Le Saux: Chelsea must break mental block

Topics

LONDON - Chelsea must overcome a mental block if their faltering season is not to completely unravel against FC Copenhagen in the Parken Stadium on Tuesday, former left back Graeme Le Saux said.

Carlo Ancelotti's side look a pale imitation of last season's double winners and the team that exploded out of the blocks in a flurry of goals at the start of this campaign.

A distant fifth in the Premier League and knocked out of the FA Cup by Everton on penalties on Saturday, the Champions League Holy Grail has become an imperative for Ancelotti whose job prospects could take a hammer blow in the Danish capital.

"Chelsea have huge experience in the competition but they still have that ghost to bury from 2008," Le Saux told Reuters on the day the astronomical ticket prices for this year's Wembley final were announced.

Unless Chelsea can rediscover some of the aura they established under Jose Mourinho, Guus Hiddink and Ancelotti last season, fans of the west London club will not have to worry about raiding their bank accounts.

While Ancelotti's ageing squad could yet go on and banish the memory of that rainy night in Moscow when John Terry's penalty miss against Manchester United cost Chelsea the trophy, Le Saux said such bitter experiences can become a burden.

"They're still in the Champions League and have a reasonable draw in the last 16," he said.

"But the competition has become a bit more of a problem mentally for the senior players because they have got so close in 2008. It was heartbreaking and they are so desperate to win it because time is moving on.

"For (the likes of Frank Lampard, Terry and Ashley Cole) not to have their name on that trophy given how well they have played over the years in the tournament would be a huge blow."

EBBED AWAY

Le Saux said it was hard to put his finger on why Chelsea's season had gone off the boil, but suggested confidence had ebbed away during a poor run of results.

"They are low on confidence," said the former England defender, who played a total of 12 years with Chelsea in two spells, winning a League Cup, and FA Cup and a Cup Winners Cup.

"It's also about the confidence of the opposition when they face Chelsea now. Look at the Sunderland game when they were beaten 3-0 at home. That would have been unthinkable.

"At the start of the season Chelsea were flying, scoring goals for fun and not conceding. Teams were fearful.

"Suddenly they've hit a bad patch and they can't seem to get out of it. Opposition teams now sense they can beat Chelsea.

"That shift in psychology can make a massive difference and Chelsea are trying to recover from that."

Chelsea fans will hope that 50 million pounds signing Fernando Torres can start to repay some of his huge fee by firing his new club towards the Wembley final.

However, Le Saux said the Spaniard may not be ready to show his best - suggesting next season could be his time.

"He is in a new environment, opposing fans are giving him flak, singing songs about him," Le Saux said.

"He won't have experienced what he's going through so you have to give him time. I wouldn't say he has to put in nine out of 10 performances straight away but I would certainly expect him to be improving soon.

"He will have to bed in and get his fitness levels up. It will take time but he has to deal with the new responsibility."

Of the four English sides left in the Champions League, Le Saux said his old manager Harry Redknapp's Tottenham Hotspur were capable of springing a surprise.

"Arsenal have their European style passing game, Man United have the pedigree and Chelsea the experience but Spurs have been a breath of fresh air," said Le Saux, who ended his career under Redknapp at Southampton in 2005.

"Full credit must go to Harry Redknapp. Harry has a great spirit about him and it is clear it has rubbed off on the Tottenham team who go out and perform in a fearless manner."