BY TREVOR HAYLETT
Rest assured, the cloak of silence in which Glenn Hoddle initially chose to surround himself yesterday will not be matched by the thousands who will arrive at Stamford Bridge tonight praying for a European miracle. If they are to overcome crippling odds and reach the final of the Cup- Winners' Cup, Chelsea must have a passionate response from the supporters, an intimidating atmosphere, and then some more.
Footballers with mountains to climb tend to look for allies under every rock. Faced with the three-goal advantage held by Real Zaragoza from the first leg, John Spencer, Chelsea's leading scorer who nevertheless may be unable to win a place tonight, was moved to hope for "Glaswegian weather" in west London to put a dampener on the Spaniards' cultured passing game.
They also possess great strength and an awesome attacking weapon in the young Argentinian, Esnaider, and an all-out assault on Zaragoza's goal will leave the English club prone to the away strike that will strangle all remaining life out of the tie. The signs point to a severe dose of the blues and yet there is something for Chelsea to cling to in the fact that being written off is hardly a new experience.
Against both Bruges and Austria Vienna in previous rounds Chelsea proved the folly of discounting them, especially now they have rediscovered some of their domestic form with wins against Aston Villa and a precious point prised away from Manchester United. Gavin Peacock says confidence has been revived and an early goal might just allow them to do to Zaragoza what was done to them a fortnight ago.
"They are obviously an excellent side when their tails are up but maybe they will find it more difficult when they go a goal behind," the Chelsea captain said. "They have not got a great away record and with the crowd behind us, who knows?"
Hoddle at first declined to discuss their prospects yesterday, claiming he had said all he wanted to say earlier in the week. Later he ventured that they had a chance if they could match their two-goal first-half achievement against Bruges, though that was laughed off by the Zaragoza coach, who said he is convinced his team will "score a few". Victor Fernandez added: "Glenn Hoddle is being a bit optimistic if he thinks Chelsea can score three or more goals against us. The job is not finished yet but we are confident we will be on our way to Paris for the final."
Hoddle's important oratory will come in the dressing-room because he is unlikely to be able to influence things on the pitch. Injuries leave him, Andy Myers and Scott Minto with only 50-50 chances. Definitely out are Dmitri Kharin, Dennis Wise, Eddie Newton and Jakob Kjeldbjerg.Reuse content