Forget 'Parking The Bus'? Jose's Chelsea Tactics Are Genius
For f***’s sake.
The phrase that has been uttered more by Chelsea fans in the last four days than in the whole of Andrea Pirlo’s book – and as anyone who has read the chapter detailing just what the midfield maestro felt after losing in Istanbul will know, that is a whole lot.
As if the debacle against Sunderland was not enough – where a virus essentially lost Chelsea a title (let’s go with that as opposed to the forwards, the losses to lower-half teams, and the SAS revolution on Merseyside, it just makes us all feel better), playing Atletico Madrid at the Vicente Calderon is never easy.
Especially this season, when Diego Simeone’s side are en route to winning La Liga, looking ridiculously solid at the back, compact and creative in midfield, and have an embarrassing rich of talents up top. They also have the best keeper in the world this season – Thibaut Courtois, in between the sticks.
It is preciseley that point which provided such a bone of contention ahead of the game, as UEFA eventually ruled that no money was allowed to exchange hands between clubs concerning the player's appearance, but more importantly, the fact that the idiot (and, yes, they are an utter idiot) who drew up the loan agreement did not put a clause in there banning Courtois from playing against his parent club. Especially after the Super Cup disaster.
Then again, we are talking about the same moron who failed to include a January recall clause in the loan contract of Romelu Lukaku, so really we shouldn’t have expected too much.
As it happened, Chelsea had to face their own employee, AND lost their own number one, Petr Cech, to injury during the game. How devastatingly ironic.
The Blues then seemed to adopt a strategy of simply making sure no balls actually went near Mark Schwarzer – and after his perfromance in the Sunderland game, that is unsurprising.
At times it seemed the Blues were utilising a four centre back, two full back, two wing back, two defensive midfielder and a lame duck (sorry, Torres) formation. It worked.
Jon Obi Mikel was again immense in a big game – just as he was en route to winning the most coveted trophy in football two years ago – and his suspension in the second leg will be a huge miss.
As will the absence of Frank Lampard, who, despite playing deeper and not offering as much of an attacking threat, is still an ever present in the big games - and rightly so.
As if it was not bad enough for Chelsea, who of course started the game without Eden Hazard and Samuel Eto’o, they then lost captain John Terry, who predictably and valiantly tried to carry on, but could not even walk let alone run.
One thing that the Blues and Jose Mourinho can bet their life on is the fact that JT will do everything in his power, within the legal parameters surrounding the consumption of painkilling drugs, to make sure he does not miss another crunch Champions League game.
It was, all said and done, a pretty forgettable fixture. But, ultimately, Chelsea were not there to play pretty football.
To call them the anti-football side is grossly unfair – Arsenal are entertaining, yet they are a joke and indeed approaching a decade without winning a trophy.
They went to Spain with the odds stacked against them – perhaps that is something that suits them – and Jose Mourinho knew it.
The manager is better than anyone around at winning tactical battles in Europe, yet will be all too aware that in his first Champions League campaign with Chelsea, that semi final first leg ended in a 0-0, albeit at Stamford Bridge.
He will be cautious, and as he continues to assure excitable Blues fans, it is only half time. Chelsea looked down and out this time last round, yet came through with a Ba.
Time will tell if they can do it again, but Simeone may want to go down to B&Q and invest in one of those Black and Decker drills Mourinho preached about so much.