Twelve months ago, we gathered at Stamford Bridge (and TV screens around the world) to salute the Champions of England.
Chelsea's boys in blue lapped up the applause. Plaudits rolled in from all corners of the media, some willingly, some begrudgingly, and we all looked forward to the start of something Special. This was going the be the first of a new generation. The birth of the next dynasty (as much as we can have dynasties in the modern Premier League). Ten years of Mourinho. The Old Guard fading out, the New Guard fading in, the Academy churning out England internationals, titles and trophies and medals and rainbows and unicorns and chocolate candy mountains.
"It's emotional. I hope my old fans are happy with me."
-Claudio Ranieri; source: Sky
Today, we also gather at Stamford Bridge (and TV screens around the world) to salute the Champions of England. Whilst these boys wear blue on most days, too, on Sunday they will be wearing their away whites. They will be lead by a former Chelsea manager through the Chelsea Guard of Honor. They will lap up the applause and attentions will turn to just how well they can follow up this miracle of all miracles title win. Will they be a one-season wonder or are they about to conquer Europe, too? Probably somewhere in between.
And so, a tumultuous twelve months comes to a close for Chelsea. Not one for the record books (at least not in a positive sense); certainly not one to remember for anything other than a cautionary tale.
The next twelve shall be better.
Date / Time: Sunday, May 15, 2016, 15:00 GMT; 10am EDT; 7:30pm IST
Venue: Stamford Bridge, SW6
Referee: Craig Pawson — fifth ever Chelsea game for Mr. Pawson, third this year (we've won both of the other two: Norwich (H) and Scunthorpe in the FA Cup).
Forecast: Dry, mostly overcast; not quite springy spring and certainly nowhere near summer.
On TV: none (UK); CNBC, Telemundo (USA); Star Sports 1 (India); elsewhere
Streaming online: NBC Sports Live Extra, NBC Deportes En Vivo Extra (USA); Star Sports (India); Chelsea TV (radio, int'l)
Chelsea team news: Diego Costa (hamstring), John Terry (suspension), Kurt Zouma (ACL), Loïc Rémy (figment of our imagination) are all set to miss the finale. JT will no doubt be around after the game for some applause in what could be his final time at Stamford Bridge as a player.
Thibaut Courtois is back from illness, while Branislav Ivanovic should be back from the minor strain that kept him out midweek. Of course there's no reason to risk anybody at this stage, but Hiddink seemingly wants to give the usual suspects one final runout in his final match in charge, so expect age and experience before youth and beauty.
I say we go two up top with Falcao and Mikel.
View from the enemy: Fosse Posse (new blog alert!)
Leicester City team news: PARTY TIME! EXCELLENT!
Championship Sunday: Much to TV companies' chagrins, most everything has been decided already. Leicester are champions. Newcastle, Norwich, and Aston Villa are going down. Manchester United could still pip neighbors City to fourth spot, but it would require a shock result in Swansea for the Citizens. Further down the table, Liverpool could still finish as high as 6th, while Chelsea vie for that all-important 9th place.
As per new tradition, NBC will show all games live on TV across its whole network of stations. I'm not sure what the situation is elsewhere, but here's how NBC will line up for their heavily promoted Championship Sunday coverage (heavy enough in fact that friends who have zero knowledge of or interest in soccer have been texting me about it all day). All kick-offs at 3pm local (10am EDT), with a three-hour post-match/post-season show to follow on NBCSN.
CNBC: Chelsea vs. Leicester City
NBC: Swansea City vs. Manchester City
USA: Newcastle United vs. Tottenham Hotspur
SYFY: Arsenal vs. Aston Villa
NBCSN: Manchester United vs. AFC Bournemouth
MSNBC: West Ham United vs. Liverool
BRAVO: Stoke City vs. West Ham
E!: Southampton vs. Crystal Palace
ESQUIRE: Everton vs. Norwich City
OXYGEN: Watford vs. Sunderland