Redemption can come in many different shapes and forms, and in unexpected ways, so long as it comes however, the timing is always perfect. For Fernando Torres, Chelsea’s Europa League campaign – a pain in the neck for most of the squad, for most of the season – has been a comfort zone. Whilst domestic competition has seen a depressing continuation of the off form off the pact and off the field for a good portion since the arrival of Demba Ba, trotting around backwater clubs of Europe, perhaps where the pressure and expectation is somewhat less, the goals have been delivered.
It’s difficult to know whether it’s the psychological difference caused by being the only striker available for selection – Ba is cup-tied in the competition, having turned out for former club Newcastle United – or the fact that the continental game, being played at a slower pace – very much like the player of late – is the reason. Either way, the Spaniard’s form across Europe has been much improved on that appearing in the domestic competitions. With the final coming up shortly a continuation of this would be very welcome indeed.
One of Torres’ best performances in Chelsea blue came in the Champions League quarter-final away leg in Portugal against Wednesday’s opponents. Although it’s dangerous to look back through blue-tinted glasses, suffice to say that if not quite vintage Torres, it was passable imitation. Playing the Drogba-esque role of a lone striker, he hurried and harried the Benfica defence, and was a constant threat. The performance was crowned by a bustling ruin down the right, shrugging of an opponent, before an astute pass found Kalou for a tap in, and the only goal of the night.
A performance like that would go down very nicely with the Chelsea faithful, and perhaps suggest that there’s life in El Nino yet. Cap it with a goal or two, and the past could begin to look less important than the future for him. This would however require a change in the ability of the team to ‘get the job done.’ The season to date has been one of just coming up short – that is if you forget the league wherein the blues came up a long way short. In the European Super Cup, they lost to Atletico Madrid, and suffered the same fate to the Brazilian champions in the World Club Cup final. Two semi-final defeats in the domestic cup competitions round out the ‘close, but no cigar’ nature of the season. With the club apparently now just scrambling over the line to Champions’ League qualification for next season – unless Spurs go goal mad against Sunderland and Chelsea collapse in dramatic fashion to Everton - this leaves just the Europa League.
Lose and the season will have been one flat road, leading pretty well nowhere. Win, and at least there’ll be a pot to put in the trophy cabinet, and another line to add to Rafa Benitez’s CV. Beating the Portuguese champions will not be easy, but if he turns up, Torres could be Chelsea’s Eurostar.