Classy Chelsea overcome difficult week to look like genuine title contenders

Despite the off-field controversies surrounding John Terry and Ashley Cole, the Blues' highly impressive performance against Norwich City shows that they can mount a real challenge
By Chris Teale

All eyes were on Chelsea after a turbulent week off the field, with their critics trying to find any way to increase the pressure.

That they responded with a 4-1 demolition of Norwich City at Stamford Bridge shows that, despite any lingering problems, this Blues side are possible Premier League winners.

Things had not looked so rosy for the Blues early in the game, as Grant Holt gave the Canaries an early lead, and, at that stage, the pressure seemed to be mounting further on the home side.

This swift strike came after a week that saw the Football Association release a 63-page report detailing their guilty verdict against John Terry for his use of racist language towards Anton Ferdinand.

Chelsea 4-1 Norwich City: Impressive Blues come from behind to go four points clear
Di Matteo confirms disciplinary action for Cole over foul-mouthed Tweet to FA
The same day that the report was released, left-back Ashley Cole tweeted his displeasure at the written verdict, which calls into question his account of events, with his place in the England squad thought to be at risk after his expletive-sprinkled outburst.

However, after Holt set the cat amongst the pigeons, the Blues roared back with three goals in 17 minutes before half-time, including a header from Fernando Torres that levelled the scores.

They continue to be inspired by the play of Juan Mata, whose two assists against the Canaries took his tally to five in as many domestic matches.

This provision for his team-mates, coupled with four goals, shows that the Spaniard is at the very top of his game right now and presents a tremendous threat every time he goes forward.

Mata is joined in a stunning attacking quartet by Eden Hazard, Oscar and Torres, with even the Spanish No.9 beginning to find the sort of form that made him so feared by Premier League defences while at Liverpool.

They look a terrifying prospect going forward and, despite the potential four-game suspension of their captain, subject to any appeal, the Blues' defence should be more than capable of coping with his absence.

What is unclear is the immediate future of Cole, who will now face the consequences of his ill-advised outburst on Friday.

11/4 Chelsea are 11/4 with William Hill to win the Premier League title
In his press conference after the game, manager Roberto Di Matteo confirmed that Cole will be disciplined for his conduct, as off-field problems still linger for the Blues.

The Italian acknowledged that the England man "apologised unreservedly" for his angry message but the action to be taken against him means that there remain issues to be addressed in the squad despite their unbeaten Premier League start.

The potential consequences for Cole, however, should not detract from this performance from Chelsea, or their title aspirations.

With an attacking verve that has taken them ahead of champions Manchester City by four points, Blues fans can be confident, even at this early stage.

A big test awaits in their next Premier League game, as they face Tottenham at White Hart Lane, another side who have looked highly impressive this season and have aspirations for Champions League qualification.

That Andre Villas-Boas is, of course, the man in the Spurs dugout this term adds another layer to that encounter, with the Portuguese likely to be desperate to get one over the side with whom he spent eight unhappy months last season.

However, on the basis of this performance and their recent displays, the Blues should be very hopeful about the future and safe in the knowledge that any off-field problems should be resolved very soon.

Follow Chris Teale on