By Tim Harrison
Chelsea’s FA Cup clash with Everton at Goodison Park this weekend assumes new significance after the Blues were dumped out of the Champions League by Paris Saint-Germain, and had their table-climbing run pegged back in the Premier League by Stoke City.
Wednesday night’s disappointing exit from European football – possibly leaving the Blues with no continental distractions until the autumn of 2017 – means the FA Cup quarter-final at Everton, live on BBC1, is a must-win to have any hope of salvaging pride from a grim season.
Worse, Diego Costa and Eden Hazard limped off in midweek, hobbling gingerly down the creaky, extendable tunnel at the Bridge.
The Blues were beaten 4-2 on aggregate, with Wednesday’s Round of 16 tie in SW6 mirroring the 2-1 scoreline in PSG’s favour when the teams met in Paris.
It was an exciting, flowing night under the floodlights, with everything poised 1-1 at half-time… meaning another Chelsea goal would have forced extra time.
But it was PSG, masters of the angled cut-back pass, who scored the next goal, effectively killing the game.
The match came hard on the heels of what looked like being three more points in Chelsea’s unlikely late revival at the Bridge last weekend, until Stoke City scored a soft equaliser to disrupt the momentum of the recent surge.
Realistically Chelsea are not going to qualify for Europe by their league placing, so it appears that Roman Abramovich will have to settle for League Cup and FA Cup action next season as the team rebuilds under the Italian Antonio Conte – a manager whose limited English is unlikely to improve team communication.
Guus Hiddink’s multi-lingual skills were on display on the touchline on Wednesday, where he could clearly be heard barking ‘Mein Gott!’ to the German fourth official every time a decision went against him.
Costa was ‘not totally fit’ Hiddink admitted, though the striker did score an excellent goal.
The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and unless specifically stated are not necessarily those of the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham