Despite their excellent start to their campaign the pressure is on Chelsea ahead of their Champions League opener tonight. Carlo Ancelotti’s men travel to MSK Zilina and the general consensus amongst the footballing world is that they need to succeed to in Europe this season.
While last year saw Chelsea return to the domestic heights of the Jose Mourinho days, their capitulation against Mourinho’s Inter Milan would have no doubt infuriated owner Roman Abramovich in his quest to complete a clean sweep of trophies.
The Champions League is the only trophy to elude Abramovich during his time in West London and you can bet that urge for success in Europe is bigger than ever for the Russian, whether the urge will be satisfied is another question.
The problem that Ancelotti now faces is that it is really last chance saloon for this squad. I know we criticise Chelsea’s ageing squad year in and year out but now you really do feel that this is the last year when this squad could achieve any success in Europe.
But what worries is me is that I can see Abramovich putting the blame on Ancelotti for any failure, rather than seeing the common sense argument that the squad needs some investment in some younger players.
You can’t help but feel that Premier League success won’t be enough for Ancelotti this season. He himself admits a challenge for all four trophies is what he wants, saying: “The normal step is to want to do better in the Champions League. We went out too early and want to do better this season.
“Our aim is to improve, to do better and stay involved in all the competitions until the end of the season, to give continuity to the victory of last season. I’m not under pressure but I will put myself under pressure.”
From that statement you do get the sense of added importance in Europe for Chelsea this season. My personal feeling is that if Ancelotti doesn’t deliver the Champions League trophy at the end of this campaign then Abramovich will wield his ill-timed axe once again.