Frequent contributor Jon Marthaler has written about virtually every sport in the Twin Cities, and fills in on Saturdays for the RandBall blog on StarTribune.com. He'll cover the professional soccer scene in the Twin Cities, whether at the Metrodome or at the National Sports Center.

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Nuclear Wessel: Chelsea aren't in crisis - yet

Posted by: Jon Marthaler under Europe, Soccer Updated: September 20, 2013 - 1:15 PM

Dana Wessel produces the Cane & Company morning show on 96.3 K-TWIN Monday-Friday 5:30am-10:00am. The show is hosted by Cane Peterson and Eric Perkins/Rena Sarigianopoulos of KARE 11. He stops by every week to tell us what to watch this weekend in the Premier League. Dana?


Welcome back to another thrilling edition of Nuclear Wessel, where you can learn more from a 1,000 word blog post than you ever learned in school. OK. That isn’t true. I just realized I haven’t slipped a Springsteen reference in one of these yet and wanted to change that. Stay in school, kids.

The table looks like this: 1. Chelsea 2. Manchester United 3. Manchester City 4. Tottenham 5. Arsenal 6. Liverpool.

Just kidding. No it doesn’t. But that would have made total sense if I asked you before the season to predict the table in Week 5, right?

The table actually looks like this: 1. Liverpool 2. Arsenal 3. Tottenham 4. Manchester City 5. Manchester United 6. Chelsea

Yes, the complete inverse of what people would have thought a month ago. I had a feeling this was going to be a wild season, and so far there has been no lack of surprises or fireworks. We deserve this after last year’s title snoozefest, when United seemingly clinched the trophy in mid-December.

Alright. No time for chit-chat. Lets get to the matches.

No. 3:  Liverpool vs Southampton at Anfield
When: Saturday at 9:00AM on NBC Sports Network
Last year: Liverpool got the money in this fixture a year ago thanks to a Daniel Agger (who could return from injury Saturday) goal in the 43rd minute.

Week five of the Premier League, and Brendan Rogers’s side are alone at the top of the table and are one of two unbeaten sides left (Everton being the other, except they have drawn three matches). We knew they’d be better than they have been the past few years, but I don’t think even the biggest Liverpool supporters predicted this kind of start.

Liverpool ran into a bit of a bump in the road midweek at Swansea in a 2-2 draw, where their weakness in the back line was on fine display. But that shouldn’t take anything away from what they have accomplished thus far, and they will have full momentum going into a very winnable match Saturday.

Now, let's talk about Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge for a minute. He has scored in all four matches so far this season, and became the first person in club history to do so. He is turning out to be a hell of a player, after being a source of frustration for Chelsea fans.

Just look at the numbers: Sturridge scored 13 goals in 63 games in a blue shirt. He has scored 14 goals in 18 games in a red shirt. Sweet!

But all Chelsea bias aside, good for him. He is a young kid, only 24, and appears to have a bright future. Despite a good loan run at Bolton, I would be lying (and so would everyone else) if I said I saw this coming.

And ya know what? As long as I am in a good mood and doling out warm fuzzies, good for Liverpool. I obviously never want them to beat Chelsea or finish ahead of them in any competition -- including a Frank Lampard vs Steven Gerrard 8-pint deep gunny sack race. (I’d pay a lot of money to see that happen. So would you. Don’t lie.) But I like to see big clubs with great histories be at the top of their game and be playing well. It just makes the league more fun and competitive as a whole.

Look for Liverpool to win Saturday and be tops of the league again next weekend as well. They can stay there for a while too -- or at least in the top four. While Chelsea, United, City, Arsenal and Spurs get beaten up during midweek European matches, they will be resting and staying healthy.

A top four finish and a return to Champions League would be massive for the Merseysiders. There is a big difference between 38 matches and four matches, but things are looking good so far.

No. 2:  Chelsea vs Fulham at Stamford Bridge
When: Saturday at 11:30AM on NBC Sports Network
Last year: Scoreless draw a year ago at the Bridge in this West London Derby.

OK, everybody. Calm down.

I know every non-Chelsea fan is rushing to call this a “crisis” and making dumb jokes about firing managers. But you know who isn’t worried? Every Chelsea fan. Look at the absolute messes this club has found themselves in the last few years. Everything will be fine. This is nothing.

Look at the last four matches that have caused this supposed crisis.

  • A scoreless draw at Old Trafford. Any team in the league (or continent) would take that scoreline.

  • A 2-2 draw (lost 5-4 on penalties) against the reigning Champions League winner Bayern Munich in the Super Cup. A strong result that showed that Chelsea (down to 10 men and nearly killed off the game 2-1) can play with the best.

  • A 1-0 loss at Goodison Park against a strong Everton side. Not a bad result. You’d hope to at least steal a point late in the match, but it is by no means the end of the world, or time to light your hair on fire.

  • A loss at home to Basel to start the group stage of Champions League. A shock loss, no doubt, I'll give anyone that. But how quickly must we forget history? Just two years ago a very similar Basel team eliminated Manchester United with a 2-1 win the 2011-12 group stage to end their 17-year streak of making it to the knockout round. Basel also tied United 3-3 at Old Trafford earlier in the group stage.  

I know everybody loves the "Excrement is raining on Chelsea, hahahah! Let's all go put some rolls of quarters in a sack and go beat up John Terry!" narrative, but let's cool it before we board up Stamford Bridge.

But if they lose Saturday to Fulham? By all means run with it.  Hell, my overly-emotional self will probably join you. But I just can’t see that happening. Fulham have only beaten Chelsea once in their last 34 meetings. The last time they won at Stamford Bridge was 1979. Yes, Fulham are desperate for a result, having won just one of their first four, but there is simply more riding on this for Chelsea.

Manager Jose Mourinho is no doubt taking his time with the team sheet. You think he is basically forced at this point to play Juan Mata, right? The Chelsea Player of the Year two years running has been wasting away on the bench and, after two straight losses, there is no time left to be stubborn, even if Jose doesn’t feel he is the best fit in his system.

Captain John Terry likely to see his return after getting the midweek match off and I guess I wouldn’t be surprised if we see Fernando Torres either. Sweet!

It will be a tense match. It always is in this one. Hoping Chelsea can grab the full three and we can table the crisis talk.

No. 1: Manchester City vs Manchester United at Etihad Stadium
When: Sunday at 10am on NBC Sports Network
Last year: Pablo Zabaleta equalizes in the 86th only for Robin van Persie to score the 3-2 winner in extra time.

Like I could possibly say anything about this match that would get you to watch it if you weren’t going to do so already. This is the big derby. It needs no introduction. Get up early, make some breakfast and watch the perfect appetizer to the Purple.

Until next week, may all your runs be overlapping and all your nines be false.

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