Branislav Ivanovic spoke regularly of his team boasting a chance to make "history" though, on a personal level, the Serb will approach Sunday's Fifa Club World Cup final with redemption on his mind. Corinthians await at the Yokohama International stadium and for two of the quartet of Chelsea players who missed that heady night in Munich back in May through suspension the chance to make amends of sorts awaits.
There was something apt about Ivanovic being thrust forward on the eve of the final to offer up his thoughts. The referee for the game against the Brazilians is Cuneyt Cakir, the Turkish official who had overseen Roberto Di Matteo's final fixture as manager of the European champions last month. More significantly, he had dismissed John Terry and booked Ramires, Raul Meireles and Ivanovic in last season's semi-final at the Camp Nou as Chelsea secured their unlikely passage to the showpiece in the spring.
All four missed the dramatic occasion at the Allianz Arena, even if they were kitted up to fling themselves into the post-match celebrations with the club's first European Cup. "For this generation of players, the most important thing was that we won," said Ivanovic. "Between the Barcelona game and the Champions League final there were a lot of things going through my head. It was difficult personally, but there were a few of us [banned]. But I just had to be professional, focused on the training, and I motivated myself to help my team-mates to feel better and prepare for the game. That was my way of supporting the team.
"If I'd played in the final and we'd lost, it would have meant nothing for the club, for the supporters. Maybe [winning the Club World Cup now] would make up in part for missing the final, but this is a completely different competition, a completely different feeling.
"You play teams you don't know very well, from different cultures and continents. It is more that this is the last stage of the cycle from the Champions League final, and a chance for all of us to prove, one more time, that we deserved to win that European Cup.
"It's more important to do that after the disappointment of being eliminated in the Champions League group stage. This is a big motivation for us to prove things are moving in the right way, a chance to make history and a game we want to win for the guys who can't be with us because of injury, like John Terry and [Oriol] Romeu, or like Didier [Drogba] who left the club in June. If we win, we win for all of us."
The defender described this as "the key game for this generation" of players, referring perhaps more to those who had played their part in last term's campaign, though the current crop will only discover who is to begin the fixture on Sunday afternoon as Rafael Benítez considers his options. Frank Lampard could start for the first time since 23 October with the Brazilian trio of Ramires, David Luiz – most likely back in his customary defensive brief – and Oscar all expected to feature against their compatriots.
Benítez, who has received text messages of support for the team Terry, from his injured captain, ahead of the stand-in manager's 12th club final in all competitions, called two team meetings on Saturday morning, one for his defensive players and another for his attacking personnel. He will go over Corinthians' considerable strengths with his squad on the day itself.
The Brazilians' coach, Adenor Leonardo Bacchi or "Tite", has been bolder in announcing one change to his lineup by dropping Douglas for Jorge Henrique, much to the former's apparent irritation. Danilo, who played for São Paulo in their victory over Benítez's Liverpool in 2005, will operate in a more central role. "It's a similar situation back then, with their side considered favourites, but if we do the right thing then we will do fine," said the forward. "We cannot make mistakes and we have a big responsibility, too. But we have been preparing for this game for some time. We can win it."
How Benítez must crave similar preparation time amid the current rush of fixtures and long haul travel, though he, too, can call upon memories of previous finals to inspire. Back in 2005 his side had seen three goals disallowed, a plausible penalty appeal waved away and Diego Lugano escape a dismissal for tripping Steven Gerrard when he was bursting clean through. They also struck the woodwork and amassed 21 shots to the Brazilians' four, only to succumb to a first-half strike from Mineiro.
"You hate to lose any game and, as a manager, it hurts," Benítez said. "I was really upset after that match in such a big game. Ivanovic is right about this game: I can understand people from a distance saying this competition is not important, but you have to get here in the first place, and we can only do that by winning the Champions League. Corinthians are a great team, very organised and disciplined. But, afterwards, I hope this trophy will be ours."
Chelsea (4-2-3-1; probable): Cech; Azpilicueta, Ivanovic, David Luiz, Cole; Mikel, Lampard; Ramires, Oscar, Mata; Torres.
Corinthians (4-2-3-1; probable): Cassio; Alessandro, Chicao, Paulo Andre, Fábio Santos; Paulinho, Ralf; Jorge Henrique, Dailo, Emerson; Guerrero.
Referee: Cuneyt Cakir (Turkey).
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image: © Ben Sutherland