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Posts Tagged ‘Chelsea’

Chelsea end Manchester City’s unbeaten home record

Chelsea have ended Manchester City’s unbeaten home record in the Premier League this season and kept the title race wide open with a 1-0 win at the Etihad Stadium. Serbian defender Branislav Ivanovic lashed home the only goal of the game in the thirty second minute to lift Jose Mourinho’s team up to fifty three points, leaving them in joint second place with City, only trailing the Manchester club on goal difference. City, who had won all eleven of their previous home league fixtures this campaign, failed to find the net on home turf in the league for the first time since November 2010 and missed out on the chance to go top of the table.

Arsenal have a two point advantage at the top of the table thanks to their 2-0 home win in a London derby against Crystal Palace at the weekend, which came courtesy of two goals from the returning Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. However, things could change at the top as early as next weekend with the Gunners facing a difficult looking trip to Anfield to take on fourth placed Liverpool, who could only draw at West Brom on Sunday, and Chelsea and Manchester City having easier looking fixtures against Newcastle and Norwich respectively.

Chelsea loan Brazilian youngster to Inter

Chelsea have announced that their nineteen year old Brazilian right-back Wallace Oliveira dos Santos, commonly known simply as ‘Wallace’, has been loaned to Internazionale of Milan in Italy for the forthcoming season. They hope that the youngster, who doesn’t figure in new manager Jose Mourinho’s plans for this campaign, will be given playing time by new Inter manager Walter Mazzarri allowing him to develop his talents and adapt to playing in Europe. At Inter Wallace will find his compatriots and fellow defenders Jonathan and Juan Jesus.

Wallace was signed by Chelsea from Fluminense at the end of last calendar year but was immediately loaned back to the Rio de Janeiro club and has featured twenty one times in their first team, scoring one goal, since making his debut at the age of seventeen. He has caps for Brazil at under seventeen and under twenty levels and was part of the Fluminense squad that won last season’s league championship. He was involved in Chelsea’s pre-season tour of Asia and played in the win against the Singha All-Star XI in Bangkok.

Benteke Weighs up his Options – London Calling

Aston Villa’s 22-year old striker Christian Benteke has been talking about his future career path at a press conference in the USA whilst on international duty with the Belgian national team. Benteke, who was fourth top scorer in the 2012-13 Premier League season with nineteen goals in his debut season in English football is hot property and has been linked with a big money move away from Villa Park.

He was quoted as saying “If Aston Villa say I must stay, I won’t necessarily accept that. I do not in any way want to feel I didn’t get the most out of my career” and “If the chance comes up for me to join a club like Arsenal, I’m convinced we can reach a compromise where everyone comes out a winner.” However, his agent moved to play down the speculation by reiterating that his client is happy at Villa.

Benteke’s words will obviously have alerted Arsenal, who reportedly have money to spend this summer and may be on the look out for a striker to bolster their forward line. However, there hasn’t been any confirmed interest in Benteke from the Arsenal camp and it remains to be seen whether Arsene Wenger would be prepared to splash out a large amount of money on one player from the Premier League rather than continue to look for value overseas.

If Christian Benteke does decide to push for a transfer away from Villa Park this summer and the Emirates Stadium isn’t to be his destination then he could still end up in London where Chelsea might show an interest if Jose Mourinho does take over as expected. Mourinho is known to be a fan of the strong, bustling centre-forward type player who is also good on the ball and he could look to build his attack around someone like Benteke in the image of his successful Stamford Bridge teams that were spearheaded by Didier Drogba.

The alternative destination in London could be White Hart Lane. Many people were surprised when they didn’t sign a striker in the January transfer window and Andre Villas Boas will probably look to strengthen his striking options this summer. News that Gareth Bale is staying put shows that they are ambitious to improve next season and Spurs will need a big squad to cope with their domestic and European campaigns so Benteke would be a logical recruitment for Tottenham Hotspur.

Friendly Result: Manchester City 4-3 Chelsea

Manchester City and Chelsea kicked off their post-season tours with a topsy turvy seven goal thriller in St Louis, Missouri. The Premier League pair named strong sides for the occasion in front of a sell-out 48,000 plus crowd and provided plenty of entertainment for their American based fans.

