Being honest, Chelsea’s performances before the sacking of Andre Villas Boas and since Roberto Di Matteo has taken over have not been good enough for a club of their stature. The Stamford Bridge side have looked low in confidence, lacked creative ideas and been vulnerable at the back.
A change was needed as the young Portuguese manager unfortunately did not deal with the pressure of coaching a top Premier League club, and the appointment of club man Di Matteo may well inspire a set of uninspired players.
In the first leg against Napoli the west London side started brightly, and at times showed that they could go toe-to-roe with Walter Mazzarri’s men and all their quality. Despite this, the team’s frailties in defence were also showcased, and must be remedied on Wednesday.
In the home leg defence is just as important as attack, as although the team need goals, a Napoli away goal could all but end the tie. If Chelsea can keep a clean sheet, a 2-0 win is not unrealistic over the space of 90 minutes; the home side must not go all guns blazing from the start and realise that they have the entirety of a match to score two goals – something they used to do without batting an eyelid.
To avoid these dreaded away goals John Terry and the rest of the Blues defence must be 100% disciplined and concentrate for the entire game. In Edinson Cavani the visitors have one of the world’s most lethal predators – the Uruguayan only needs one chance to potentially put the tie beyond Chelsea’s reach.
With the first leg’s main perpetrator Ezequiel Lavezzi and the mightily talented Marek Hamsik also in support, Napoli have goals in them that’s for sure. However, their three-man defence at times has shown extreme vulnerability. In the more tactical and calculated Serie A, a three-man backline seems to work, however in Europe, against different approaches and tactics it is yet to inspire.
Napoli dispatched Cagliari 6-3 last Friday in their last game, and although the amount of goals scored will be no comfort to Chelsea, the fact that a middle of the road side managed to score three goals against the hosts at San Paolo should inspire at least some confidence that the attack may pay off.
I firmly believe that Chelsea can score twice against Napoli on Wednesday, which ahead of the game is all they need. However it is at the other end that the game will be decided, as the task of stopping Cavani and his colleagues may be a bridge to far at the Bridge.
By Gareth McKnight