| 17°C Dublin

Chelsea's rusty rearguard finding Terry boots big to fill

FOR all the problems John Terry brings to Chelsea, his absence causes difficulties too. For all the hopes that Chelsea might be able to move beyond their tainted captain, they seem to need him on the field as much as they ever have.

Since Terry has been out, first with his four-game ban for racial abuse and then with a knee injury, Chelsea's results have slipped. They have not won for four league games, and were well beaten 2-1 at West Bromwich Albion on Saturday.

Manager Roberto Di Matteo admitted afterwards that they miss Terry and need to improve in his absence, which is certainly true given their week ahead.

He was suspended as his team-mates lost 3-2 at home to United and drew 1-1 at Swansea City. Terry was not picked for the 3-2 victory over Shakhtar, although he probably ought to have been.

Returning against Liverpool, Terry scored and went off injured before Liverpool equalised.

That knee injury kept Terry out of Saturday's defeat at The Hawthorns in which Gary Cahill and David Luiz were pulled apart by Shane Long and Peter Odemwingie. Luiz let Long peel away from him at the far post for the first goal, after a cross was welcomed through.



Stoppable

For the second, Luiz allowed a cross from the right and Odemwingie beat Ryan Bertrand at the near post to head Albion back in front.

These goals, from barely contested headers from stoppable crosses, are of the sort that Terry simply does not permit to happen on his watch.

Cahill and Luiz are both quicker than Terry. They both have a better first touch and sense of a pass. But defending is about grit as much as grace, and about collective qualities as much as individual ones.

Chelsea will be facing excellent opponents in Juventus tomorrow night. The movement of forwards Sebastian Giovinco and Fabio Quagliarella is excellent, as are the runners from midfield. If Chelsea lose, their survival in the competition will be in doubt.

Di Matteo knows that they must find a way. "Clean sheets give you a chance to win games and we have to improve on that side," he admitted.


Privacy