After an encouraging couple of weeks under Roberto Di Matteo’s leadership, the past few days have seen Chelsea brought back down to earth – and could end up having a significant impact on the club’s longer-term fortunes.
Four straight wins, including that memorable victory over Napoli, had brought some smiles back to Stamford Bridge – on and off the pitch.
But we fans knew deep down that matches against Manchester City and Tottenham would be more of a test than cup ties against lower-division opposition and the home game against Stoke. And so it has proved.
The defeat in Manchester and, perhaps more crucially, the failure to beat Tottenham, have probably ended our chances of finishing in the top four.
A win over Spurs would have left us just two points behind them and poised to pounce on any more points dropped by an out-of-form side.
But a five-point gap with only eight games left to play is probably too much to overturn, especially when our own form is not great.
So it looks like fifth place could be the limit of Chelsea’s league expectations this year, which would mean a worst finish for a decade.
The Europa League next year could actually make a bit of a change – a few different away trips – but we all know it’s not where Chelsea want to be.
If the four wins had begun to spark a small clamour for Di Matteo to get the job permanently, the City and Spurs games have perhaps brought that to an end.
He’s a Chelsea man through and through and I hope he keeps a job at the club.
But will a lack of Champions League football put off potential suitors? I’d love to see Jose Mourinho back, but would he want to manage a club that isn’t in the Champions League? I’m not sure he
And if we can’t get him or somebody comparable, we could look back and feel that a 0-0 draw with Spurs – so uneventful it was featured last on Match of the Day – actually shaped the future of Chelsea for years to come.
James Clarke is the author of Moody Blues: Following the second-best team in Europe