Sep 042013
 

After 120 minutes of drama in Prague on Friday, the European Super Cup eventually ended in agonising defeat, but in the fullness of time the result will be more of an irritant than anything else and so should not be of much concern.

The Cup, ultimately, means very little; it is the European version of the Community Shield. Though credit has to go to the players for making such a spectacle of a game that so often descends into pre-season friendly territory.

There were plenty of encouraging performances too, as Jose Mourinho continues to ink his influence back on the team. Fernando Torres reminded us that he can score great goals when not skulking around with a frown on his face.

David Luiz looked solid on his return from injury and reminded us why he should not be sold this transfer window, while Eden Hazard scored what so nearly became the winner.

For many fans of the Premier League though, Petr Cech deserved the plaudits he received from Betfair pundits. The Czech Republic international once again proved his class with a fine display, especially in extra time, when he made four key saves to deny an increasingly rampant Bayern side.

With so many big money transfers coming in and out of Stamford Bridge, it is sometimes easy to forget Cech is still there. But he has been a model of consistency ever since he signed for the club way back in 2004. While the Blues have been linked with players in nearly every position, no one has suggested we need a new goalkeeper, which is telling in itself.

His quiet and friendly demeanour means he does not court controversy either; from the outside, he seems like a manager’s dream.

With Mourinho again looking to rely on defensively solidity this season rather than attacking flair, clean sheets will be even more important, especially if they hope to justify their 9/4 odds for the title with Betfair. Luckily, the Blues have one of the best there is between the sticks.

May 262013
 

Long term transfer target Edinson Cavani is reportedly top of the list this summer as Roman Abramovich looks set to open his chequebook once again this summer. Cavani, the 26 year old goal-scoring machine, has been at Napoli for three seasons where he has netted an incredible 104 goals in just 138 appearances. The Uruguayan has long been admired by many of Europe’s top clubs, but we look to be the first to make a big move this summer in the hope of beating other big spenders like Man City to his signature. However, there may be one big unknown in this situation – Rafa Benitez.

Benitez looks set to be officially named as the new Napoli boss in the next 24 hours. Club president Aurelio De Laurentiis is an extremely difficult man to predict, and by all accounts difficult to work for as well, but it seems Benitez is willing to take on the massive task. Abramovich will be hoping that Benitez will be more willing to discuss terms with the team he just won a Europa League with, but it is difficult to understand just how Benitez feels about Chelsea.

Rafa did not have an easy time at Stamford Bridge. Many fans were extremely vocal in their distaste and dislike at his appointment, and they never warmed to him. The fact of the matter is that Benitez actually did a very good job in his short time at Chelsea. He managed to win back some of the power from the dressing room, navigate a dreadful fixture schedule while keeping his major players fit, and ended the season comfortably in 3rd position with a Europa League to his name. If Roberto Di Matteo had only come in when Rafa did and achieved the same results, he would be considered a hero. Unfortunately for Benitez, his reputation preceded him, and the fans never gave him a chance.

This may have left Rafa with a bad taste in his mouth, and it would be understandable if he would rather not do us any favours. At this time, it’s guesswork as to how open he is to doing business with Roman, but we must hope that his relationship with our board remains strong. Cavani at Chelsea would be an incredible signing, and one that would strike fear in to every team across Europe. As far as strikers go, Cavani is the genuine article, and we should be moving heaven and earth to land him. Fingers crossed.

May 162013
 

For the next ten days, Chelsea will officially be the reigning holders of both the Champions League and the Europa League trophies after a stunning 2-1 win over the impressive Benfica. Fittingly, it was one of the heroes of last year’s Champions League campaign that scored the dramatic 93rd minute winner – Branislav Ivanovic.

It wasn’t all plain sailing for Chelsea though – far from it. In the first half, Benfica were the noticeably stronger team. Chelsea struggled to get hold of the ball and the 63% – 37% possession stats in favour of Benfica told its own story. Both Cardozo and Gaitan went close in the early stages, while Rodrigo fluffed a particularly good chance from six yards after a clever set piece. In spite of this, Chelsea very nearly took the lead when Frank Lampard unleashed a thunderous strike from all of 25 yards. Brazilian keeper Artur looked to be going the wrong way, but he managed to get an exceptionally strong hand to the swerving shot to tip it just over the crossbar.

Early in the second half it looked like Benfica had finally netted the breakthrough, only for Cardozo’s neat header to be ruled correctly offside. Things continued much like they had in the first until the hour mark, when a lightening break from Chelsea saw Fernando Torres round Artur and give Chelsea the lead. The goal was a lesson in direct counter attacking football. A long throw from Cech after a good save – a little flick from Mata and great strength from Torres to muscle past both central defenders and finish. It was the Torres of old, and it was impressive.