It was a game of two halves as Chelsea took control of the first period with Demba Ba giving them the lead in the 14th minute and they made it two just before half time when Cesar Azpilicueta scored a penalty following a foul on Juan Mata.

Both teams made five changes at the interval but it got even worse for the Premier League runners up in the 53rd minute when Brazilian midfielder Oscar further extended the Chelsea lead, having replaced Juan Mata. City then introduced Maicon and Milner and got back into the game with two goals in two minutes from Javi Garcia and substitute Edin Dzeko.

Chelsea clung on to their lead until the 84th minute when Dzeko beat Chelsea substitute goalkeeper Jamal Blackman again to make it three apiece and fellow substitute Micah Richards snatched a last minute winner for the Sky Blues to complete an unlikely turn-around. The two sides meet again at the Yankees Stadium in New York on Saturday.

Benítez aiming to build bridges at Chelsea

As a Liverpool fan, I have been asked several times over the last couple of days “How do you feel about Rafael Benítez joining Chelsea?” It’s a good question…

 

My initial reaction was one of antipathy. I still try and kid myself that football operates on a different level to real life. I’d like to believe that once a player or manager has a synonymous association with a club, it would be unthinkable for them to join a major rival. However, football is no different to life in general. People move on.

 

When Benítez left Liverpool by mutual consent in June 2010, he departed with dignity and the respect of the fans who had grown to love him during his largely successful six year reign. Not least for his final act before departing to Internazionale. He personally delivered a cheque for £96,000 to the Hillsborough Family Support Group. It was a touch of class from a very genuine man.

 

Two years on, seeing Benítez at Chelsea is difficult to swallow. It just doesn’t look right. Whilst the appointment will take some getting used to for Liverpool supporters, the real challenge for Benítez is to win over his new faithful. The majority of media coverage I have witnessed over the last two days seems to suggest that Chelsea fans are in agreement with their Liverpudlian counterparts. They appear far from happy with the appointment. Benítez’s trophy winning credentials seem to count for nothing. It’s proving difficult for the blues fans to look beyond the fact Benítez was their arch enemy. During his reign as reds chief, Benítez’s Liverpool faced Chelsea a staggering 26 times (winning 7, losing 12 and drawing 7). There was a dark sub-plot to many of these encounters, fueled in the main by a prickly relationship between José Mourinho and Benítez. During this time, Rafa’s name was taken in vain in many a Chelsea chant. Particular favourites cast him as an overweight Spanish waiter and ‘the bloke off the Go Compare adverts’!

 

In terms of their general feeling, I can totally understand where the Chelsea fans are coming from. Putting myself in their shoes, I would probably feel the same if Liverpool appointed the self professed ‘special one’. However in the interests of their club, the sooner they get beyond this stage of resistance the better. I truly believe Chelsea are a more dangerous outfit with Benítez in charge. He will take what is an already accomplished side and add an extra layer of solidity and tactical nous. Expect to see ‘Zonal Marking’ and ‘Squad Rotation’ trending on pundit’s cue cards in the coming weeks!

 

Much has been said about Benítez’s arrival being the catalyst for Fernando Torres’ long overdue renaissance. I believe his arrival will help but not necessarily for the technical and tactical reasons I have read elsewhere. I believe it is more of a personal issue. Torres trusts Rafa and more importantly, Torres knows that Rafa trusts him. He feels comfortable and at home with Rafa and this will enable him to shed some of the psychological burden that he has exerted on himself since his transfer from Liverpool. If he scores against Manchester City on Sunday, I sense a rapid improvement in form will be just around the corner.

 

While both sets of fans try to come to terms with the appointment, the man himself seems to be taking it all in his stride. He appeared his usual confident and measured self at the unveiling press conference on Thursday. His motivation for taking the job, albeit on a short-term basis is clear. It gives him the opportunity to work in a league he obviously loves with a crop of very talented players who have a genuine chance of winning silverware this season. If Benítez thrives in his post at Chelsea, his CV will require another coat of gloss and the possibilities for his career will multiply.

