Why Chelsea Isn't Equipped to Make Another Run at the Champions League Title
Chelsea suffered their first defeat of the Champions League group stages this season—going down 2-1 against a superb Shakhtar Donetsk—which was the second time they have been thoroughly beaten against European opposition this season, even if the scoreline suggested the game was much closer.
It was a Radamel Falcao-inspired Atletico Madrid that thrashed the Blues in the European Super Cup, and there was more South American talent to cause havoc against the European champions on Tuesday.
Mircea Lucescu has developed a formidable attacking force at the Donbass Arena, inspired by a strong contingent of Brazilians—Including Fernandinho, Luiz Adriano, Willian and Alex Teixeira—who add a spark and flair to a side that still maintains plenty of Ukrainian talent to appease the fans.
While Shakhtar may be on the verge of breaking through to the next tier of European football—also possessing a sensational home record in Europe—it is a defeat that should bring a reality check to the Blues' ambitions this season, especially with regards to defending their title.
The final at Wembley Stadium in May is surely beyond the realms of possibility for Chelsea, especially when you consider that there are several areas of concern for Roberto Di Matteo moving forward.
Firstly, Fernando Torres still feels like a striker who will score plenty of goals in meaningless matches, rather than proving to be the difference in the most important moments of the season. While Torres has already scored six times this season, the Spain international often takes three or more chances to score one.
Chelsea's magic trident that operates behind El Niño look to keep Chelsea relevant for the opening half of the season, but when the crunch moments come, they will need Torres to be the man who can give them an edge in close encounters.
Another dilemma for Di Matteo is how to deploy Ramires, as the Brazilian's main asset is his pace and power to make Chelsea such a potent threat in transition. His current role seems to be next to Mikel Jon Obi, which rather limits his ability to join the attack, especially against the better teams.
It is admirable how quickly Di Matteo has managed to transform the Blues, who were accused of being an ugly, hard-working side on their way to triumphing in Munich. It is now fair to say that Chelsea have become the most attractive side in the Premier League, showcasing attractive, pass-and-move style football that has outclassed Spurs and Arsenal this season.
Chelsea could rely on absorbing large spells of pressure before clinically striking on the counterattack last season, but much of Europe's elite can match the Blues more closely when it comes to dictating proceedings and winning matches by overwhelming your opponent.
Chelsea's attacking potential will soon make them contenders in Europe's premier competition again, but it is going to take a year or so for the likes of Oscar and Eden Hazard to not only settle into their new side fully, but also develop their games further in order to hurt Europe's best on a consistent basis.
The Blues have bought superbly in the transfer window—with Oscar and Hazard completing an attacking trident with Juan Mata that rivals anything else in Europe—but the full reward from their excellent acquisitions will naturally take a little longer than most currently perceive.
Therefore, expectations that the Blues could potentially triumph in Europe again should be quelled, at least for another year.
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