It wasn’t long until Benfica were level. Lima tried to play in Cardozo and the ball struck Cesar Azpilicueta’s arm. Cardozo duly despatched the spot kick and the teams remained level up to injury time, despite Frank Lampard smashing a curling 25 yard strike off the crossbar on 88 minutes. Then, when the draw looked inevitable, the somewhat anonymous Ramires chased down a ball to nothing in the corner, and managed to win a corner. There was a certain buzz in the stadium as Mata went over to take what was probably the last chance of the game. The corner wasn’t great, but one man wanted it more than anyone else. Ivanovic tracked 10 yards and, leaping backwards, powered a stunning header back into the far corner. It was a goal worthy of winning any final, and scored by one of the genuine nice guys in football.

There was time for one more scare from the restart, but Gary Cahill saved the day with an incredible slide tackle and hooked clearance from 6 yards out that really justified his selection at the back. Champions of Europe for another season, and a job well done by Rafa Benitez.

Say what you want about us, but we know how to win silver.

May 052013
 

Chelsea go into a vitally important two weeks standing on the verge of having either a very good season, or a pretty disastrous one. Having already reached the semi-final stage of both domestic cup competitions, the Blues went one step further this week by reaching the final of the Europa League.

A victory against Benfica in Amsterdam on May 15th will give Chelsea a second successive European trophy in two seasons, but that must be seen as a bonus, according to the man probably most responsible for Chelsea’s recent success, Juan Mata. The Spaniard has been nothing short of brilliant again this season and has helped the new Chelsea players like Oscar and Hazard to settle quickly.

If Chelsea fail to finish in the top four of the Premier League again this season, there is no backdoor through the Europa League and we will not be in the Champions League next season. For the quality of the players at Stamford Bridge, this would be a travesty and would turn a good season into a bad one.

Starting with Manchester United today, followed by Tottenham on Wednesday, Chelsea face two massive and difficult games which could define this season and Mata wants his team mates to give absolutely everything and forget about the cup final for now.

“We have to get in the top four. We have to win these two games,” declared the Spaniard.

“We want Champions League football next season. After that we can try and win another trophy.

“There are two tough games ahead. Playing Tottenham is going to be like a final because both teams will be fighting for the same thing.”

Hopefully, the United players will have taken their foot off the gas because the title is done, but Ferguson will want to get one over on Benitez, so will be urging full effort from them. If Chelsea really give everything, though, and play as we can, I think we will win today. Then it is just the small matter of stopping Gareth Bale, because when he doesn’t score, Spurs don’t win.

Apr 302013
 

The fantastic and versatile Brazilian international David Luiz is a popular choice to become the next captain od Chelsea, and the change could happen sooner than expected, apparently. The 26-year old has been putting in captains’ performances for the Blues lately and more than once his drive, skill and determination have rescued Chelsea, most recently with a last gasp winner at Basel.

According to the Daily Star, the Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich wants Luiz to replace Terry as club captain this summer, although it is unclear whether this would mean an end to Terry’s career at the club or simply a demotion. This could be speculation on the paper’s part, but Luiz has been receiving lots of plaudits from everyone at the club recently.

Of course, if Jose Mourinho takes the reigns at Stamford Bridge again at the end of the season, he may want to do things his own way and might think it is a bad move to drop Terry from the role after all he has done for the club. Luiz is the sort of no holds barred player that the Special One loves to have in his team and I am sure that Luiz will be captain one day, but have my doubts it will be this summer.

Apr 282013
 

Chelsea have a massive game against Swansea City at Stamford Bridge today. It is a game that the Blues must win as we fight Arsenal and Tottenham for a top four finish, and it is one that we are expected to win. The Welsh club are sitting safely in mid-table and seem to have taken their foot off the gas since winning the Capital One cup against Bradford City in February.

Michael Laudrup’s team have won just once since that Wembley final, but the Danish manager will surely be trying to get his players to shake off the cobwebs and finish the season strongly. Remember also that Swansea knocked Chelsea out of that competition at the semi-final stage, so we should be ready for a tough game.

Rafa Benitez has called on his Chelsea players to be more clinical in front of goal. Despite winning away against Basel on Thursday, Chelsea should have put the tie out of reach but wasted a number of good chances to do so. That means that the Spaniard will be forced to field a stronger side than he would have wanted in the return leg next week. Having let the lead slip against Liverpool last weekend, Chelsea absolutely must take all three points today to make us favourites to qualify for next season’s Champion’s League.

“Always when you have lots of chances you want to be more clinical,” said Benitez.

“It’s something we have seen during the season, a lot of games where we were doing well in attack and still we didn’t take our chances.

“We had some good chances (at Basel). We scored one, and after we had two or three chances to score a second goal and a lot of counter attacks we couldn’t finish, so I think it could have been even better.”

