Galatasaray v Chelsea: Two men are key - Jose Mourinho and Eden Hazard.
We've sat and watched Manchester City, Arsenal and Manchester United all fall at the first hu...
We've sat and watched Manchester City, Arsenal and Manchester United all fall at the first hurdle in the past week. Now it's up to Chelsea to wave the English flag tonight in the Champions League.
Luck of the draw, lack of experience within the team and on the sidelines, call it what you will, the three other English teams haven't performed and are all on the brink of elimination.
So what of Chelsea tonight, what chance does Chelsea realistically have to progress to the next round?
I believe we have a great chance and that's not because I am biased but because of two key factors amongst many this evening. One of those two being Jose Mourinho.
It's been interesting to see Mourinho since he arrived in Turkey, obviously upset at being the subject of a stitch up by a Reporter but quick to put his game face back on and bite back at comments made by Roberto Mancini. For a second there I was worried as Mourinho looked different, subdued and not his usual self but within minutes he was back in full flow.
Mancini tried to re-iterate his belief that Mourinho achieved all he had at Inter after inheriting a team he had built. In doing so, trying to take some of the credibility away from The Special One but Mourinho answered in typical fashion, to the point and with substance:
“Pfft. It’s funny, it’s funny. It’s funny because my team in the final had Lucio, Motta, Milito, Eto’o, Pandev and Sneijder.
“From my 11 players, he [Mancini] didn’t work with six of them. So he made a five-a-side team because I played with only five players from his team!”
Excellent again from the manager and with that, sets the tone for the evening ahead. We need the manager to make the right team selection, adopt the right tactics and if needed, the right changes. He has delivered time and time again and this evening is no exception.
I predict David Luiz being given a start in the holding midfield role next to Mikel. I cannot see Jose making any change to our back five of Cech, Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry and Azpilicueta. If anything, Luiz will be brought into the midfield to compensate for the absence of Matic.
I believe Mikel will get the nod over Frank Lampard because of his defensive instincts and Oscar will also be another casualty with Ramires to take his place as part of our attacking three, similar to that of the side that beat Man City in the Premier League.
Chelsea have the potential to follow in the footsteps of Barcelona and Bayern Munich and get the tie almost beyond the reach of Galatasaray in the second leg by scoring a couple of goals in Istanbul. As with any two legged tie, an away goal is priceless as we have seen just how much the Van Persie miss late on last night could affect United at Old Trafford.
It's big nights like these that really matter and you need everyone to rise to the occasion. The game this evening is even more important because of our failure in the Champions League as holders last term. You can bet your life the players will be more than aware of just how important it is to represent the Football Club and now the Premier League.
Chelsea can really lay down a marker and send a message throughout Europe with another City-like performance. The game could pan out just the same with Galatasaray having a go and Chelsea looking to hit them on the counter attack.
The second key factor in Chelsea's chances this evening and someone who has the ability to win the tie for us over both legs is Eden Hazard. After some sensational couple of weeks, Hazard hasn't been at his best at West Brom followed by Everton at the weekend and we are all looking for a much better performance.
If Eden Hazard is up for this one, I cannot see anyone stopping him. We have seen games this season where he has virtually won the game on his own and tonight is no different. He could prove to be the match winner and is key to Chelsea coming away from Turkey with the advantage we are all looking for.
I have read various previews and comment ahead of the game and it seems that our opponents are weak down each side. Hazard could have a massive influence on the outcome and again in a couple of weeks time. Mourinho just needs to get the balance right and this is where I personally think he will deploy Ramires as part of our attacking three to interchange with Hazard and Willian.
Up top now is uncertain as I would have selected Samuel Eto'o ahead of Fernando Torres based on the City game and looking for the same performance. However, with rumours that Eto'o is "furious" with Mourinho after his comments, I just wonder if the manager will give Fernando Torres a run?
Torres up against Drogba? The comparisons are everywhere! If you actually read the various quotes from the two of them, they often asked to play alongside each other but it very rarely happened. Now in Istanbul, they could line up at opposite ends of the pitch and their individual performances will be put under immense scrutiny.
As I said, big games on big nights call for big players. It will be a hostile atmosphere as we have experienced before and we all know what happened on that night!
Looking at what has happened to City, Arsenal and United, you look at Chelsea and wonder if the same could happen. The difference? Chelsea are strong throughout the starting eleven and look like a well balanced team.
With a manager who knows exactly what it takes to win games and trophies, Chelsea have an advantage and MUST capitalise on any chances that come our way this evening. We simply cannot afford another mediocre performance to just get by.
In saying that, if offered a 1-0 win playing defensive football? I would bite your hand off to take it!
So come on Chelsea, deliver a performance and result that lays down a marker to others in the competition. You have the potential to go there and win this by two, three or even four!
Let's hope Chelsea deliver!
Carefree & KTBFFH!