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Chelsea not as good as it thinks

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Perhaps it is hard to stay humble when you are part of one of the most expensively assembled, handpicked groups of players in soccer history.

However, if Chelsea doesn't find a way to shake off the air of arrogance that permeated the squad in a 3-1 defeat to AS Roma on Tuesday, its dreams of a return to the UEFA Champions League final will slip away rapidly.

What looked like a routine stroll through the group stage suddenly has gotten messy for the West London side, and the players must shoulder the blame for their lethargy and overconfidence.

Manager Luiz Felipe Scolari admitted he was deeply concerned by the way his team allowed three goals to a Roma club that had been struggling desperately of late, and he had every right to be. While Scolari may not be the kind of boss who reveals all in the media, rest assured, there were some burning ears in the Chelsea dressing room after he let certain individuals know their mental state at the Stadio Olimpico was not up to scratch.

Only a few days into November, Chelsea's players already seem to believe all the hype following their impressive start to the English Premier League campaign.

Looking back to the start of the Champions League season, Chelsea breezed past Bordeaux 4-0, and it seemed it would be just a matter of time before a spot in the last 16 was clinched. Now, Bordeaux, Roma and even Romanian outsiders Cluj have been given some hope. The certainty of a runaway winner in Group A has been erased.

Captain John Terry, whose missed penalty in last season's Champions League final shootout allowed Manchester United to rebound and lift the trophy, was mortified by the performance against Roma. He knows a shift in approach is needed to avoid similar embarrassment.

"If it comes down to quality, then nine times out of 10 we're better than most sides," Terry said. "But if we don't show the fight, we're going to be out-battled, and then, on the rare occasions like Roma, we don't have the quality, either. So we have to start with the desire to win."

The most worrying thing for Scolari and owner Roman Abramovich is that the squad does not have any weaknesses. Every position is covered with quality players. Displays such as the one against Roma cannot be fixed by purchasing another superstar. The solution lies in the team's mental state.

For many clubs, the hardest thing in the Champions League is getting them to believe in their ability to win. For Chelsea's players, they need to start believing in their own mortality and giving their opponents more respect. Otherwise, their shot at redemption never will arise.


There is no way to condone the actions of Juventus two years ago in Italy's disgraceful match-fixing scandal that saw the club relegated from Serie A. However, it says something about the stature and aura of the Turin-based side that several world-class players, including Alessandro Del Piero, Gigi Buffon, David Trezeguet and Pavel Nedved, decided to stay and help the rebuilding from Serie B.

Now Juve is reaping rewards as the hottest team in the Champions League.

Wednesday's 2-0 road victory over Real Madrid was a sensational effort, and it even drew a standing ovation from the gracious Bernabeu Stadium locals.

Both Buffon and Trezeguet are suffering from injuries, but Del Piero and Nedved were an integral part of a second straight win over Madrid.

Del Piero's two goals offered further evidence that, despite turning 34 on Sunday, the Juventus legend still is one of the most dangerous contributors in Europe.

It is early in this season's Champions League, but at this stage, it looks like it will take something special to topple Juventus.


Man of the matches: Alessandro Del Piero. His two goals at the Bernabeu led Juventus to a memorable victory that served as a warning to all Champions League contenders.

Shock of the week: Roma 3, Chelsea 1. Coming off five straight defeats in all competitions, Roma looked like cannon fodder for Chelsea, even on home turf. Two goals from an inspired Mirko Vucinic capped off a fine display.

Milestone of the week: Giorgos Karagounis. His first Champions League goal in 6½ years helped Panathinaikos rack up an excellent 3-0 win at Werder Bremen.

We're happy: Sporting Lisbon. The Portuguese side clinched a place in the knockout stages for the first time by beating Shakhtar Donetsk 1-0.

We're not: Inter Milan. The defending Serie A champions were given a huge fright by Anorthosis Famagusta, the brave neophytes from Cyprus, before settling for a 3-3 draw in Nicosia. More headaches for a troubled Jose Mourinho.

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