Red Devils alert as Chelsea whip Maribor 6-0 win
(Loic Remy 13, Didier Drogba 23-pen, John Terry 31, Mitja Viler 54-og, Eden Hazard 77-pen, 90)
What Chelsea do to the Premier League, they continue to do to the Champions League.
Now, more than ever, it is clear that they are contenders for both titles.
Maribor were put to the sword at Stamford Bridge yesterday morning (Singapore time), thrashed with six of the best.
Pity poor Manchester United, who face them this Sunday. It's not inconceivable that they might suffer the same fate.
Louis van Gaal would have noted with a shudder that this was not even Chelsea's strongest side.
Jose Mourinho had insisted before the game that he would not field a weakened team ahead of the that clash, nor was he the sort of manager who rested players.
Nevertheless, in came Petr Cech, Kurt Zouma and Filipe Luis for Thibaut Courtois, Gary Cahill and Cesar Azpilicueta. Loic Remy continued to deputise for Diego Costa, whose hamstrings are frayed by serious overuse.
And what difference did all the changes make to Chelsea's winning ways? Absolutely nothing.
Maribor were no slouches. Having taken a point from Schalke and another from Sporting Lisbon, they arrived in London with no reason to be fearful.
While coach Ante Sumundza took the entirely sensible decision to play a right back in front of a right back in an effort to contain Eden Hazard, and played with minimal distance between the deepest defender and the most advanced striker, the Slovenian side were not timid and they countered with more ambition than some might have expected.
At least until a blue storm broke through their ranks.
Chelsea were patient in possession, almost faintly amused by their opponents and their efforts in attack.
They moved the ball around the pitch steadily, looking to stretch their guests and then pounce.
It didn't take long for the deadlock to be broken.
Moving up the pitch, John Terry won the ball and then delivered it perfectly up the field for Remy.
The former QPR striker made some room, edged away from the defenders and then sent the ball zipping into the bottom corner.
The only negative - Remy injured himself in the process and was replaced by Didier Drogba soon afterwards.
That turned out to be as much of a negative for Maribor as it was for Chelsea.
Midway through the first half, Ales Mertlj handled the ball in the penalty area.
Drogba, whose last goal for Chelsea just happened to win the Champions League, stepped up and smashed the ball home. The Ivorian's powers are fading, but he can still hit the back of the net from 12 yards.
The game was ended after just half an hour with a goal that encapsulated Chelsea's work rate.
When a Maribor corner broke down, Eden Hazard was able to break. But, instead of charging blindly down the field, the Belgian playmaker took his time and allowed Cesc Fabregas to run outside him.
Hazard's simple ball allowed the Spaniard to hit a low cross into the six-yard box where Terry, who had run the length of the field, was there to convert.
Chelsea are a team packed with technically brilliant footballers, but that is not the reason they win so many games.
Their desire is what marks them out above other sides.
Even in the last five minutes, with the game long since secured, Chelsea hurled themselves into the path of goalbound shots.
They didn't let up after the break, still sweeping across the pitch in relentless waves.
An own-goal by Mitja Viler, after some elegant footwork from Luis in the build-up, made it 4-0 on 54 minutes.
Maribor had the opportunity to grab a goal back in the second half from the penalty spot, but Agim Ibraimi hit the post.
Chelsea demonstrated how it was supposed to be done with 13 minutes to go, Hazard rolling the third spot-kick of the night home, before adding another for good luck in the final minute.
Mourinho felt able to withdraw Fabregas on the hour, replacing him with promising 19-year-old Nathan Ake.
Oscar followed soon after, giving the highly rated Dominic Solanke, 17, his senior debut.
Chelsea go into the weekend fresh-legged, bright-eyed and full of confidence.
Man United, you have been warned.
“We don’t cry on injuries... We just think one injury means an opportunity for somebody else. We will prepare the game Thursday, Friday, Saturday to try to be at our best against an opponent which we respect very, very much.”
- Chelsea manager Mourinho unfazed at taking on Man United on Sunday without injured pair Diego Costa and Loic Remy, after the latter suffered a groin problem against Maribor