By their own high standards this season has been a testing one for Chelsea FC, but Salomon Kalou believes victory at FC København could yet be the catalyst for a glorious conclusion to the campaign.
Carlo Ancelotti's side took only 20 points from 16 league games between 7 November and 14 February – suffering six defeats, the same number as the whole of last season – while their defence of the FA Cup was ended by Everton FC. Three days later, however, Nicolas Anelka's double secured a 2-0 win in Copenhagen and the following week Chelsea inflicted only Manchester United FC's second league defeat of the season, although it is the former result Kalou picks out as potentially crucial.
"København can be the turning point, because going away and winning 2-0 is a great result," the striker told UEFA.com as he prepared for Wednesday's UEFA Champions League return at Stamford Bridge. "Now we have the second leg at home and we'll try to make it good by winning again. Then we can prepare for the next round peacefully."
While recognising the hardest part of the tie has perhaps already been completed – "The away goal is very important and if you score twice away that can play in your favour in the next game" – Kalou is keen to emphasise the need to guard against complacency. "
A football match is never done; you play 90 minutes, so we have to be focused on that. I think we have the team to beat them."
Although most observers expect Chelsea – semi-finalists or better in five of the last seven seasons – to make serene progress to yet another quarter-final, Kalou disregards that, adding: "It's dangerous. If you think you're already through and that it will be an easy game, then you can [concede goals]. We know they have a good team; even if we beat them away, they created a lot of chances as well. If they reach this stage of the competition it means they're a good team. So we have to have respect for them and play our usual game."
Kalou was recently at Wembley to help launch the Finale London, the ball which will be used for the UEFA Champions League showpiece on 28 May, and he admits it has whetted his appetite for a second final appearance having come on as an extra-time substitute in Chelsea's 2008 defeat by United in Moscow. "It's a great ball, easy to touch and easy to strike, and an amazing design with the star and Wembley on it. It's very beautiful and I think players are going to enjoy it in the final. Too bad that it's red, but right now we play with a blue ball, so maybe that can help us go through to the final."
Another added incentive for Chelsea is the prospect of the final in their home city. No London club has ever lifted the European Champion Clubs' Cup and Kalou is optimistic that familiar surroundings can give his team the edge. “We've played so many times at Wembley, it would be like a home game," he said. "
Imagine playing a Champions League final at home – that would be the best scenario ever. So we are motivated, we know it's a long journey to get there, but we'll take it game by game. It's very important to be focused – that's the only way we can get to the final."
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