Chelsea’s match against Brighton may have seemed like something of a sideshow compared to the festival going on up the road at Tottenham’s new ground, but their 3-0 victory could prove to be just as important in the race for the top four and for the future of their manager Maurizio Sarri.
Jose Mourinho has enjoyed some remarkable days at Stamford Bridge — in fact it took him 78 matches to even lose a game there as manager — but as he returns to west London with struggling Manchester United today, he will be aware of some pretty painful memories, not least two sackings after poor performances at a ground he once called home.
Antonio Conte’s damning and withering verdict of Chelsea’s performance as they threw away two points against West Ham has left even more question marks hanging over his future - with any hope of Champions League football next season now looking forlorn.
Chelsea produced the kind of attacking performance in Europe that Manchester United fans were screaming for 24 hours earlier, but found centurion Lionel Messi was still too good for them, as they lost 3-0 in the Nou Camp in what was the harshest of Champions League lessons.
Eden Hazard scored twice as Chelsea battled to a 3-3 draw with Roma to stay top of Champions League Group C. Chelsea had surrendered a two-goal lead to trail 3-2 with 20 minutes remaining after former Manchester City striker Edin Dzeko’s quick-fire double.
Antonio Conte could never be accused of overhyping Chelsea’s chances of retaining their Premier League title, but the manager’s reaction to Saturday’s defeat at Crystal Palace only underlined the scale of the task confronting the defending champions.
They are supposed to be embroiled in yet another ‘crisis’ at Stamford Bridge, but a dramatic victory over London rivals Tottenham at Wembley, inspired by two-goal Marcos Alonso, showed pretty emphatically that the Chelsea spirit is very much alive, even in the post-John Terry era.
If there was any tension remaining in the title race — and let’s be honest there wasn’t a lot — Chelsea’s comfortable victory over Middlesbrough has seen it totally evaporate and opened up an opportunity for Antonio Conte’s side to be crowned champions at West Brom on Friday before rivals Tottenham even kick a ball again.
Chelsea have dealt Tottenham Hotspur a second painful blow in the space of four days as they followed an FA Cup semi-final victory over their rivals with a Deigo Costa-inspired 4-2 win against Southampton which extends their lead at the top of the Premier League to seven points.