Chelsea won't achieve the Quadruple
(Craig Bryson 71)
(Eden Hazard 23, Filipe Luis 56, Andre Schuerrle 82)
It's the longest shot in football.
No team in England have swept the Champions League, English Premier League, League Cup and FA Cup at one go.
Chelsea are the latest English side lofted into football's stratosphere of likely men.
It's early days, but the overwhelming power they have demonstrated has already provoked the thought: Can they become the first English team to clinch the Quadruple?
With a 3-1 win over Derby County yesterday morning (Singapore time), the Blues marched into the League Cup semi-finals. Looking at the quality of opponents left in the competition, if Chelsea set their mind on winning it, the trophy's theirs to collect at the Wembley Stadium in March.
At the 16-match mark of the Premiership campaign, they are top of the table, three points clear of a Manchester City side decimated by injuries to key players.
In the Champions League, they finished top of their group at a canter, although two meetings with ultra-rich Paris Saint-Germain in the next round will push them to their limits. But, unlike Man City, they have European pedigree.
And there is an FA Cup third-round meeting with Watford to come next month, one which shouldn't give them too many sleepless nights.
Still, the tasks before them look daunting, impossible even.
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho was eager to extinguish the brouhaha before it gets out of hand.
"It was spoken that we would be unbeatable in the Premier League, we didn't do it," he said after Derby victory.
"Now it is being spoken about the Quadruple. Can we do it? No."
But it's been done before. Not in England, though.
The Lisbon Lions, the moniker given to the Celtic side of 1966/67 back in the days when television images were mostly in black-and-white, won the Scottish equivalent of the Quadruple plus the Glasgow Cup.
The closest an English Premiership outfit came to pulling it off were the Red Devils in 1999, when they won all but the League Cup.
The most recent anyone came anywhere near it were Manchester United again in the 2008/09 campaign, when they won the League Cup and Premiership double, reached the FA Cup last four and the final of the Champions League.
Chelsea look like the real deal.
There's little doubt they have qualities, both mentally and physically, that surpass all their rivals in the English top flight.
But, for all of Mourinho's meticulousness, Eden Hazard's drive and Cesc Fabregas' brilliance, they still face the whims and fancies of elements beyond their control.
Will the players' fitness hold up towards the business end of the season?
If they progress in the cup competitions, will they draw easy or tough opposition?
Then there is the question of priority.
Even if all go swimmingly well, will they continue to spread their resources across several fronts, or focus on the contests that guarantee more glamour to improve their chances of victory?
Sure, if there's any team from England who can do it, it's them.
They possess the rare combinations of physical silk and steel, tactical depth and dexterousness.
There's hardly a chink in their armour.
Match by match, Chelsea inch closer to football's Holy Grail.
But every step of the way lures them up a steeper and steeper slope on an increasingly treacherous path.
At some point, something's got to give.
Mourinho wasn't being overly cautious when he ruled out the possibility of winning the Quadruple.
He was right.
We have our feet on the ground. We can win on Monday (at Stoke) but it will be difficult. I was saying before we don’t choose competitions, we don’t choose matches, and the next match is the most important thing.
- Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho coy on the clean-sweep talk
Mcclaren: Red card killed Derby's hopes
Derby manager Steve McClaren (above) was fuming at what he felt was a wrong decision by referee Jonathan Moss to eject his defender for pulling Loic Remy inside the box. PHOTO: REUTERS
Derby manager Steve McClaren. PHOTO: ACTION IMAGES / JOHN CLIFTON
Derby could have given Chelsea more of a scare if not for the sending off of Jake Buxton with 12 minutes left of their League Cup quarter-final clash yesterday morning (Singapore time).
Derby manager Steve McClaren was fuming at what he felt was a wrong decision by referee Jonathan Moss to eject his defender for pulling Loic Remy inside the box.
"Absolutely, I have seen it quite a few times and I don't think it would have been given in the middle of the park or anywhere else," said McClaren, who suggested he may appeal the red card.
"I have discussed it with (the assistant referee) and he gave what he saw and I believe it was wrong. There was a little tussle and we couldn't believe it when Buxton was sent off.
"It was a big surprise, a big decision - a poor decision - it might not have changed the result but robbed us of the last 15 minutes after the goal."
The Premier League leaders were leading 2-1 through goals from Eden Hazard and Filipe Luis but Craig Bryson pulled a goal back before the sending-off. Andre Schuerrle then scored an 82nd-minute goal to make it a comfortable night for Jose Mourinho's side.
But McClaren felt his team, third in the Championship, proved themselves.
"I was so proud of the players," he said. "I think you saw from the team they put out they had huge respect (for us). The last 15 minutes could have been very interesting." - PA Sport.