Tag Archives: Chelsea

The Premier League Title Run In

Premier League run in: Key Players
Premier League run in: Key Players

When you hear the words ‘Run In’ it normally guarantees drama until mid May. So grab a red pen, find a nice big wall and write in large letters ‘6 games to go’!

For the first time in years the run in features 3 teams – Liverpool, Manchester City, and Chelsea. This time last season the title race was already over after Manchester Utd had stormed to an unassailable lead – it was kinda boring.

This season, however with Man Utd’s demise, the Premier League title run in is back to what it once was, packed with drama, tension, ups and downs while watching each team involved avoid bizarre slip ups against the teams at the other end of the table. And with three teams involved, this could go to the wire.

Continue reading The Premier League Title Run In

2013/14 Premier League Season – the story so far (part 1)

Premier League Table - Jan 5th 2014
Premier League Table – Jan 5th 2014

 

It has been a football extravaganza over the past couple of weeks. I for one have been glued to the tv  – watching the drama unfold over the crazy Christmas schedule and the upsets of the FA Cup – there have been many highs and lows for all concerned – the teams, the managers and of course us, the fans.

So with the season now past the halfway point, this is where the drama really starts to unfold and we begin to see the stress and strains of the Premier League run in, and what will prove to be make or break for a lot of teams. But before the hullabaloo really gets going, lets look back on the first half of the 2013/14 season and the story so far (Part 1) –

Arsenal:
The gunners came out the gate running (in August), and caught many teams by surprise. They remain at the top of the table, but how long will they maintain this position? Theo Walcott is out for six months and their list of injuries continues to grow. The next few weeks will be critical to their title challenge and their fortunes may depend on their dealings in the Transfer window and how they perform during the crunch games against the bigger teams. I believe they will finish in the top four, but they will not be champions this season.

Continue reading 2013/14 Premier League Season – the story so far (part 1)

Soccer Shorts: From Malaga to Manchester

Manuel_pellegrini takes the helm at Manchester City
Manuel Pellegrini takes the helm at Manchester City

From Malaga to Manchester

Manchester City has appointed a new manager to take over from ousted Roberto Mancini. The poor man will be swapping sun, san and sangria for wind, rain, accents and a warm British pint. After doing a stellar job with Malaga (which included getting them into the Quarter finals of the Champions League this season) Chilean Manuel Pellegrini has the unenviable task of restoring some order to Manchester City and leading “the best squad in the Premier League” to Premier and Champions League titles next season.

He is fully aware that titles are expected, as is improving dressing room relations within a disgruntled squad. However, after coaching for 26 years in Spanish speaking countries (Spain, Chile, Ecuador and Argentina), one might expect his biggest challenge will be getting to grips with the Mancunian accent along with the 185 days (on average a year) of rain that Manchester enjoys. Time to put away the sombrero, and open up that umbrella.

Newcastle goes back to the dinosaur age

Tyrannosaurus Rex, pterodactyl, Joe Kinnear. This week saw Newcastle Utd make the controversial decision to appoint the clubs former manager Joe Kinnear as Director of Football.

To mark the occasion the old Dinosaur reared its heard, roared loudly and gave one of the most shambolic interviews in the history of the Premier League. Not only did he claim to have signed several players during his short stint as manager (when other managers clearly made the signings), he also talked about (current first team players) SholaAmenobee, Yohan Kebab and Haten Ben Afre rather than Shola Ameobi, Yohan Cabaye and Hatem Ben Arfa.

And that was before he turned on the “negativity” of Newcastle supporters by insisting he  had “more intelligence than them”, and boasting that his list of “worldwide” contacts were so extensive no door was closed to him.

Kinnear, a true dinosaur in the techniques of football management, clearly believes he will have considerable influence over affairs at the club. In reality many see his appointment as a disaster with former start striker, Alan Shearer adding “People are laughing at the football club I support. And that sickens me”.

If nothing else this relic from a by-gone era is going to provide some much needed entertainment during the new season. We just have to feel sorry for manager Alan Pardew who will have to answer to his new boss.

Who will Chelsea Keep?

There has been a lot of talk from most clubs about who they plan to sign, however with Chelsea there has been more talk about which players they are potentially going to release. So far the names mentioned are Spaniard, Juan Matta and the boy from Brazil, David Luis.

According to reports new manager Jose Mourinho is unconvinced by these players. I guess he didn’t watch much Premier League action while he was in Madrid, for these players were two of the most skillful players in the League (last season), were two of the best players in the team and were a joy to watch. It will be very interesting to see who will be at Chelsea come August

Premier League fixtures released

This week saw the release of the 2013/2014 Premier League Fixtures – only 8 weeks to go before its back!!!

Seriously, really?