 

His ambition and determination, whilst being amongst his greatest strengths, can also manifest themselves as his biggest weakness. Stubbornness. During his times in charge of Valencia, Liverpool and Internazionale, he had open disagreements with each club’s hierarchy. The core of these disagreements was control of the playing staff. Benítez wanted total football ownership including player transfers. He will not get this at Chelsea. If owner Roman Abramovich wants something (or someone), he bypasses the club structure and he buys it. (Fortunately for Benítez, I don’t think Roman is a fan of Robbie Keane!) This may not become an issue due to the temporary nature of the relationship but, with a January transfer window to negotiate, the Spaniards patience may be tested.

 

Whilst he has been installed as ‘Interim Manager’ ®, the true length of Benítez’ stay at Stamford Bridge will be determined by his success between now and the end of the season coupled with the ability of Chelsea’s hierarchy to lure Pep Guardiola away from his sabbatical. If Guardiola is willing to join Chelsea, Benítez would be disposed of regardless of achievement. He could in theory land the Premier League, the Champions League/Europa League (delete as appropriate), the FIFA Club World Cup, the FA Cup and the League Cup and still be looking for a new job come June.

 

To coin a footballing cliché, at the end of the day both Liverpool and Chelsea fans alike must accept the situation. Rafa’s reign was an important chapter in Liverpool’s past but for the next seven months he is Chelsea’s future, whether any of us like it or not. I for one am not entirely happy with it but life goes on.

 

Sunderland dump Arsenal out of cup as Chelsea face replay

A second cup defeat in three days has ended any realistic hopes Arsenal had of ending their trophy drought before it reaches the seven year mark. Following hot on the heels of their midweek Champions League humiliation in Milan, Arsenal faced a tricky FA Cup tie at the Stadium of Light, scene of Thierry Henry’s late winner in the Premier League only seven days earlier. However, with the French striker heading back to America, there was no saviour this time around as Martin O’Neill’s Sunderland raced out of the blocks in search of revenge.

The Black Cats enjoyed the best of the opening exchanges and played with much more conviction than their opponents, whose injury crisis only deepened, with young Francis Coquelin forced off after only ten minutes, at the ground where they lost Per Mertesacker last weekend. Ramsey and Squillaci were also forced to leave the action prematurely soon after the interval, but by then the Gunners were already trailing to Keiran Richardson’s deflected shot in the 40th minute. Van Persie was perhaps unlucky to be denied a first half penalty, but Arsenal didn’t create many other openings and their fate was sealed in the 77th minute when a lightening break by Sessegnon and Larsson was rounded off by the unfortunate Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who bundled the ball into his own net as it came back off a post.

England’s other Champions League representatives fared little better. Chelsea had to come from behind to earn a draw with Championship side Birmingham at Stamford Bridge, Davind Murphy having put the visitors ahead in the 20th minute, shortly before Juan Mata missed a penalty. Daniel Sturridge got the equaliser in the 62nd minute to force a replay.

In the other FA Cup Fifth Round ties there were wins for Everton, Leicester City and Bolton Wanderers against Blackpool, Norwich and Millwall respectively. The final three ties are being played on Sunday and see minnows Crawley Town and Stevenage take on Stoke City and Tottenham Hotspur respectively whilst Liverpool host Brighton and Hove Albion at Anfield.

The New Wembley – Club Football Facts and Figures

The new English domestic season kicked off this weekend, with the return of football league action plus the traditional Wembley curtain raiser – the FA Community Shield. This heralded the start of the fifth season of action at the new national stadium since its completion in time for the end-of-season finals in 2006-07, and this will be its busiest season yet, culminating with the UEFA Champions League final in May 2011.

This year’s Community Shield was the 44th competitive club match since the re-opening* and fittingly it featured the two clubs that have made the new stadium their second home: Chelsea (with a record 9 appearances) and Manchester United (with 8 appearances). In fact, Manchester United have played in all four of the Community Shield matches since the event moved to the new Wembley, winning three and losing one of them. In that period, the team that has won the Shield has always gone on to win the league, so Alex Ferguson will take great heart from his side’s 3-1 victory yesterday.

A grand total of 51 club teams have earned the honour of running out onto the new Wembley turf (which finally seems to be a decent playing surface) in the four and a bit years since the stadium opened. The most notable absentees from that list are Liverpool and Manchester City, who will both be hoping they can put that record right sooner rather than later. 18 teams have now played at the stadium on more than one occasion, with debt stricken Portsmouth the third most frequent visitors (5 times) followed by Stevenage, Cardiff and Tottenham (3 times each).

