Sunday, December 14, 2008

No. 5: Chelsea

The Blues were the runner-ups of both England and Europe to Manchester United last year. On one hand, Chelsea figures to be back in the hunt for both with new coach Big Phil Scolari, he of the World Cup win with Brazil, boat loads of cash and the deepest roster in the world.

On the other, last year really should have been Chelsea's year. They had all the pieces, all the right players in their prime, and came up one PK and one Premiership draw from hoisting two major trophies. Could they crank it up again so soon to that level?

The answer? A definitive maybe. Chelsea sits a point behind Liverpool atop the table near the halfway point of the Premier League season. But their goal differential is quite incredible. Chelsea has a +29 for the season, scoring a league-high 36 and allowing a league-low seven. When the Blues are right, they are no question the best team in the league.

In the Champions League, Chelsea hasn't had quite the same success. The Blues made it tougher on themselves by finishing second behind Roma in their Group, thanks to a 3-1 loss in Italy and 0-0 draw at Cluj. Those two results don't inspire confidence that Chelsea would be able to beat a Barcelona or a Bayern Munich if they meet in the Round of 16.

Why they are here: They have the most talent in Europe - period. Drogba, Anelka, Deco, Ballack, Ashley Cole, Joe Cole, Lampard, Malouda, Alex, Terry, Belletti, Kalou, Carvalho, Cech. It's an all-star team all one side.

Why they won't be here in May: Didier Drogba scored a beautiful goal against Cluj, which gave hope that his season-long fitness and out-of-form spell might be over. But he only came on as a late sub. Anelka, the Prem's leading scorer, has been terrific, but the team needs Drogba to take the pressure off.

1. Manchester United
2. Barcelona
3. Liverpool
4. Bayern Munich
5. Chelsea

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