Jose Mourinho’s ever-present optimism and confidence was again evident in Monday’s press conference. The Portuguese tactician assured journalists his team were fully prepared for battle after reviewing the first leg no fewer than seven times.
Inter Milan’s league form may give Chelsea an added incentive, the Nerazzurri have drawn four and lost one in their previous six league ties. An uncharacteristic 3-1 thumping to Catania a particular lowlight of their recent form, Chelsea alternatively come off the back of a 4-1 demolition of local London rivals West Ham. Didier Drogba although hype of his form has slowed in recent weeks due to Wayne Rooney’s recent surge in form, the Blue front man was on hand to notch a brace at the weekend. His formidable figure likely to be the key to Chelsea’s success had they overcome a one goal deficit when they host Inter Milan tomorrow night.
Flourent Malouda’s standout performance will be an area of consideration for Ancelotti on how best to utilise him. The French winger had the beating of the West Ham defence from the opening minute on Saturday and will look to pick up this form as he left off. The player has had a mixed spell since joining the Premier League contenders from Ligue 1 claiming a bad case of toothache was the reason for his poor form. However with two assists and a well deserved goal in Saturday’s game the player should be full of confidence in front of the Chelsea faithful on Tuesday night. With Alex also showcasing his physical attributes with good form in recent games he will look to eclipse the performance of Lucio in the reverse leg.
Mario Balotelli – best known for his pace and technical abilities as well as his temperament – has been dropped by manager Jose Mourinho for the Champions League tie. Although his agent is reportedly “baffled” by the situation Mourinho has refrained from giving any reasons to his selection policy. Mourinho also dismissed claims that Chelsea’s defensive issues would give an advantage to his Italian outfit as he made note of his tenure at Chelsea when goalkeeper Hilario (third choice behind Cech and Cudicini) debutised for Chelsea in the Champions League quarter finals against Barcelona.
Regardless of Chelsea’s well documented goalkeeping issues, is the protecting quintet in front of them, with Jose Bosingwa, Ashley Cole and Michael Essien confirmed absentees. The fitness of Ricardo Carvalho will be under close examination pre-match as Alex battles to retain his place next to John Terry who seems to be recuperating pre-allegations form. With defensive issues a cause for concern amidst the Blues ranks, attack maybe the best form of defence. Already necessitating one goal, Chelsea’s attacking options are full of vibrancy and Drogba and Malouda’s potent form may be the alternative defensive solution i.e. to cause their defence more problems than their own.
Mourinho will receive his hero’s welcome on his return to the bridge – a ground where the manager never lost a Premier League game. The former Blues boss led the side to successive Premier League titles, FA Cup and Carling Cup triumph. This he believes will give his Inter side the edge ahead of Tuesday’s clash. Mourinho had close inter-personal relationships with the Chelsea staff and players and this background knowledge alongside his obvious managerial wisdom may be the key to destroying the Chelsea season.
A Champions League exit at this stage would thrust pain to the heart of Russian owner Roman Abramovich who has overtly expressed his desire to win the European competition. Defeat would not only have the immediate impact of knocking the side out of the Champions League but possibly a detrimental effect on morale and Chelsea’s other commitments such as the League and FA Cup. A crucially game with an atmosphere intensified not only by honour but by the return of a familiar face. Chelsea’s home form will be tough for the Milan side to beat but they know a draw will suffice and had history repeat itself with Chelsea falling to an early goal they may just find the nail to bolt the Chelsea coffin.