Chelsea's two previous meetings with Southampton this season have resulted in a 5-1 win in the FA Cup, and a disappointing 2-2 draw in the league where they relinquished a 2-goal lead. On Saturday, they completed the set of results by losing to the south coasters, in a game that Southampton were in control of throughout. As damaging as the loss was the Chelsea's hopes of finishing in the top four, we all but expected it the moment we saw the teamsheet, which was horrifically understrength. No Hazard, no Mata, but instead, world beater Marko Marin in the XI smacked of Benitez taking the p**s.
It was obvious what he was resting our best players for; Chelsea face Manchester United on easter Monday in an FA Cup replay and Benitez, knowing damn well he won't be manager next season, was putting Chelsea's long-term interests at jeopardy for the sake of his own short-term gain. After all, if he leaves Stamford Bridge with an FA Cup and a Europa League trophy under his belt, he will crow that that was a successful tenure, despite all the abuse directed at him. But securing a Champions League place is far more important than either of those put together.
It should be noted that the last time in the league that neither Eden Hazard nor Juan Mata started for Chelsea, was a home game against QPR, which our despised west London rivals won. That result remains one of two away victories that QPR have had all season. That this is a team who remain seven points adrift from safety should give further illustration of just how colossally Benitez f**ked up the team that day; no matter how much he underestimated QPR, resting players for a derby is just asking for trouble.
And he got it just as wrong against Southampton. Ryan Bertrand has been deployed throughout the season as a left-back or a left-winger, neither with tremendous success, and he looked out of his depth again today. Marko Marin, aside from putting the corner from which John Terry scored, didn't do much right either, but the worst performance on the pitch had to go to Victor Moses, who was nothing short of abysmal. The fact that Demba Ba, who has three goals against Saints in the two games he's played for Chelsea, was an unused sub, adds fuel to fire to the conspiracy theorists who believe Benitez is doing all he can to s**t things up at the Bridge.
To pour salt into the wound, Tottenham and Arsenal, Chelsea's competition for those two remaining coveted CL spots, both recorded wins. Arsenal comfortably dispatched Reading 4-1, and Spurs won at the Liberty Stadium, thanks to goals from Jan Vertonghen and Gareth Bale, who also scored there in mid-week for Wales. Arsenal have by far the easiest remaining fixtures of the three London clubs, and, in a game that puts the 'oh dear god' into 'six-pointer', Chelsea host Spurs in mid-April. It is hard to regard this match with anything other than a monumental sense of doom. To say that Tottenham are owed some good karma at Chelsea's expense is an understatement.
Think back to the FA Cup semi-final between the two sides last year. Martin Atkinson's bizarre decision to award Chelsea's second goal - a Juan Mata shot that hit John Terry if it hit anything and certainly got nowhere near the goal - gave the west Londoners a two-goal cushion and although momentum was briefly with Spurs moments later when Bale pulled one back, they soon ran out of ideas and Chelsea ran riot, with goals from Ramires, Malouda and Lampard. The Englishman, if you remember, had Uncle 'arry going as red as a tomato when he was the benefactor of another dodgy goalline decision in the previous season, when his ball did not cross the line, but it was adjudged to, allowing Chelsea to equalise. It was this match that Salomon Kalou got the winner in stoppage time, despite replays showing he scored from an offside position. It was all too much for Harry Redknapp, who, following the game, was speechless for once.
And that is before we even touch upon the biggest injustice involving these two teams of all, one in which Redknapp himself plays a substantial part. After THAT infamous game at Loftus Road when John Terry called Anton Ferdinand those three unforgivable words, he was (quite rightly) stripped of the England captaincy. Fabio Capello was furious that the FA had gone behind his back, which begs the question of the Italian's character, when he deems allegedly sleeping with a teammate's ex worthy of removing England captaincy, but racial abuse is a-okay?
Anyway, Capello promptly resigned, leaving the England job up for grabs, and Redknapp was then the favourite for it. As a result, his head was turned and Spurs felt the brunt of all the Media attention on 'arry; in one away game at Everton, he randomly played Modric on the left, and Bale on the right, causing irate Spurs fans telling Redknapp where they thought their prized Welshman should play. As a result of Harry's tinkerings, Spurs underperformed and finished fourth below Arsenal despite having a stronger squad. And Chelsea, obviously, won the Champions League final (#incaseIhaventmentioneditbefore) and took Tottenham's CL place. So John Terry, who did not even play in the CL final, managed to (admittedly unknowingly) orchestrate Spurs losing their CL place.
A bit of a tangent, perhaps, but the point I'm making is that Chelsea have benefited from luck and various reversals of fortunes on occasions, the kind of good fortune that most really don't think should be afforded to a man like John Terry. The Englishman was responsible for Chelsea's only good feature today, a thumping header of a goal, something he specialises in. But, it seems, luck is no longer on Terry, or Chelsea's side as we go into the closing stages of the season with fixture congestion, fatigued players, and a manager who wants to sabotage the club. Squeaky Bum Time? And then some.