Chelsea’s best performance for years is enough to beat Barcelona

Chelsea beat Barcelona 1-0 to give them an excellent chance of qualifying for the Champions League final but it is still a tough task.

Di Matteo has now won 10 of his 13 games in charge of Chelsea

First things first, Barcelona were not at their best and even though they weren’t at their best they still dominated the game and possibly should have won the game. They had numerous chances to work Petr Cech who did pull off a few wonderful saves but on the whole they just missed chances, hitting the woodwork and missing guilt edged opportunities. In particular the Cesc Fabregas chance which was brilliantly cleared off the line by Ashley Cole, but in all honesty should have been a goal and Fabregas should never have given Cole the chance to hack it away.

Onto Chelsea and what has on a whole been quite disappointing, it was  a very good performance by them and the goal they now take to the Nou Camp should give them at least a lift and a bit of confidence. Roberto Di Matteo should be getting praised for what he has done because under Villas Boas the team from London were going out of the Champions League and may have not got as far as they have done in the FA Cup. His team selection turned out to be perfect, choosing Didier Drogba instead of Fernando Torres. This was a very big decision and in the end it made the difference with Drogba scoring the only goal of the game. He may have split opinion on his performance with him at times looking very strong and powerful with the Barcelona defence struggling to cope with him then at other times flopping to the floor at the slightest touch. With a lot of controversy about diving at the minute Drogba didn’t do anything to help the situation but in his defence the opposition players were doing very similar things and maybe it was just a little more embarrassing to watch him do it because of his size. However, I thought he had a decent game and held the ball up well and allowed his team to push out at times, he also took his goal brilliantly.

The defence deserves the most praise out of everyone and that includes John Obi Mikel who was fantastic and sat in the back four cutting out a lot of the little through balls that Barcelona like to play. He did give away a few free kicks in dangerous areas but he kept possession well when he had it and nullified the threat of the oppositions attacking players. In the centre of defence John Terry had arguably one of his best performances for a number of years but man of the match for me was Gary Cahill, for a player to play the way he did just a few months after being in a relegation threatened side was unbelievable. I think Cahill is good but I have said it before that he struggles when a striker has clever movement. He dealt with Lionel Messi better than most this season and even when his team were under pressure he bailed them out with a last ditch tackle or block.

It must have been a fantastic night for the Chelsea fans but they and the team know this tie is not over and it will be a lot more difficult in the away leg but at least they have something to hold onto. There is far more optimism that they will be in the final now than there was when the draw was made.

Have Chelsea moved on since Jose Mourinho left?

Chelsea have secured their place in the Champions League semi final after a hard fought victory against Benfica.

This victory sets up a game against the best team in the world and their players know that they will have to perform better than they did over these two legs. The away performance was very good for a European game, nicking an away goal and keeping a clean sheet, you cannot ask for anymore than that but the worrying thing was the home game. Chelsea took the lead after Ashley Cole was brought down in the box to win a penalty which Frank Lampard scored and this should have really allowed the English team to push on and win the game comfortably but somehow they let Benfica back into the game and maybe this was down to complacency as they may have felt, like most did, that the y were in the semi final. Even when Benfica were reduced to ten men they still didn’t really dominate the game like they should have done and allowed the Portuguese team back in the game as they conceded an equaliser on the night and possibly a crucial away goal.

The most worrying thing for Chelsea is that they were outplayed and outclassed for much of the game and no offence to Benfica but if they can do that then Barcelona will destroy them. Yes people will say the older more experienced players got them through but I also believe that they are part of the problem, most of these players played under Jose Mourinho where one goal was usually enough and they never tried to force the game after they took a lead. I think that the likes of Lampard and Terry are still in this mould of thinking and that’s why they sat deep and tried to soak up the pressure, but the team isn’t good enough to do that anymore and these players need to wake up as it has cost them multiple times this season especially at home. Stamford Bridge isn’t the fortress it used to be and teams have proven that if you attack Chelsea they will fold a lot easier than they did in the past.

Mourinho still in the heads of the Chelsea players

Looking forward to the semi final and I believe that everyone will expect Barcelona to win and this could play into Chelsea’s hands as they will be underdogs and AC Milan proved that if you remain solid and break quickly on the counter, you can cause the Barca defence problems. It took two penalties from Lionel Messi to effectively the end the contest at the Nou Camp and if Chelsea remain resilient and disciplined they do actually have a chance of beating them.

Didier Drogba has to be a starter for me as he could dominate the backline and will hold up the ball effectively which alleviate the pressure that will be on the defence for most of the game. However, Fernando Torres may start and this could be the opportunity he needs to live up to his price tag and make him a Chelsea hero.