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Thursday, August 06, 2009

Can Chelsea Reach the Semi Final in Champions League 08-09?

(This entry was originally published on Friday, March 13th, 2009)

Chelsea reached the quarter final defeating Italian giants Juventus 3-2 on aggregate as they drew 2-2 on the road in their second leg first 16 clash. Chelsea’s 1-0 victory in the first leg at home appeared to be the deciding factor in the end. Juventus was put ahead in the 19th minute thanks to goal from Iaquinta during the second leg match, but the Essien made it 1-1 for Chelsea when he scored in the injury time of the first half. Del Piero helped Chelsea take a lead in the match once again when he scored the second goal for Chelsea in the 74th minute, just 9 minutes before Drogba scored the equalizer for the Blues.

With this victory, Chelsea stretched their winning run to 7 since the current coach Guus Hiddink took over as Chelsea manager. Now, the question is that if Chelsea would be able to reach the last four in Europe. No doubt, it is a tricky question and a lot depend on the opposition Chelsea will be drawn with in the quarter final. All of the four English giants reached the quarter final and no English team would like to face any of their premier league rivals before the semi final stage. Barcelona, Porto, Villarreal and Bayern Munich are the teams from outside England in the last eight of Champions League.

I think, Chelsea should not face a very big problem to progress into the semi final unless they face defending Champions Manchester United or Liverpool, who did not finish any of their last four Champions league mission before semi final. Well, to be honest, Arsenal or Barcelona could also take a stern test of the Blues if they can play at their best, but the problem of the Gunners and the Catalan side is they are inconsistent very often. As far as I am concerned Arsenal would not be able to feature Captain Cesc Fabregas who is currently injured out. Moreover, Andrei Arshavin is cup-tied and would not help the Gunners in Europe this season and injury is Arsenal’s another big problem that they have been dealing with so far this season. Barcelona has some class players like Messi, Eto’o and Henry who all are capable of stealing the show for the Catalan side, though consistency is a major concern for them too.

Liverpool has been consistently playing well in the Europe, while Manchester United is now in scintillating form. You might pick up Bayern Munich as another big side who thrashed Sporting Lisbon by 12-1 on aggregate in the first knockout round. However, if Chelsea can play their natural football, I do not think the German side could be a threat for the Blues. Chelsea should ease past Villarreal or Porto, if they are drawn with them.

Well, it is not fair to evaluate the opportunity of a club on the basis of the strength and the performance of the other clubs what I have done so far in this article. Let us now look at the strength of Chelsea squad and come to conclusion if they will be able to reach the semi final in the tournament. The very first strength is that Chelsea players have adapted to the strategy of new manager Hiddink very fast and they have been successfully executing the strategies made by the Dutch manager who is also at the helm of Russian national team at this moment.

Both of Chelsea’s key strikers Nicolas Anelka and Didier Drogba have been in excellent form at this moment with both the players scoring pretty consistently. Recovering from the injury, Anelka started against Juventus. Most importantly, Michael Essien, the midfield general of Chelsea, returned after spending six months out injured. So, Chelsea does not have any big injury woe at this moment. That means Hiddink has a full-strength squad to materialize his plans and he can give enough rest to his key players as it is the busiest phase of the season. Another important thing is that, Chelsea has retained their confidence after winning 7 matches in a row.

So, I think, Chelsea should reach the semi final in Champions League and I would be shocked if the blues can not make it to the last four after their scintillating form of recent. Now, let us see if Chelsea players can continue their excellent form and ensure a semi final berth in Champions League.

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