Chelsea: The Blues had their Ups and Downs in 2011-2012 [Champions League]

Depending on your perspective, Chelsea's victory over Barcelona was either a victory for pragmatism, for tactics, for defence. or a defeat for football, for creativity, for the way the game ought to be played.

History remembers the winners though. Chelsea fans will tell you with compelling clarity the reasons why the Champions League trophy has eluded their team.

However, history has no respect for excuses. For Chelsea to truly feel comfortable being considered among the elite they will have to win the most elite club competition. They must continue with the Jose Mourinho mentality that "while others talk about history we will make history".

Here, Chelsea have the oppurtunity to win when most people felt their side wasn't good enough, wasn't balanced enough, and was too old. To have this be the year that they win, against all odds, against all expectations, will make victory that much more sweeter.

No one gave Chelsea a chance after the 3-1 defeat to Napoli. The Blues were in shambles and disintegrating fast. The losses were piling up, dissension between the manager and players was boiling over to the press, and things seemed to be spiraling out of control.

Chelsea were in danger of being eliminated in the second stage of Champions League -- perhaps even finishing outside of Europa League contention.

Many theories that exonerated Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas were put forward: blaming the players, blaming the age of the squad, talking about a need for time for the manager to implement a style favoured by Roman Abramovich. Those theories, not without their merits, have since been proven wrong.

Villas-Boas may have failed to deliver a clear message -- either implement changes or use resources the best you can, either you want your players to love you and work on developing a relationship with them or play hard man. But Villas-Boas employed two contradictory solutions with everything he did, resulting in his squad losing faith in themselves and their manager which in turn reflected in the team's performances and results.

Fast-forward to the return leg against Napoli at Stamford Bridge. Newly appointed interim manager Roberto Di Matteo summoned the so-called old guard and inspired confidence in them which proved to be just what they needed to be back to their best, as they beat Napoli in a sensational victory. Results improved in the league too, as Chelsea climbed up the league and were back in contention for a top-four finish, they were also in contention for a FA Cup.

When they beat Benfica and went on to the semi-finals with Barcelona, many thought Chelsea did well enough to reach that far under the circumstances. No one gave Chelsea a chance to beat what was considered arguably the best team in the history of the game.

To even suggest that Chelsea could beat Barcelona would have been met with incredulous mocking laughter. For most educated pundits, the question was by how many goals would Barcelona win by, rather than if Barcelona would win.

Viewers watched in disbelief as Di Matteo saw out a solid game plan. He allowed Barcelona to control possession but minimised their penetration and then when the opportunity presented itself he used the pace of Ramires on the right and the power of Didier Drogba up front.

Those were simple tactics, but it required concentration, patience and discipline which were all displayed in abundance. Barcelona felt they were attempting to create art on the football pitch and misfortune and the disruptive tactics of their opponents did not allow for their art's full fruition.

Chelsea won and history has no respect for excuses.

Long-time Chelsea supporters have accumulated the "almost there" disappointment -- the type of disappointment whose pain of losing is made more acute by the fact that they were "almost there". They were presented with a clear image of victory, a clear scene of their captain lifting the Champions League trophy and just when they thought they were almost there, a slip would arise -- a penalty decision, a non-goal. Basically, misfortune and external factors conspired to snatch the dream away.

This season has been different. Expectancy for Champions League was low, yet the dream never died. The head telling the heart that this team is much worse than previous years, and cannot realistically win, has been turned upside down.

Now, against expectation and form, against the mocking of their declining team and accumulated disappointment of past failures, winning Champions League for the first time will represent ultimate satisfaction. 

  • How Did Missing Illinois Toddler Die?

    After 30 hours of intense search by authorities in Joliet Township, Will County, the missing 16-month old toddler was found stuffed in a couch at her mother's home Thursday.