The Blues kept the battle for Champions League football interesting with a crucial victory against Jurgen Klopp’s men on Sunday
Legendary boxing announcer Michael Buffer introduced Chelsea’s must-win match against Liverpool with his famous “Let’s get ready to rumble!” catchphrase – and it seemed to rouse some new fight into the Blues as they defeated Liverpool at Stamford Bridge.
It was Olivier Giroud who delivered the sucker-punch, heading home in the 32nd minute against the run of play to keep Chelsea’s slim hopes of making it into the top four alive.
Chelsea have fallen short of expectations all season but they may still be able to sneak into the Champions League if they win their remaining two matches and either Tottenham lose one of theirs or Liverpool slip up at home to Brighton.
The Blues do have an FA Cup final to come but it would be nothing more than a consolation prize. Winning trophies is important, but Champions League football is unnegotiable.
Antonio Rudiger had already described the game as a must-win one for the club, while Antonio Conte reiterated that only three points would do against the Champions League finalists.
We know we must try to win every match now until the end of the season if we want to have a chance of fighting for a place in the top four on the last day,” the manager stated.
The dressing room knew what was required as they lined up against the league’s most lethal marksman, and a former player, in Mohamed Salah. However, Rudiger kept the man who has scored 43 goals in all competitions under control all game.
And on the day after boxer Tony Bellew all but ended the career of David Haye in a high-profile heavyweight fight in London, Salah and Co. failed to deliver a knockout blow in the capital that would have crushed Chelsea’s hopes this term.
Rudiger’s fine display is something that fans have come accustomed to this season, but Tiemoue Bakayoko put in his first good performance of 2018. A stunning piece of skill in the lead up to the goal was his standout moment.
Tottenham’s shock defeat to West Brom on Saturday made it even more reason to celebrate the result for the west London club.
Chelsea, Liverpool and Spurs are now likely to be battling it out on the 38th match day for two spots in Europe’s elite competition but it is the Blues who remain underdogs.
A win against Huddersfield on Wednesday can get Chelsea level on points with Liverpool, but their inferior goal difference means they would almost certainly need a favour from Brighton to get in ahead of the Merseyside club.
Meanwhile, Spurs have a two point cushion and also a superior goal difference over Chelsea, but will be looking over their shoulder with two more games to play. They have Newcastle and Leicester City to play at home.
A season without a top four finish would be nothing short of a failure, even with an FA Cup win, but there is renewed hope as Chelsea refuse to throw in the towel