Of the 18 teams who have visited more than once, only two have managed to keep a 100% winning record at English football’s biggest venue and it seems it’s good news if you’re a northern seaside resort – Blackpool and Whitley Bay are the undefeated pair. It’s not such good news for Aston Villa, York, Shrewsbury, Cambridge and West Brom – they are the five teams to have played at the new Wembley more than once and failed to win on either occasion, with Cambridge and West Brom failing to even find the net on any of their visits.**

Comfortably the biggest win at the new Wembley is Whitley Bay’s 6-1 trouncing of Wroxham in the 2009-10 FA Vase final. The next biggest margins of victory are Southampton’s 4-1 Johnstone’s Paint Trophy thrashing of Carlisle United and Chelsea’s 3-0 win over Aston Villa, both also in the 2009-10 season. By far the most common scoreline (including after extra time) is 1-0, which has happened on 13 occasions (or 29.5% of the time), followed by 2-1 (on 7 occasions). In total, 113 goals have now been scored in competitive club football at the new Wembley at an average of 2.57 goals per game. Chelsea’s 14 is easily the biggest contribution from a single club.

There have only been five new-Wembley penalty shoot-outs to date and incredibly Manchester United have been involved in them all, winning three and losing two. United have also been a participant in all three 0-0 draws thus far at the new Wembley.

The full record for the teams who have made more than one appearance at the new Wembley Stadium is shown below:

TEAM P W L F A
Chelsea 9 6 3 14 10
Manchester United 8 5 3 8 6
Portsmouth 5 3 2 4 1
Stevenage 3 2 1 6 4
Cardiff 3 1 2 3 4
Spurs 3 1 2 2 3
Whitley Bay 2 2 0 8 1
Blackpool 2 2 0 5 2
Scunthorpe United 2 1 1 5 5
Millwall 2 1 1 3 3
Exeter City 2 1 1 2 2
Torquay United 2 1 1 2 1
Everton 2 1 1 1 2
Aston Villa 2 0 2 1 5
York 2 0 2 1 5
Shrewsbury 2 0 2 1 4
Cambridge United 2 0 2 0 3
West Brom 2 0 2 0 2

*The full list of competitive club matches played at the stadium is: FA Cup final and semi finals, League Cup Final, Community Shield, Championship, League One, League Two and Conference Play-Off Finals, FA Trophy Final, FA Vase Final and Johnstone’s Paint Trophy Final.

**In the event of a draw, we took into account the result after extra time and penalties – there are only winners and losers in club football at Wembley.

Chelsea chasing East European talent?

Could Napoli top-scorer Marek Hamsik be on his way to West London?

 The Daily Express today suggests that Chelsea are still very much in the market for Napoli forward Marek Hamsik, a story that  has been backed up by sources in Italy as well.  Meanwhile Serb centre-back Neven Subotic of Borussia Dortmund is also being tracked.

The transfer window may have only just shut but it looks like Chelsea are already reviewing their options for the summer, and one player who has come back into reckoning for a move to Stamford Bridge is Marek Hamsik.  The Slovakian international star has been with Napoli for 2.5 seasons making just over 100 appearances in all competitions scoring 30 goals from a range of positions including up front, from the play-maker position and even out wide.

The 22-year-old first caught the eye with Brescia, to whom he moved as a youngster back in 2004/05 hitting 10 goals in 40 appearances in Serie B prompting Napoli to snap him up as they returned back to Serie A after several seasons in the doldrums themselves.

This season he already has 8 goals in 24 Serie A matches, as Napoli have maneuvered themselves into a position to challenge for a position in the Champions League for next season thanks to a wonderful run of form, which saw them hold runaway league leaders Inter Milan to a 0-0 draw last time out.

Hamsik is one of a number of Napoli players who has been connected with Chelsea in the recent past, with his team-mate Ezequiel Lavezzi also thought to be interesting the West London club.  However, Hamsik is now thought to be the man most wanted by Carlo Ancelotti, who has had the chance to watch him first-hand when in charge of AC Milan.

