Chelsea’s Champions League clash with Paris Saint-Germain last night threw up all sorts of talking points, none more discussed today than the crowd of narrow-minded ‘fans’ crammed into the metro boasting about being racists.
Perhaps the one that would have been afforded more attention had the unsavoury scenario not played out was the sheer brilliance of Thibaut Courtois, who came to Chelsea’s rescue time and again as they sought to stop their opponents heading into the second-leg with an advantage.
The Belgian’s performance was so complete that it drew praise not just from Jose Mourinho but also from Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who is perhaps the only character in football who can match The Special One’s ego.
A sublime showing from Courtois was epitomised by his last ditch save to deny a Zlatan header at the death which would surely have given Laurent Blanc’s men the initiative heading into the return fixture at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea fans will celebrate their No.1’s exhibition. Mourinho can refer to it as the result of a good decision on his part. Petr Cech will be left to drown his sorrows.
The Czech international would have been forgiven for thinking that he might be clawing his way back into Mourinho’s plans having featured in the recent victory over Everton. Not only did he keep a clean-sheet but also produced a fantastic stop to keep former Blues ace Romelu Lukaku from spoiling the party. On the evidence of that performance, and indeed from whenever he has featured for Mourinho this season, he is still a world-class goalkeeper.
The primary issue facing him is that Courtois seems to be not just playing, but also winning a game of I-can-do-anything-better-than-you. Mourinho claimed after the aforementioned fixture against Everton that he had dropped the 22-year-old to ensure that his focus remained at an optimal level. If last night’s 90 minutes were any sort of test then Courtois passed with flying colours.
The problem remains
That in itself presents a problem for Cech, who is doomed to remain his teammate’s understudy unless the man in question suffers the mother of all drops in form. From where I’m sitting that doesn’t appear feasible in the slightest, and the direct result is that Cech, despite having served admirably for Chelsea for over a decade, is the designated benchwarmer.
Only he’s far too good for that. The sad fact of the matter is that Mourinho may well be vindicated in his decision to endorse Courtois; the young ‘keeper is already ranked amongst the top names in the sport and he’s a good few years yet before he’ll come anywhere close to his peak. Whilst that’s all well and good though it doesn’t help Cech any, and so a move away in the summer may be the inevitable course.
Too good for reserve
Mourinho worked like a dog to keep the veteran star on board past the January transfer window, and his determination mixed with the love Cech has for Chelsea is what likely forced him to refute the fact that he’s now what Mark Schwarzer was to himself last year; a No.2 only to be called upon when injury hits the No.1
Schwarzer though was over 40-years-old when he was the backup option, Cech is but 32 and still a match for most of Europe’s best ‘keepers. Essentially he’s giving Mourinho the best selection headache he’s ever had, but the sooner he finds his way to pastures new where he has the role he deserves, the better it will be for him as a player.
Chelsea fans, should Cech jump ship in search of first-team football? Or is there a chance he could yet dislodge Courtois? Let us know in the comments box below.