Carlo Ancelotti arrived in the city that will host the Champions League final with his team in such irresistible form that even the cautious Italian confessed he was dreaming of a return in May.
'It is a dream we have to make a reality,' said Ancelotti ahead of tonight's Group D clash with Atletico Madrid. 'We have started the competition well but to reach the final we have to work a lot.'
This is a mood far removed from Chelsea's last venture on to foreign soil, when they went to Cyprus on the back of their first defeat of the season, at Wigan. They have lost again since, at Aston Villa, but have won the last four in emphatic style, scoring 17 goals without reply.
'This is a very good identity to have,' said Ancelotti, with a smile and a nod towards his orders from Roman Abramovich - to give Chelsea identity. 'In this period we've played some good football - sometimes but not always. But I am happy because in three months, we have improved.'
Victory in the brooding Vicente Calderon Stadium tonight will guarantee a place in the last 16 with two group games to spare and beleaguered Atletico seem unlikely to halt the charge.
They have a new manager since losing 4-0 at Stamford Bridge a fortnight ago. Abel Resino was replaced with former Valencia boss Quique Sanchez Flores but Atletico are in La Liga's relegation zone, bottom of Champions League Group D with little hope of progress and have an eye on Sunday's derby at home to Real Madrid.
Ancelotti has Ashley Cole fit again after a knee problem and Didier Drogba available after serving his three-match ban for ranting into a television camera after last season's semi-final loss to Barcelona.
'Didier has used this period to rest and make sure his body is in good condition,' said Ancelotti. 'The suspension has actually helped him make sure he's fresh in every game. That's why he has played so well.'
Ancelotti's plan is to win tonight and then look to rest players in the last two group fixtures, in Porto and at home to APOEL. Joe Cole and Alex will start and there is no question of holding back senior players for Sunday's top-of-the-table clash against Manchester United.
'I will play the strongest team,' said Ancelotti. 'It is important to qualify in first place to get a good draw in the next round. We want to maintain the good feeling and we can only do that by winning.'
Chelsea are the only team in the Champions League yet to let in a goal in the group stage. No team has ever made it through all six group games without conceding, which offers extra motivation for Ancelotti's defence.
Their vulnerability from set-pieces, evident against Wigan, Stoke and Villa, has been largely solved by recalling Branislav Ivanovic, while Alex's return will offer further aerial power.
Ivanovic and Alex may not possess the flair of Jose Bosingwa and Ricardo Carvalho but Ancelotti is starting to favour a more solid back-four unit rather than dedicating a holding midfielder to purely defensive duties.
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It appears to have restored confidence to other elements of the team. Scoring is not an issue. The last time Chelsea failed to find the net was April's goalless draw at the Nou Camp in the first leg of the Champions League semi-final, and the pain of defeat in that tie on away goals to Barcelona lingers.
'I was convinced it was going to be our year,' said Joe Cole. 'It didn't happen and it hurt like it hurt every other Chelsea fan.
'This is a fresh chance now to go on and win it. The Premier League is very important but, for this club, the Champions League is a massive target.
'We haven't won it yet. We've come very close in the last five years and maybe should've won it on one or two occasions.
'If Chelsea are building as a club with genuine claims to be as big as Manchester United, Real Madrid, Barcelona and the Milan clubs, then you have to win major trophies. The Champions League will help us as a worldwide club to show we're here to do business.'
John Obi Mikel, Yuri Zhirkov and Bosingwa are all injured and Paulo Ferreira is not named in tonight's squad but, otherwise, all is well and Joe Cole and Ancelotti are right to dream of returning to Spain's capital for the final on May 27 in the Bernabeu Stadium.
One note of warning though. This same week one year ago, Chelsea went away to Roma on the back of a 5-0 romp against Sunderland.
Spirits were soaring in the Eternal City and Luiz Felipe Scolari spoke of returning for the final. Roma, like Atletico, were in crisis, but they won 3-1, sparking a run of two wins in seven for the Blues.
Things were never quite the same again for Scolari and Chelsea never made it back to Rome, as Drogba and a certain referee called Tom Henning Ovrebo will recall.
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