Hot-and-cold Chelsea have split season in two parts, says Cech


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The Independent Online

When you consider the low points in Chelsea's journey this season, it is remarkable they have made it this far. There have been 11 defeats in all competitions, hardly the record of a team one game away from eliminating the runaway favourites for the Champions League in the semi-finals tonight.

This is not supposed to be the kind of trophy a team stumble on and certainly no one beats the current Barcelona side by accident. But since he took over as the Catalans' manager in 2008, Pep Guardiola, right, has faced 52 clubs and Chelsea are the only one his teams have never beaten – Barça went through on away goals in 2009. There is clearly something about Chelsea that gets under Barça's skin.

Petr Cech, a veteran of the modern Chelsea's rivalry with them, is the serious type, not given to talking about luck, but he did so yesterday. He admitted Chelsea were "very lucky" in the first leg – but said that in the past, Barcelona had been "luckier".

Asked if Jose Mourinho had offered advice on beating them, Cech deadpanned that his former manager had just held a tactical meeting with the Chelsea players. That is as about as jokey as it gets with the Chelsea goalkeeper, who has seen every Chelsea managerial divorce since Mourinho and survived to tell the tale. There is not much that rattles him.

Asked if he could ever have envisaged a season like this one, Cech said: "It's true there were moments when everything looked more complicated and we had to go through [them]. Thankfully we've done this and now we want to carry on. But you have things happening in football quite fast. It can go from bad to great, and great to bad, in a split second. We've kind of split the season in two parts, where we weren't doing as well as we'd wished in the Premier League, but we've done well in the Champions League."

The usually indomitable Lionel Messi, a staggering two games without a goal, missed training on Sunday, although he was back yesterday, and it would be foolish to believe that his team are there for the taking.

Of the abundance of statistics that illustrate how good they are, two stand out: the last time Barça were beaten three games in a row was in 2003; and they have had more possession than their opposition in their last 243 games. Whatever happens tonight, Chelsea know they won't have much of the ball.