Shark ENG (1)
May 082013
 

He’s off again. The Portuguese manager (not him, the other not so special one). As Chelsea prepare to welcome Tottenham to Stamford Bridge tonight, there is a great deal at stake. Perhaps that is why Andre Villas-Boas seems to be suffering from verbal diarrhoea, especially when it comes to talking about Chelsea.

Whoever wins the game tonight will take a huge step towards a top four finish and the Chammpions League football it entails. There are quite a lot of bragging rights on offer as well, such as being the best of the London clubs, with Arsenal still in the race, and doing the double over Spurs. What is likely to get the Chelsea players really going, though, is the sniping of the former manager.

Not only has he criticised the way we play, with some stupid remarks about having a style, he criticised Frank Lampard for not supporting him when he was in charge. The same `super` Frank Lampard who he hardly played and tried to force out of the club, you know, the one on the verge of becoming the Blues’ all-time record goalscorer. AVB suggested that Chelsea were not playing football in the right way and were only concerned about winning.

“In the end, it’s brought them success and sometimes success is what matters in football- independent of the style,” he croaked.

“I have a different opinion. I think if you don’t have a style it makes you invisible in football. Only teams with style succeed. But in the end, success normally is what matters in modern Europe.”

Well yes, mate, until they introduce goals and points for artistic integrity. What a clown! Chelsea won the Champions League and FA cup last season and have outperformed his Spurs team in every competition this season. A draw tonight would leave us three points ahead of them with two games to play, but a win would prove once and for all who the better team is.

Apr 052013
 

With a mammoth and congested fixture list stretching out in front of them, Chelsea and Rafa Benitez will be glad of the opportunity to rest a few key players if necessary in the second leg against Rubin Kazan. Chelsea were easily the better side against Rubin Kazan at Stamford Bridge last night as they cruised to a 3-1 victory.

The Russians only got on the scoresheet because of a poor decision by the referee to award a penalty for a handball by John Terry. The Chelsea captain had his hands by his side and did not move towards the ball, in fact he would hardly have been able to given the speed it was struck at him. Apparently, Terry has less than a quarter of a second to react so it was a very harsh call.

One man who will be very happy with the game is the Spanish striker Fernando Torres. He scored two goals and looked dangerous all night, which is a huge boost for him and his team mates. With Demba Ba doing the business in the Premier League, Benitez can rotate his strike force nicely, so that is one less area to worry about.

Ryan Bertrand showed some great skill filling in for Ashley Cole at left back, while Victor Moses scored a fantastic goal and, with Benayoun, gave Oscar and Hazard a well deserved break. With Sunderland visiting the Bridge on Sunday, Chelsea can play a strong side to avoid any new manager shocks from Paolo Di Canio’s first game.

The next big test will be against Manchester City in the FA cup semi-final next weekend, and the option to rest some key players on the Thursday could be vitally important.

Apr 022013
 

There was just one thing that put a negative on yesterday’s win over Manchester United. With the mammoth fixture list facing the club, the sight of Ashley Cole limping off holding his hamstring was the last thing we needed. The injury is not as bad as first feared, however, and the England left back should return in a couple of weeks.

It seems unlikely, though, that Cole be able to take part in the next FA cup game, against Manchester City at Wembley stadium on Sunday April 14th for a place in the final. Gary Cahill is also likely to miss that match, but both players should be back around that time or soon after.

We must pray for no more injuries now, especially not to Ryan Bertrand. The 23-year old is a capable replacement at left back and is used to pressure situations, making his Champions League debut in last season’s final. Bertrand has already made 20 starts and 12 appearances as a substitute this season, but if anything happened to him we could be in trouble.

The Premier League game against Tottenham has been postponed because of the FA cup game, which means that Cole and Cahill should be available for that. It could be a huge game in the race for the top four and next season’s Champions League, so having those two players rested and fresh could be a blessing in disguise.

