Friday, 18 May 2012

Before the Big Final - Thoughts of a True Blue

Call my mentality old-school if you like, but I’ve always thought “We won the cup” sounded much better than "We finished 4th". The very idea might send chills down the spines of the Board of Directors at Stamford Bridge, but this is how I - and I suspect, most Chelsea fans - feel. The season would’ve been far less memorable for me if we’d scraped 4th place at the cost of losses against Birmingham and Napoli.

The chairman may not share my feelings, but if we had finished fourth with no trophy, it would've been hollow victory (Is it even allowed to call that a victory?). Give me the euphoria of victory in the Cup Final any day. Give me the sight of Didier Drogba executing yet another celebratory knee-slide on the Wembley turf any day. Give me the sight of our golden oldies flashing four fingers in the ceremony any day.

Chelsea's - and Drogba's - love-in with Wembley just goes on and on

Watching your team walk up the Wembley stairs to collect their medals and lift the trophy is always a wonderful sight (and as Chelsea fans, one we've been lucky to witness quite often in the last few years), and only first place in the league can match that.

Or winning the European Cup.

The FA Cup is one thing – and one important thing at that - but it’s the Champions League run that’s really got the Blue juices flowing this season, especially given our previous in the competition. It’s been a route exactly like Liverpool’s in 2005 - qualification from the group uncertain till the last match, and second favourite in every knockout round. It's even gone as far as failing to qualify for next season's competition via league position. Chelsea’s performances in the group stage and at Naples - or indeed, getting into a position of having to win the Champions League in order to qualify for it - aren’t exactly advised as tactics but if you can pull it off, there’s no better feeling.

Pulling it all off in Europe, though, has been harder than we thought. Ghost goals, slippery turf and super-myopic referees down the years are but a few things that have now left Chelsea fans wondering “What’s going to do us in this year?” every season. Chelsea are due good fortune. Lots of it. And at several points this year - Ivanovic's emphatic winner against Napoli that completed a seemingly impossible 4-1 win, when Messi hit the bar from the spot, when Fernando Torres scored in stoppage time at the Nou Camp - it seemed as if it was written in the stars, that Lady Luck was finally smiling down upon the Blues.

Moments that make it seem like it's Chelsea's destiny

Chelsea have been to hell and back to get this far, and they will not meekly submit to Bayern. Both clubs will be missing important players for the final, though I doubt that will take too much away from the spectacle. Those praying that Chelsea lose (read: Bayern and Tottenham fans) will be rubbing their hands in glee over the fact that Chelsea can’t call upon mammoths in Terry, Meireles, Ivanovic and Ramires, but after having to win a match 4-1 and doing it too, and getting out of the Nou Camp unbeaten without centre backs, I think we can handle this.

On paper, Bayern seem the stronger side and are certainly the bookies' favourites for this one. But silencing the detractors has been something of a day job for Chelsea under di Matteo, and I predict 2-1 to the gutsy Blues, Drogba to score the winner in what might be his final game for the club.

Cue wild celebrations as legendary veterans finally win the trophy they so richly deserve, followed by pictures of a smiling Board of Directors. Smile they will, and their smiles will be broader than they were a couple of Saturdays ago, for be they bankers, accountants, chairmen, managers or fans, “We won the Champions League” gets them all.

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