by Alex Labidou
Since it was rebranded from the Uefa Champions Club Cup to the Uefa Champions League in 1992, no club has ever succeeded in retaining the title of European champions – not even Lionel Messi’s Barcelona.
But Marko Marin believes Chelsea are in a good position to make history after defeating Barcelona and Bayern Munich en route to winning Europe’s top prize last season.
“Yeah, [I believe Chelsea can repeat the feat],” the Blues’ new midfielder told Goal.com. “The team changed a lot, but there’s a lot of high quality here.”
Marin is one of the major additions to Chelsea’s squad this summer, joining Eden Hazard and Oscar as the club’s newest key members. But while the Premier League team have certainly strengthened their playing staff, veteran Frank Lampard points out that other contenders have boosted their squads as well.
“Every year is very tough and we had an amazing year last season. We will try our best to do it and of course, it’s a possibility but every other team will be stronger,” Lampard explained. “Barcelona will be strong again, Real Madrid will be strong and you have the Italian teams so every year it’s very tough.”
It isn’t a blunder by the team’s scouting department that Hazard, Oscar and Marin are all versatile attacking midfielders, as Chelsea are looking to make the transition from a defensive style to an entertaining strategy that values ball movement and possession.
While previous managers have struggled to make Chelsea a more attacking side, Roberto Di Matteo appears set to change the way things are done on the pitch. The Italian, who coached the team last season on an interim basis after the departure of Andre Villas-Boas, gets offended when analysts point to Chelsea’s negative tactics as the reason why they won the Champions League title.
“I think you need to correct your thinking on that,” Di Matteo said during a press conference when Goal.com asked if Chelsea are transitioning from a defensive style to an offensive one. “Aside from a few matches, there were plenty of games where we put up a lot of goals.”
Part of Di Matteo’s feisty response is due to the fact that prior to his promotion at Chelsea, he was known primarily as an attack-minded coach. A few years ago, he led his West Bromwich Albion side to promotion with one of the most aggressive attacking styles in English football. In fact, Di Matteo was controversially fired from the club in 2011 due to their mid-season defensive woes.
Di Matteo clearly has a lot of pride in his offensive philosophy, and Chelsea players can already see that the team are looking to change their approach this season.
“We have some young players with very good technical ability, very attacking with a lot of fair,” Lampard told reporters during Chelsea’s recent USA tour. “Hopefully, if we can get the balance right and help them get into the team, we can have a successful season.”
Gary Cahill agreed with Lampard and believes both Marin and Hazard have adjusted well to the team so far.
“I think they’ve bedded in really well and it can take a while [when] you first come to a new club and [have to] get used to new players,” Cahill told Goal.com. “They’ve looked really promising, really sharp. I think we’ll just go from strength to strength.”
Chelsea will need their new signings to fill the void created by the departure of Didier Drogba, who left England for China following his Champions League-winning goal. Marin admits that it will take a while for the Blues to adjust after losing such a club legend.
“There’s also a lot of good guys who left like Didier Drogba,” Marin said. “We are a younger team now and we’ll likely have to beat Barca. They are a good team too but we will do our best.”
Chelsea’s lack of chemistry could be partially seen in their 3-2 loss to Manchester City in the Community Shield last weekend. The team’s newfound focus on attack led to several mistakes at the back, including right-back Branislav Ivanovic’s clumsy tackle that saw him receive a red card. However, even in defeat Chelsea had some promising signs.
Fernando Torres looked confident in the Blues’ opening match, no longer being in Drogba’s shadow and scoring the opening goal. Young English players like Daniel Sturridge and Ryan Bertrand should also provide added spark coming off the bench.
So if it all comes together, Chelsea’s ambitions don’t look misguided.
“It would be nice [to win Champions League again],” Cahill said with a slight laugh. “It was a fantastic achievement last year and obviously the game was huge because we needed [to win] the game [in order] to be a part of the competition this season.
“It was massive and obviously a great moment in the club’s history. So yeah, we’ll try hard for sure. ”
First-choice goalkeeper Petr Cech added that the players have to live up to the ambition of the club and big-spending owner Roman Abramovich.
“Everything is possible in football,” Cech told Goal.com. “We will try to go after every competition that we are in this year. We are going to aim for every trophy we can possibly get. So we are looking forward to the season and so far, it’s been going great. “