Manchester City and Manchester Utd replica shirts have been banned from being worn by workers on the site of Cities new training complex.  The reason – ‘to stop it getting silly’ due to rivalries between builders who may support opposing clubs.

Image Source: forzafutbol.com

Manchester Utd vs Chelsea: Squad Sheets

manchester-united-chelsea

This match has the potential to be a real cracker. This fixture, for many seasons has been crucial in deciding the destination of the championship. But with Chelsea having taken a back seat (for the past few seasons) in competing for the top honors the match has lost some of its bite.

That’s not to say it won’t lack drama. Firstly, there always seems to be hostilities between both sets of players and every game always throws up a controversial moment of some sort. Secondly, there are the hostilities between the managers – Alex Ferguson and Rafael Benitez – a long running feud. The latest installment has Benitez claiming Ferguson refused to shake his hand when the teams met earlier this season, while Ferguson recently claimed Benitez is only interested in his Resume and has snubbed him (on more than one occasion) in a post-match drink.

Thirdly there is the issue of the FA Cup replay in March, which Chelsea comfortably won, thereby denying Manchester Utd the chance of going for the double – Manchester Utd will be out to avenge that defeat.

Finally, the newly crowned champions would not want the indignity of being beaten by the Blues. Ferguson is adamant his players (having already been crowned champions) do not lose their focus and has warned them about switching into party mode.

And that’s before all the other niggling rivalries (that have built up over the years between various players) start to kick-off during the 90 minutes.

Not exactly pistols at dawn, but you can guarantee there will be drama of some description – enjoy!!!

Match Facts:

Venue: Old Trafford, Manchester, Sunday May 5th

Last season’s result: Manchester Utd 3 Chelsea 1

Manchester Utd form guide: DWDWWD

Chelsea form guide: WDWWLW

Manchester Utd leading scorer: Van Persie – 25

Chelsea leading scorer: Ba 15 (13 for Newcastle)

Possible team line-ups:

Manchester Utd 4-5-1: De Gea, Vidic, Ferdinand, Evra, Da Silva, Cleverley, Carrick, Rooney, Nani, Valencia, Van Persie

Manager: Alex Ferguson

Chelsea 4-5-1: Cech; Luiz; Ivanovic; Cole; Azpilicueta; Mikel; Ramires; Mata; Oscar; Hazard; Ba

Manager: Rafael Benitez

Manchester Utd subs from: Lindegaard, Johnstone, Büttner, Hernández, Scholes, Anderson, Giggs, Powell, Smalling, Evans, Kagawa

Manchester Utd injuries: Fletcher (illness, Aug), Young (ankle, Aug)

Chelsea subs from: Turnbull, Hilário, Ferreira, Terry, Cahill, Ake, Bertrand, Moses, Marin, Benayoun, Torres, Lampard

Chelsea injuries: Romeu (knee, Aug)

Additional Information:

• The last six clashes between these sides in all competitions have featured 29 goals at an average of 4.8 goals per game

• United have lost more games (13) and conceded more goals (55) against Chelsea than versus any other side in the Premier League.

• Chelsea have managed one clean sheet in their past 17 league trips to Old Trafford

• Javier Hernández has scored in six of his last eight meetings with Chelsea

• David de Gea is the only top-flight keeper to have made more punches (23) than catches (21) this term (source:Guardiannews.com)

Prediction: Manchester Utd 2 Chelsea 2

Image source: bluechampions.com

English clubs demise in the Champions League

Madrid's Mesut Özil gets the better of Utd's Tom Cleverley
Madrid’s Mesut Özil gets the better of Utd’s Tom Cleverley

Arsenal’s loss to Bayern Munich on March 13th, 2013 saw the last of the English Premiership sides exit this years Champions League competition. The result means this season will see the first Champions League quarterfinal phase without an English side for the first time since 1996.

In May 2012, Chelsea was celebrating being the champions of Europe – this year they didn’t even make it past the group stage, along with Manchester Utd (last sixteen) and Manchester City (group stage) – the balance of power has clearly shifted to Spain and Germany. Along with Real Madrid and Barcelona, Malaga’s surprise qualification for the quarter-finals means Spain have three teams in the last eight (for the first time in a decade) and Germany – with Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund – have two.

There is of course a whole host of factors to which you could attribute the demise of Premier League teams – bad luck in the group stages (both Manchester City and Chelsea had incredibly difficult groups), Manchester Utd’s bad luck for being drawn to meet Real Madrid at such an early stage in the competition, and that’s before the controversy surrounding Nani’s red card in this match – a controversial decision that arguably cost Man Utd their place in the quarter-finals.

Then there’s the crazy fixture list in the Premier League to contend with – in Spain they will rearrange the fixture schedule to help their teams succeed in Europe, where as in England that is unheard of. Most European leagues take a short break in the winter; in England, during this period, teams play more fixtures than ever. The lack of progress this year could also be attributed to the decline in the standard of defensive play that has been seen this season in England. And finally it could also be that other leagues are just catching up to the Premiership or it could be just one of those things.

