By Chris Davie
Chelsea captain John Terry has labelled Tuesday’s Premier League encounter with Manchester United as a must-win for his club - but being 15 points adrift of Sir Alex Ferguson's charges, the sentiment echoed from the Stamford Bridge skipper appears to be in vain.
Carlo Ancelotti’s side had an air of distortion as the summer transfer window shut at the end of August. Michael Ballack, Deco, Juliano Belletti, Joe Cole and Ricardo Carvalho had left the club but all had played in some first-team capacity in their title-winning season last term.
Regardless, Chelsea started this season strongly, blitzing their opening five games, scoring 21 times and conceding just once. By the time November came, Ancelotti’s men had a five-point cushion over Manchester United and were widely tipped to retain their crown.
But the balance of the Premier League began to tip towards Ferguson’s side after Chelsea endured a woeful winter in which they went on a six-match run without a win.
From mid-November to their opening game of 2011, Ancelotti’s side took just seven points from a possible 27, leaving them in fifth place, nine points behind Manchester United, who at that point were yet to lose a game.
Chelsea’s form has failed to improve since and with Ferguson’s side still carving out wins from mediocre performances, Ancelotti’s men appear to have surrendered their crown.
But Terry pointed to their opponents on Tuesday night as an inspiration for his team-mates. In 1996, Manchester United overcame a 12-point deficit to overhaul Kevin Keegan’s free-scoring Newcastle United at the summit to secure the title.
And it appears Terry’s example can span further than the shores of the Premier League. Below are three infamous comebacks, which saw a club’s dip in form convert into a title-winning run.
Wolfsburg - Bundesliga, 2009
In the 2008-09 season, Felix Magath’s side were not considered title challengers after the resumption of the winter break. Wolfsburg started January after a six-week layoff with a 1-1 draw at mid-table Koln, which left them in eighth place – 11 points behind then-league-leaders Hoffenheim.
But after their stalemate, Magath guided his side to a 10-game winning run, which equalled the Bundesliga’s longest streak of victories. Their run ended with a 2-0 defeat away to Energie Cottbus, but Wolfsburg had clawed into top spot, two points ahead of Hertha Berlin.
Magath’s side won all but one of their remaining five games and clinched their first Bundesliga title, breaking another record in the process as the prolific duo of Edin Dzeko and Grafite became the first strikers to score more than 20 goals each in the Bundesliga for the same club. Dzeko scored 26, while his Brazilian team-mate notched 28.
Marseille - Ligue 1, 2010
Marseille - Ligue 1, 2010
Last Christmas appeared to spell even more prosperity for Bordeaux. Laurent Blanc’s side, buoyed from their title win the previous season, had made a flying start to the 2009-10 campaign and by the turn of the New Year, they led Ligue 1 by nine points.
But Blanc’s side capitulated dramatically after the winter break. Winning just five matches in total after resuming in January, Bordeaux slipped to an eventual sixth-placed finish, paving the way for Marseille to storm through and secure the title.
Didier Deschamps’s side were 11 points off the pace at Christmas but after the season interval, Marseille dropped just 10 points out of a possible 60, and within that time managed a seven-game winning run.
Bordeaux’s downfall was attributed to Blanc, after he had decided midway through the season to leave at the end of the term to take over the French national side.
Flamengo - Brazilian Championship, 2009
Stuck in 13th place in August 2009, 13 points behind league leaders Gremio and having played just half of their season, Flamengo’s campaign looked dead in the water.
After sacking their head coach Cuca in July, Flamengo hired Jorge Luis Andrade to steady the ship. However, the former defensive midfielder, who made over 500 appearances as a player for the club he was brought in to manage, went one better and guided his side to their sixth Brazilian National Championship.
Flamengo went on a tremendous run from late August, which saw the eventual champions lose just one game in 17 matches. The form of Dejan Petkovic was vital to the Brazilian side’s domestic success that term, as was Adriano’s.
The troubled striker agreed to end his torrid time at Inter and was snapped up by Flamengo before the season started in May. The Brazilian powerhouse finished joint-top scorer in the league that term with 19 goals and was once again knocking on the door of a national team place.
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