Chelsea should have Demba Ba leading the line today and Juan Mata should start after being rested on Thursday, so we should have no problem making and taking chances, hopefully.

Chelsea v Swansea will be shown on Justlivestreaming.com

Apr 242013
 

Chelsea have still got eight games to play this season. That includes the Europa League final at the Amsterdam Arena in Holland on May 15th. To get there, the Blues have got to get past the Swiss side Basel that knocked Tottenham Hotspur out in the last round. They are a good side, but Chelsea are better and have got the added bonus of Gary Cahill and Ashley Cole returning from injury.

With those eight games being squeezed into the next three weeks, Rafa Benitez is having to manage the squad very carefully. The Spaniard is well aware that the fans and the club see finishing in the top four of the Premier League as the most important objective, with the Europa trophy being a nice cherry on top. The manager may feel differently, though, as he knows he will be moving on at the end of the season.

We have a game against Swansea at Stamford Bridge on Saturday, so Cahill and Cole will be unlikely to play in both. The centre of defense is not such a problem, with John Terry, Ivanovic and David Luiz doing well. The left back situation is more tricky, although Ryan Bertrand has filled in admirable for Cole. I would prefer to keep Cole for the league games, at least as he is just coming back but expect Cahill to play tomorrow as we try to keep a clean sheet and set up the home leg nicely. That game next Thursday comes just three days before a trip to Manchester United, a game that could have a massive say on the top four, so we do not want to have too hard a game and certainly not extra time.

Apr 232013
 

Petr Cech was very disappointed to concede the equalising goal to Liverpool on Sunday, especially as we were leading until the 97th minute, but he says that now the Chelsea players need to relieve the ongoing pressure ahead of every game by taking a relaxing break in between matches.

Cech said: “‘We are in a position where we are fighting for everything,”

“There’s a lot of pressure in the Europa League because we want to win it and we are in the semi-finals.

“Every league game we have to fight for the top four and it’s very tight, so there is pressure, and you have to find time to relax and make sure you are mentally fresh for the next game.

“We had a disappointing end to this game but we have another massive game to come on Thursday so we must forget about this one and concentrate on the next match.’

“Just one point is better than nothing, but in added time when you are defending a lead it’s disappointing we couldn’t see the game out.

“We had a good reaction to their first goal, we didn’t panic and the second goal made a big difference.

“We more or less had control of the game in terms of not giving them too many chances but we ended up too deep and they scored with the last action of the game.”

It was heart-breaking to see that animal Luis Suarez score that last-gasp goal, but Cech is right. We just need to put it behind us and prepare for the big game on Thursday. It is Chelsea’s last chance of a trophy this season and we must go for it, but without putting our Top Four League challenge in danger.

Relax now, then come back and win in style!

Apr 192013
 

The 27-year old central defender Gary Cahill seems to have been out of the Chelsea team for ages following a minor knee operation, but he is on the verge of returning. That is great news for Chelsea, as there could still be nine games to play if we reach the Europa League final by beating Basel in the semi.

There is an outside chance of Cahill making the match at Liverpool on Sunday, but if not then he will ready for the first leg against the team from Switzerland. He has already won the FA cup and the Champions League in his short career at Stamford Bridge and does not hide the fact that the group stage exit as holders of the European cup, along with exits from the English cup competitions were disappointing.

It is next season’s Champions League that is the real priority now, though. After a fantastic start in the league, we should not be in the position of fighting Arsenal and Tottenham for a top four spot and he knows that failure to do it is unthinkable.

“I do not think we are contemplating it,” said Cahill. “The expectation for us is that we are in that competition next year. It is down to us as players to make sure that happens. We have got six games to do that and we have got to fully focus on making sure we are in that competition next season.”

One thing is for sure, Chelsea have a much better chance of doing it now that Cahill is back.

Apr 162013
 

The Chelsea players have got to pick themselves up quick. There is no time to feel sorry about missing out on another FA cup final, because there is still the important matters of the Europa League and the race for a top four spot in the Premier League. The fact that there is no time to sit around and mope about the disappointing defeat to Man City on Sunday is probably a good thing, and the team must just focus on the remaining games.

We now have the dates for two rearranged fixtures to put in the calendar. The game against Tottenham, which could be absolutely crucial for which team will be in next season’s Champions League, will now be played at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday May 8th. That is just three days after the away trip to Old Trafford to face Man United. Spurs will have one extra day to prepare after their home game against Southampton. They also have less games to worry about after being knocked out of the Europa League by our semi-final opponents Basel. Spurs seem to be in a bad run of form, though, and the European exit will not help.

The game against Swansea has been moved to Sunday April 28th, because we play Basel in Switzerland that Thursday. First things first, though. We need to beat Fulham tomorrow to go three points clear of Tottenham with a much better goal difference. The top four is the most important thing, but there is no reason we can’t top it off with the Europa League trophy as well.