Mourinho makes us believe we can beat anyone, claims André Schürrle
The players are starting to change at Chelsea but the spirit remains the same. Almost half of the team who overhauled Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday night, to send Chelsea back into the Champions League semi-finals, were not even at the club for the historic campaign of 2011-12.
But Oscar, Eden Hazard, Willian, Cesar Azpilicueta and the rest appear – judging by Tuesday evening – to have already learned what it means to be Chelsea players: the spirit and the focus required of them, the refusal to relent or give up.
One of the hardest tasks in football, the one that Sir Alex Ferguson pulled off so well, is to change the personnel of a winning team while maintaining its intangible qualities. This is what Jose Mourinho is trying to do at Chelsea now but there have been glimpses – in their win at Manchester City and in their perfectly judged assault on PSG's 3-1 first-leg lead – that they can do it.
André Schürrle is in that set of new learning players. Bought from Bayer Leverkusen in the summer, the 23-year-old German has come to provide a quick direct option from wide areas that Chelsea, having loaned Victor Moses to Liverpool, slightly lack. Schürrle's success has been gradual so far – Tuesday's goal was his eighth for Chelsea – but the spirit and essence of the side seems to be rubbing off on him.
"There is something in this team," Schürrle said, still thrilled after Tuesday's win. "It is hard to describe, but it is amazing. I've never played in a team like that before. I came here to be involved in games like this and to be with a team who have what it takes to go through."
Of course, the more time that Schürrle spends with Petr Cech, John Terry and Frank Lampard, the only remaining three from the first two Premier League wins under Mourinho, the better. Their role, along with the manager himself, is to pass on their accumulated wisdom to the new generation. "If you have Terry and Lampard on the pitch, they have seen everything in football," said Schürrle. "And it gives you a good feeling because they know what to do."
This mix of youth and experience might not quite be enough to win the Premier League title this year, with Chelsea needing Liverpool and Manchester City to drop points, but they have a better chance of winning an even bigger prize.
They owe this to their unique spirit but also to their remarkable manager. Mourinho has now won eight Champions League quarter-finals from eight attempts and the belief passes on to the players. "It is unbelievable," said Schürrle. "It gives you a better feeling that he knows what to do."
Mourinho is certainly a master of two-legged football. Tuesday was perfect, as he balanced attack and defence, never too open on the counter-attack and with enough firepower to deliver goals. "We had many meetings, he knew the situation, and he gave us advice." Schürrle recalled. "He said that we needed to be patient, because we can score at any minute. We needed a little bit of patience, because everybody wanted go, go, go. It did not matter if we scored [the second] goal after 46 or 90 minutes."
From here, then, there is real confidence at Chelsea. There is a dangerous combination in the dressing room: some of the squad who won it in 2012, new players like Schürrle, Oscar and Hazard, as well as the manager who lifted the trophy in 2004 with Porto and 2010 at Internazionale. It is one that no other team will want to be matched with in tomorrow's semi-final draw. Chelsea, now, cannot be very far away from being favourites.
The 2012 win was achieved under Roberto Di Matteo, a far less experienced or accomplished manager than Chelsea have now and required them to overcome the best team in living memory in the semi-finals – Barcelona – before playing an effective away game in the final against Bayern Munich. That, in a sense, is why 2012 was so famous, but those circumstances will not be recreated this time. The competition is opening up for Chelsea and they may not have a better chance to be European champions again for some time.
"Every team in the semi-finals can win this," said Schürrle. "It's one step to go to the final. We'll see who we get and we'll see if we can go through. We can win against every team. That's how we will manage no matter who we get."
Chelsea fixture change: Liverpool game may move
Chelsea's game with Liverpool may be switched to help their Champions League campaign. Jose Mourinho's side are due to play Sunderland at home on Sunday 20 April before the first leg of their Champions League semi-final and Liverpool away on the following Sunday, before the second leg.
The semi-finals are scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday. The Premier League will not ask Chelsea to play on Sunday and then Tuesday so, depending on when they are due to play after the draw is made on Friday, one game will be switched to the Saturday.