The old cliche of ‘there are no easy games in the Champions League’ is true, but there are definitely some which are easier than others.
This year, if you want to win Europe’s top prize, the three sides you’d like to avoid until as late as possible are Bayern Munich, Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain. They’re three of the best teams on the planet right now. A scary bunch.
Somehow, Chelsea have managed exactly that.
Let’s be clear, Porto are a very good team. They won the Portuguese league last season and just beat Juventus over two legs. You don’t do that unless you are very good at football.
Porto are the team everyone wanted to draw at this stage in the competition. They were shaky against Juventus and looked beatable. Chelsea have absolutely smashed it, but the fun didn’t stop with the quarter-final draw.
If Chelsea make it through to the semi-final, they will face either Real Madrid or Liverpool – two enormous names who are enduring some really tricky seasons and look as vulnerable as they ever have.
To confidently say Chelsea are making it to the final this year might be a little too far, but few sides will be as optimistic about their chances of finishing this season in Istanbul as Chelsea.
Reaching the Champions League final would be an enormous achievement for this group, who looked miles away from this level just three months ago, and it would be a real statement to the rest of Europe.
Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea are already one of the best teams around, but the boss is just getting started.
Who cares if it’s an easier route? England went to a World Cup semi-final by beating teams like Columbia and Sweden and the entire country still remembers 2018 as one of the best years of all time. Getting there is all that counts.
On top of the hype it would create, reaching the final see players across Europe take notice of Chelsea. We saw this happen in 2012, when Eden Hazard tweeted (with the most infuriating typo ever) that he was joining the “champion’s league winners”. There’s no way he would have joined if the Blues hadn’t gone all the way.
With Chelsea hoping to compete with some of the big boys to sign Borussia Dortmund’s Erling Haaland, they might need the extra appeal that comes with being a Champions League finalist. The stage has been set.
Chelsea have been handed about as kind a route to the final as you’re ever going to see at this stage in the competition. Opportunities like this do not come around too often, and Tuchel’s men must not blow it.