Chelsea had to beat Liverpool to keep top four hopes alive. Not only did they do so, but they did it in a way that raises moral ahead of a crucial week.
Over the last several weeks, Chelsea have steadily built up form. Even still, there was a sense of nervousness with Liverpool approaching. Beating Liverpool was a must, especially after losing to Tottenham Hotspur weeks ago.
Antonio Conte’s Chelsea were able to overcome Jurgen Klopp’s rampaging reds. The victory is incredibly important to Chelsea’s pursuit of Champions League football. But the manner in which it happened will be even more important ahead of one of the biggest weeks in Chelsea’s history.
The Chelsea that showed up against Liverpool was not a group of individuals. No player stood out heads and shoulders above another. It was a true team performance. Not just a pure, everyone did well type of team performance, but a blood and guts leave it all on the pitch performance that would have made the old guard of Didier Drogba, Frank Lampard, and John Terry proud.
The fashion of the victory was deeply instilled in Chelsea over a decade ago when Jose Mourinho was first Chelsea manager. “Us against the world”, the underdogs who will stifle every attack from some of the best in the world and steal away with three points.
Olivier Giroud’s run to David Luiz was a perfect example of the type of spirit the club showed. His only thought was to go to the bench and celebrate his goal with his friend and his teammates.
Then, as Chelsea were barraged at the end, they held firm. They owned the pitch at Stamford Bridge and refused to give anything to Liverpool.
It was a performance reminiscent of old. The type of game that brings a team together like no other. And that will be incredibly important as one of the most crucial weeks in club history begins.
To make it into the Champions League, Chelsea must defeat both Huddersfield and Newcastle. The more goals the better but all three points are priority one, two, and three. Chelsea are now in full on “put the pressure on” mode, for good or ill.
Step one is Huddersfield. That match begins 15 minutes before Spurs kick off against Newcastle. Chelsea need to come out on all cylinders. The Blues must know Spurs will enter the locker room at halftime and learn the score from the Chelsea/Huddersfield match. The higher the score, the more Spurs will begin to sweat even if they are winning.
Then it will be matchday 38. Assuming Chelsea beat Huddersfield (which they must), the Blues will be on 72 points. Spurs could be anywhere between 71 and 74 points as they face Leicester City. And Liverpool will remain at the 72 points they are on now as they play Brighton.
The Blues will have nothing to lose when they go to Newcastle. They will need to ride their momentum from beating Liverpool all the way through the final whistle of the season. That mentality will make both Spurs and Liverpool sweat.
This back-against-the-wall attitude can get Chelsea to where they need to be at the end of the season whilst also cranking up the pressure on a team prone to bottling and another with bigger fish to fry. Chelsea can pull this off, but only if they show the same spirit and fight as they did against Liverpool.