We're barely halfway through March and once again it's looking likely that Chelsea will have to be the sole Premier League flag-bearers in Europe. But we'll lose that distinction faster than Tim Sherwood loses a gilet if we can't beat Galatasaray on Tuesday night. Though I guess technically a 0-0 draw works as well.
What won't work is a scoring draw above 1-1 or, obviously, a loss. Incidentally, four years ago, in this very round, a loss is exactly what we received as Samuel Eto'o scored, Didier Drogba was sent off, and Jose Mourinho advanced to the quarterfinals. The same series of events would put us in the quarterfinals this time around. Funny game, this modern football.
After that match in 2010, Mourinho - then the enemy - spoke of Chelsea's frustration in this competition. "This is the story of this club and the story of these players. This is their history - one of frustration." Two years later we erased that frustration. Not even last season's Europa League jaunt can take the shine off that. It helps that we won that, too.
The feel-good glow of that May night in 2012 can only last so long however. Elimination at this time, to this opponent is not something that we should allow, regardless of the sizes of our hoofs. The elite eight of European competition is shaping up to be truly a who's who of the continent's best. Bayern, BVB, Barca, Real, Atlético, PSG, and... Olympiakos? That's where our name needs to be.
Date/Time: Tuesday, March 18, 2014, 19:45 GMT; 3:45pm EDT; 1:15am IST (next day)
Venue: Stamford Bridge, SW6
Forecast: Easy, breezy.
On TV: ITV1 (UK); Fox Sports 1 (USA); Ten Action/HD (India); elsewhere
Chelsea team news: For the first time in many moons, it appears that somebody other than Marco van Ginkel is the most injured member of the squad. As Van Ginkel has returned to first-team training, that distinction falls to Ashley Cole who's nursing a minor LCL injury. David Luiz was back in training as well, though presumably will face a fitness test ahead of the match. Nemanja Matic and Mohamed Salah are ineligible.
Interestingly, the three remaining, fully healthy midfielders could form a fantastic three-man midfield in a 4-3-3. With the usual defense in behind and Samuel Eto'o and Eden Hazard working together up top, it wouldn't even really matter whom we'd pick as the eleventh player. How's your crossing game, Hilário?
Galatasaray team news: Not much has changed for Didier Drogba & Co, though both starting center backs from three weeks ago, Hakan Balta and goalscorer Aurelien Chedjou are dealing with minor knocks.
Much like Chelsea, Galatasaray disappointed over the weekend, as they managed only a draw with midtable Karabukspor. They are now five points off Fenerbahce's pace who even have the advantage of a match-in-hand. Maybe Mancini should be worried about that instead of looking for dinner dates.
Previously: This will the fourth meeting all time between the two sides. Chelsea have yet to lose (two wins, one draw). Here are some fun highlights: