While some English supporters will be supporting Chelsea tonight when they face Barcelona at the Camp Nou for the reward of playing either Real Madrid or Bayern Munich in the Champions’ League Final in Munich, Newcastle fans should shun the urge to support British. There is no place for sentiment when the potential of an astonishing return to the Champions’ League for Newcastle United is concerned, and the advance of Chelsea to the final would move them one step closer to halting that dream altogether.
Because if Chelsea win the competition, and United finish fourth after one of the most surprising and uplifting seasons in the history of the Premiership, we will be cruelly robbed of the opportunity to play among the brightest stars of the European game. It would be too much to take, a heart-breaking caveat to a season of huge success.
Chelsea don’t deserve to win the competition, and nor do they deserve to feature in the final: they currently sit in sixth in the Premier League, their team of aging stars on the verge of being disbanded and rebuilt entirely in the summer after a season deemed unsuccessful enough to warrant the dismissal of their manager. They are as far removed from “Champions” as is almost conceivable for a club of their stature, and their form over 38 games in the league this season is far more indicative of their actual quality than this prestigious tournament.
And for those Newcastle fans who will cheer the Londoners this evening, and then hope for their defeat in the final, consider this: if Chelsea make the final, and Newcastle take fourth place, we will have to wait almost a week beyond the end of our domestic season to discover exactly what that position means. Those will surely be the longest six days of any Geordie fan’s life.
Hopefully, Barcelona’s arrogance won’t count against them, and inspire an unlikely bulldog spirit in the Chelsea camp, because comments made by centre-half Gerard Pique in the run up to the game about Didier Drogba will already have fired the Ivorian striker up.
All the Spanish side need to beat Chelsea is to box clever, to stick to their own game and to remain confident in the system that has seen them steam-roll opponents all year, and only fall at the final hurdle when it comes to their league thanks to Jose Mourinho’s incredibly impressive Real Madrid side. Because matched up man-for-man, Barcelona are easily the superior side – they just need to translate possession into a killer instinct, and with Chelsea likely to chase a second goal for the first third of the game, the space for such play should be available.
But then, if Chelsea were to land a second blow, and score an invaluable away goal in a stadium already likely to be buzzing with nervous energy, Barcelona would be faced with a Herculean effort to score three. They need a big performance, and hopefully the likes of Messi, Iniesta and Puyol can inspire it.
So, for tonight, let’s forget about the British game (as if it cares about us!) and focus our attention on cheering the Spaniards through to the final.
Ven A Barcelona!