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Will Semi-Final Lead To Reality Check?

Eton Blue at the Chelsea Megastore

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Funny how Fabio Capello chose Anfield for a glimpse or two (latterly three) of English talent in preference to a short trip to the Bridge to watch four of our qualified players. Why? Well, I suppose the all-English affair was one in name alone, because the Gunners have long since given up on unpredictable, overpriced, technically naïve home grown footballers who, even under Arsene’s expert guidance, wouldn’t have a clue as to how to play a continental style of game. Likewise Rafa, not averse to pinching tactics and calling them his own, spotted deficiencies in the opposition defence when the twin threat of Drogba and Anelka tore them apart a few weeks back and applied the self same principle [English Route One to a twin strike force] to great effect.

In short, Fabio got to see first hand what the English game is all about, not by watching us doing what we should be doing [he knows under Avram it happens only once in a blue moon], but by watching a cunning Spaniard pinch the idea and with it demolish Arsene’s continental football over the course of ninety minutes. Success for the away team, especially with Walcott playing a belatedly major part, would have been a nice style-over-substance result for an Italian keen to find early justification for his own European makeover on the England team. It didn’t quite work out that way, but it wont make one jot of difference to his belief in his own judgement.

The irony, as far as we are concerned for the Champions League semi-final, is that Liverpool are unlikely to play the same way against us in the first leg at Anfield, for fear of banging their heads against a brick wall, whereas we would probably be best served by going for it ourselves with Drogba and Anelka, yet we know it ain’t gonna happen. As Greavsie once famously said, it’s a funny old game, and, unless you are an innovative coach, old habits die hard within it. So, the quarter finals in themselves really told us nothing we didn’t know already - Benitez has a reputation for producing winning tactics in Europe and Avram doesn’t yet have a reputation for producing anything much at all. Things must change for Chelsea to reach a CL Final this time around, whether accompanied by large helpings of luck along the way or not.

Frankly, I’d like to think that there is some sense of dissatisfaction buried deep in the British psyche that sees another Liverpool appearance in the final as a backward step, especially when they continue to be [deliberate?] also-rans in the race for their own league title. Alright, it obviously doesn’t surface when they beat a team that is far more aesthetically pleasing than their own and it probably wont when we try to plough through the ingratiating guff surrounding one of their ‘special nights‘, but I for one just couldn’t bear the hacks sinking their teeth into the mouth-watering prospect of a North-West of England Champions League Final, Burger-it.

Rightly or wrongly, Capello may be portrayed as pragmatic, Benitez more pliant and Avram more plank-ish, but somebody, somewhere in the Media please show some sense of perspective, if not some mercy, and start shouting from the rooftops that, after three semi-final failures, an appearance in the CL Final is now the very least Chelsea deserves. Go on, change a habit of a lifetime, before our youth team arrives on the scene and forcibly drags some apologies out of you all.

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