Saturday, March 8, 2008

Nightmare Saturday for Chelsea, UEFA Cup Spot Contenders

What a day.

For Liverpool, who are now just two points behind Chelsea for third place in the Premiership, although Chelsea have two games in hand, today couldn't be any better. Led by Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard, who have been carrying the team all year, the Reds strolled to a 3-0 win over Newcastle.

For Reading, who picked up a much-needed 2-0 victory over Manchester City and escaped the relegation zone in the process, today couldn't be any better either. The Royals now sit in 13th place in the league, which is a bit deceiving due to the small points gap between themselves and 18th place Bolton, but it's clearly a better position to be in then the one in which they came into today's match.

For a few other teams, however, today was a day they'd love to forget.

We'll start with Chelsea, who crashed out of the FA Cup in shocking fashion at now multiple giant-killers Barnsley. The FA Cup represented the last real chance for silverware for the West London club, because they're not going to win the Premiership and in my opinion are the fourth most likely team in England to win the Champions League, not even factoring in the rest of the continent. I'm not saying a third place finish in the league and deep cup/tournament runs wouldn't be respectable, but that's not acceptable to Mr. Abramovich. Avram Grant could very well be replaced in the role of manager this summer..

As refreshing as it was to see Barnsley, a lower-league side, knock off Chelsea and advance to the FA Cup Semifinals, teams like Aston Villa, Everton, Portsmouth, Manchester City, and Blackburn have to be disgusted with the way these cup competitions have gone this year. With Spurs winning the Carling Cup and no "Big Four" teams left in the FA Cup, two UEFA Cup spots (those usually given to the league's 6th and 7th place finishers) have vanished, although Portsmouth could very well make it into the UEFA Cup through their league position anyway, even though now they have to be considered the odds-on favorite to win the FA Cup.

The fight is on for 5th place in the Premiership now, and in my estimation, three teams--Aston Villa, Pompey, and Everton--have a legitimate chance to finish up the season there. Everton, of course, are currently in 5th with a five point lead on Villa and a nine point lead on Portsmouth, so it would take a poor run of games for Everton for either of those other two clubs to take that spot.

I already mentioned Liverpool's victory over Newcastle. Newcastle and losing badly seems to just go together very nicely these days..

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