Having started all but two of our competitive matches this season, John Terry has returned to his dominant, commanding best at the heart of the Chelsea defence, and on the eve of our second successive away game in the Champions League, against Schalke, the skipper has paid tribute to the impact of Jose Mourinho.
Terry, an ever-present in the Premier League thus far, was rested for our opening game in this season’s tournament, the 2-1 defeat against Basel, but returned to the side for the 4-0 win against Steaua Bucharest, our best performance of the season to date.
After a difficult 2012/13 season on a personal level, Terry has produced a host of impressive displays since August, and Mourinho will look to the 32-year-old to lead his side on the pitch at the Veltins-Arena in a crucial match, the first of a double-header against the German side.
‘When it was announced [Mourinho’s return], from the word go I was excited for him to come back,’ Terry said. ‘With the injuries I had last year I had to hit the ground running and come back fit, which I did. I made sure I came in for pre-season a week early to make sure I was ready for when he arrived and tried to impress him from day one. Thankfully that’s worked and I’m in the side, I’m happy with my form and the way the team are playing at the moment.
‘When the manager came in I know he spoke to numerous players but with myself, he laid the law down, he said it’s pretty simple, if you play well you’re in the team, if not you won’t play.
‘It’s the same for everybody in the team, that’s how it was before and that’s what he demands from his players on a daily basis. Hopefully he’s pleased with what he’s getting from everyone, which makes his job difficult to pick the side.
‘My career is where it is because of him, I’m very proud to be working with him again and more importantly the team are in a good period at the moment, we’re slowly getting to where we want to be, which is in really good form and we’re finding that at the moment.’
Now in his 11th Champions League campaign, Terry knows exactly what’s required in order to progress to the knockout stages of the competition.
Last season was the first time we’d failed to get beyond the group stages, and while this season’s campaign started badly, with a home defeat to Basel, the win in Bucharest put us back on the right track.
For our opponents, it’s been a mixed start to their domestic campaign, but in Europe they’ve flourished, taking maximum points from their opening two matches.
‘We played at the stadium once before, the fans are very good, we know about them collectively as a squad of players and individually we could talk through four or five of them,’ Terry explained.
‘They’re a real threat going forward and defensively they’ve looked solid in the games I’ve seen. We understand it’s going to be a tough game, I’ve seen highlights of their previous Champions League games, we’re not coming here under false pretences thinking we’re going to pick up three points easily, we understand it’s going to be a tough night.’
Terry’s form this season so far has been such that the only two games he hasn’t started were the home match against Basel and our Capital One Cup tie at Swindon Town.
Having partnered both David Luiz and Gary Cahill, he praised the abilities of both players, acknowledging the strength in depth at the club.
‘They’re both great centre-halves, we’ve seen in Gaz how he’s grown since he arrived at Chelsea, and he’s kicked on for England as well, what him and Jags [Phil Jagielka] are doing there is great,’ said Terry. ‘He’s great on the ball and in the air and scores a lot of goals as well.
‘David’s got great ability as well as a player, he reads the game very well, he’s great with both feet, he can find a pass and also scores some brilliant goals.
‘What they both give us is pure quality, hence the reason they’re at Chelsea. For the three of us, we understand the competition’s there, we obviously get on, but we realise only two can play.
‘We push each other, like I did when it was those two last year, and it’s down to other players to push hard and get in the team, but at the same time it’s down to myself and David, if we’re playing, to maintain it and keep our shirt.’
The Blues go into the game in the middle of a good run of form; Saturday’s 4-1 win against Cardiff City was our third victory in a row, and since losing to Everton and Basel we’ve put together a sequence of six games without defeat, scoring 16 goals in the process.
Terry, as always, is eager to drive the team on both at home and abroad. Having endured his fair share of disappointments when it comes to European finals, there will certainly be no player putting in more to ensure the Blues reach the latter stages of this season’s Champions League.
‘That’s the target and why we’re here, to win every competition we go into,’ he stressed. ‘I played in one and was very disappointed In Moscow and then I was delighted for the players that we were able to go and win it.
‘As an individual you want to be playing in those games and that’s what I’m aiming to do. We had a minor blip at home but we’re here to resurrect that, win the game tomorrow and put ourselves in a really good position. Every game and every competition we go into to win.
‘I’m in the side and the team are playing well which is the most important thing. We have great belief with the manager back, he instils that in us, both individually and collectively, so we’re delighted to have him back and hopefully we can kick on, not only in this competition but every other one we’re in as well.’