At least we now have a clarity of focus. We're out of the cups, we can't get to Wembley this year, we can't take the banner down. We have one clear target: fourth place, and it's still in our hands. The final twelve game stretch - precisely one quarter of this 48 game season - is left in front of us. And where better to start it than the hardest game in any season: Chelsea away?
Our record at Stamford Bridge is beyond terrible. We haven't scored there in our last seven visits. Our last goal there was a Paul Dickov consolation in a 2-1 loss in December 2000. And our last win there? 1-0 in December 1983, in the old second Division, before most of our players were born. This, combined with Chelsea's home record this season - 12 wins and one draw - make for some fairly bad omens. And rightly so - we're almost certainly going to lose.
But we could still have some fun: and I don't just mean in watching Vincent Kompany and Nigel de Jong clatter the former England captain at every opportunity. I mean that Chelsea had an exhausting game on Wednesday, and while we obviously had a similar experience, we do have Carlos Tévez and Adam Johnson completely fresh, as well as de Jong - who had such a good game against Chelsea at Eastlands. Throw in that John Terry is in his worst form for years, that Florent Malouda might play left back, and with Hilário in goal and I am backing us to end our goal drought.
I imagine Tévez will lead the line - as he did in his best spell for City - in a 4-5-1 with Adam Johnson on one wing and Shaun Wright-Phillips on the other. The midfield will be Nigel de Jong, Gareth Barry and whichever of Vincent Kompany and Pablo Zabaleta will be least missed in defence. Kompany was excellent on Wednesday but I'd rather he was up against Drogba and Anelka than Nedum Onuoha so I'd move him back and keep Zab in the middle.
In terms of a game plan I think we'll put men behind the ball and defend deep. We risk inviting Chelsea onto us so we will have to hope Joleon Lescott was watching Lúcio's Drogba-taming masterclass on Wednesday. But it is possible that Johnson, Tévez and SWP will be able to get in behind Chelsea's ponderous back four and cause some problems. In fact, Craig Bellamy's pace might be useful even if he did play 120 energy-sapping minutes in mid-week. I don't think it will work - at home, Chelsea always find a way, and I don't think we will be able to contain Drogba, Anelka and Lampard for ninety minutes. But I'm not convinced we'll get smashed either. So I'm predicting a decent performance and a 2-1 or 3-1 defeat.