PAT NEVIN: HOOKED ON SUCCESS
As he considers this week's Europa League return leg in his latest column, former Chelsea star Pat Nevin discusses the mentality of top-level players…
No let up again for yet another week. With Chelsea likely to play 69 games this season, a record for any Premier League club, it just never seems to stop.
This was however a great week with an away victory at Basel to set us up for the second leg rather nicely; a comfortable win against Swansea in the league while Spurs and Arsenal both slipped up in the race for the top four; and of course Frank scoring yet again as he edges towards the historic scoring record.
Football is all about timing and I think we all hope that Lamps' timing is as good as ever, in that he will equal and then beat the scoring record in an important game. Actually if and when it does happen this season it will be an important game because every single one is crucial from here on in.
The focus is however back on to the Europa League this week and the visit of Basel, which although not easy should be doable for the team if the attitude is right. Sometimes when you support a team it isn't easy to get a clear perspective, so now and again it is worth viewing it from the oppositions' point of view.
For Basel they know they need to come to Stamford Bridge and score at least two goals. It should clear their minds and simplify their manager's tactics, but if they are too gung-ho they could easily get torn apart on the break. They also have the not so minor problem that their main centre back Dragovic is now suspended. Once again Chelsea's chief enemy is complacency and maybe a little tiredness thrown in. A professional job should do the trick and we can look forward to yet another jaunt over the channel for a major European final.
As I type the phrase 'major European final', I can sense the odd groan from some, but I have never changed my thought on this. England is the only country in Europe that can sometimes be sniffy, bordering on arrogant, about the second European trophy. No it isn't the Champions League but then again it is hardly the Sherpa Van Trophy either.
We were gutted by losing out in the Capital One Cup, but I would definitely choose the second European trophy over the second domestic one every time. On top of all that I bet the players, Frank Lampard and Fernando Torres in particular with their hunt for specific goal tallies, are desperate to do as well as possible.
Try remembering how some of the players, David Luiz in particular I recall, were devastated after losing the World Club final against Corinthians. Players like to win things and they have their own personal reasons for bagging particular pots. In South America they put huge importance on the one that got away over in Japan, hence David Luiz's dejection. There are another couple of reasons that are important. First, great and even good players are winners through and through. It doesn't matter that anyone else might not have the same level of desire, they just get addicted to winning and celebrating, it really is one of the addictions worth having.
The other important point is that come the end of your career those winners' medals are remembered acutely and even the financial bonus, however large it might be, fades in the memory.
So expect another committed performance and hopefully this time we will not have to deal with some more rather questionable refereeing decisions. Cesar Azpilicueta must feel as if he is being targeted after the Europa League officials have twice now given ridiculous penalties against him. You can't help casting your mind back to other semi-finals that have been similarly blighted; Barcelona at the Bridge still grates with most of us I suspect.
I just hope there aren't quite as many crucial last minute/last second twists and turns from here on in. The late goal from Suarez last week was torture. Then David Luiz hammering in a late one in Basel was followed this week by Spurs sneaking a lucky late one at Wigan. It is not good for the heart, but then again it has added to the excitement I suppose.
While talking about so many things going on I forgot to congratulate the two Chelsea players who managed to get voted into the running for the PFA Player of the Year awards.
Juan Mata and Eden Hazard have been phenomenal in bursts and at various points both have looked like the best in the league, but generally it was simply a huge honour for these two young men even to get a mention in what has been a difficult season. They certainly deserved to be considered as did Eden for the Young Player award obviously. I am not forgetting the other Chelsea Belgian, Romelu Lukaku, who rightly got plenty of votes as well.
All three are just at the start of what will hopefully be long careers associated with Chelsea and I will not be surprised if one or more eventually gets the top prize one day.
I personally would have been considering another Chelsea player in the voting, David Luiz. I think he has been a revelation wherever he has played, which is a pretty good link because he was the answer to last week's quiz question. Yes it was the becurled one who was born in Diadema, São Paulo, Brazil, but then again most of you knew that, as for the first time ever I think in one of my quizzes, every single entry was correct. I am beginning to suspect that some of you might actually be googling the answers instead of guessing! As ever there is only one winner and this week it is Björn Larski from Berlin.
So a bit tougher this week I reckon, it could hardly be any easier I suppose. To stand a chance of being the lucky, randomly drawn winner of a Champions League DVD signed by one of the players, could you tell me what the score will be against Manchester United on Sunday and who you think will be first goal scorer? I bet not everyone gets that right this week!! Answers as ever to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Some tickets for Thursday's home game v Basel are still on general sale.