Roberto Di Matteo's revived Chelsea roll on to their next great challenge tomorrow night. The caretaker manager has summoned more out of Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard than Andre Villas-Boas ever could, but Barcelona will be a step up from Sunday's FA Cup semi-final win.
The fact Chelsea are in the Champions League, the FA Cup final and the battle for fourth place is a testament to Di Matteo's six-week tenure – in which chaos, turmoil and discord have been replaced by something more collegiate.
Communication, say the players, has been the difference. "He's done brilliant," Lampard said after the 5-1 Wembley win over Spurs. "You can see the desire and love he has for the club and the fans relate to that. He's done the simple things right, he's got individuals playing well, with confidence. The basics of management for me is man-management. He's done it."
Drogba agreed: "I think the most important thing is the communication, and it's easier when you win. The spirit is better when you win games."
Lampard and Drogba are both veterans of the Jose Mourinho past but they can still do much for Chelsea's present, as shown at Wembley with a fine goal apiece – Drogba's opener showed an astonishing mix of strength and technique but he thanked Lampard for a pass. Eight seasons together have bred quite an understanding.
Of all the great things the pair have achieved over the years, overcoming Barcelona would be the peak. It will be their fourth Champions League semi-final together, the first since Andres Iniesta's famous, desperate intervention at Stamford Bridge in 2009.
The teams have gone in opposite directions since then, but two-leg ties are not a pure merit test and Drogba knows Chelsea have a chance. "It's a 50-50, even if they are said to be the best team in the world," he said. "There are two games. Anything can happen."
The underdog role is not one Chelsea often take on. "I don't mind if people write us off," Lampard said. "We're in the semi-final on merit. Everyone has this feeling with Barcelona that they're going to roll over everyone. When they're at their best they can do that. We have to take them on and if we play the way we did against Spurs, with that focus and determination, we can give anyone in world football a game."Reuse content