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.
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.
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 Chelsea manager Rafa Benitez would have asked his players to show commitment against Brentford yesterday, but David Luiz must have realised that his late challenge on the 19-year old substitute Jake Reeves was taking things too far. The Brazilian defender left Reeves concussed after shoulder charging him late in the match, but he went to the away team’s dressing room afterwards to apologise.
Chelsea had already made the game safe before the incident, having showed much more purpose in the second half. The first 45 minutes were uninspiring and goalless and probably drew some harsh words from the Spanish manager. Whatever the reason, Chelsea were a different side after the break, although Luiz was perhaps fortunate to escape with just a yellow card.
It seems clear that nothing short of a miracle will stop Rafa Benitez from losing his job as the manager of Chelsea come the end of the season. To win the Europa league would be nice, but after last year it would still be a comedown after a Champions league trophy. The stuttering performance against Sparta Prague this week did nothing to make mo too optimistic about the Blues going all the way, however. The Premier league is certainly gone, and we are now in a battle for second but also in danger of missing a top four spot.
Chelsea’s Ashley Cole is targeting a move to Manchester United, according to reports in the Sunday People.
Cole’s agent is in Madrid this weekend, holding talks with the Real hierarchy over a possible Spanish move in the summer, but recent findings suggest he would be more willing to remain in the Premier League.
Manchester United are keeping taps on the left-back’s movement, with Sir Alex Ferguson keen on keeping ahead of the opposition.
United, along with other Premier League sides, are not allowed to make contact with Cole until the end of the season. He is however allowed contact with foreign clubs, with a view to signing a pre-agreement for the summer.
Chelsea are ready to lodge their bids for Paris Saint-Germain striker Hervin Ongenda and Cibalia attacker Marko Dabro.
The Blues along with fellow English giants Manchester United, have been keeping tabs on the two youngsters and are both expected to bid for the attackers.
Chelsea are rumoured to be heading the chase, with bids expected to be lodged with their respective clubs in the next few days.
Juventus had a €600K bid turned down for 15 year-old Marko Dabro, with the Croatian club apparently holding out for €2Million. Dabro has made 2 appearances for Croatia U17′s so far, and is highly rated by Europe’s elite.
Demba Ba has admitted that Chelsea are all but out of the Premier League race, as they sit 14 points off Premier League leaders Manchester United, and also indicated that his move had not been complicated as had been reported in the press.
Chelsea have a game-in-hand on the 3 teams above them, and finishing in third place is the minimum expectation of the Blues this season.
Demba Ba signed for the West London club last week, and has decided to be open and realistic on Chelsea´s chances this season.
Chelsea have been alerted to a £22Million buy-out clause in Marouane Fellaini’s contract, and look set to fight it out with Manchester United for his signature.
Chelsea have been strongly linked with Fellaini for most of the season, with the 25 year-old having been in incredible form from week one this season.
The Belgian started the season with a match winning performance against Manchester United, and is currently Everton’s top goalscorer this season with 8 Premier League goals, plus one FA Cup goal scored in last night’s 5-1 win over Cheltenham.
Chelsea interim manager Rafa Benitez has insisted that the Blues are in a season of transition, with the West Londoners hierarchy on the same wavelength.
Rafa said: “The team is a good team, when you have a good squad, you can manage players and you can keep a good team on the pitch, as has been the case at Chelsea in the last few years. This year you can see is a year of transition, with some new players coming in, so it’s different. Before at Chelsea you had a lot of big names, then you could manage a lot of different players. Still, you can see that the team are very strong.”