Whatever the reason, what makes the failure of an English team to reach the final even worse is that this years final is to be held in London at Wembley Stadium – it would have been nice to have a home team in there.

For now, England’s only hope for success in Europe this season is David Beckham – his side Paris Saint Germain are still in the competition – but that would mean we would have to start supporting a team from France – heaven forbid!

Champions League final stages since 1996:

  • 1995-96
    Blackburn Group stage
    Quarter-finalists Spain 1, Italy 1, Germany 1, France 1, Holland 1, Russia 1, Poland 1, Greece 1
  • 1996-97
    Man Utd Semi-finals
    Quarter-finalists Spain 1, Italy 1, Germany 1, England 1, France 1, Portugal 1, Holland 1, Norway 1
  • 1997-98
    Man Utd Quarter-finals
    Newcastle Group stage
    Quarter-finalists Germany 3, Spain 1, Italy 1, England 1, France 1, Ukraine 1
  • 1998-99
    Man Utd Winners
    Arsenal Group stage
    Quarter-finalists Germany 2, Italy 2, Spain 1, England 1, Greece 1, Ukraine 1
  • 1999-00
    Man Utd Quarter-finals
    Chelsea Quarter-finals
    Arsenal Qroup stage
    Quarter-finalists Spain 3, England 2, Italy 1, Germany 1, Portugal 1
  • 2000-01
    Leeds Semi-finals
    Arsenal Quarter-finals
    Man Utd Quarter-finals
    Quarter-finalists Spain 3, England 3, Germany 1, Turkey 1
  • 2001-02
    Man Utd Semi-finals
    Liverpool Quarter-finals
    Arsenal Last 16
    Quarter-finalists Spain 3, England 2, Germany 2, Greece 1
  • 2002-03
    Man Utd Quarter-finals
    Arsenal Last 16
    Newcastle Last 16
    Liverpool Group stage
  • Quarter-finalists Spain 3, Italy 3, England 1, Holland 1
  • 2003-04
    Chelsea Semi-finals
    Arsenal Quarter-finals
    Man Utd Last 16
    Quarter-finalists Spain 2, England 2, France 2, Italy 1, Portugal 1
  • 2004-05
    Liverpool Winners
    Chelsea Semi-finals
    Man Utd Last 16
    Arsenal Last 16
    Quarter-finalists Italy 3, England 2, Germany 1, France 1, Holland 1
  • 2005-06
    Arsenal Runners-up
    Liverpool Last 16
    Chelsea Last 16
    Man Utd Group stage
    Quarter-finalists Italy 3, Spain 2, England 1, France 1, Portugal 1
  • 2006-07
    Liverpool Runners-up
    Chelsea Semi-finals
    Man Utd Semi-finals
    Arsenal Last 16
    Quarter-finalists England 3, Italy 2, Spain 1, Germany 1
  • 2007-08
    Man Utd Winners
    Chelsea Runners-up
    Liverpool Semi-finals
    Arsenal Quarter-finals
    Quarter-finalists England 4, Spain 1, Italy 1, Germany 1, Turkey 1
  • 2008-09
    Man Utd Runners-up
    Chelsea Semi-finals
    Arsenal Semi-finals
    Liverpool Quarter-finals
    Quarter-finalists England 4, Spain 2, Germany 1, Portugal 1
  • 2009-10
    Man Utd Quarter-finals
    Arsenal Quarter-finals
    Chelsea Last 16
    Liverpool Group stage
    Quarter-finalists England 2, France 2, Spain 1, Italy 1, Germany 1, Russia 1
  • 2010-11
    Man Utd Runners-up
    Tottenham Quarter-finals
    Chelsea Quarter-finals
    Arsenal Last 16
    Quarter-finalists England 3, Spain 2, Germany 1, Italy 1, Ukraine 1
  • 2011-12
    Chelsea Winners
    Arsenal Last 16
    Man City Group stage
    Man Utd Group stage
    Quarter-finalists Spain 2, England 1, Italy 1, Germany 1, France 1, Portugal 1, Cyprus 1
  • 2012-13
    Man Utd Last 16
    Arsenal Last 16
    Chelsea Group stage
    Man City Group stage
    Quarter-finalists Spain 3, Germany 2, Italy 1, France 1, Turkey 1

(data source: guardiannews.com)

(photo: http://www.mirror.co.uk)

Chelsea fans hit back

It remains to be seen how long Chelsea ‘Interim’ manager Rafael Benitez remains in his current role. After his outburst last week regarding his ‘Interim’ job title some thought he would be lucky to be in the dug out to take charge of the team against West Brom on Saturday, March 2nd, 2013.

