They may be the most expensive squad ever assembled, but José Mourinho's Chelsea FC have a quality that money cannot buy: grit.
Triumphs of will
From the fightback that earned a crucial UEFA Champions League group-stage draw at FC Barcelona to the way they came from behind in both legs of their knockout ties with FC Porto and Valencia CF, these have been triumphs of will as well as talent. But Frank Lampard knows they will have to start all over again when they take on Liverpool FC. "Two years ago we were on a great run, we beat Barcelona and [FC] Bayern [München] but we lost to Liverpool," Lampard told uefa.com. "So we try not to think of destiny and omens and stuff like that. It is about continuing to perform and doing our best over the two legs."
What happened in the Mestalla stadium last Tuesday again suggested defeat is not in cosmopolitan Chelsea's multilingual vocabulary. At half-time, trailing 1-0 and 2-1 on aggregate, it seemed that for the 12th time in as many UEFA competition matches an English team would come away from Valencia without victory. A tactical switch, with Joe Cole arriving and the side realigned to 4-3-3, then moved Chelsea into a gear that Valencia appeared not to possess. They equalised quickly, yet even then it took until the final minute for Michael Essien to claim the goal that took the Blues through.
However, Lampard revealed there was no rousing half-time speech from the manager. "Not much was said, it was more actions," he said. "We realised we had to score a goal so we came out and attacked more. I think the game opened up for us. And we were very strong. It's one of our hallmarks, we're very strong, got a lot of character. And we didn't stop in the second half."
Just as Lampard was his usual bustling self during the game, so Essien was a livewire presence. Unfortunately for Chelsea, the Ghanaian international picked up an early booking that will leave him suspended for the home semi-final first leg against Liverpool on 25 April. "He did very well - he does very well whenever he plays," Lampard said. "It will be unfortunate to miss him, but we have a big enough squad to handle it when players are out."
Nor is the 28-year-old England midfielder worried about fatigue setting in during their hectic schedule, not least with a highly-charged derby at former club West Ham United FC on Wednesday night as the Londoners pursue a third straight Premiership title. "I don't know about other players, but for me a rest is not always the best thing when you are winning games, you want to carry on playing and we are very confident at the moment. You can't beat being a confident team who are winning and playing regularly, and that is what we are."
But turning to their rematch with Liverpool, Lampard suggests that meeting such a familiar opponent makes life more complicated than when facing challengers from outside England. "I think it is a bit more difficult. We know each other ever so well, it throws up different things than when you play a team from abroad. We know that Liverpool are very strong, they are in a very good moment. We have to be on top of our game to go through."
This is an abridged version of an article that appears in this week's edition of the uefa.com Magazine. To read the feature in full, click here.
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