, come at Reading, who have risen from the dead in recent weeks to put themselves back into the pack at the bottom of the table and I think they can get a result against Chelsea at the Madejski Stadium.
Well, put it this way, would you be backing Chelsea at 9/20? Exactly: a much more tempting bet is a combination of a Reading win (25/4) and the draw (31/10).
That is priced up at 7/4, which is a great price on Reading to avoid defeat, especially for new bwin customers using their free £20 bet, with winnings of £55 potentially on offer.
After looking doomed a few weeks ago, the Royals are suddenly in the survival mix again and for the first time all season they are in fine form.
Brain McDermott’s side have won four games on the bounce and even if two of those were in the FA Cup against League One opponents (Crawley and Sheffield United), they dispatched those teams by an aggregate scoreline of 7-1 and there is no doubt that Reading are playing well.
In fact, their battering at home to Arsenal looks as though it has been a turning point in Reading’s season. Since that 5-2 loss, Reading were mightily unfortunate to lose their next game at Manchester City and have lost just one of the subsequent seven games, away at Tottenham.
The Royals have taken ten points from the last 15 available and are now just a point off safety. They are scoring goals, too, hitting 13 in the last five, and I like that price on them getting a result against Chelsea.
Reading are unbeaten in four home games, winning the last three, and having seen the last two Chelsea away games, at 7/4 McDermott’s side can extend that to run to five matches.