LONDON: After two stunning cup triumphs, Chelsea’s focus will return to the Premier League when Roberto Di Matteo’s side resume their bid to claim a top four place at Arsenal.
Just three days after the 5-1 demolition of Tottenham in the FA Cup semi-final, Chelsea moved one step closer to a place in the Champions League final with a 1-0 victory over Barcelona in the semi-final first leg.
Di Matteo and his players will travel out to the Nou Camp next week to see if they can complete the job and unexpectedly eliminate the holders from the competition.
And they could go there having reclaimed their place in the top four if they can beat Arsenal, who currently lie third, seven points ahead of sixth placed Chelsea, and Tottenham and Newcastle both fail to win.
The revival that began when Di Matteo was installed as interim first team coach following the dismissal of Andre Villas-Boas continues to gather pace and a season that appeared to be heading towards disaster could yet be regarded as a success.
And while the prospect of lifting the Champions League trophy for the first time is clearly the dream that fires everybody at Stamford Bridge, the more pragmatic immediate target is to ensure qualification for next season’s competition.
Chelsea have lost just once in 13 games under Di Matteo and Arsenal’s recent home defeat to Wigan will fuel the Blues’ belief they can gain revenge for the 5-3 home defeat they suffered at the hands of Arsene Wenger’s side last October.
“We changed the manager and got a few good results; from that point, the confidence of the team was growing and you can see once you feel more confident the results come,” goalkeeper Petr Cech said.
“The games are coming thick and fast and we don’t really have time to think about each match.
“Almost every game is like a big final, on Saturday we play Arsenal in another massive game, before we go to Barcelona.”
Arsenal forward Gervinho, meanwhile, claims his side have third place in the Premier League sewn up.
The Gunners are five points clear of north London rivals Tottenham, who occupy fourth place, with four games remaining, while Newcastle lie fifth on goal difference.
At stake is a guaranteed place in the Champions League group stage, with the club finishing fourth entering a qualifying round.
And although Gervinho admits his team-mates are disappointed with a seventh season without a trophy, he claims they should feel proud of the way they have recovered from a dismal start to their current position.
At the end of February, Arsenal were struggling to hang on to fourth spot as they trailed third-placed Tottenham by 10 points.
“Many people didn’t think we would reach third place,” the Ivory Coast international said.
“There are five points between us and fourth place.
“There are still four matches to play and I believe we can do even better.
“I am still satisfied with our ranking because we went through so much and the team fought so hard for our place.
“We want to be among the top three. Everyone is determined to fight until the end to maintain that third place. If we manage it, everyone should be proud.
“The whole group is motivated and we are all happy to be where we are but I still think we could do better, with the four matches remaining.
“We are fighting only for third place – we don’t even think about fourth spot.” — AFP
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