The rain may have held off, but Crystal Palace and out-tactic-ing Sam Allardyce managed to rain on Chelsea’s title parade anyway with a shock 2-1 win at Stamford Bridge on Saturday, consigning Antonio Conte to his first home loss in seven months. The previous loss, by the same scoreline to Liverpool, was part of a back-to-back sequence of losses that famously led to Conte hitting the tactics reset button, instituting a three-man defence and leading the team to an historic run of wins that has helped establish our current lead at the top of the table. The losses to Liverpool and Palace may have read the same on the scoreboard, but the similarities stop there.
“This defeat is totally different if you compare with the Liverpool defeat, or the Arsenal defeat, because now I think we were another team and we are a strong team.”
“Saturday for sure was not our day because we created a lot of chances to score a goal and we dominated the game, and when you lose this type of game in your mind you try to answer a lot of questions but it is very difficult to find the right one for this result.”
“Our performance was good but I don’t want to use this word unlucky because I don’t like this word. I think we at least deserved to draw the game but I know football very well and sometimes it can happen this type of game.”
Chelsea’s lead at the top of the table remains a sizable seven points, but it was ten before the weekend, and the shrinking gap has caused some concern. Conte of course has maintained that the league was not quite over yet all along, so for him, it’s just another day in the office.
“There is big pressure but it is normal when you are in a great club and you are very good.”
“When you are lucky enough to fight for the title there is the pressure but not only for us, for a lot of teams. Don’t forget, the other teams were candidates to win the title but instead we stay top of the table and we try to keep this position. If we were able keep this position it means that we deserve this.”
“This league wasn’t finished before Saturday’s game and it is not finished now. There are nine games to play and we have to think step by step and at the end if we deserve to win the title I will be very happy. If someone else deserves to win the title it means they were better than us.”
The next step then is Manchester City at home, under the Wednesday night lights. Like many midweek games over the years, this will be a massive occasion, even if at the end of the day it’s just one of 38 games during the season.
“It is another game, I don’t know if it is the perfect team for us. I know that Manchester City started the season to win the title and they are a really strong squad, but it is right to think about ourselves and to face it game by game. In England there does not exist an easy game and the game is very tough if the name of your opposition team is City or another team.”
-Antonio Conte; source: Chelsea FC
Palace’s unlikely win showed once again that we can take nothing for granted and anything can happen in football. Wednesday night’s match may not be a must-win, and the seven-point gap allows still for a couple slip-ups, but three points against a direct title-rival would restore the confidence that may have been sapped by Saturday’s bad luck.