Ivanovic talks struggles, Mikel lauds Oscar
Branislav Ivanovic has admitted Chelsea are failing to show the resilience that helped win them the 2011/12 UEFA Champions League after they were exposed again by top-class opposition. Last night's 2-2 draw against Juventus in the opening match of their defence of the trophy was the third time already this season the Blues' defensive deficiencies have cost them dearly on the big stage.
Having already seen them miss out on the campaign's first two pieces of silverware, and having shipped seven goals in the process, Wednesday's surrender of a two-goal lead suggested they may face an uphill struggle to hold on to the biggest prize of all.
Manager Roberto Di Matteo has been tasked with transforming Chelsea from dogs of war into one of the game's great entertainers. And while that was always going to prove easier said than done, Ivanovic refused to make excuses for his and his team-mates' recent lapses.
The defender said: "We are playing differently this year, with more emphasis on attacking, but everyone also has to be focused on defending and being organised. This is what helped us get good results last year."
Ivanovic admitted Chelsea "made it too easy" for Juventus to get back into the game. "It is very difficult, but it's all about our concentration and motivation," said the Serbia international, who missed last season's final through suspension. Personally, for me, I have very big motivation for this year.
"Everyone knows when you win something - it doesn't matter if it's the league or Champions League - everyone is more motivated against you. So you have to be ready and be strong. I think we are - it's just that we need a couple more games.
"We are much more creative in the attacking third, but we have to have the right balance and still work hard to get to the top level. It's more of a mental situation because our training is hard enough to prepare for a good game. Physically, we are ready but, mentally, we have to do more and be stronger. We have to support each other to get better. Every player has to motivate themselves."
Fernando Torres appeared to be lacking such motivation in Saturday's goalless Premier League draw at Queens Park Rangers, and although he worked much harder last night, his continuing lack of confidence was palpable.
Ivanovic tried to defend his team-mate, insisting the striker was "doing very well" and "fighting for every ball". He added: "Sometimes he is alone without the support of the others and that is very difficult to fight against three defenders."
Torres' latest travails will become even more of a concern if the hamstring strain that saw Daniel Sturridge miss last night's game proves significant, or the ankle knock that ended Oscar's stunning full debut. Both were due to be assessed today ahead of Saturday's visit of Stoke City. Oscar will be desperate to pick up where he left off against Juventus, his stunning double good enough to win any match but for Chelsea's slackness.
The 21-year-old said: "In Brazil, the people, the young boys, they dream about playing in the Champions League. For me to realise the dream, I am very proud of that.
"I am very happy with the two goals, but I would be much happier if the team had won the game. I hope that I can keep going and keep scoring goals like that."
Fellow midfielder John Obi Mikel, who apologised for giving the ball away in the build-up to Juve's equaliser, said of his new team-mate: "He's going to be a great player for this club, with his talent and ability. Hopefully he can do even more. He can only get better.
"I think his all-round game is very good. He can score goals, he's very creative, and I think that's what this club is looking for."
Oscar was a surprise starter - he had hardly impressed in his three substitute appearances and had appeared to struggle with the physical demands of English football.
Mikel revealed Chelsea's training sessions had helped toughen up the £25m man. "You don't want to kick anyone and get anyone injured in training," he said. "We try to give him a little bit sometimes."