Terry can 'barely breathe' but will still try to shackle Messi

Chelsea captain is in the kind of form that makes him a hard man to ignore

Sometimes it is easy to forget that in just three months' time, John Terry will face a court case that will define his career, his life and his legacy as a footballer, simply because he plays as if nothing could be further from his mind.

Say what you like about Terry – and there are many who have – but he is approaching the end of another season in the kind of form that makes him such a hard man to ignore. Throw in the two cracked ribs which he has admitted to sustaining in the first leg of Chelsea's triumphant Champions League quarter-final against Benfica, and his pledge to play through the pain if necessary, and you have another classic Terry storyline developing.

It is a personal view that the serious nature of the racial abuse allegations, which he will answer in West London magistrates court on 9 July, make it inappropriate for Terry to play for England at Euro 2012. In the end, the Football Association stopped at taking the captaincy away from him and in doing so triggered the series of events that led to Fabio Capello's departure.

Once again, with the maelstrom enveloping his life, and injury problems taking their toll, Terry has emerged undaunted in the last few weeks as one of the key figures of Chelsea's mini-revival. At times, he even looked as if he wanted to be the manager too but, all joking aside, how does he do it?

Against Benfica on Wednesday night it was only after Terry was substituted that the Portuguese side scored. When he plays alongside David Luiz, Terry talks endlessly to the Brazilian, ordering him into position. With the less voluble Gary Cahill next to him, Luiz allowed Javi Garcia to run off him for a free header.

The statistics speak for themselves too. Since the turn of the year, Chelsea have conceded 20 goals in 21 games but only four of those goals have been conceded when Terry has been on the pitch. He has played just 11 games in that period, a relatively low proportion for him, having first struggled with a knee injury and now having to contend with the cracked ribs sustained in Lisbon.

Terry is 32 in December and unlikely to win many popularity contests held outside of Stamford Bridge. The expectation is that sooner or later the physical sacrifice he has made over the years will take its toll and he will no longer justify a place in the Chelsea or England team. But not yet. In fact there will scarcely be a more important player in the side that faces Barcelona over two legs than the man who has beaten them twice as a Chelsea player.

Terry said on Wednesday night after the game that he was having trouble breathing with the injury and that he had "never had anything like that before". "I don't know how long I'll be out. I will have a scan and we will see where we go from there. It's just horrible. When you get one in the ribs, you can't do anything about it, you can't treat it, you just have to let it heal, but I can get through games definitely."

Note the caveat that, bad though it is, he does not expect to miss any games. He would not countenance missing the two against Lionel Messi in which Terry will come up against the greatest player in the world in his new central role. When Chelsea played Barcelona in the semi-final in 2009, Messi was still operating largely as a winger but come 18 April he will be Terry's responsibility.

In Barcelona, they have a less jaded view of Terry than is the norm in English football. He is remembered as the man who, in the aftermath of the controversial elimination in 2009, when referee Tom Henning Ovrebo lost the plot, came into the away dressing room at Stamford Bridge and shook the hands of all the Barcelona players and staff.

Then, Pep Guardiola described Terry as a "true gentleman" for the gesture. There is an acknowledgement that although Terry is a different kind of player to the Barcelona template he has a useful role to play. Xavi has compared him to Carles Puyol, and while he was not entirely complimentary, it is evident that Terry is an individual Barcelona have noticed over the years.

"The Terry and [Jamie] Carragher type players are necessary," Xavi said. "We have Puyol here. Technically he is not the best player in the squad but physically he is spectacular and he is a great defender. Players like Terry and Carragher are necessary but they have to adapt to the team as opposed to the team adapting to them. In some ways what these players do has more merit because to me it comes naturally."

When Chelsea beat Barcelona 4-2 in March 2005 at Stamford Bridge, it was Terry who scored the fourth goal after Ronaldinho had brought the score back to 3-2. He played in the home win over Barca, then defending champions, in the group stages in October 2006. Needless to say, the current Barca side is better than both those teams.

There is no greater test for a centre-back than marking Messi, who has 58 goals this season and is closing in on the total of 67 scored by Gerd Muller for Bayern Munich in the 1972-73 season, a record at a top-flight European club. There will be many expecting Terry to fail, or even willing his humiliation. But, however you regard him, it is a fair bet he will not make it easy for Barcelona's famous No 10.

Case for the defence

Without John Terry this season, Chelsea have conceded 1.19 goals per game. With him in the side they have conceded 0.96.

Without Terry:

P16/W6/D5/L5/A19/Win% 37.5

With Terry:

P33/W20/D7/L6/A32/Win% 60.1

Chelsea are unbeaten in their last 11 fixtures that Terry has started in all competitions.

Lucerne’s Hotel Château Gütsch, one of the lots in our Homeless Veterans appeal charity auction
charity appeal
Arts and Entertainment
Tony Hughes (James Nesbitt) after his son Olly disappeared on a family holiday in France

Jo from Northern Ireland was less than impressed by Russell Brand's attempt to stage a publicity stunt

Scunthorpe goalkeeper Sam Slocombe (left) is congratulated by winning penalty taker Miguel Llera (right)
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice candidates Roisin Hogan, Solomon Akhtar, Mark Wright, Bianca Miller, Daniel Lassman
tvReview: But which contestants got the boot?
Life and Style
A woman walks by a pandal art installation entitled 'Mars Mission' with the figure of an astronaut during the Durga Puja festival in Calcutta, India
techHow we’ll investigate the existence of, and maybe move in with, our alien neighbours
Arts and Entertainment
Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels ride again in Dumb and Dumber To
filmReview: Dumb And Dumber To was a really stupid idea
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Ian McKellen tempts the Cookie Monster
tvSir Ian McKellen joins the Cookie Monster for a lesson on temptation
Tourists bask in the sun beneath the skyscrapers of Dubai
travelBritish embassy uses social media campaign to issue travel advice for festive holiday-makers in UAE
Arts and Entertainment
Jennifer Saunders stars as Miss Windsor, Dennis's hysterical French teacher
filmJennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress
Life and Style
Nabil Bentaleb (centre) celebrates putting Tottenham ahead
footballTottenham 4 Newcastle 0: Spurs fans dreaming of Wembley final after dominant win
Jimmy Mubenga died after being restrained on an aircraft by G4S escorts
voicesJonathan Cox: Tragedy of Jimmy Mubenga highlights lack of dignity shown to migrants
Life and Style
Sebastian Siemiatkowski is the 33-year-old co-founder and CEO of Klarna, which provides a simple way for people to buy things online
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum