Chelsea heading for glory vows Grant

Avram Grant believes Chelsea can finally go all the way in the Champions League thanks to his side's impregnable defence.

updated: March 06, 2008 08:02 IST
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Avram Grant believes Chelsea can finally go all the way in the Champions League thanks to his side's impregnable defence.

The Blues moved into the quarter-finals for the fourth time in five years as goals from Michael Ballack, Frank Lampard and Salomon Kalou clinched a 3-0 aggregate win over Olympiakos in the last 16 second leg on Wednesday.

Lampard and Ballack both impressed but it was the rock-solid play of his back-four at Stamford Bridge that Grant took most pleasure from.

Chelsea have now gone over 10 hours without conceding a goal in the Champions League. The last time they were breached in Europe's elite club competition was back in October when David Villa scored for Valencia.

Even the absence of Czech goalkeeper Petr Cech with an ankle injury couldn't destabilise one of the game's most parsimonious defences.

To say Olympiakos offered little threat would be an understatement, but Grant is convinced his team can make up years of semi-final misery if John Terry, Ricardo Carvalho and company maintain this kind of dominating form.

"We defend well and in most games we hold the ball for 60 per cent or 65 per cent of the time. That is sometimes the best way to defend." Grant said.

"If we continue like this and keep cleansheets anything can happen."

Chelsea have been beaten in the semi-finals three times in the last four seasons, with Liverpool twice coming out on top against the London club.

There is every chance his team will face the Reds or Premier League rivals Arsenal or Manchester United in the next round. It is not a prospect Grant fears.

"If we win our quarter-final, the semi-final will be against Liverpool again!" he said.

"I don't care so much who we play. Any team in the next round will be a tough team. We came from a tough group. It doesn't matter, any game will be difficult."

After the misery of last month's League Cup final defeat against Tottenham, Grant looked an isolated figure. Another embarrassment against the Greek champions would have left him facing a fight to save his job, but now he can look forward to the future with more confidence.

The Israeli insists he has always believed in his ability to get the best out of Chelsea's star-studded squad, despite his lack of experience at the highest level.

"We know it was a bad day in the League Cup final. We showed character and good attitude since then. That is what is important. It's what I like," he said.

"From day one I have had full confidence in the team, even though most of the people didn't believe we would have a good year.

"So far it has been a good development and that pleases me more than the results."

Grant was never in danger of being let-down by his side against woeful Olympiakos as Lampard and Ballack finally clicked in midfield after a season and half of spluttering displays together.

They were helped by woeful marking as Ballack headed in Lampard's cross in the fifth minute.

Lampard got the second before the break when he tapped-in from close-range after Ballack's shot had been saved by Antonis Nikopolidis.

Inevitably Lampard laid on the third as his corner was deflected to Kalou, who bundled over the line as Olympiakos stood statuesque.

That was more than enough to finish off Olympiakos, but coach Panagiotis Lemonis is satisfied they are heading in the right direction after a campaign which included wins over Lazio and Werder Bremen.

"As far as the whole Champions League is concerned we played eight matches and came away with some positive results, but this was a difficult match," Lemonis said.

"Our aim is to get closer to the strong teams in the Champions League. We are looking at this year as only the beginning. It is a very good start."