Inter Milan are the clear winners in the first leg of the Champions League battle between themselves and Chelsea, but it is clearly delusional to think that everything is over for Chelsea.
In fact, the result sets up a very exciting second leg.
Inter are leading the league in Italy and boast a powerful array of attackers. Their manager Jose Mourinho is one of the smartest in the business and also knows all there is to know about Chelsea, so Inter would make a tough opponent for Chelsea.
Fate decided to make it a lot more interesting by having Chelsea's first and second best left back, Ashley Cole and Yuri Zhirkov, injured and unavailable for the game. Paulo Ferreira, the Portuguese international who could have played left back, was not included in the Champions League squad. Inter came into the game knowing that the left side is one that they would be able to exploit.
Chelsea fans did worry when they learnt that Florent Malouda, the experienced winger, will take up the left back spot and Salomon Kalou will be in the starting lineup.
Everybody knows how the game went. Everybody knows the result.
Inter played well. Chelsea and their fans will wish the result was different, but they can take a lot of hope into the next game. Chelsea did dominate the "meaningless" stats. They did have a lot of shot on goals. They did well to gain an upper hand as far as possession goes. They did rattle the Inter midfield a bit.
The second leg of the competition will be held in Chelsea's stronghold—Stamford Bridge. Chelsea boasts a mighty home record, and a win there is a rare achievement for visitors. The grounds familiarity and home support will definitely provide a huge boost for Chelsea's players.
Chelsea will by then also have Zhirkov available to play, and Malouda can be slotted back in the left winger position. Petr Cech should also hopefully be back by then. Once the familiar old squad regroups in their den, beating them will be very difficult.
Chelsea also have the advantage of an away goal. Inter defended well in the first leg, but they will have to do even better to ensure that Chelsea do not score an extra goal (or more). With Didier Drogba and company aware of their offensive responsibilities, it is a tough task indeed.
Inter's own attack squad consisting of Mario Balotelli, Samuel Eto'o, and Goran Pandev will also find it harder to attack when they face the regular Chelsea defense and a ground where they do not have the advantage of width.
How will Inter come in the second leg? Will they play with more men behind the ball, always defending and occasionally attacking, or will they come in their regular attacking style? At least there won't be any surprises about how Chelsea will come out and play.
So barring injuries or the referee deciding to play foul, it is hard to see Chelsea losing the second leg game.
Prediction: Chelsea 2-2 Inter; Chelsea progresses on away goals.
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