Every Premier League fan who doesn’t root for a certain west London club that wears blue on Saturdays has absolutely relished this Chelsea season. To call the Blues a disappointment would be the understatement of the century.
Chelsea have just 15 points from 15 Premier League games, and sit in 14th place, 14 points off the top four, and a whopping 17 points behind league leaders Leicester City. This season, Jose Mourinho’s men have done arguably the worst job defending their title in the history of the Premier League. However, when it comes to European competition, Chelsea fans have been able to find a silver lining.
With their 2-0 victory Wednesday night over Porto, Chelsea were able to secure victory over Group H in the UCL and lock up their place as a seeded team in the Round of 16. While Chelsea had not guaranteed advancement by their final game, the team left no doubt during their dismantling of the Portuguese side.
This victory at least gives Chelsea fans some sort of solace, knowing that their team will move on in world football’s highest profile competition, while rivals Manchester United watch woefully from a spot in the Europa League. With this victory, Chelsea have revealed a shift in focus from domestic to European competition.
The dedication to the Champions’ League was evident against Porto, as Chelsea put on by far their best performance of the season. Eden Hazard was phenomenal as a winger for the Blues, as he dribbled effortlessly down the wing against Porto, terrorizing opposing outside backs, and appearing every bit the Player of the Year from last season. Additionally, the link up play between Oscar and Nemanja Matic appeared much improved against Porto, helping link the Chelsea defense and attack.
With all their midfielders in sync, Chelsea was able to put on a vintage performance and get their most important victory this season.
While the play of Oscar, Hazard and Matic was truly inspired against Porto, the true star of the night for Chelsea was the one man who seems to have taken a step forward this season: Willian. The Brazilian was brilliant against Porto, frequently finding himself behind the Porto defense, where he could charge toward the goal and unleash one of the spin-laden shots that have come to define his play style.
Willian sprayed incredibly accurate passes all over the field every time he touched the ball, and was unflappable in his composed finish to put Porto away in the second half. Chelsea fans should know that without Willian, their season could be even more defunct than it currently is.
The win against Porto should give Chelsea the confidence they need to improve their domestic form, but the reality is, they’re simply too far down the table at this point in the season to have any hope of winning a trophy in the league. Even a top four spot seems far off from 14th place. However, a European championship would arguably mean more to the fans, and is well within reach.
Mourinho’s job has come under quite a bit of scrutiny with Chelsea’s league form plummeting, but the addition of one or two key pieces in the January transfer window could put the Blues in place to make a deep Champions’ League run and cement their place in Europe. With the league a bit of an afterthought at this point, winning the UCL could be Jose’s only chance at securing Champions’ League soccer next season.
If Mourinho is smart, which every fan who has watched European soccer in the past decade will tell you he is, he will shift focus solely to continental soccer, hoping to cement his place in Chelsea history once again.