Let's make showdown a special one, says Grant - European - Football - The Independent

Let's make showdown a special one, says Grant

Blues bidding to make glorious history to fulfil Roman conquest

It is the day that Roman Abramovich has been waiting for since he watched Manchester United and Real Madrid play one of the classic European Cup ties at Old Trafford five years ago and decided he would like a football club; not just any old club, of course, but one with the potential to reach that sort of level, and quickly. He would certainlynot have envisaged taking five years to progress as far as a Champions' League final, least of all when Claudio Ranieri's team made the last four against Monaco within nine months ofthe spectacular takeover in July 2003.

Poor Ranieri blew his chance by throwing away the tie – though club officials had been turning against him long before that – and Jose Mourinho twice suffered the humiliation of defeat at the same stage by Liverpool. When Chelsea were deservedly 1-0 down with a minute to play at Anfield in this season's semi-final, Abramovich must have been musing on the Russian equivalent of "always the bridesmaid, never the bride". But John Arne Riise's subsequent own goal tipped the balance, and so it is Chelsea, frequently rem-inded by Liverpool fans that "you ain't got no history", who will take on United on Wednesday with an opportunity to make some at last.

"It was a dream of the club more than anything to be in the final," said Avram Grant, the much-ridiculed manager gradually and grudgingly earning some of the respect due to him. "Every final of the Champions' League is something special. It's the most important game in European, probably world, football."

Speculation that only becoming champions of Europe or England this season could save him from the sack has been modified to suggestions that a "glorious failure" might suffice. Had neither Wigan nor Bolton brought anti-climax to the Premier League pursuit of United with late equalisers at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea would already be celebrating a glorious success. The consolation is they still have the chance of beating United over a 90-minute sprint instead of the seven-month chase that Grant began with a 2-0 defeat at Old Trafford last September.

United claim a psychological advantage from having held off that challenge, albeit thanks to their North-west neighbours; Chelsea claim the extra motivation is theirs, strengthened by a 2-1 win over the eventual champions last month, when Sir Alex Ferguson rested half-a-dozen players.

Chelsea's goalkeeper,Petr Cech, says: "They have already got one trophy and we don't want to see them celebrating again, so this is extra motivation. It took a lot of energy and hard work to go to the final and we go to win, because you don't just want to be part of it. Something I was taught as a kid whenever we played in a final was that his-tory remembers only the winners, which is true for me. If you don't win the final then in the end you've got the same asthe people who lose in the group stage."

From his vantage point behind everyone else, Cech was able to observe how United were pressured into defeat at Stamford Bridge: "We put them under pressure and they couldn't play because we didn't allow them to. It was not the case in [United's] other games, maybe some teams came to Old Trafford really aware of their attacking threat and triedto defend. But we put them under pressure because they are not used to playing under pressure from an opponent. That was a good tactic."

It would be nice to think Chelsea will approach Wednesday's game in the same way, though at least one of their players is more cautious. John Obi Mikel, the object of a bewildering and undignified tug-of-war between the two clubs three years ago after claiming he was forced against his will into signing for United, said: "It's going to be a very tactical game. Trust me, it's not going to be as exciting as people think it's going to be. Neither team is going to come out too hard. You have to sit and wait for your opportunity. In a Champions' League final, any mistake can cost you the game."

Evidence from previous finals involving teams from the same country is contradictory. Milan's grim goalless draw against Juv-entus in Manchester five years ago was one extreme; three years before, Real Madrid and Steve McManaman were masterful in beating Valencia 3-0. Grant, reflect-ing his new confidence, remains optimistic: "There are two good teams. Our last game against United and our semi-final against Liverpool were good games. I think it will be a good game, but you never know."

Glorious failure or inglorious victory? As in last year's FA Cup final, everyone who believes blue is the colour – even Abramovich himself – will surely settle for the latter.

News
Paper trail: the wedding photograph found in the rubble after 9/11 – it took Elizabeth Keefe 13 years to find the people in it
newsWho are the people in this photo? It took Elizabeth Stringer Keefe 13 years to find out
Arts and Entertainment
Evil eye: Douglas Adams in 'mad genius' pose
booksNew biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Sport
FootballFull debuts don't come much more stylish than those on show here
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Kim Kardashian drawn backlash over her sexy swimsuit selfie, called 'disgusting' and 'nasty'
fashionCritics say magazine only pays attention to fashion trends among rich, white women
Arts and Entertainment
TVShows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Arts and Entertainment
Hit the roof: hot-tub cinema east London
architectureFrom pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
Travel
travel
News
The ecological reconstruction of Ikrandraco avatar is shown in this illustration courtesy of Chuang Zhao. Scientists on September 11, 2014 announced the discovery of fossils in China of a type of flying reptile called a pterosaur that lived 120 millions years ago and so closely resembled those creatures from the 2009 film, Avatar that they named it after them.
SCIENCE
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Matisse: The Cut-Outs exhibition attracted 562,000 visitors to the Tate Modern from April to September
art
Life and Style
Models walk the runway at the Tom Ford show during London Fashion Week Spring Summer 2015
fashionLondon Fashion Week 2014
News
Kenny G
news
News
peopleThe black actress has claimed police mistook her for a prostitute when she kissed her white husband
Life and Style
techIndian model comes with cricket scores baked in
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week