Chelsea stand on verge of Premier League coronation
Chelsea are on the cusp of claiming the English Premier League for the fourth time in a decade. It will be Jose Mourinho's third crown with the club.
It's set up for the flourish. Chelsea host Crystal Palace on 3 May at Stamford Bridge and victory will bring them the title for the first time since 2010.
It will be their fifth English championship and Jose Mourinho will have overseen three of them.
He styled himself "Special One" when he took over at Stamford Bridge a decade ago and guided them to crowns in 2005 and 2006.
If his side clinches the title on Sunday in front of the faithful, then he can choose his monikers.
Chelsea have been at the top of the tree since the early stages of the Premier League season.
They pulled away, were reined back in by Manchester City, edged away again and as the west Londoners confront their 35th game of the season, they stand on 80 points 13 ahead of the defending champions Manchester City.
Only Arsenal can catch Chelsea. And for that to happen, the north Londoners will have to rely on a spectacular meltdown from Mourinho's men and also win all of their games.
Following a 0-0 draw at the Emirates on 26 April, the Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger conceded that it would be difficult to stop the procession.
The Arsenal fans bated the Chelsea players with chants of "boring, boring Chelsea".
Mourinho responded to the taunts from fans who last tasted title glory in 2004 in his acerbically assured way.
“You support a club and you’re waiting, waiting, waiting for so many years without a Premier League title, so that’s very boring. But maybe they aren’t singing at us. Maybe, when you’re the home side and you want to win a game but you take your No9 off with six minutes remaining … maybe the home fans want to see Danny Welbeck and Olivier Giroud up front together."
Then the Portuguese rolled out the realities - particularly grim for the Arsenal fans.
Chelsea have the second-best attack behind Manchester City and as they go into their 35th game, they have the division's meanest defence. Skipper John Terry and his cohorts of Gary Cahill, Branislav Ivanovic, Kurt Zouma and Cesar Azpilicueta have conceded 27 times in 34 games.
Of course, Crystal Palace could spoil the party. Leicester City threatened to do so on Wednesday night. They went in at half-time leading 1-0 following Marc Albrighton's goal in stoppage time.
Chelsea came out and scored three goals. Veteran striker Didier Drogba rolled back the years to level after 48 minutes. Terry stabbed in the second 11 minutes from time and Ramires swept home the third after 83 minutes to extinguish any hopes of a Leicester City team who had won their previous four Premier League games.
The legendary Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson famously described the title run-in as squeaky bum time.
Sides seemingly on the verge of glory have lost the plot. Newcastle United under Kevin Keegan back in the 1990s is a glorious example of implosion under pressure.
For any examples of how not to proceed, a peer at the French first division should be instructive. When Marseille hosted Paris Saint-Germain for 'le classique' at the Velodrome on 5 April, the southerners were one of three teams separated by two points tussling for the title.
Marseille lost the game 3-2 and until their victory at Metz on 1 May, they had gone down to Bordeaux, Nantes and Lorient. Appalling Aprils do occur.
Mourinho's men by contrast eked out single goal wins in April against Hull City (3-2), Queens Park Rangers (1-0) and Manchester United (1-0) before the goalless draw against Arsenal.
The two-goal winning margin against Leicester City on 28 April appears flamboyant by comparison.
The Special One's fan club won't mind it one bit, if it's 1-0 or 2-1 to Chelsea against Palace. Mourinho's philosophy over the years has majestically expounded one main point: it's about the points.
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