Why I hope Chelsea can pull off the greatest English result in the history of European football against Barca
If Chelsea leave the Nou Camp with a place in the Champions League Final it will be the greatest result of any English club in the history of European football.
Supporters of Liverpool, Manchester United, Aston Villa and Nottingham Forest are probably wondering when the men in white coats will be knocking on my front door to take me away.
After all, what achievement in club football comes close to actually lifting the European Cup?
Liverpool may have achieved the impossible by coming from three goals down to beat AC Milan on penalties in Istanbul in 2005.
Six years earlier we saw Sir Alex Ferguson’s men score twice in the last minute to beat Bayern Munich in the Nou Camp and so complete an historic Treble.
Brian Clough’s genius once enabled Nottingham Forest to lift the prized trophy in successive years.
And then there was the night 30 years ago when an unknown called Tony Barton made Villa kings of Europe before disappearing back into obscurity.
All deserve their own place in football legend.
But for me, beating Pep Guardiola’s incredible Barcelona team over two legs would be nothing short of a footballing miracle.
Of course, two years ago, Jose Mourinho managed to beat Barca in the semi-finals as Inter Milan went on to win the trophy.
But Mourinho had better players at his disposal than Roberto di Matteo now has.
And I believe the current European champions are a bigger force than they were back then.
In fact Barcelona 2012 are the best team ever to grace the beautiful game.
They are like the Harlem Globetrotters of football.
And I honestly believe that over two legs they are unbeatable.
So, like everyone else outside of Stamford Bridge, I think it will be the Catalans who reach the final in Munich on May 19 – despite the admirable defiance of the Blues when they won the first game 1-0 on Wednesday night.
It was a monumental achievement.
The looks of disbelief on the faces of the Chelsea faithful reminded me of the joy of the underdog after a giantkilling in the FA Cup. Like with all shock results, Chelsea needed their share of luck.
On another evening, Barcelona could have scored three or four and started making hotel reservations for Bavaria next month.
It reminded me of when England beat Spain in a friendly earlier this season.
But Chelsea deserve credit for their organisation and the way they stuck to their gameplan.
Petr Cech was immense in goal, while the players in front of him all sacrificed themselves for the team.
And let’s not forget either the quality of the winning goal, with Frank Lampard’s tenacity and vision in midfield being matched by the pace and power of Ramirez and the finishing prowess of Didier Drogba.
How can Chelsea succeed in the Nou Camp? With more of the same, although I can’t see how Barcelona will fail to score again if they dominate to the same extent.
I think Chelsea will need to score maybe two goals to have any chance of going through.
The way Barcelona covet possession of the ball means the Blues will have to take full toll from any set-piece situations that come their way.
Greatness beckons for the players of Chelsea Football Club.
I genuinely wish them the very best of luck... because I have got a feeling they are really going to need it.
Ashley Young should be an Olympic certainty.
Not for Stuart Pearce’s Team GB football squad, but for the diving team. He’d be a gold medallist.
Now the Manchester United winger isn’t the first player to take a plunge in the penalty area and I am sure he won’t be the last. But I always thought that if you’re privileged enough to wear that famous red shirt then you should be better than what Mr Young has shown himself to be over the last couple of weeks in the way he has earned his side two important penalty kicks. If Sir Alex Ferguson thinks you’re good enough to play for him then that should instil enough belief in you to go about the business of winning football matches by fair means.
Young is in danger of earning himself the kind of reputation that brings United’s great name into disrepute. I am sure that Sir Alex will have had a conversation or two with Young about his con tricks. A few years ago a youngster called Cristiano Ronaldo arrived at Old Trafford to show he was a master of tricking both defenders and refs.
His manager soon taught him the error of his ways and Ronaldo has since developed into one of the best two footballers in the world.
There isn’t much that Arsene Wenger needs to learn about the art of being a football manager.
But I do wish he would take a lesson from Sir Alex Ferguson and realise that he needs to lose with a bit more class.
Mr Wenger is someone that I admire both as a man and a manager. He is a hero of mine.
But I lost a little bit of respect for him during the week when he offered absolutely no credit to Wigan for the way they went about beating his Arsenal team at the Emirates Stadium.
It was bad enough seeing Robin van Persie gracelessly refuse to shake the hand of Wigan skipper Gary Caldwell after Roberto Martinez’s boys had claimed three priceless points in their battle for Premier League survival.
But to then hear the Gunners’ boss show even less dignity with his post-match comments really disappointed me.
Contrast that to the way Sir Alex conducted himself after Manchester United had lost at the DW Stadium the previous week.
It was a defeat that could cost United the title. Yet Fergie swallowed his disappointment and congratulated Wigan on their victory and the level of their performance.
Despite Wenger’s whinging, I have got to say that I think Wigan deserve to stay up on the back of their three performances against the top-flight’s big boys.
After some ridiculous refereeing decisions denied them at least a point at Chelsea, the Latics have gone on to beat United and Arsenal.
Roberto has steadfastly stuck by his belief that his team could play themselves out of the relegation zone.
And boy have they done that.
Congratulations to Brian McDermott and his Reading players for their promotion to the Premier League.
The Royals have produced a sensational run of results since the turn of the year and I am sure that they will grace the top-flight next term.
Rivalry is what makes the football world go round, but I’d still like to send the best wishes of everyone at Blackpool Football Club to Fleetwood Town on their promotion from the Conference to the Football League.
It has now been five promotions in eight years for the Cod Army to celebrate and with my great friend Micky Mellon as manager I can only see the success continuing.
Micky gave me a kick up the backside earlier this season when he saw that I was starting to feel a bit sorry for myself.
I’d like to thank him for showing me personally just how good his powers of motivation are.
Well done, Micky lad, you’re a top, top man.