Mar 18, 2014, 6:42 PM EDT
Chelsea’s domineering display against Galatasaray on Tuesday night proved Jose Mourinho’s men are the real deal in the UEFA Champions League.
Relentless pressure in midfield, clever counter-attacks and clinical finishing all played out in front of a yet another stingy defensive display.
The West London club are likely to be the Premier League’s only representatives in the last eight of the UCL, (barring a valiant fightback from Manchester United against Olympiakos on Wednesday) so they’ll be flying the St. George’s flag in Europe for the rest of the season.
But how long will that be for? Here are three reasons why Chelsea can go all the way and lift the ‘big eared’ trophy in Lisbon on May 24.
- Solid defense
Chelsea have only conceded four goals in eight UCL matches this season, and have kept five clean sheets. With John Terry and Gary Cahill marshaling central defense, Petr Cech racking up 100 appearances in the UCL, plus Cesar Azpilicueta and Branislav Ivanovic steady and dependable at full back, many of Europe’s best offensive sides will struggle to break down the ‘Blue curtain’. We all know Mourinho loves a 1-0 win and to rub it in the faces of his opposition, there will be plenty of that as Terry and co. throw themselves in front of crosses and shots until their little hearts are content. Add in the fact that Chelsea have now conceded they won’t be an expansive, glitzy side just yet, and they will play to their strengths to beat Europe’s elite. Solid defense, with clinical finishing, that should be the plan.
- Experienced players leading the way
In any walk of life, experience goes a long way. As we mentioned, Cech has 100 UCL appearances to his name, Frank Lampard has 73, then John Terry has 99 and the list goes on and on. Against Galatasaray Samuel Eto’o scored his 30th Champions League goal, just the 14th player to reach that milestone, and all of this adds up to giving Chelsea the edge when it really matters.
Of course having too much experience (a.k.a. oldsters who are struggling to get around the pitch) won’t work, but the Blues have a great mix of youngsters who are contributing and learning from their veteran leaders. Eden Hazard, Oscar and Willian augment the experienced core around them, as most of these players have “been there, done that” in the UCL and lifted the trophy before. That counts for an awful lot in the last eight and beyond.
- The ‘Mou factor’
Love him, hate him… we all know Chelsea’s manager Jose Mourinho is a born winner. The man who has already won two Champions League titles in two different countries (with FC Porto and Inter Milan) is eager to add a third to his collection, with many believing he’d prefer a UCL crown over the PL title. Regardless, Mourinho will set up his team to annoy opponents and pounce on the counter to devastating effect. This is the environment where the ‘Special One’ earns his corn and sets himself above the rest. With a large squad challenging for two titles, he will have to be a master of alternating lineups and using certain players only in Europe or the PL exclusively. Rallying calls aren’t really his thing anymore, so it would seem, and with a strong core of leaders Mourinho doesn’t have to give vast monologues of tactical instructions in the locker room to get his point across.
Instead it’s the finer details, as Jose knows better than anyone, which push you over the finishing line to win a UCL crown. Chelsea have a long way to go until a second UCL title arrives in West London, but with Jose on board, I like their odds of getting through two more rounds and at least reaching the final in Lisbon. In Jose’s homeland of Portugal, he may become the first manager in history to win the UEFA Champions League with three different teams from three different countries. That’s the ‘Mou factor’.
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