Eden Hazard, Juan Mata

No one remembers, or wants to at least, ugly champions. Chelsea won the Champions League last season, but it was through uninspiring, painful to watch football, “robbing” more worthy teams of their just due. Juan Mata was part of that team, but that victorious ending isn’t attributed to him, or the style his presence on the pitch is usually for. This season, with a lesser trophy up for grabs, and as a foundation for the future, the Spanish international wants to win playing attractive football.

There’s a reason the team was built around the abilities of him and Eden Hazard this season, and not Frank Lampard for example. Roman Abramovich was elated with the Champions League trophy, but he wanted Roberto Di Matteo to follow it up with style and success. While there’s arguing about the style during the impressive start to the season, a rough October and November meant success wasn’t part of Di Matteo’s legacy at its end.

Last year’s Chelsea had no choice to play any differently. Andre Villas-Boas crashed and burned in his attempt in revolutionizing the squad, not getting enough support to purchase the players he needed for it to succeed. He was left with a hybrid team, not capable of playing the football he wanted. Roberto Di Matteo turned to veterans, and while Mata was the creative spark on that team, he’s hardly remembered for it.

Chelsea couldn’t have beaten Barcelona and Bayern Munich while playing “open” football. The same goes for the quarterfinals against Benfica, who were the more dangerous side in both legs, and definitely the more pleasing on the eyes. Chelsea won with grit, and parking the bus. While it’s nice to see underdogs win once in a while, you never want it to be with that kind of football.

This season is something different. Chelsea have fallen to and gotten over a few rough patches, but it seems Rafa Benitez is headed in the right direction in what promises to be an exciting finish. The first step is to finish the job they started in the first leg of their Europa League semifinal against Basel. Playing through Juan Mata and Eden Hazard is their route to success, not anything else.

It’s always hard disconnecting from the past, but the road to Chelsea’s successful future is clear. Playing attractive, attacking football, basing it on the talents of their attacking midfield trio. It might leave Lampard, John Terry and others a little bit out of the picture, but those are sacrifices that should be made in order to win with style.

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