Apr 012013
 

Chelsea are still on course for a Europa League and FA cup double, after an absolutely outstanding piece of magic from Demba Ba produced the only goal of the game against Manchester United. The Blues will now fave Manchester City on Sunday April 14th at Wembley for a place in the final.

We know that Rafa Benitez has had selection issues with the number of games recently and throughout the season, so it was not that surprising that Chelsea were controlled and organised rather than all guns blazing. Juan Mata seemed to be having a rare off day, but you can’t keep a good man down. Early in the second half he received the ball in the United half and produced a fantastic ball that got Ba behind the United defence. Ba took it above waist height over his shoulder and guided it past the hapless De Gea.

Petr Cech produced a fantastic reaction save to stop Hernandez leveling with his head soon afterwards, but Chelsea were fairly comfortable from then on. Van Persie blazed a chance over the bar, but we fully deserved the win. The only downside was an injury to Ashley Cole that will keep him out for around two weeks. Hopefully he will be back for that semi-final.

Apr 012013
 

Rafa Benitez is not exactly the most popular Chelsea manager ever, but the fans have relented a little on him recently. His comments and statement that he would definitely be leaving the club at the end of the season have drawn an uneasy truce, but if Chelsea go out of the FA cup against Manchester United today after resting key players and losing to Southampton, he will get dog’s abuse.

Some good news for Chelsea is that Ferguson has dropped Wayne Rooney from the side, he is not even on the bench. After being dropped for the Real Madrid game, it seems clear that the England striker’s days are numbered at United. Hernandez and van Persie are good players, but the Dutchman is ion a scoring drought and Rooney is much harder to play against than the Mexican.

Demba Ba will lead the line for Chelsea, with Juan Mata back from illness alongside Eden Hazard and Oscar in a very attacking and creative line up. Lampard and Terry are on the bench, and will be great to bring on to steady the ship if needed. It is vital that we start well and don’t let United get too comfortable, making the most of home advantage in this crucial game that could define the season.

Mar 312013
 

Chelsea began the hugely important and potentially pivotal run of six games in 16 days in the worst way yesterday with defeat away to Southampton. Rafa Benitez made a number of changes to his starting line up, obviously with one eye on tomorrow’s FA cup replay against Manchester United. There would have been no problem if the Blues had won, but Benitez is now facing more anger from Chelsea fans who feel that he is prioritising winning a trophy to put on his c.v.

“We had to manage the squad,” said Benitez.

“We didn’t have many options in some positions. We had the players we had.

“You have to approach every game like it is the most important and we thought with these players we would be fine.

“I think you could see that in the first half we didn’t have the intensity we were expecting.

“We improved in the second half, made more chances, but still we didn’t make the right decisions in the final third.”

The Spaniard also pointed out that we still have a game in hand on Tottenham, and plenty of games left until the end of the season. We also have a game against Spurs and a better goal difference, which still makes us favourites to finish in the top four. The problem is that a defeat is not good for form and confidence.

If Chelsea beat Manchester United tomorrow in the FA cup, everything will look good again. If we go out however, the questions about whether Benitez should have played his very best team in the Premier League will resurface.

Mar 302013
 

Chelsea travel to St Mary’s for today’s Premier League match against Southampton, with one eye on Monday’s FA Cup quarter-final against Premiership runaway leaders Manchester United.

Chelsea manager Rafael Benitez has declared that the Southampton match has to be his priority, with Champions League qualification crucially important for the club.

He also conceded that his Man United counterpart had the advantage of being able to rest key players for their PL tie with Sunderland (currently being played).

“We can’t do that. The difference between them and us is that they are 15 points ahead,” Benitez said.

“It is not an excuse. The reality is that their position in the table gives them an advantage and they are out of the Champions League. Their priority will be the FA Cup.

“We have to pick a very competitive team for Southampton. If we can beat Southampton we will be keeping an eye on Manchester City.”

Benitez admits he has tough decisions to make over the coming days over first-team selections, with under 45 hours recovery time between the Southampton and Man United matches.

