You will be hard pressed to find too many similarities between the two matches played in Group C today; the first a slow-burning tactical fight that finished in a draw, the second a fast and furious combination of thunder and blunder. In the aftermath, however, they both posed the same question: whose fault was it?
"The best don't always win," Fernando Torres said after Chelsea's dramatic 2-2 draw away to Barcelona. It's a soccer truism that becomes ever more pronounced at the highest of levels. It's why no one will begrudge Chelsea or Bayern their advancement to the May 19 final at the Allianz Arena, both second legs could have easily turned out very differently. It ultimately came down to missed penalties on Tuesday and Wednesday, a margin of error so small that it should stop us from making sweeping statements. The reasons for success were as complex and open to debate as those for failure.
MALAGA, Spain -- Roberto Soldado had waited long enough already; he wasn't going to wait any more. He made his Spain debut back in 2007 and played just twice, without scoring. For months people had been pleading with the Spain coach Vicente del Bosque to return him to the selección but the coach ignored them. Soldado could have been forgiven for thinking that he was never going to make it, that maybe there was something he didn't know -- some hidden factor that counted against him.
There's being contrary, and then there is ignoring Chelsea this week. The club is rarely out of the British newspapers at the moment -- like a boyband struggling to match its platinum-album past for longer than the odd stadium chorus -- thanks primarily to a number of public displays of disaffection. Sitting out the whole of Chelsea's win over Manchester City this past Monday, Fernando Torres was a picture of gloom; Frank Lampard is unhappy with a cameo role; in Friday's tabloids there is talk that Didier Drogba, who wants a two-year contract extension but has so far been offered only 12 months, might opt for a lucrative move to China (where Nicolas Anelka will be earning £10 million/$15M a year after signing for Shanghai Shenhua). A time of transition? Even the Destiny's Child lineup changed more smoothly than this.
Juan Mata slotted the ball into the net, rushed across to the man who had provided the pass and leapt into his arms. Chelsea had just got its second of the night, securing a 2-0 win against Bayer Leverkusen in its opening Champions League game at Stamford Bridge and the former Valencia player had scored his second goal in just three games. Yet Mata handed the credit to someone else, pointing at the tall, blonde striker who provided the assist: Fernando Torres. The message was clear: cheer him, everyone, cheer him.
The two key figures in Chelsea's 4-1 win over Swansea City on Saturday weren't on the pitch at the final whistle. They weren't even in sight of it, Fernando Torres having been sent off and Frank Lampard having left the bench a couple of minutes from the end. In their respective narratives is bound up the story of the new Chelsea that is beginning to emerge.
Manchester United beat Chelsea 3-1 at Old Trafford Sunday in an English Premier League top of the table clash which mixed superb attacking play with comical misses by star strikers Fernando Torres and Wayne Rooney.
In moments of crisis, return to basics. Carlo Ancelotti wrote his dissertation for his coaching diploma on the 4-3-2-1, and it was to the Christmas tree he returned against Manchester United at Old Trafford. It might have been an inspired reversion -- and indeed it did address some of the problems Chelsea had suffered in the first leg -- but in the harsh light of a 2-1 defeat it may seem like a doomed manager scrabbling desperately for the comforts of the familiar.
By the time Fernando Torres actually signed his contract with Chelsea on Monday, there were less than 15 minutes of the transfer window remaining. The clock was ticking, and when he put pen to paper, there was relief more than joy. His situation had reached a point of no return, he was in a corner, and yet the risk of having to return felt real. At times during deadline day, Torres had doubted the deal would go through. But a tense and difficult day -- a tense and difficult few months -- finally ended well for Torres. He got what he wanted.
When Carlo Ancelotti arrived at Chelsea in summer 2009, he started off playing 4-4-2 with a midfield diamond. That paired Nicolas Anelka and Didier Drogba as strike partners, with Frank Lampard tucked behind. It rapidly became apparent that Lampard is far better played with the ball in front of him than playing with his back to goal.
Deadly, lethal, prolific -- just a few adjectives often used to describe Team Limey's nightclub performances on a Saturday night. Back in the real world, these are apt descriptions of the elite goal-scorers discussed in this week's column. More specifically, we're looking at who we think will be donning the Golden Boot as the English Premier League's top scorer this season.