Chelsea may be through to the last 16 of the Champions League, and with their manager, Luiz Felipe Scolari, declaring he does not care who they face in the next round, but their captain, John Terry, voiced the concern within the squad when he admitted last night that they need to start performing a lot better if they are to win the competition.
"If we want to go all the way we have to really up our game," the central defender said. "We are through to the knockout stages now so we have to be on the ball home and away." Terry has become something of a spokesman for Chelsea's indifferent form in recent weeks – indifferent in the context of nevertheless being in second place in the Premier League and still in the Champions League – and he admitted that the players have not "done justice to ourselves in Europe yet this season" while declaring there has been "pressure" because of poor form. Chelsea have, he said, suffered a "bad run".
Understandably, Scolari was more circumspect. "I think we played well," he said after the 2-1 victory over the Romanian champions, CFR Cluj. "Not very well, but well. We are second [in Group A] and we will have to wait and see what happens in the draw."
Asked who he preferred to play – or avoid – Scolari added: "I don't choose the team. For me it is no difference if I play against Barcelona, Real Madrid, Inter Milan because they are the best. If we want to get to the final we need to win a, b or c."
Despite the unconvincing performance Scolari defended his players but, tellingly, added that he "prayed" that with Didier Drogba finally available and others edging back to fitness Chelsea did not suffer further injuries.
"It's important for me because he's one of the best in the world and I have options," Scolari said of Drogba. "I have a chance sometimes to play a different system. Before, no. I need to say to you that Anelka is as important as Drogba. I expect and I pray to God that I have no more injuries, after that it's up to me to decide to play the two players together or decide which one is the best for Chelsea."
Scolari had toyed with the idea of starting both strikers but decided against the option. He did not wait long to make a change last night. After watching as Alex missed with a header, as Anelka had a shot blocked, and Joe Cole fired wide, he decided on shaking up his tactics. It was hardly revolutionary but he pushed Salomon Kalou inside a little more. And the Ivorian scored.
The goal followed two animated conversations Scolari had had with the Coles – Joe and Ashley. He called the former over to switch wings and tell Kalou to come inside; he told the latter he needed to push on more himself to support the attack which was misfiring, with Anelka again showing the worrying tendency he has to drift out of Champions League matches.
His movement is appalling. He waits for things to happen, not offering attacking options. Moves break down because of him. He is the opposite of Drogba which, of course, in a sense fuels the argument that the pair could work well together. Except both give the impression that they prefer to operate alone.
It was after a miss by Anelka that Cluj equalised. Immediately Joe Cole fluffed an even better opportunity. Both should have scored, neither did. It only highlighted Chelsea's crying need for that extra striker that Scolari is demanding.
On came Drogba. Everyone knows he can be the solution. The substitution, with Kalou going off, meant Anelka was forced into an increasingly marginal role and he was watching as Joe Cole and Drogba combined brilliantly for the latter to score.