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Jul 122013
 

Gary Neville today warned new Manchester United manager David Moyes that he must not let Chelsea get an early lead in the Premier League, because Jose Mourinho will not let it slip.

Neville said: “You wouldn’t want to fall too far behind a Mourinho team because they would have the nerve to withstand the pressure.”

The Sky Sports pundit speaks from experience of course, having chased Mourinho’s men for two seasons back in the 04-05 and 05-06 seasons.

Mourinho made an instant impact at Stamford Bridge before he had even began his first competitive game, giving an audacious interview describing himself as ‘The Special One’, a nickname used in awe and in jest to this day. He became the centre of all English football, with his winning personality and tactical know-how, winning the League Cup and Premier League title in his debut season.

Neville added: “When he first came in, in 2004-05, we played against him on the first day.

“We’d had the experience the year before when he’d charged down the touchline and gone on to pick up the European Cup with Porto. He’d already made a name for himself. But that first season, he had an absolutely brilliant team at Chelsea.

“Make no mistake about that — Robben, Duff, Drogba, Essien, Makelele, Lampard, Gallas, Carvalho, Terry, Ferreira…

“I always think when you can name a team, you know you’ve got a great team. That was a fine side — power, strength across midfield, so difficult to play against.

“From our point of view at United, it was probably our leanest period in not winning the league from 2004-07. Going back there now, Mourinho’s got a greater challenge, but Chelsea are on the up. Everyone could see that at the end of last season.

“They won the Champions League the year before, won a trophy last season, finished strongly in the league. They’re going to be a huge threat.

“Where we lost out to Mourinho teams at United in those early years was we left ourselves too much to do.

“We weren’t slow starters but we weren’t at our peak form September to December. We got into our stride in January, February, March and on.

“The problem in the Mourinho years was we were too far behind to mount a challenge. So the critical thing this time will be to make sure you stay in contention.”

Eyes will certainly be on Chelsea and Manchester United at the beginning of next season, with Alex Ferguson’s departure and Jose’s appointment dominating headlines, and Mou will do his best to keep the spotlight off his players. Moyes is going to struggle with the Rooney saga and will rely heavily on the goal-scoring prowess of Robin Van Persie to keep up with us.

I think Manchester City will start the season well having less pressure from the outset, but it is no secret that Manuel Pellegrini has been hired to make his mark on Europe, and will struggle once the competition gets into full-flow.

The Special One to do it again..?

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.

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 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.

Feb 182013
 

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.

The Brentford manager Uwe Rosler seems to have accepted the challenge as part of football, especially after Luiz was big enough to say sorry to the young player.

“Jake is fine. He wanted to continue but our medical staff thought it was better if he didn’t. They said `safety first`.

“I have not seen the situation clearly enough to make a statement now, but the player came into our dressing room and spoke to Jake, which is a fantastic gesture. He apologised.”

Chelsea will now travel to Middlesborough next week, knowing that a win there will probably see them facing Manchester United after that, as long as they do not slip up against Reading tonight.

Feb 162013
 

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.

Benitez has failed to improve Chelsea’s fortunes and seems to have had no effect on the form of Fernando Torres, which was one of the main reasons that Abramovich gave him the job in the first team. It is obvious that the fans will never warm to him, so the only question is who will replace him in the summer.

David Moyes from Everton has made his way on to the list, according to the Independent. Abramovich is encouraged by Moyes’ decision not to renew his contract with Everton until it is due to expire at the end of the season. Maybe his decision will depend on whether Everton, who are currently in sixth position and six points behind fourth placed Tottenham, manage to qualify for the Champions league. Maybe it will depend on what other offers he receives.

Moyes has been with the Toffees almost 11 years and has worked wonders on a shoestring budget, but he has never had the chance to prove himself at a really big club. There have been suggestions that he may be lined up as the successor to Alex Ferguson at Manchester United, but there is no clear sign that the old Scot is close to retiring.

Chelsea would certainly offer Moyes the chance to operate at a higher level, with a better budget and better players, but is he the man we want?

Jan 132013
 

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.

Manchester City are also likely to offer the England left-back a deal in the summer, having become frustrated with Gael Clichy and Aleksandar Kolarov’s failure to impress consistently in that position.

Man United tried to sign Everton’s Leighton Baines over the summer, but were reluctant to offer the £15million demanded by the Merseyside club.

Chelsea have been linked with the Everton man also, with a view to replacing Cole with his England counter-part. Baines has been ever-consistent since his arrival in the Premier League with Wigan, before being bought by current club Everton in 2007.

I would not like to watch Cole week in week out performing for one of our Premier League rivals, but if he does not sign a pre-agreement with the likes of PSG, Real or Barcelona in the next couple of months, that will appear to be his future. Roman Abramovich will have to look into extending his contract is that looked to be the case. He is the best left-back around, and the last thing we should be doing is strengthening our rivals. Fix up Roman!

Jan 092013
 

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.

The Paris Saint-Germain striker is said to be the priority however, with the 17 year-old being heavily followed by all the big clubs. The pacey attacker scored a plethora of goals for PSG U19’s this season, despite being one of the youngest in the squad. The young Frenchman has also scored twice in his substitute appearances for PSG II, despite playing less than an hour for the club’s second tier.

Chelsea have been actively seeking out the hottest young talents around, and are keen to add these two wonderkids to their ranks. The PSG youngster is likely to cost in the region of £6Million, with the French club said to be keen on keeping hold of the youngster. I expect other clubs to emerge on the scene once the approach is made public, and would be a coup to sign both to the ranks. The future’s bright… The future’s Blue!

Jan 082013
 

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.

Ba said: “It’s going to be complicated for us to catch Manchester United on the line in the Premier League, but we’re still in three cups, and we’re going to try and win as many trophies as possible.

“Even if I’m not entirely familiar with everything, my first game with Chelsea went really well. Of course, it’s easier with world-class team-mates. The negotiations over my move weren’t complicated as the press had said. On the contrary, they were rather simple and quick. Going from Newcastle to Chelsea, I’ve clearly taken a step up.”

The Senegalese striker went on to deny any fitness problems, adding: “There was no problem in that regard with Chelsea. I don’t like to go over that again, but you just have to look at the number of games I’ve played since I came to England. The answer should satisfy everyone.

“All my different experiences, the trials in different clubs have helped me grow. I don’t regret anything that happened.”

Demba Ba will no doubt aid Chelsea´s hunt for trophies, and I peronally believe he will end Fernando Torres’ reign at the club. I believe Ba will dominate the starting spot, and leave the Spaniard to frustrated to stay on next season. Maybe I’m dreaming, but I’m hoping we can swap him for Radamel Falcao, and have two world class strikers fight for the position.

Jan 082013
 

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.

The buy-out clause states that Everton must accept a bid of £22million or more from a team playing Champions League football, a term which Chelsea’s lawyers may have to debate. However if Man United were to bid the full amount, the Merseysiders may allow the midfielder to talk to both potential suitors.

Frank Lampard is widely expected to leave Chelsea at the end of the season, and the Blues have been on the look-out for his long-term replacement, and Fellaini would certainly go some way to replacing the legend.

Sir Alex’s club also have similar needs, with the ageing Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes still playing their part for the Premier League leaders. Their midfield has been somewhat lacking this season, with United’s attack predominantly keeping them on the top of the PL.

I sincerely hope Chelsea can sign Fellaini in the January window, as I have been impressed with him consistently throughout this season. He bullies defences with his strength and ability, and has a keen eye for goal. We currently possess some of the best attacking flair, and this Belgian would add strength and aerial ability to our slick attack. Can you name a better midfielder than Fellaini in the Premier League this season (excluding Juan Mata…)?