In 2012 Chelsea FC were ranked by Forbes as the seventh richest football club in the world and Roman Abramovich (club owner) the 68th richest person in the ‘known universe’ with an estimated fortune of £8.4 billion – nice!
Since buying the club in 2003, Chelsea have won nine trophies including the UEFA Champions League in 2012, the Premier League 3 times, the FA Cup 4 times – including a 2010 league and FA Cup double – and the League Cup twice. Only Manchester United have won more honours during that time and it’s a haul that Sunderland cannot even match in their 133-year history.
So, if you assume that Chelsea fans must be the happiest in the land with their Roman Empire – then think again! Despite being an assured and obscenely successful businessman, Abramovich made the bizarre decision to sack club legend, Roberto di Matteo and appoint Rafael Benitez as his new manager – cue boos, mildly amusing protest banners and angst on the fans bulletin boards.
If things aren’t rosy off the pitch, then they are little better on it. Their disgraceful handling of the recent Mark Clattenburg racism accusation demonstrated an admirable ability to make a bad situation worse. This has been compounded by Chelsea experiencing their worst start to a season in eight years with no victories from their last seven-league games; and Benitez only claiming two points from a possible nine – with the holders being dumped out of the Champions League for good measure.
In true football manager style, Benitez has countered his critics by claiming the squad he inherited is too small to mount a serious challenge for major honours. He may have a point, given the club had previously released 24 players on loan this season including Essien, Lukaka, and Benayoun. However, before you start feeling sorry for Chelsea its worth noting that he can still call on the services of world-class players such as Cole, Hazard, Mata, Torres and the old war-horse Terry – when he is available following injuries, bans and suspensions for racism.
Another Chelsea pensioner is Frank Lampard, who is determined to get his goal tally into double figures for the 10th successive season before Help the Aged cart him away. Messer’s Johnson, Colback, Vaughan, McClean, Larsson and Cattermole please take note – midfielders are allowed to score goals…
However, if Chelsea fans feel sorry for themselves then they have nothing on seasoned masochists like the Red & White Army who have endured 13 defeats in the last 14 meetings against Chel-ski and have only seen two wins in the last 22 league games. Niall Quinn described this as a “A self-inflicted travesty” following Sunderland’s 2-1 defeat to Norwich – despite dominating the second half, hitting the post and Kilgallon missing a virtual open goal from two yards.
The age-old problem for Sunderland is scoring goals because defensively they have only conceded 18 which compares favourably to relegation rivals such as QPR and Reading (both 27), Southampton (32), Wigan (28) and Aston Villa (23). Unfortunately, Chelsea do not offer easy pickings and with trips to Manchester United, home clashes against Manchester City and Tottenham between Christmas and New Year and a game at Anfield being the first fixture in 2013 – it will only get harder; much harder.
Although he will never need protecting from his own fans, Abramovich has access to a 40 person “private army“, making him one of the best-protected businessmen in the world. Ellis Short and Martin O’Neill have no such insurance and let’s hope that the Black Cats still have one of their nine lives left when the transfer window swings open in January.
Match Prediction: Draw
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