Feels just like yesterday, doesn't it?
The greatest (European) night in Stamford Bridge history* since the Battle of Stamford Bridge... the magical 4-1 win, a comeback of epic proportions in a pandemoniac atmosphere... and now all we have to do is repeat it. (Though considering that we got namechecked on air by Clive Tyldesley, perhaps a repeat is a ... bridge ... too far.)
* You're allowed to disagree as long as you go with the 4-2 vs. Barcelona or the 4-4 vs. Liverpool. Or, if you're super old, then the 4-0 vs. Club Brugge from the 1971 Cup Winners' Cup quarterfinal second leg.
Many heroes from that night remain. John Terry and Branislav Ivanovic each scored and were your second and third stars on the day. Petr Cech, David Luiz, and perhaps Frank Lampard, too, should once again get the start. Fernando Torres will feature in all likelihood, hopefully making a similar impact from the bench as on that day when he replaced an entirely ineffective Daniel Sturridge.
Some heroes, including the two most important ones are gone. Roberto Di Matteo has been upgraded more than adequately, it's safe to say, but there's still a gaping void where Didier Drogba once patrolled. It was in that match that Drogba, who had a largely disappointing season to that point, rediscovered his old self and bullied the Napoli defense into submission. It would not be the last time that he put the team on his shoulders. Samuel Eto'o - if he plays - might be the nominal Drogba replacement, but the actual burden of carrying the team will fall on Eden Hazard. Aspirations of getting to Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo level? This is where such heroes are made. Your Garden of Eden awaits, Sir. Just stay away from the apples.
Di Matteo's lineup included a surprise starter in Michael Essien and a tactical wrinkle in Ramires* playing left wing, but Di Matteo's greatest contributions were off the pitch, behind the scenes, in the minds and mentalities of the players. He made them believe.
* Ramires, who played quite badly in Paris is suspended, providing another parallel to two years ago when it was Raul Meireles who had to sit out the second leg after an abject first leg performance. Clean sheets against Stoke City in the Premier League before both matches provide one more good omen. But has anybody checked what's written in stars?
"My reasons to believe? The reasons are not important, the belief is important. I believe and my players believe. That is the most important thing."
"We have to enjoy the risk of the situation. At 9.30pm we can be out - and we know that we have this risk - but at 7.45pm we have a chance to be in the semi-final. At 7.45pm we have to have a smile on our face, going, playing, giving everything, and seeing what happens at 9.30pm. At 7.45pm we will believe we can do it."
-Jose Mourinho; source: Chelsea FC
Mourinho's circumstances are different. He's not trying to right a sinking ship amid festering mutiny, he's trying to upgrade it with double the cannons, a steel-plated hull, and a bigger mainsail. But all the improvements won't mean a thing if we don't believe.
Tonight, it's time to once again believe. For impossible is nothing. Impossible is temporary. It's opinion. And we shall overcome it.