But make it he did despite the continued vocal and visual protests by a large section of the Chelsea fans. No sooner after guiding the team to a 1-0 victory bets were again being taken as to when he will leave and who will replace him – not a job many will want given the current circumstances at the club – with the new manager facing a desperate up hill battle to appease pretty much everyone involved with Chelsea FC.

Poor Mr. Benitez has done nothing wrong, well, apart from the comment he made about Chelsea fans back in 2007 while in charge of Liverpool. Prior to a European Champions League tie against his future employers, Benitez commented –

“We don’t need to give away flags for our fans to wave – our supporters are always there with their hearts, and that is all we need. It’s the passion of the fans that helps to win matches – not flags.”

At the time I am sure he never envisioned that one day he would be the manager of Chelsea Football Club. Ever since he took on the role at Chelsea back in November, 2012 his life has been nothing short of a living hell, particularly at the hands of the fans who show no signs of holding back in voicing their dislike, displeasure and disgust for the man from Spain.

Interim is there for all to see
Interim is there for all to see

Chelsea fans with anti-rafa banner Chelsea sign Chelsea fan Chelsea fans anti-rafa banners Fans hold placards ahead

(photos from Guardiannews.com. From top to bottom Julian Finney/Getty Images; Scott Heavey/Getty Images; Alan Walter/Action Images; Julian Finney/Getty Images; Tony O’Brien/Action Images; Toby Melville/Reuters)

Swansea and Chelsea – a tale of two cities.

01iht-soccer01-rafael-benitez-articleLarge
Chelsea manager Rafael Benitez searches for answers.

It was a cool Sunday, so what better than to stay in the warm and catch-up on two games.

First up, Chelsea v Manchester City closely followed by the Football League Cup Final between Swansea and Bradford City.

As I pondered the televisual feast it occurred to me this time last season these two clubs were in vastly differently places – in terms of form, potential and the chance of winning silverware – to where we find them today.

This time last year, Chelsea were flying, they were playing some beautiful football, the squad were united and were having great fun playing for their new manager Roberto Di Matteo, and by the end of the season they would be crowned FA Cup winners and European Champions. Swansea, were enjoying themselves, they were playing attractive football but so far had failed to reach their full potential.

How times have changed, ten months on Swansea are on top of the world, a young stylish team, full of passion and enthusiasm, enjoying themselves like a teenager who has just gotten the keys to their first car and can now go anywhere and do anything. Chelsea on the other hand, who should have built on the success of last season look lethargic, bored, uninterested in anything that’s going on around them, they don’t know where to go, what to do and lack any form of inspiration. It is sad to see and such a waste.

By Sunday afternoon when the games were long over Swansea City had completed their fairy tale by winning their piece of silverware in 101 years of history with precise, elegant procession football that destroyed their opponents. For a club who were in danger of slipping into non-league football ten years ago, playing in a crumbling stadium and only just managing to pay the players wages this is an incredible transformation. Along with remaining on course for a top-10 finish in the Premier League and playing in Europe next season, it is truly a dream come true for the little club from South Wales and I am sure they will make the most of every second.

Current manager Michael Laudrup is one of the most wanted managers in Europe and in just under a season has taken the club to another level with free flowing, joy-to watch football. Swansea are fast becoming the club others wish to emulate, and we are not just talking about the way they play, the way the club has handled themselves financially is a credit to them, the chairman is brave and ambitious in his decision making – just look at the appointment of Laudrup – and they made many friends last season. If you’re team is losing, fans now turn to see how Swansea are doing, you can’t help but love them.

As for Chelsea, what an awful display against Manchester City, they looked a completely different side from the same eleven players on the pitch that did them so proud to win two competitions. Arrogant, brutish, controversial, Chelsea are fast becoming the team everyone loves to see lose. It is fast turning sour for the London club, and the problems show no sign of abating. With an unpopular ‘interim’ manager – Rafael Benitez – at the helm and constant press reports of team bust ups, rants by the manager and unrelenting abuse by the fans Chelsea face the real prospect of wining nothing this season. The fans truly detest the ‘interim’ manager, the manager himself has now made it clear he will be leaving at the end of the season, the clubs owner has the difficult task of finding a manger that actually wants to manage the club, and the players are exhausted. For the first ten minutes of the match against Manchester City they could barely keep up, City threatening to run riot, as Chelsea resembled a confused and muddled mess.

There are no answers to the mounting problems, and even more alarming is that nobody at the club knows what to do next. It is sad to see, but on the other hand so wonderful to see Swansea doing so well, watching their displays this season, they are now officially my ‘second’ team.

As for what lies ahead for both clubs – Chelsea and Swansea – I think  – it was the best of times, it was the worst of times” – will sum their season up pretty well.

(Photo: Jon Super/Associated Press)