Why Chelsea Are Carrying the Premier League Weight in the Champions League

Garry Hayes@@garryhayesFeatured ColumnistFebruary 21, 2014

Chelsea's players celebrate after Demba Ba, centre, scores the opening goal during the Champions League Group E soccer match between Chelsea and Steaua Bucharest at Stamford Bridge Stadium  in London Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2013. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
Kirsty Wigglesworth/Associated Press

It's makes depressing reading for the Premier League.

Two games, two defeats and two players dismissed—this week's Champions League action has been one to forget for the league that trades on being the world's finest.

Indeed, the similarities between Manchester City and Arsenal's losses to Barcelona and Bayern Munich respectively outline the difference in class we have witnessed.

Both teams were totally outplayed by superior opponents on home soil, each losing a man to a reckless challenge and suffering a two-goal deficit on account of late goals, thus compounding their misery.

It's only half-time in their respective ties, the cliche tells us, but given the scale of the task that faces them in the second leg, it's pretty much certain City and Arsenal's European dreams are over for another season.

Not so for Chelsea, however.

Next week sees the Blues come up against the man who inspired them to Champions League glory in 2012. Yet outside of the fairytale story of Didier Drogba's Chelsea return, Galastaray shouldn't offer Jose Mourinho's side too much of a concern.

That's not to dismiss the threat of the Turkish champions, but Chelsea go into the knockout stages of the competition as overwhelming favorites to progress into the quarterfinals.

Frank Augstein/Associated Press

And what then? Well, it's anyone's guess, although with Jose Mourinho in the dugout, the Blues are better equipped than most—especially their English counterparts.

City and Arsenal are all but out, while in David Moyes, Manchester United have a manager who is barely finding his feet at Old Trafford, let alone being capable of a sustained European assault in his rookie season in the continent's elite cup competition.

Mourinho is a wily character who thrives on times like these—big European nights under the floodlights, with the whole world watching.

He's been relishing the Champions League's return since the draw was made in December. It's his stage—it's what he is all about.

THOMAS KIENZLE/Associated Press

Time and again, Mourinho has guided teams to achieve beyond their means and when the time comes, there aren't many better at grinding out a result—inferior team or not.

After all, that's what the Champions League becomes when we enter the last 16 and beyond. It's not about who deserves it, who plays the most beautiful football or who is the best team.

Ask any Chelsea fan and they will tell you that much, having seen their club lift the European Cup two years ago with, ironically, one of their weakest teams in the past decade.

Cup football is about embracing the win at all costs nature it brings. Needs must and Mourinho knows that.

Clint Hughes/Associated Press

He did it with Porto in 2004, organizing his players to stifle the opposition and eventually snatch vital goals. It almost proved that way with Chelsea the following season, while at Inter Milan in 2010, he outfoxed a fine Barcelona team en route to lifting the trophy for a second time.

It may have taken six months, but now the Blues have the look of a Mourinho team. There are elements where he needs to strengthen and fine tune, yet Chelsea circa 2014 is on the fast track to match the juggernaut he built almost 10 years ago.

The 2014 final in Lisbon may be a year too soon for Chelsea, especially with new recruit Nemanja Matic being cup-tied. But with two of their domestic rivals already appearing to have fallen by the wayside, we can expect different from Mourinho's team.

They may not win it, but we can count on Chelsea to ensure the Premier League's interests in the Champions League remains a going concern for some while yet.


Garry Hayes is Bleacher Report's lead Chelsea correspondent and will be following the club from a London base throughout the 2013-14 season. Follow him on Twitter here @garryhayes


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