THIS TIME IT CAN BE DIFFERENT

By Daniel Rankine
Apr 25th, 2008

It’s a massive week. Two games so colossal you wouldn’t think they could possibly squeeze them into time it self. Ninety minutes? For a game this size? Surely not? Your mind can only squirm, or possibly boggle, at the prospect.

These games are that big I can’t even think about what happens after them. You can’t even see around them. Trust me, I’ve tried. If a mate starts talking about the final I put my fingers in my ears and hum inanely at him hoping his wild comments haven’t somehow jinxed us. We’re not there yet, I say sagely, and quickly try to ignore the happy thoughts of reaching Moscow. What about Saturday, he’ll say, it’s a must win? Again, I’m humming pathetically in a futile attempt to avoid needlessly raising hopes or despair. Yes, it’s a potential title decider. Yes, it’s at home. Yes, it’s the stuff of dreams. A win could tilt the championship in our favour, anything else doesn’t bare thinking about. So I try not to bother. All you can do is focus on the game, looming, tantalisingly ahead.

Cast your mind back, many moons ago, to this same point last season and something similar was on the cards. We had a goal advantage to take to Anfield in the semis and a must win game, away to Arsenal, to keep the Championship race alive. To a certain extent, the luck wasn’t with us in both games and the big two titles fell away from our grasp for another year. One year on and here we go again. This time though, things can be different. Crucially the second European leg is at the Bridge and if ever there was a time for Chelsea fans to rally together and push the team on, it’s now. We’re all utterly bored of hearing about the ‘magic European nights’ of Anfield and how the Kop makes the difference in such encounters. It’s boring. Let’s show them what the Bridge can be like and, more importantly, let’s show the football we’re capably of and put this game to bed. This is the year we can make it, this is the year we can win the European Cup.

Saturday’s match should be titanic but I can’t see there being too many goals. Man Utd’s first priority will be not to concede. The onus will be on us to score and we have to make it count. What should be vital is the support the midfield gives to Drogba up top. Too often he was isolated on Tuesday, the likes of Kalou, Ballack and Cole need to bust a gut and make the difference in the final third. Crosses are going in from the full backs but we need to commit more bodies into the box and cause the defence problems. If any of us looked at this fixture at the start of the season and thought we could still be in with shout of the title, if we beat Man United at home, we would all take it. It’s the stuff of dreams, it’s the reason you follow Chelsea, it’s the reason you follow football. We can do it.

Then as big as these games seem, as enormous as the outcome can be, it can seem suddenly small. Pat Lampard’s sad passing puts it all into perspective and every Chelsea fans thoughts are with the Lampard family at this time. I hope JT gets the lads together and they show the determination to win Saturday’s match and put a smile on Lamps’ face.

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