By Chris Myson
Luis Suarez’s second-half equaliser cost Chelsea two points and left them trailing Manchester United and Manchester City in the Premier League table, but it is another incident at Stamford Bridge that could prove to have greater implications for the Blues’ title challenge.
The Uruguayan collided with Chelsea captain John Terry, who had earlier headed in the opening goal, leaving the defender writhing in pain on the ground before being stretchered from the pitch.
The 31-year-old, who was just returning to the side after serving a four-match suspension from the Football Association for racially abusing Anton Ferdinand last year, will undergo a scan on Monday to assess the damage, with the results likely to have a key impact on the rest of the season for Roberto Di Matteo’s side.
Terry, who has retired from international duty with England, certainly has his limitations as a player and has declined physically from the peaks we have seen in years gone by.
But without him, it is going to be difficult for Chelsea to produce a serious challenge to win the Premier League, which is why they will be desperate for good news from the medical department on their skipper.
Di Matteo’s men have started the season impressively and remain right in contention at the top of the table. They are just three points adrift despite a poor run of just two points from three league games since they beat Tottenham in October – a spell where Terry was out of the side.
This may be a young and vibrant Chelsea team, with their attacking midfield trio of Juan Mata, Oscar and Eden Hazard amongst the best on show anywhere in Europe.
But for all their creativity and talent, this new Chelsea side are lacking know-how, players who have delivered over the course of a long league season. Without Terry’s influence, experience and leadership over the long and vital winter months could be catastrophic.
On a weekend where United – the standard bearers of the Premier League era – and current champions City showed they have what it takes to be champions, harsher critics would suggest Chelsea lacked that against Liverpool in the second half of their 1-1 draw.
Didier Drogba is still a regular visitor to Stamford Bridge but his days leading the line are gone, Frank Lampard is injured and even if fit, is no longer an automatic starter, while Ashley Cole’s long-term future remains uncertain. At this time as much as ever, they need Terry, one of the surviving members of the old guard, to be a constant presence.
Speaking after the game, Di Matteo made it clear just how highly he considers the importance of Terry to be for his side’s success.
“He is an old fashioned defender with his quality and experience,” the manager told reporters. “He’s very influential in our side and certainly we miss him when he’s not in the team.
“He’s got a problem with his knee and will have to have an MRI scan which will tell us exactly the extent of the injury. It’s a shame because he’d just got back from his ban as well.
“When a player like John reacts like that you know it is a painful one. It was a real shame he had to come off. It was great to see him back and leading the team out and we just hope it is not serious.”
Gary Cahill, David Luiz and Branislav Ivanovic are all capable stoppers in their own right, but, without Terry, the Chelsea defence can have an uncertain look about it.
In the seven league games Terry has played this season, the Blues are undefeated and have conceded just six goals. In the four games he has missed, they have conceded six times and dropped five points.
Di Matteo had luck on his side at times in the early stages of his managerial career at Stamford Bridge and he will be hoping his fortune is good again when it comes to the fate of his captain.
Whether it is big game against Manchester City in a fortnight or looking further ahead at the crucial busy festive period, he cannot afford to be without his captain if his side are to sustain a lasting domestic challenge.
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