On May 19th this year Chelsea achieved what seemed to be the impossible dream: finally winning the Champions League having been close for many of the previous 10 seasons. The fact that they won it with probably their weakest team in those 10 seasons was even more remarkable. The fact they won it in spite of a manager who seemed hell bent on self-destruction for the first half of the campaign even more so.
No team has retained the trophy since it became the Champions League in 1992. To suggest that Chelsea can repeat their miraculous campaign of last season and win the Cup again at Wembley would seem to be border line insane. But, and it’s a big but…stranger things have happened.
Chelsea enter this campaign arguably with a team strengthened by the addition of Hazard and Oscar to add a touch of flair and class to the indomitable spirit that was largely responsible for their victory against all odds in May. However, they now do battle without Cup talisman Didier Drogba who had always been there to bang a crucial goal in and haul his side on to the next challenge. He certainly did so in the Allianz arena. He will be a big miss for Chelsea this season.
But do not underestimate the hunger of a side keen to stamp their reputation on world football by proving that winning in May was no bizarre stroke of luck, and furthermore, John Terry’s hunger will be greater than most having ‘slipped and lost the cup’ in 2008 and then through petulance and stupidity getting banned for the victorious final in 2012, he will be massively incentivised to win it this year and for him make it third time lucky. Like vampires after a first kill, I suspect that they may have the taste and will want more.
Many teams have proved that you don’t have to be the best team in the competition to win it, after all it is a cup competition over two legs and luck can play a part. Chelsea should get through what is an easier group than Man City’s, although Juventus could well prove to be a threat, and then as always it’s all about avoiding Barcelona, Man Utd and possibly Real Madrid until you get to the final.
They’ll need to focus, not be over confident against teams they should beat and show the same sheer bloody mindedness and will to win that they did last season, and then you never know. Chelsea should make it through the group stages and a realistic bet would suggest quarter finals, possibly semi. But there is one more incentive to galvanise Chelsea to a greater herculean effort. The final will be at Wembley; Chelsea has a great track record in winning trophies in that stadium, and the supporters widely refer to it as their ‘second home’. With fond memories of Wembley themselves who could bet against a Man Utd v Chelsea final? Stranger things have happened!
‘Stamford’ Chidge is a season ticket holder in Gate 17 in the Matthew Harding Upper, and presents The Chelsea Football FanCast, sponsored by Expose Designs Ltd. Check out www.chelseafancast.com and download it every week from ITunes, www.footballfancast.com or by clicking on the link on the CFCUK and CFCnet websites. Follow Stamford Chidge on twitter @DavidChidgey