Chelsea have had a dream for the past nine years. In 2003, Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich bought the London club. The target since then has not just been winning England’s top flight, won once previously in 1955, but also moving up to the next level. Chelsea visit the Allianz Arena to face Bayern on 19 May in search of the Champions League title.
Chelsea have had their worst season in the Premier League since Abramovich took over. Apart from third place in 2009, Chelsea have always finished no lower than second in the league and they were crowned Premier League winners three times in 2005, 2006 and 2010 - they are currently in sixth spot. Coach André Villas-Boas, who was signed from Europa League winners FC Porto last summer, was relieved of his duties in March. His assistant coach Roberto Di Matteo, who played for Chelsea from 1996 to 2002, was appointed as caretaker manager until the end of the season.
Sensation at Camp Nou
The Italian placed his trust in stalwarts Frank Lampard (33), Didier Drogba (34) and John Terry (31) and restored them to the starting eleven. Secondly, he reorganised the team in a more defensive formation - and they suddenly started winning again. The previous 15 competitive matches under Di Matteo have ended in 10 wins and just one defeat, away to Manchester City. Chelsea reached the final of the FA Cup and turned round a 3-1 deficit against Napoli in the first leg of the Round of 16 to go through to the quarter-finals on the back of a 4-1 win in extra time. They then knocked Benfica out with a 1-0 away win and a 2-1 victory at Stamford Bridge. And then came the clash with Barcelona.
The London club took a 1-0 lead to Spain for last Tuesday’s showdown at Camp Nou - and succeeded in pulling off a sensation, despite being a man down for almost an hour, as Terry was sent off on 37 minutes. The west London outfit went 2-0 down after 43 minutes, and World Player of the Year Lionel Messi hit the woodwork twice, but Ramires (43) and Fernando Torres (90+1) brought the battling English side level at 2-2 to put them through to the Champions League final for the second time in the club’s history.
“We showed what we’re made of today,” declared Di Matteo after the final whistle, “we’ve had a difficult season but when push comes to shove, we always seem to be capable of moving up a gear. That’s somehow in the players’ make-up.” Striker Juan Mata said: “After a difficult year, it’s crazy for us to have reached the final.” And as Terry, who is suspended for the showdown in Munich along with Branislav Ivanovic, Raul Meireles and Ramires, explained: “Three or four months ago, nobody could have predicted this.”
After lifting the European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1971 and 1998, Chelsea appeared in the Champions League final in 2008. In an all-English encounter in Moscow, the Blues lost 7-6 on penalties to Manchester United. Drogba, Lampard, Cech & Co. will be looking to go one better this time round.
Chelsea enjoyed the better of the only previous competitive meeting between the two clubs, which ended in victory for the Londoners in the Champions League quarter-finals in 2004/05: the Blues won 4-2 at Stamford Bridge and went through to the semi-finals despite losing 3-2 at the Olympic Stadium in Munich. Chelsea have a dream!