It’s the eve of the Champions League final. Both sides have trained on the Luzhniki Stadium pitch. And Chelsea’s Claude Makelele, has let it be known, that he is up for this special challenge.
Much of the pre-match talk, has been of Manchester United’s desire to pay a fitting tribute, to those who lost their lives in the Munich air crash. But Chelsea, of course, will have the opportunity to honour the life of Frank Lampard’s late mother Pat.
And players will have their own personal motivations. Paul Scholes in his first Champions League final; John Terry, in his desire to upstage new England captain Rio Ferdinand; Ryan Giggs, on potentially surpassing Bobby Charlton’s 758 appearances record; Didier Drogba, to silence those who claim he dives and cheats.
In a game, in which the two teams know each other so well, perhaps the Champions League final, will be decided by the team, which has engendered the greatest team-spirit. That can draw on the will and desire, not for oneself. But for each other. For the person next to you.
It’s the family atmosphere that Jose Mourinho generated and cherished, at Stamford Bridge. The question for Chelsea, is can they still draw on that powerful sense of togetherness, that made them so authoritative under Mourinho? Almost a sense of unbeatability.
As they dig deep, will they find those special reserves of motivation, that come from a team that has grown and developed together? And, that on Europe’s biggest stage, refuses to buckle under the severest examination. That recognises the Champions League final, as the night, when all that has been carefully built over the years, is drawn together in collective focus and hunger to achieve.
In the presence of Jose Mourinho, there would be no doubting this possibility. In their semi-final defeat of Liverpool, and subsequent pursuit of Manchester United, Chelsea have started to show signs of that special spirit again.
In their biggest test since the departure of the Special One, will Chelsea have forged enough reserves of that collective ‘X-Factor’, to overcome an equally motivated Manchester United? It promises to be a fascinating examination of those twin influences, desire and togetherness.