Terry and Cahill make Blues perfect
Terry and Cahill make a flawless double act for champions-elect Chelsea
LEICESTER CITY v CHELSEA
(Tomorrow, 2.45am, Singtel TV Ch 102 & StarHub TV Ch 227)
John Terry doesn't win popularity contests. He doesn't even get nominated. His name was conspicuous by its absence in the Footballer of the Year nominations.
Gary Cahill doesn't command the respect enjoyed by his England predecessors. He's composed on the ball, but no Rio Ferdinand. He's firm in the tackle, but no Sol Campbell.
Individually, Terry and Cahill can still polarise. Together, they are impenetrable.
And those foraging Foxes know it. Leicester City need a miracle to beat Chelsea tomorrow morning (Singapore time).
Parting the Red Sea may prove easier than parting Terry and Cahill.
The Blues' centre backs are similar to the Hulk and the Black Widow in the new Avengers movie.
On every sensible level, their relationship should not work.
The old man all at sea and the younger partner with a fragile temperament were not expected to be paired together this long.
When he joined Chelsea in 2012, Cahill was viewed as Terry's successor, not his collaborator. But the turnstile got stuck, leaving the two men side by side, working together to establish the meanest defence in English football.
Chelsea have shipped just 26 goals in 33 games, the joint lowest in any division in England.
Three consecutive clean sheets against QPR, Manchester United and Arsenal underlined their superiority, brushing aside obstacles like stray hairs on a jersey.
Terry's performance against Arsenal on Sunday was a masterclass in intelligent defending, a 90-minute highlights package for coaches to include in future PowerPoint presentations to budding centre backs.
His intuitive understanding of impending attacks and the absolute command of the men alongside him were positively Napoleonic. But there was no Waterloo movement, no final downfall.
Jose Mourinho was right. His skipper made no mistakes. More significantly perhaps, nor did the man beside him.
Terry and Cahill bring out the best in each other. The two men make a flawless double act. There's no comedy, but the timing remains impeccable.
Terry reads. Cahill runs. Terry intercepts. Cahill drops off and waits in a recovery position for the pass.
With the efficiency of lift doors, they slide sideways to cover for overlapping fullbacks and snap back if the move breaks down.
Thierry Henry claimed that Arsenal will not win a trophy without a "top, top striker", a petty jab at Olivier Giroud.
The Gunners forward is a top, top striker. He just faced top, top, top defenders. (Henry started it. I'll stop now.)
Terry emasculated Giroud. The Frenchman left his dignity on the Emirates turf. The rest of him was sitting in the palm of Terry's hand.
To Roy Hodgson's consternation, England's greatest centre backs cannot be paired up for their country.
After enduring more personal scandals than Charlie Sheen, Terry retired from international football in 2012.
Cahill endures, but the 29-year-old's performances for the Three Lions rarely match his consistency at Chelsea.
It's too simplistic to claim the national spotlight makes a man of Cahill's stature shrink. It's not the weight of the English jersey. It's the absence of his leader.
At Chelsea, Cahill still plays Robin to Terry's Batman. He's less comfortable in the lone superhero's role for England.
Indeed, Cahill's inclusion in the PFA's Team of the Season owes just as much to his captain as it does his coach.
Earlier in the year, Cahill's form dipped and he was dropped. His confidence took a fall so the main men of the Kings Road put him back together again.
Mourinho believed in Cahill, but Terry bolstered him. In the title run-in, the captain's direction and faultless organisation liberated his partner.
It also held off the young usurper.
When Cahill looks over his shoulder, he sees Kurt Zouma. A fearless competitor, the 20-year-old got a taste of the first team at Cahill's expense. He was soon addicted. He wanted more.
Zouma rose to the occasion, but Cahill climbed higher still. He took back his territory. Cahill's greatest challenge came not from the penalty box but his own bench.
Three of the Premier League's most committed centre backs are all at Stamford Bridge. But two of them are untouchable.
Much of their success must be attributed to Mourinho. His recent predecessors - and a couple of England managers - saw a washed-up, incorrigible scoundrel, a captain in armband only.
But Mourinho saw a Chelsea warlord.
At 34, Terry has played every minute of the club's top-flight games. He scored in the League Cup final and was named Man of the Match against Arsenal.
With a combined age of 63, Terry and Cahill remain English football's most reliable partnership. But Hodgson has made it clear that England is no country for old men.
His loss is Mourinho's obvious gain.
In central defence, Chelsea's Dad's Army can still take down the kids.
Mourinho tips Foxes to stay up
FANTASTIC FOX: Jose Mourinho says midfielder Esteban Cambiasso (above) is Leicester's best player. PHOTO: ACTION IMAGES
Jose Mourinho expects Leicester to avoid relegation from the Premier League and is taking nothing for granted as his title-chasing side go to the King Power Stadium tomorrow morning (Singapore time).
Win at Leicester and Chelsea, who are 10 points clear of Manchester City and Arsenal, can claim the title on Sunday with victory at home to Crystal Palace.
The Foxes will not roll over, though, having won four in a row to climb out of the relegation zone.
"I was surprised with their bad position," Mourinho said yesterday.
"For me, they are a good team, with good players. We played them very early in the season at Stamford Bridge (winning 2-0 in August).
"I could immediately feel the quality of the team.
"I was surprised that they were in a bad position. I'm not surprised they are out of the relegation zone. I will be not surprised when they stay in the division."
Tomorrow morning's match was scheduled after Chelsea reached the League Cup final on March 1 and the game in hand is valuable for both sides.
"They are playing well, their results are coming," Mourinho added.
"Their situation is very good. For the quality of their team, they are going to survive."
One player stands out for Mourinho - Argentinian Esteban Cambiasso.
"I won the treble with Cambiasso (at Inter Milan in 2010)," the Portuguese added.
"He was fundamental in my golden team. He's one of the players who means a lot to me, and he's been phenomenal for them. I'm very happy for him."
Chelsea will make a late decision over Diego Costa (hamstring) and Oscar (head knock) and are without Loic Remy (calf).
The likes of Dominic Solanke and Ruben Loftus-Cheek were in FA Youth Cup final action on Monday and may not be available to Mourinho.
There is little room for manoeuvre in team selection.
Mourinho added: "Our squad in this moment, with the injuries we have, are very short and there is no space for a lot of rotation."
Chelsea's preparations are taking place at St George's Park, the Football Association's national centre.
"We stayed there a couple of times and just to sleep," Mourinho added.
"It's the first time we go and we use the training facilities. The place is fantastic and beautiful.
"We go and we go for a good rest and for a good preparation of the match."
- PA Sport.
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho. PHOTO: REUTERS
JOSE: TERRY'S THE BEST
In this generation, he is the best centre back in English football as he has so many international caps and so many titles with Chelsea. He is also a good scorer for a central defender and the team are always well organised when he is playing.
TERRY: NO, CAHILL'S THE BEST
Gary is a big character. He was obviously disappointed to be left out of the Chelsea side a few months ago, but he has come back and taken his chance again. He has been different class and is England’s best centre back.
By the numbers
Chelsea captain John Terry made 5.8 clearances per game in 33 appearances in the EPL this season.
Terry's defensive partner Gary Cahill made 6.2 clearances per game in 31 appearances.