Chelsea can take a large step in the direction of the Double tonight by beating Bolton Wanderers, which would be the first time the Pensioners had achieved such a feat and the first club to do so since Arsenal in 2002. It seems the fates are with them as Manchester United could not get past a dogged Blackburn Rovers side on Sunday, drawing 0-0 and ceding the advantage to Chelsea. Sir Alex Ferguson admitted that they had the advantage, which is high praise indeed coming from a man who would not freely give up the correct time of day unless under severe duress.
The fact that they remain on course for this unique achievement is mainly due to the curious performance of referee Howard Webb in their 3-1 semi-final victory over Aston Villa at the weekend. In any other match the chances are that Jon Obi Mikel would have been sent off for dragging back Gaby Agbonlahor in the box and Villa awarded a penalty after 15 minutes; it is also not beyond the realm of possibility to speculate that any official witnessing John Terry’s attempted amputation of James Milner right leg, ironically dubbed a ‘tackle’ by the watching wags from the sporting press, might have been moved to mete out a harsher punishment than the reluctant, retrospective yellow. Seeing as they also had cause to bemoan Nejmander Vidic escaping a similar punishment in the League Cup Final earlier in the season, maybe Martin O’Neill shouldn’t have parked his car under that ladder, after accidentally dropping a mirror onto a black cat earlier in the day.
Villa themselves maintain their increasingly forlorn chase for 4th place entertaining Everton on Wednesday night, who themselves are starting to salivate over the thought of catching a spluttering Liverpool like a recently released prisoner might when confronted with a tender sirloin; Wigan Athletic entertain, although that feels like the wrong word to describe this fixture, Portsmouth, unlikely but welcome FA Cup Finalists who had the chutzpah to begin an appeal to FIFA this week on the grounds that they be let into the Europa League next season for reaching the Cup Final. It’s the footballing equivalent of Harold Shipman reapplying for his Doctor’s license. They’ll be lucky if the Coca Cola Championship let them in next season but every neutral will be hoping they spoil the Chelsea coronation on May 15th.
There is also the trifling matter of the North London Derby where Arsenal, who are creeping up on Chelsea and Manchester United like Ninjas, visit Tottenham, who are chasing the unwarranted riches of 4th place and a spot in the Champions League qualifiers; for possibly the most vital derby in recent seasons, the build-up has been decidedly low-key. That ends at 8pm on Wednesday Night in N7 with the potential for more explosive mayhem than could possibly be provided by the alumni of the nearby former Finsbury Park Mosque.