STAMFORD BRIDGE, LONDON — Managers may come and go in west London—players even more so—yet whatever changes at Chelsea, the Blues’ mettle remains firmly intact.
Against Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday, Jose Mourinho’s players put in the type of performance that has defined this club over the past decade or so.
It’s no wonder the Portuguese seemed so bullish just 24 hours earlier when he addressed the world’s media in his pre-match press conference.
Mourinho had spoken of Chelsea’s chances of progressing into the Champions League semis, explaining they would enjoy the risk of attacking PSG in their attempts to overturn a two-goal deficit.
True to his word, they did.
There was little to separate the Blues and PSG over the two legs of this Champions League quarter-final.
Each team was packed full of international talent, acquired by the backing of a sugar daddy owner, and as the game ended 2-0 on the night and 3-3 on aggregate, the outcome was ultimately decided by fine margins.
Indeed, the financial might of Chelsea and PSG has propelled them among European football’s elite, but it was the Blues who showed their opponents they have the one thing money cannot buy—spirit.
In Andre Schurrle, there wasn’t another player on the pitch who embodied that very quality more.
Now, as his teammates await to find out their semi-final opponents, it’s performances like Schurrle’s that will give them every confidence of repeating their 2012 Champions League success.
That season, Chelsea had to recover from a similar situation against Napoli—a team coincidentally featuring current PSG stars Edinson Cavani and Ezequiel Lavezzi.
Trailing 3-1 after the first leg in Italy, Chelsea faced an almost impossible task to turn the tie around. Yet they did, in emphatic fashion, too, eventually winning the game 4-1 after extra time to advance 5-4 on aggregate.
The scoreline may have been different this time out, but everything else remained the same. The spirit of 2012 was alive and well at Stamford Bridge.
Drama, passion, endeavor, spirit—any number of adjectives could be applied on a night that will live long in the memory of Chelsea fans.
At the heart of it all was Schurrle.
The German international had been thrust into the action when Eden Hazard hobbled off injured after just 17 minutes. The game was goalless and, without their talisman tormenting the Paris defence, Chelsea’s chances of clawing their way back seemed doomed.
Schurrle turned that fear into hope, however, influencing proceedings the moment he was introduced and changing his team’s fortunes with it.
Inside of 15 minutes of his introduction, Chelsea were leading on the night after his well-taken strike highlighted PSG’s struggles in containing him.
It was his first Chelsea goal in the Champions League and, boy, he picked the perfect moment to score it.
With every Chelsea attack, Schurrle looked dangerous, pulling off his marker to create space and bring others into play as Chelsea built momentum.
His performance was almost Hazard-esque, and by this showing, the Belgian is going to have a fight on his hands in the coming weeks if Schurrle maintains this kind of form.
After a slow start to life in west London, the 23-year-old has enjoyed a remarkable past couple of months. From scoring his first Chelsea hat-trick against Fulham in March, to helping the Blues thrash Arsenal 6-0 and now this—Schurrle is proving quite the player.
He has forced himself to sit comfortably among the core of young talent that is emerging at Stamford Bridge, from appearing on the periphery to impacting Chelsea's season considerably as they chase success at home and abroad.
Mourinho clearly knew all along what Schurrle was going to offer, though, and is now reaping the benefits.
Demba Ba's 87th-minute winner will be remembered for being the goal that killed off PSG. It must be said, without Schurrle, it wouldn't have been possible.
He gave Chelsea the platform they needed against PSG, and while he may have proved to be an unlikely hero from the bench, his status in west London is dramatically changing with every game.
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Defeating Paris Saint-Germain to advance into the Champions League semi-finals wasn't the only good news to come out of Stamford Bridge on Tuesday.
Hazard limped off with a leg injury in the first half, but as he departed Stamford Bridge after the game, Bleacher Report asked him how his injury felt.
"OK. It's good," said the Belgian.
His comments were as brief as his appearance against PSG, but while we're not too sure how long he will be on the sidelines, if Hazard's assessment is anything to go by, Chelsea won't be too long without their talisman.
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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