John Terry, after recovering from an ankle injury sustained in the first leg, will lead Chelsea out against Atletico Madrid tomorrow at Stamford Bridge, and the Blues skipper is hopeful the collective desire within the squad will help us secure a final date in Lisbon next month.
When Terry limped out of last week’s match in Madrid following an accidental collision, the initial fear was that we would need to reach the final in order for him to play again this season.
As has often been the case throughout his career, however, the Chelsea captain has recovered sooner than expected and, after speaking about the injury, Terry outlined the significance of the contest.
‘After I went down I knew it was something a little bit more serious, normally you roll your ankle and you feel as if you can get through the game,’ he said. ‘Unfortunately I couldn’t, I had to come off and after the game I wasn’t feeling great about it.
‘Once I’d been ruled out of the Liverpool game the physios gave it everything over the weekend. On Sunday I went out and trained with the boys who stayed back and it was totally fine. Yesterday I did a full session and I did again today, touch wood I’ve had no problems.
‘Every year we have games like this, that mean a lot to us as players, and it certainly doesn’t make us any less determined to get to the final.
‘Our aim at the start of every season is to get to the final, as players you want to play in the Champions League final. That’s my aim and that’s the aim of the players right from the word go.’
There is no doubt Terry has history with the Champions League; a beaten finalist in 2008, he was then forced to miss the 2012 final in Munich after being sent off in the semi-final against Barcelona.
The supporters packed into the Bridge tomorrow night would love nothing more than to see the player who has come through the ranks at the club reach next month’s showpiece in Lisbon, and while he looks back on the triumphant final from two years ago fondly, his determination to overcome the La Liga leaders was clearly apparent.
‘I don’t think football owes me anything, it’s about making it happen. We’ve done it before but we’ve had disappointments as well, and when you do get your hands on the trophy it lives with you every day. There’s nothing bigger than the Champions League and I’m always determined,’ the 33-year-old explained.
‘It meant an awful lot to me that night, playing or not playing. I had surgery on my knee before the Napoli game, came back, scored a goal and played a big part. When I look back I feel I certainly had a part to play, on the pitch and in the dressing room.
‘We want to win the game, that’s where we want to be, in these big finals. In these big games you don’t need to say too much. With the bigger games it tends to be a quieter dressing room because of concentration levels. The players know full well what tomorrow means, for us, the manager and the fans.’
Terry was addressing the assembled media in the Harris Suite, situated in the West Stand at Stamford Bridge. Jose Mourinho had spoken shortly before, praising Terry for his performances over the course of the current campaign, and the defender returned the compliment, providing an insight into what makes the Portuguese such an accomplished manager.
‘He’s very honest and tells you straight, if you’re playing well you’ll keep your place,’ said Terry.
‘After we played Man United I got Man of the Match and then got left out of the Munich game (UEFA Super Cup) and felt a bit puzzled by it. He told me the other guys deserved to play because they played in the Europa League final and, as a player, all you can ask for from your manager is honesty.
‘When he gives you that you can’t sulk, you have to get on with it, dust yourself down and fight for your place again the next week. That’s what he does, not just with me but the whole squad.
‘He has the respect of everyone, not only the players, but the staff and everybody at the training ground. He gets that because of his knowledge and the amount of work he puts into the training sessions. He’s the first one there in the mornings and often the last to go.
‘We love him to bits, we realise he’s been very successful for a reason, he demands 100 per cent every day in training and if you’re not giving that he’ll let you know. We accept that and we enjoy working with him.’
With the tie goalless after last week’s stalemate at the Vicente Calderon Stadium, the stakes couldn’t be higher.
A place in the Champions League final awaits and, for Terry, an opportunity to make up for his disappointments in the competition to date.
Stamford Bridge has played host to some unforgettable European nights in recent years, and with a squad as focused, determined and hungry as the current group, who would bet against another tomorrow?
‘After Munich I wasn’t thinking too far ahead, I was just happy the fans got what they deserved, and the players as well,’ Terry said.
‘We’re back here again and every year the desire from the squad is exceptional. You look at the ones who have been here a long time – Pete, Ash, Lamps – it means the world to us all, so when the new players do come in it’s important they know we train hard every day. That resolve and determination comes firstly from the manager, but also from ourselves as players.
‘I’m glad it’s come around again and hopefully we can make another final which, in itself, would be a great achievement.’