After defeat to Everton in Saturday’s FA Cup fourth round replay, Chelsea are now battling to save their season as they prepare to face FC Copenhagen in the last 16 of the Champions League. The Blues are out of both domestic cups and 12 points adrift of league leaders Manchester United, so many will see the Champions League as their most realistic chance of silverware in what has so far been a disappointing season. When the draw was made, many were expecting Chelsea to stroll through to the next round, but having scored just one goal in their past three matches, the pressure is well and truly on Carlo Ancellotti and his players.
There seems to be uncertainty surrounding Chelsea’s forward players and now Ancellotti has the added “dilemma” of fitting £50 million man Fernando Torres into the line-up. Chelsea’s midfield is lacking a creative spark and the strikers have struggled to unlock hard-working defences, as seen in games against Fulham, Liverpool and Wolves in recent weeks. Meanwhile, their ageing side has also failed to cope with the energy and movement of teams who have attacked them, something which has been highlighted by defeats against Sunderland and Arsenal and the 3-3 home draw with Aston Villa earlier this season.
Unbeaten in five European home games and storming the Danish league, Copenhagen will be full of confidence ahead of tonight’s game. They have shown they are a difficult side to break down in this season’s Champions League and also showed they can hold on to the ball well against top sides as seen in their 1-1 draw with Barcelona back in November. “Buzzing” was the word Coach Stale Stolbakken used to describe his players’ mood and the team will be feeling fresh at a time when the Danish league is on its winter break. Chelsea’s defence will need to be fully focused, and the strikers need to cover the ground and make the runs needed to unlock Copenhagen’s rear guard. An early goal could silence the crowd and everyone knows how vital away goals in Europe can be.
One of the reasons Carlo Ancellotti was brought to Chelsea was to deliver Roman Abramovich that elusive Champions League trophy. A poor domestic season might be forgiven if the Blues can lift the trophy at Wembley in May and I’m sure many Chelsea fans would swap one or two of their Premier League titles or FA Cups for Champions League glory. However, Ancellotti will be well aware that failure in the Champions League again could test the patience of Mr Abramovich. Just ask Jose Mourinho or Avram Grant.
Key clash: Dame N’Doye vs John Terry
Prediction: FC Copenhagen 1-0 Chelsea