Preparation the key to Chelsea's quarterfinal triumph

Julian Finney

We weren't supposed to be 3-1 down after the first leg. Chelsea had things under control for the first 45 minutes, holding Paris Saint-Germain to a 1-1 draw and grabbing a crucial away goal in the process. And even when we conceded through David Luiz's own goal early on in the second, a 2-1 away loss was perfectly manageable.

And then Javier Pastore happened.

Chelsea fans might be forgiven for thinking a 3-1 deficit is nothing. Chants of, "Champions of Europe, we've done it before" rained down from the Stamford Bridge terraces all match, and the Blues did indeed end up matching the heroics pulled off against Napoli two years ago. But 3-1 is most definitely not nothing, and we had a huge amount of work to do to advance to the semifinals.

That work didn't begin at kickoff. For this match, preparation was key:

We trained yesterday with the three different systems we used [in the game]. The one at the start, the one without [Frank] Lampard, the one with two strikers.

-Jose Mourinho.

We worked a lot all week on scenarios, 1-0, 2-0, 3-1. What do we do? Every scenario, we had a game plan.

-John Terry. Source: ESPN.

The manager wasn't just throwing strikers into the fray and hoping it would work out -- Chelsea were drilled for every eventuality as they turned the screws in search of what ended up being Demba Ba's winner. This is why everyone looked so comfortable despite the fact that we had one midfielder and five forwards on at the end of the match. In fact, the only thing that we didn't look immediately prepared for was taking the 2-0 lead, with Mourinho forced to sprint...

...down the length of the touchline and give defensive instructions to both Ba and Torres.

Meanwhile, PSG looked lost at sea. Laurent Blanc talked a big game before the match, promising that the Parisians would not compromise their attacking principles to hold onto their lead, but by the end of the game he'd pulled his side back into a defensive shell, introducing Marquinhos to the fray in an ultimately futile attempt to hold out.

The visitors never looked at ease playing deep, and Mourinho pointed out that they're never put under that sort of pressure in Ligue 1. Without knowing what Blanc did to drill his team ahead of the game, it's impossible to say for sure, but from over here it certainly seems as though Chelsea did the legwork to advance, while PSG simply didn't.

Preparation is important!

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