TERRY: TURNING IT AROUND
As performances go, it probably won't live long in the memory, but in terms of importance, our victory against Benfica will rank right up there alongside the most memorable European nights at Stamford Bridge, and with a Champions League semi-final against holders Barcelona looming, John Terry hopes his teammates can, as in the past, cause the Catalans problems.
The Blues captain was forced out of the action midway through the second half against the Portuguese side with a rib injury, and was forced to watch on helplessly as we endured a frenetic, nervy climax to the game, but while he acknowledged the performance hadn't been ideal, he paid tribute to the collective desire shown by the whole squad in recent weeks.
'We've shown in the past couple of months just what we're all about as a side and a squad,' said Terry. 'To come back the way we did against Napoli, to go away to Benfica and win there and show that we're difficult to break down.
'It's going to be very difficult to go to Barcelona but we know it will be very tough here at the Bridge. Because of the past four or five years, they're one of the best teams ever, but we're going pretty well ourselves, and it's important we keep that momentum and keep winning games.
'We're delighted to be in the position we're in now, two months back I'd have bitten someone's hand off to be where we are now. It's been a good team effort collectively as well because the manager has rotated and the people who have come in have shown that hunger and fight to keep their place and work for their chances. That's been key, and with a busy schedule I think it's been important as well, and will be over the next few weeks.'
With participation in the latter stages of cup competitions, comes the inevitable fixture pile-up which can test the depth of even the strongest squads to their limits.
As well as a two-legged tie against Barcelona and an FA Cup semi-final against Tottenham at Wembley to come in the next few weeks, we face crucial league fixtures against Wigan, Fulham and Arsenal as we attempt to secure a top-four finish and guarantee Champions League football next season, and Terry admitted that playing competitive matches every three days is beginning to take its toll, both on the squad and him personally.
'It's a busy time for fixtures and if I'm honest, I felt we looked a little bit tired against Benfica.' he said. 'The tempo was a little bit slow and that's just down to the busy schedule and the number of games we've played. Now we've got two in three days this weekend as well, so it doesn't get easier.
'I'm struggling a bit, to be honest. In the away leg after about 20 minutes I got an elbow in the ribs. I have two fractured ribs but I don't think it will mean I'm out at all, it's just a case of managing it and things like that. I know there are ways around it. With the ribs you can't really do anything, you can't treat the injury or massage it to make it better, but the guys have got a few ideas to get me through games.'
In terms of opposition, they don't come any more glamorous than Pep Guardiola's side, particularly given their current pedigree on the European stage, where they have won the Champions League twice in the last three seasons.
The Blues, though, have history with the Spaniards, dating back from the dramatic clashes in 2005 through to the controversial tie in 2009 when we were eliminated by a last-gasp Andres Iniesta strike, but Terry is a player who thrives on the big occasion, and he is looking forward to testing himself once more against the most exciting player in the world at present, Lionel Messi.
'They [games against Barcelona] have been some of my proudest memories as a Chelsea player. When they come here, especially, I feel we've shown we can take it to them a little bit,' said the Blues skipper.
'Not many teams have really done that to them - you don't see it very often. Whether that will be the approach this time around is down to the manager. We've seen before that things can happen in five or 10 minutes. We went three up but they showed the ability to come right back in the tie [in 2005]. You can't predict anything but we all know they are a great side.
'It's something for me that I can tell my kids that I've played against Messi when we watch him on television, because my kids just love him. It's one of those things; it's a pleasure to pit myself against him. When I finish and look back, and he will still be going strong, I will be able to say to myself I tested myself against the best and, quite clearly, for me, he is the best ever.
'He's got everything. He is magical to watch but we've seen the way that collectively they can be stopped. We've shown that at the Bridge before, but of course other times they've torn teams apart. We know it's going to be tough but we're delighted to be in the position we're in. I know we've not actually lost any of the last five games against them - but I'll take it if that's the same after the next two as well.'