Club Focus – Chelsea – Painful memories set aside as Chelsea return to Luzhniki

Chelsea return to the scene of their heart-breaking Champions League final defeat to Manchester United in 2008 this week as they travel to Russia and the Luzhniki Stadium to face Spartak Moscow on Tuesday.

Two years ago under the guidance of temporary manager Avram Grant, the London side came within a John Terry penalty miss of becoming the first side from the capital to lift the Champions League trophy against their northern rivals after 90 minutes and extra-time could not separate the sides participating the first all-English final. Cristiano Ronaldo saw his spot-kick saved by Petr Cech, and with all other penalty takers scoring, captain Terry was given the chance to immortalise himself in the club history by converting the winning kick. Of course as will forever be remembered, a fatal slip as he struck his shot saw the ball skew against the post, the glory so cruelly denied. Nicolas Anelka went on to miss a crucial penalty to keep Chelsea’s chances alive after Ryan Giggs had put United ahead in the shootout. Sir Alex Ferguson’s men overjoyed and in the history books as the trophy winners. Chelsea, the gallant losers, still tarred with the brush of being the nearly men in their search of victory in the premier of European competition.

This season, the Blues sit top of their group after winning their first two games, beating MSK Zilina 4-1 in Slovakia before overcoming Olympique Marseille 2-0 at Stamford Bridge three weeks ago. They travel to meet Spartak Moscow in what will be a difficult tie sure to be played in a testing climate against an opponent also with a 100 percent record in the group stage, two wins without conceding for the Russians. Snow is not forecast but the temperatures will certainly plummet towards negative figures for the evening kick off, a match from which the English side know returning from with a positive result leaves them in pole position to top the group with three group matches remaining. As in the weekend’s 0-0 draw with Aston Villa, Carlo Ancelotti will be without Frank Lampard, scorer of Chelsea’s goal in the 2008 final at the Luzhniki Stadium, who is still out though not recovering from the hernia surgery on his groin that has seen him miss six weeks of action, now sidelined by an adductor problem that may postpone his comeback another fortnight. Didier Drogba missed the trip to the Midlands due to a fever and although on antibiotics, may not yet play his first game in this season’s Champions League after suspension in the opening two games after his sending off in last seasons’ round of 16 defeat to Inter Milan.

Good news for the Italian manager from the weekend though was the return of right-back Jose Bosingwa, who made his much awaited reappearance for the Premier League champions in the second half at Villa Park. The Portuguese international endured a year on the sidelines after injuring his knee at the same ground in last season’s 2-1 defeat, and after missing the end of last season and this summers World Cup due to operations and recovery time, the popular Bosingwa made a comfortable 15 minute appearance from the substitutes bench on Saturday. He will now need time on the pitch and opportunities to return to match fitness as he seeks to win back his first team place.

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