Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Chelsea - Inter 16.03.2010

Without trying to making a hyperbolic statement, Chelsea's Champions League clash with Inter on Tuesday threatens to be the Blues' biggest game of the season.

The elusive trophy, that the west London side were a John Terry slipped penalty away from in 2008, would be the final piece in a silverware jigsaw that makes up the Stamford Bridge trophy cabinet.

And fate dictates that it should be Jose Mourinho - the former king of Stamford Bridge - who should stand in Chelsea's way of another crack at Holy Grail of the Champions League.

Mourinho's Inter side carry a lead 2-1 from the first leg of this round-of-16 clash to his former stomping ground and will be keen to remind Chelsea fans he remains the 'Special One' - while at the same time trying to mastermind a first Italian capture of the trophy since 2007.

Inter have never lifted the Champions League trophy, since its re-branding in 1992, and an aggregate victory on Tuesday night would take the bullish Portuguese manager one step closer to winning the cup the Nerazzurri last claimed in 1965 when it was the European Cup.

The first leg victory for Inter exposed woeful cracks in a previously tight Chelsea defense, with John Terry looking a shadow of his former self, and since then Chelsea have stumbled domestically, losing handsomely to Manchester City before beating weak West Ham and Stoke sides less-than-convincingly.

Those results seem to have handed the initiative back to Manchester United in the Premier League, but Blues fans would walk the Premier League trophy to Old Trafford if it meant getting a hand on the European Cup.

Taking the cup back to west London would be validation for Roman Abramovich's millions poured into the club over the past few years, but losing out to their arrogant former boss will be hard to swallow.



Third-choice goalkeeper Ross Turnbull will face the biggest test of his career when he lines up to face Inter, thanks to injuries to Petr Cech and Henrique Hilario. Turnbull was between the sticks for the 4-1 win over West Ham at the weekend and his only Champions League experience to date is a 2-2 draw with Greek minnows Apoel Nicosia.

There is better news for Blues manager Carlo Ancelotti in defense, where Ricardo Carvalho returns following a hamstring staring. Ancelotti has no fresh injury doubts elsewhere, with Michael Essien (knee), Ashley Cole (ankle), Jose Bosingwa (knee) all still sidelined for the Stamford Bridge return leg.

Last starting XI (v West Ham): Turnbull, Ferreira, Terry, Alex, Ivanovic, Malouda, Lampard, Mikel, Ballack, Drogba, Anelka.


Striker Mario Balotelli hasn't traveled with the team to London, although quite why remains a mystery to the temperamental Italian's agent. "I don't know why he has not been called up. I will find out," Mino Raiola vowed.

Meanwhile, Julio Cesar was involved in a minor car accident over the weekend but is expected to be fit to take his place in goal.

Defender Cristian Chivu is out with a fractured skull and David Santon has a knee problem, so Javier Zanetti will line up on the left side of defense.

Last starting XI (v Catania): Cesar, Maicon, Lucio, Materazzi, Zanetti, Stankovic, Cambiasso, Mariga, Sneijder, Milito, Eto'o.


Chelsea's desperation to win the Champions League should see the Blues come out of the blocks strongly, roared on by a vociferous Stamford Bridge crowd. But Jose Mourinho is a man who knows what it's like to lift the trophy - having done so in 2004 with Porto - and also knows Chelsea almost as well a current boss Carlo Ancelotti does.

Chelsea's home record is impressive, but Inter know they have a simple task - stop the Blues, and more accurately Dider Drogba, from scoring and the tie is theirs.

It will be close, and it will be fiercely fought, but fortune seems to favor the Italians on this occasion.

source: goal.com

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