Chelsea needs helping hand in Champions League
A season after spirit and good fortune swept Chelsea to an
unlikely Champions League title, the defending champions will be
relying on those same qualities to avoid an unprecedented
elimination on Wednesday.
Chelsea must win at home against FC Nordsjaelland and hope
Juventus loses at already-qualified Shakhtar Donetsk if the English
team is to avoid becoming the first reigning champion to exit at
the group stage.
The odds are stacked against Chelsea, especially considering its
woeful form under Rafa Benitez since he came in as interim manager
to replace the popular Roberto Di Matteo two weeks ago.
”I don’t think it (would be) a miracle,” Benitez said. ”We
have to do our job and wait for the other teams.”
Chelsea is without a victory in Benitez’s three matches and the
Spaniard’s pragmatic, defensive style of play hasn’t endeared him
to the Chelsea fans who are unhappy with the manner and abruptness
of Di Matteo’s dismissal.
Benitez has been jeered before, during and after each of his
matches and even admitted after Saturday’s 3-1 loss at West Ham in
the Premier League that he didn’t know whether he would survive his
seven-month temporary stint.
”The message is always the same,” Benitez said Tuesday. ”I
will try my best, I will try to win games for the club and (the
fans), and for everyone around, and hopefully that will change the
”If not, I’ll try winning more games.”
The problem for Benitez is that some of the key players behind
Chelsea’s title-winning campaign last season haven’t been available
Didier Drogba – the match-winner against Bayern Munich in the
final – is no longer with the club while stalwarts John Terry and
Frank Lampard have been out injured and will sit out Wednesday’s
What Benitez has in his favor is Champions League know-how. He
won the competition with Liverpool in 2005 and reached the final in
2007, with Benitez’s team knocking Chelsea out at the semifinal
stage in both years.
He is also the manager who has got the best out of Fernando
Torres, during their time together at Liverpool. The Spain striker
is in poor form at present, though, and is without a goal in nearly
”We have been very good defensively this season,” Torres told
FIFA.com. ”But in the middle, we have huge quality and those kinds
of players have to be the key for us because we need to play for
them and the strikers need to understand what they like to do to
score more goals.
”It’s just a matter of time and training.”
Chelsea’s destiny is out of his hands, though. Juve needs only a
draw against a club that is already in the last 16, although
Shahktar is insisting the team will play hard to finish at the top
of the group.
”It’s nice knowing that we’ve qualified for the knockout stage
but we have one more and very important game to play to decide who
will be first,” Shahktar midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan said. ”The
fans will come to watch us succeed, and we will play for
Shakhtar will be hampered by the loss of forward Luiz Adriano,
who is suspended after violating fair-play principles in the 5-2
win over Nordsjaelland.
Juventus defenders Giorgio Chiellini and Martin Caceres have
recovered from injuries and have been included in Antonio Conte’s
”Our concentration, determination and hunger have to absolutely
be strong to get a result that will enable us to progress and to
keep dreaming in this competition, which is very close to our
hearts,” Juventus president Andrea Agnelli said.
Nordsjaelland has only one point from five games and cannot even
qualify for the Europa League as a third-place finisher.