– AT LEAST FOR NINETY MINUTES – The trouble with two legged ties is that you never really know what is a good result in the first leg. Last year we came away from Anfield with a 3 – 1 win and left the Bridge a fortnight later having collectively aged 340,000 years (I am calculating an average of 10 years per Chelsea fan present on the night).
A 2 – 1 defeat in the San Siro is, by general reckoning, a decent result with a second leg at home to come. If by some miracle Petr Cech returns in time by 16th March, plus Yuri Zhirkov, plus, whisper it, Michael Essien, then hopefully we will be a very different proposition to last night.
Our home record certainly gives us plenty of hope. Played 20, won 18, drew 2, lost 0, scored 60 conceded 11 in all competitions. Admittedly those stats do include some rubbish teams but against sides of roughly Inter’s strength (Porto, Atletico Madrid, Liverpool, Man U, Arsenal and errrm Spurs) we have a hundred per cent record and yet to concede a goal. Any of the six results achieved in those six games would be enough to see us through.
So whatever the pundits think, I would say we are still in the driving seat. Inter are not particularly strong away from home. In Serie A and Champions League they have played 15 games, won seven, drawn five and lost three. One of the seven away wins was also in the San Siro, the “away” match against AC Milan.
On the other hand we know we are up against a team with the best coach in the world capable of upsetting any odds. And the Inter team this year is completely unlike that of last year, the one that succumbed so weakly against Man U. They have two new forwards in Eto’o and Milito, Sneijder in midfield and Lucio at the back. Jose’ basically went out and bought a new spine for the team.
Which brings me nicely to the point of what I want to say today. The tie on March 16th is going to be an emotional one for us Chelsea fans. There is no doubt that if, God forbid, Inter put us out, every Chelsea fan will then want Inter, or rather Jose’, to go on and win the competition. But on the night our loyalties will be undivided and WE HAVE TO SHOW IT. I am making a 3000 mile round trip to watch the match because I felt I couldn’t miss out on Jose’s return. I wanted to be there to join in the standing, rapturous ovation we will give him but after that we must not do anything that gives one iota of encouragement to the opposition. And yes, strange as it may sound, Jose’ will be the opponent on the night. So it’s come on Chelsea, come on Carlo, come on Ray Wilkins, come on Roman, come on Bruce Buck and come on every boy in our blue shirt.
For chrissakes no moaning if things start to go wrong. No chanting for Jose’ during the match and here’s to hoping that The Special One leaves The Bridge empty handed, dejected, defeated and well and truly stuffed. We have to hate him and his team for ninety minutes, one hundred and twenty if need be. With the match over, we will start loving him again as we will do for the rest of out lives.
The Inter match will be the last of a series of four home matches that will define the rest of the season for us. Starting against Man City next Saturday, followed by Stoke in the FA Cup, West Ham in the League and then Inter. Win those four games and the dream is on. We dare not even whisper it at this stage, but there’s nothing wrong in being greedy in your dreams.