Chelsea primed for further European glory

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Football News

May 19 2012 is a date that Chelsea fans of all generations are never likely to forget. After years of struggle, toil and considerable disappointment in Europe's most prestigious competition, that was the night on which they finally secured the Champions League glory that owner Roman Abramovich had desperately craved since assuming control of the club.

The pulsating penalty shootout victory over Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena provoked scenes of sheer jubilation in West London, with cult hero Dider Drogba signing off his Blues career in considerable style after notching the winning spot kick. 

Just a few months after that glorious occasion, however, Chelsea fans' unbridled joy very quickly turned into despair as the club made the hugely controversial decision to dismiss the man who had finally secured them Champions League success and replace him on a temporary basis with the immensely unpopular figure of former Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez. 

The Spaniard's brief stint at Stamford Bridge was certainly turbulent, with May's Europa League triumph over Benfica in Amsterdam providing perhaps the only real highlight of an otherwise miserable six-month tenure. 

However, with Benitez now having departed for Serie A outfit Napoli and fans favourite Jose Mourinho back at the helm, I believe Chelsea could be set to taste Champions League glory once again. 

The Portuguese has a formidable record in this competition, having guided both unfancied Porto and Italian giants Inter Milan to Champions League victory. Mourinho knows exactly what is required to be successful in this competition and is unlikely to be particularly phased by the pressure that inevitably accompanies such a high-profile competition. 

And while many may have dismissed the club's extravagant signing of Brazilian playmaker Willian from wealthy Russian outfit Anzhi Makhachkala as a bizarre and wholly unnecessary purchase, Chelsea's strength in depth throughout the squad is undeniably impressive. 

Willian has been joined by Anzhi teammate Samuel Eto'o at Stamford Bridge, and while the veteran Cameroonian may not be quite the formidable penalty box presence he once was, he nevertheless remains a wily operator who boasts considerable experience at this level. With Mourinho seemingly not content with the trio of Demba Ba, Fernando Torres and Romelu Lukaku, Eto'o could be the perfect man to spearhead Chelsea's attack and provide a focal point for the club's burgeoning collection of creative midfielders. 

Mourinho now has an enviable glut of attacking talent at his disposal but, as was evidenced by their insipid 0-0 draw with Premier League title rivals Manchester United at Old Trafford, this certainly does not mean Chelsea must forfeit the defensive solidity that has has characterised Mourinho's teams in recent years. This apparent tactical flexibility should serve the club well in Europe, where they are likely to come up against a variety of different systems. 

Perhaps most importantly, the majority Chelsea's players now finally have the massively crucial experience of just what it is like to succeed in European competition. While the euphoria of their Europa League triumph was slightly tinged with an odd sense of embarrassment at being in the competition in the first place, it was an unquestionably beneficial experience that should have served only to boost their confidence ahead of the new campaign. 

Chelsea will surely also be looking to exploit the sense of uncertainty that is currently lingering around a number of top European clubs at present with Manchester City, Manchester United, Bayern Munich, Barcelona and Real Madrid all under new management. While Mourinho is technically also Chelsea's new boss, he is certainly no stranger to the club and I'm sure it hasn't taken him to long to re-acquaint himself with life in the English capital. 

The Champions League is a notoriously unpredictable competition and there are several teams across the continent who will feel they possess the quality necessary to lift the coveted trophy. But with the depth of talent they have at their disposal, their potential for tactical flexibility and the legendary figure of Mourinho in charge, Chelsea have a superb chance of winning the tournament once again this season. 

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