Yeop. - Clive Rose
Let us all enjoy what may quite possibly be the final 90 minutes of Champions League football at Stamford Bridge this season. At least we have some friendly opposition in town for what may prove to be a somber occasion.
Two months ago, Chelsea traveled to fair Denmark to take on a collection of unknown and rather unlikely letter combinations in FC Nordsjaelland. Feels like a lifetime ago, doesn't it? We were all so young and naive; not a care in the world.
Back then, in the preview, I intimated the story of the LEGO keychain that my mother brought back from the o.g. LEGOLAND in Billund, Denmark and how she couldn't bring back anything "more" or "better" because that was all that she could afford. Even though I loved that keychain, at the time, I had wished for more - more and better and bigger. The piddly little thing didn't even come apart since they had glued the pieces of the LEGO figurine together! While the legs still moved, in the realm of materialistic LEGOs benchmarking, that was just about the bottom of the totem pole. But I was young and naive; not a care in the world.
There is actually a coda to that story; for when I was a fair bit older and living on the other side of The Pond, I drove down to Carlsbad, CA to visit LEGOLAND California. Making more money in a month than my mother did in a year*, I certainly could afford to come back home with memorabilia far above the level of a glued-together keychain. And I did. Boxes of high piece-count sets, Christmas tree ornaments, books, you name it. Yet I loved none of those things as much as I loved that keychain. How could I? I was no longer young. I had plenty of cares in the world. And none of those things were given to me as an undying token of love.**
Nowadays, that keychain lies safely tucked away in a box along with other knick-knacks and doodads and assorted memorabilia. The paint is chipped and worn off in multiple places. The legs of the figurine have loosened to the point of zero friction and they just hang straight down, playthings of gravity alone. The bill on the little guy's LEGO cap broke off at some point and one of the yellow claw-hands fell out and was lost forever when the glue failed. But sometimes I look for it and reminisce about the olden days - days that feel so different; days that feel a world away.
There's a metaphor for Chelsea in here somewhere.
* I have no idea if this is true but it sounds good for dramatic purposes; then again, it may just be true.
** If I flesh out this story a bit, maybe I could win a Hugo/Nebula/World Fantasy Award, too; right, Ken Liu?
FCN: A football team. From Denmark. Their lineup shall consist of 11 players, 1 in goal and 10 in the outfield. Since that historic night in Copenhagen (FCN's first ever "home" European tie), we have come to find out that they can, in fact, play some football.
While they will most likely bow out of Europe with just a singular point, they came very close to an unlikely 1-0 victory over Juventus on Matchday 3. With their domestic form stabilized, they sit second in the Danish Superliga and look on track for a second consecutive Champions League appearance next year.
20-year-old central defender Jores Okore was a revelation the last time these two teams met; the self-confessed Chelsea fan even getting some (rumored) interest from The Blues for a permanent transfer.
Leading scorer Joshua John has yet to find the net in European competition, his 9-from-15 in the league standing in stark contrast to his 0-from-5 in the Champions League. He will be supported by a capable midfield, filled with players unafraid of the pass. Even Andreas "Famous Last Name" Laudrup has been getting more minutes lately.
FCN have nothing to lose. There is no pressure on them. They will come to play.
Chelsea: We all know the story. Win and hope for a Shakhtar victory in Donetsk to advance; a loss or a draw in either case to fall into the Europa League. Shakhtar have not lost at home since March and Juventus have yet to win away from home in the group, but it's still very much a crapshoot. Not to mention, Chelsea have no wins from their last six in all competitions (and just two from their last eleven), so maybe they should just worry about taking care of their end of the bargain.
The broken down trio of John Terry, Frank Lampard, and Daniel Sturridge are still broken. Will they ever play again? Who knows. Will they ever want to play again? Who knows. Maybe they'll just sit this "reign" out.
I have no inkling about the rest of the selection and, frankly, I don't really care. Chelsea should be able to beat FCN with just about any reasonable permutation; then again, I thought the same for their last two matches as well. Seeing the three goals conceded to West ham, hopefully David Luiz will be back in the lineup.
These are the voyages of Torres FC, boldly going where no one has gone before.
Date/Time: Wednesday, December 5th, 19:45 GMT, 2:45 P.M. EST; Thursday, Dec.6th, 1:15 A.M. IST
Venue: Stamford Bridge, SW6
TV Information: Sky Sports 2 (UK), Fox Soccer (USA), TEN Action (India)