Early Doors

Immortality beckons heroic Chelsea

Early Doors

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Rafa Benitez's Chelsea stand one game from immortality.

Having bravely put Monterrey to the sword, the Champions of Europe take on Corinthians for the right to wear shiny foil badges that convey all the gravitas of a meringue paperweight.

That, and to call themselves the greatest football team on the planet.

If, at any point in the next year, intelligent life drops in from Jupiter and challenges us to a game of football, it is Sunday's winners who will take on the aliens and fight for the pride of the species.

In fact, the pride of every species. Not for nothing does John Terry have the heart of a lion, Juan Mata the vision of a meerkat and David Luiz the hair of a sea anemone.

So after a gruelling, arduous, one-match campaign, Chelsea find themselves on the brink of the greatest prize in football.

The European Cup is certainly a coveted prize, but the Club World Cup features teams from Europe, Asia, Africa, Oceania, North and South America - that makes it fully six times harder to win than the Champions League.

It's the World Cup! Just for clubs.

When Chelsea face Corinthians, they will be fighting not just for themselves, but for the whole of Europe.

For if it is considered the done thing to back English teams in Europe, surely the whole continent must get behind Chelsea.

And after the way they charmed us on their way to a thoroughly deserved Champions League triumph, why wouldn't we?

Because football is about more than empty gestures like passing; it is about the manly business of parking the bus, of kneeing your opponent in the back and protesting your innocence on live TV - and, most crucially of all, it is about inducing the best players in the world to miss penalty kicks.

And what of Benitez, who can become indisputably the greatest football manager in history on Sunday?

No man has led two different teams to Club World Cup triumphs. Having won it with Internazionale in 2010, Benitez now has a chance to carve his face into the Mount Rushmore of football management next to Raymond Domenech, Ossie Ardiles and Les Reed.

He also narrowly lost the final in 2005 in Liverpool - the man truly is a giant of this competition.

To deliver such a prize within four weeks of taking the Chelsea jobs would make this arguably the most successful managerial stint we have ever witnessed.

What a prize for the Chelsea fans who have given the boss such vociferous backing.

Sure, people talk about the minute-long tribute to Roberto Di Matteo that rings out every game.

But, by Early Doors's reckoning, that makes 98.9 per cent of every game when the Chelsea fans are NOT actively protesting against the manager. And that doesn't include stoppage time.

Have you ever heard of Albert Sosnowski? Or Robert Helenius? Or Audley Harrison?

No, of course you haven't. All of those men were European heavyweight boxing champions.

ED's point is that sport only remembers the champions of the world. And, unless you're playing baseball, that normally involves beating opponents from across the globe.

Real Madrid have never won a Club World Cup. Nor have AC Milan, Bayern Munich or Ajax.

This Sunday, Chelsea can prove beyond all doubt that they are a greater, more historic and more admired club than all of them.

And to celebrate, ED is reliably informed that John Terry will be plated in 18-carat gold and lowered into the centre circle from a helicopter hovering above the stadium, then held aloft by his jubilant colleagues.

The occasion demands nothing less.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: Much irritation round FA way at UEFA's entirely predictable derisory punishment of Serbia following racist incidents against England at an Under-21 game. The 80,000 euro fine is less than Nicklas Bendtner got for showing his Paddy Power pants.

FA general secretary Alex Horne: "We are disappointed with the sanctions levied by UEFA with regards to the racist behaviour displayed towards England's players. "Let's be clear, racism is unacceptable in any form, and should play no part in football. The scenes were deplorable and we do not believe the sanction sends a strong enough message."

Serbian FA secretary general Zoran Lakovic: "The punishment is not as harsh as we thought it might be but the verdict and the incident that caused it should come as a last warning to everyone representing Serbian football."

Rio Ferdinand: "Uefa are not serious at all on racism. Fines do not work at all. They have zero impact on federations/clubs/fans/players #fact. Uefa need to talk to this generation.....they don't seem to be up to date on this issue?? Harsh punishments needed as a deterrent #simple."

FOREIGN VIEW: French club Bastia have been barred from playing at home until further notice after supporters of the top-flight club were involved in a series of violent incidents.

Fans threw a barrage of fireworks outside the Stade Armand Cesari on Wednesday as Bastia's 2-1 Ligue 1 home defeat by Marseille was played behind closed doors.

"Regarding all the serious acts committed by some Bastia fans during this game and previous ones... the disciplinary commission has decided to bar the club from playing in their stadium until further notice," the French Football League said.

The ground was empty for the encounter with Marseille after ugly incidents marred the game at neighbours Ajaccio in October.

A linesman was also hit by a missile in Bastia's League Cup game against Lille two weeks ago.

Promoted Bastia, sixth from bottom in Ligue 1, travel to champions Montpellier on Saturday.

COMING UP: No live football, but plenty of weekend preview fun (and ED really does mean FUN, for what could be more fun than empty quotes?), plus Jim White's latest blog.

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