“It is not easy to make a decision because it is impossible to be fully fit for the second game,” he added. “The day after a game you feel tired, two days after you feel even more tired. That is the reality. The second day will be really tough for everyone.

“All of them they can play [both games in 48 hours] but at what level? Sometimes you can do it if you are not 100% but it depends on each position and each player.”

Predicted line-ups:

Southampton: Boruc, Clyne, Yoshida, Hooiveld, Shaw, Schneiderlin, Cork, Rodriguez, Ramirez, Lallana, Lambert

Chelsea: Cech, Azpilicueta, Ivanovic, Luiz, Cole, Mikel, Lampard, Oscar, Mata, Hazard, Ba

Prediction: Chelsea to win 2-1. I predict a tough tie against a very strong home side in Southampton FC. Ricky Lambert seems to find his best goalscoring boots in important fixtures and I fancy him to score their sole goal. I also predict the Chelsea midfield to dominate this game, and put us in the driving seat for all three points. Come on you Blues.

Mar 292013
 

The Chelsea manager Rafa Benitez has been speaking about his captain John Terry, and has revealed that the 32-year old defender has overcome his recent fitness problems. Chelsea have a very heavy fixture list and some vital games coming up, so the availability of Terry will be a huge boost.

Tomorrow’s trip to Southampton is the first of six games for the Blues in 16 days, and these include FA cup and Europa League games and a possibly crucial encounter with Tottenham in the Premier League, so Benitez is going to have to do some of the tinkering that he is infamous for.

“He was training with us this week and he was doing well,” Benitez said of Terry. “He is training every day and improving his fitness.

“It is just a question of how many games you can play. We will four games in nine days, it is the same for everyone.

“You can’t play all these games and be 100 percent- not just him, everyone.

“We have toi ensure that we have a competitive team against Southampton and a competitive team against United. We have to manage the squad carefully.

“It is better to have this problem than be at home watching it on the telly.”

It is certain that Terry will feature more often for the rest of the season, having played just 10 Premier League games so far. It is not just his defensive skills and experience that Chelsea need either, but his leadership on the pitch. For that reason I think he should be saved for the really big games, starting with United in the FA cup on Monday.

Mar 182013
 

Super Frank did it again for Chelsea. Lampard continued his miraculous career at Stamford Bridge with the vital opening goal that set Chelsea on the way to victory over his former club West Ham and back above Tottenham in the Premier League table. The 34-year old midfielder is now just two goals away from the all-time club record set by Bobby Tambling, who took less games but was an out-and-out striker.

With at least one more FA cup game, two Europa League game and nine Premier League games left to play, the chances are that Lampard will finish this season as the club’s highest ever goal scorer. At his current rate for the season, he would score another four-and-a-half goals if he played in those 12 games.

Surely Chelsea will offer him another contract, not out of gratitude for what he has done, but because he is still doing it at the top level. He is still going strong with England and is only six caps away from joining the select list of centurions. His transfer fee is probably the best £11 million that Chelsea ever spent.

Mar 122013
 

Chelsea look set to give the football authorities a real headache over the date for the FA cup replay with Manchester United at Stamford Bridge. The FA will be desperately hoping that the Blues fail to overcome the 1-0 first leg deficit against Steaua Bucharest on Thursday. If Chelsea exit the Europa League, it will free up two possible midweeks that would have been used for the European quarter-finals.

If those first two weeks in April are not free, there is a serious problem about when to play the replay. The options would be to postpone the Premier League matches one weekend, or for Chelsea to play at the start of a week when the European games are on.

The weekend of the 31st, we are due to play Southampton and it is to be televised, as is the United game against Sunderland. The TV companies will not be keen to rearrange their schedules, and they have a great deal of influence. The following weekend is supposed to see the Manchester derby, and postponing that might be the only sensible option.

With the Community shield, the Super Cup, Club World cup and the replays, Chelsea will have played lots more games than their rivals. Let’s hope that does not affect us too badly towards the end of the season.