A cautionary tale
The first day of this year`s knock out games for the champion`s league have now been completed and essentially those two series are essentially over in my book before the second set of games are even played. There is a lesson we must learn from these two games that I hope Jose and our boys have taken note of.
In both games a penalty was awarded and in both games a player was given their matching orders. One guess as to which teams essentially tied up the series as a result (hint in both cases it was the team that ended the game with 11 players and got a penalty kick to boot) . The lesson to be learnt is obvious; this is the Champions league and not the BPL, the referees in this competition are a different breed and if you give them half the excuse they will insert themselves in the game and decide the outcome. With Chelsea FC this is an even more germane issue. You only need recall how many PKs we conceded in our runs to the Champions league title in Bavaria and the Europa league title in Monaco to appreciate that we are not exactly UEFA`s darling team. Needless to say our manager is also not exactly the favorite of Platini and co.
The point of all this is the following; We dare not tempt fate when we take on Galatasary. I cannot imagine what Pellegrini was thinking by starting Demichellis against Barca of all teams. When I saw the line ups I literally said to myself that he would regret that decision and it was almost as if I was clairvoyant (BTW I am not) because the guy single handedly ended that series for city with a bone head tackle that would probably have been called the same way even in the BPL not to mention in the Champions league against UEFA and Platini`s favorite team. While Demichellis did the dark deed on the pitch one can reasonably say Pellegrini is ultimately to blame because he made the call to start the guy despite all the warning signs from the guys prior appearances.
With this in mind much as I love the guy I must be honest; if I see David Luiz listed as one of our Center backs against Gala I will be praying hard for divine mercies because that will be a cause for major apprehension. Against tricky mobile strikers like the drogs and Borac Yilmaz , David Luiz in Center defence is a penalty and possible ejection just waiting to happen.
Luiz has shown his value in center midfield and has partnered very effectively with Matic in one of our best showings this season(unfortunately we wont have the luxury of Matic for the champions league which would be another reason to move Luiz there to partner either Ramires or Lamps). As a Center back though, Luiz simply hasn`t demonstrated the cool and calm head required to safely navigate a champions league game against quality opposition without incident. To be brutally honest that he has not conceded a PK thus far in his recent CB appearances is more the result of the benevolence of the referees involved than himself. I am sorry but that is the plain truth as I see it.
Lest anyone think I am singling out Luiz for some hard words, I would hasten to add that our entire back line and frankly the entire team need to have drummed deep into their ears to defend with smarts and calm. They need to stay upright when making tackles especially in the 18 yard box…sliding tackles especially there are a recipe for disaster. The rugby tackling techniques and other dark arts that players often get away with in the BPL will likely get called and punished severely in the champions league especially if we are the offenders. The same goes for hand balls, pushes etc. In the final analysis our defenders should be willing and ready to allow the attacker go without a tackle if they are the last man and hope Cech can save our bacon rather than risk a very low percentage dangerous tackle that could see them get red carded, concede a PK (which essentially hands the opposition a goal) and may then tilt the entire tie heavily against us. We don`t exactly have an offense that has been confidence inspiring so starting behind on goal aggregate and a man down could end up being a fatal blow for us.
Our players must also be very careful about riling the refs. These champion`s league refs generally have short fuses and especially for anyone wearing a Chelsea jersey they are literally looking for any half excuse to brandish a card. Our players also need to be reminded that as long as it remains 11 vs 11 I fancy our chances against any team in Europe. We always have a chance 11 v 11 but down one or two men those odds plummet severely. We need to make sure that despite the fact we have experience doing this in the past ( and yet managing to prevail ), that this time around we actually make things a little easier on ourselves by not getting any player ejections and not conceding any foolish Penalty kicks. While I realize that our chances of winning the Champions league this year are slim I would like us to be the last BPL team left standing and so outlast City, ManU and the gunners. To do that we need to at least get past Gala who are no push over. The experiences of City and Bayer Leverkusen so far offer a cautionary tale of exactly how not to approach this upcoming tie if we are to prevail. KTBFFH.
( and by the way despite this counsel i also fully expect Jose as he has now made standard training protocol for his teams prepping for 'big matches' to include some drill training for 10 v 11 scenarios...you just never know!!!)