Bridge BanterL Liverpool win does not mask how far they have slipped
Can you avenge an FA Cup defeat with a league win? I’m not convinced.
The weekend’s victory for Chelsea at Wembley was special, while Tuesday night’s 4-1 defeat at Anfield was a footnote.
Blues captain John Terry and his deputy Frank Lampard stood together and hoisted the trophy aloft under the big arch – answering critics who had written off Chelsea just two months earlier.
A team of old men in an era of transition. Last-gaspers being whittled down by a manager younger than many of those he was coaching.
Then Andre Villas-Boas, the new broom, was swept away himself by an old guard who felt they had more to give.
Saturday’s cup final vindicated JT, Lamps, Petr Cech and Didier Drogba, who all believed the patient was being operated on before he had been put in the ambulance.
The Wembley win came against a club that still imagines itself to be ‘top six’, though statistics such as the 34-point league gulf between Liverpool and the top two suggest otherwise.
Four FA Cups in six years underlines Chelsea’s love affair with the big-eared trophy, but also emphasises how serious the Reds’ dip has been since winning the 2005 Champions League.
Liverpool have crumbled as a Premier League and European force, and Chelsea have to learn from that when the delayed, but inevitable, team reconstruction finally takes place at Stamford Bridge.
Worryingly for Liverpool, slumbering rivals Manchester City, Tottenham and Newcastle have woken to join Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal as serious challengers. Even Everton could be above their Merseyside rivals following Sunday’s final matches.
The Blues will parade the FA Cup round Stamford Bridge after relegated Blackburn do their best to spoil the party.
The pressure is off both sides, with Chelsea (as at Anfield) resting the Munich hopefuls to avoid risk of injury.
European glory is potentially just a week away.