Pat Nevin: Classic on the cards

Not unduly concerned about the weekend defeat, columnist and Chelsea legend Pat Nevin is anticipating one of the games of the year at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday…

 

With the winning run of home games anyone could be excused for getting a little bit complacent. Certainly outside of Chelsea most people saw the visit of Crystal Palace as being as close to a home banker as you will get. I do not however think that complacency was the case with the team or indeed the coaching staff. The play didn’t look half-hearted to me and indeed I reckon if you play that game again 50 times, Chelsea probably win it each time.

The stats all suggest the team didn’t play badly; there was plenty of possession but more importantly a plethora of good chances that would have been converted on any other day. Palace had three attempts on goal and scored two, the Blues had 10 and converted only one. A big reason for that was good defending and good goalkeeping by the visiting side. Sam Allardyce knows how to organise a side with the best of them, but even so it was luck as much as judgement that saw the points disappear towards south London.

The point is, this defeat didn’t particularly trouble me.

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If you play poorly or are out-played at home by a side near the bottom it would be a concern, but that clearly wasn’t the case. If we play that way between now and the end of the season I am very confident the necessary points needed to win the league will be garnered.

It is of course no time to panic or indeed be downcast, football is like that, strange results happen and they happen more often in the Premier League than any other top league in Europe. The problem still remains for the rest that they cannot afford it to happen to them between now and the end of the season if they are going to catch us. It was perfectly exemplified on Sunday when an off-form Arsenal came back to get a point from Man City. It was the perfect result for us and I wonder just how many Chelsea fans did exactly what I did when the Gunners equalised for the second time? Yes, I admit I jumped up and cheered at an Arsenal goal, not a very common occurrence in my lifetime I can tell you!

Antonio Conte will have learned a lot from the Palace game. There was the adaptation to allow Cesc to play which was totally understandable. He scored and played some beautiful passes but will the boss be tempted to go back to a more set 3-4-3 against City tomorrow? It is a difficult call as certainly Cesc doesn’t deserve to be left out, but it will also be on the manager's mind that a certain style has been hugely successful for the Blues this season. I personally would find it very difficult to make that call one way or the other.

The City game at the Bridge is going to be another cracker of a fixture. There is so much at stake and there is absolutely no doubt that Pep Guardiola will be sending out a team totally transfixed on winning. There isn’t a great deal of traction in them going for a dull 0-0, even if they were close to being able to play that way, which they are patently not. They need a win to stand even the slightest chance of catching us after those two dropped points at the Arsenal.

So open football, lots of chances and top-class attacking players on show mean this could be one of the games of the season at Stamford Bridge. It is an evening game as well, so it will have that extra little bit of atmosphere added, just like a Champions League knockout night. Before I go, a quick note to say the votes from last week are still being counted.