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Let’s face it, Chelsea actually had an OK game against Napoli the first time around, but if it were not for some woeful midfield defending (uh hum, Raul Meireles) and momentary lapses by the back line, Chelsea should have escaped with a 1-1 draw at worst.
Though it is never alright to make excuses about injuries (after all, great teams are usually the deepest), it is difficult to argue that the absence of John Terry was not the biggest fact in that loss, as well as Villas-Boas’ sacking.
Terry is more than just a top-five defender in the league. He is more than the captain. He is even more than the heart of the team.
Terry embodies the Chelsea spirit in its totality. He is a gritty hard-nosed tackler who never backs down from any kind of challenge and does not concern himself with the appearance of the victory as long as he gets one.
He will routinely clear balls off the line, get up big on set pieces and knock down the opposition's star. He will rarely if ever make a run past the halfway line, play a precise and beautiful ball over the top or even touch it more than twice in a row. But no one could make a case that his style does not work.
Edinson Cavani and Ezequiel Lavezzi were allowed to move with far too much space last time, allowing them to muscle in and create. This will not be the case in today’s match.
Terry, if need be, will go shoulder to shoulder the very first time Cavani comes near him, peppering him with elbows and forearms, if for no other reason than to let him know it won’t be as easy this time around.
He will not score, he will not make a tremendous play, and he will not have much direct impact on a game that will be played in the Napoli third. But when the final whistle sounds and Chelsea are on their way to the Champions League quarterfinals, it will be because of the legend himself—John Terry.