Chelsea may find they have some stiff competition for the 29-times capped Slovak forward, as Inter Milan are also thought to have made Hamsik a top-target for what could be a busy transfer period.  Furthermore if Napoli succeed in qualifying themselves for the Champions League next season, they may be in a stronger bargaining position in terms of demanding a transfer fee thanks to their potentially enhanced finances. 

The Napoli top scorer isn’t the only player on the Chelsea radar, with defender Neven Subotic currently under contract to German side Borussia Dortmund also being closely watched.  The 21-year-old Serb-stopper has had an impressive season at the Signal Iduna Park helping propel his side to the edge of the Champions League places this season thanks to some wonderful performances at the heart of the defence. 

Standing at an impressive 6’3” Subotic is not only excellent in the air but also a strong tackler and reader of the game.  His 6 goals for Dortmund last season in his first season after joining from Mainz will certainly earn comparisons with John Terry.  With 9 caps to his name already, Subotic may well be a top performer at the World Cup in South Africa alongside Nemanja Vidic for his country, and Chelsea may be eager to tie up a deal sooner rather than later if they are considering a move for him.

Check out Chelsea’s latest odds and form with: http://aboutaball.bettorlogic.com/leaguesummary.aspx

West Ham set to seal Eidur Gudjohnsen deal

West Ham United are believed to be close to sealing a deal to secure the services of Icelandic forward Eidur Gudjohnsen from Monaco. The 31 year-old has been on the radar at Upton Park for some time, having played alongside current Hammers boss Gianfranco Zola at Chelsea, but the Premier League club failed in an attempt to snap him up last summer when he left Barcelona to move to France.

Gudjohnsen has failed to settle in the French principality after joining AS Monaco just last August. He hasn’t scored a single goal in his nine appearances for Les Rouges et Blanc so far, and is now set to up sticks once more and team up again with Zola in a return to the Premier League after four years away from England’s top flight.

Zola is a keen admirer of Gudjohnsen after enjoying a successful spell together at Stamford Bridge. In their three seasons together up front for the Blues, they shared the princely sum of 79 goals.

Zola has been desperately trying to get another striker through the doors of Upton Park for some time as they look for the perfect partner for current top goalscorer Carlton Cole. A lack of funds denied the Italian from getting his man last summer, but following the club’s takeover this week by David Gold and David Sullivan, he has been given funds to spend in the transfer market and looks set to bag his number one target.

The Hammers are also looking to conclude a deal for 32-year-old Blackburn Rovers striker Benni McCarthy. The South African has been on the fringes of Sam Allardyce’s side so far this season and seems set to leave Ewood Park during the January transfer window.

The Cape Town-born forward is hoping for more regular first-team football in a bid to secure a place in the Bafana Bafana squad for this summer’s World Cup finals which take place in his homeland. Blackburn are said to be looking for a fee in the region of £2.5 million for the striker, who is also being tracked by Turkish club Galatasaray.

Chelsea target Franck Ribery voted by Real Madrid fans as their number one target; Cesc Fabregas also popular

Ribery: Wanted by Real's fans at least

It seems as if Chelsea target Franck Ribery may not be sure where his future lies, but the Real Madrid fans believe he should become a Galactico this winter.

A report published today in Madrid-based sports-paper Marca indicates that Real Madrid fans want to see Franck Ribery in the all-white of their side before the end of the transfer window.  An overwhelming majority of the fans chose Ribery as the side’s number one transfer target for the winter window.

The Bayern-schemer has been long coveted by several of Europe’s top sides, but has so far remained tight lipped on his future.  Indeed reports today suggest that the former Marseille and Galatasary player is even in discussion with Bayern Munich about extending his deal further. 

That news may dash hopes of Chelsea fans of seeing the genial player in West London anytime soon, but it hasn’t stopped the ever-optimistic Real fans still naming him their man.

Real Madrid, having splashed some serious cash over last summer to acquire the like of Kaka, Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema, and have stated they don’t intend to bring in any more big signings this winter.  Nevertheless this has done nothing to dampen speculation that they are preparing a big-money bid with which to tempt Bayern either now or next summer.

If Real don’t get their man the second most popular target was young Spanish international David Silva.  Meanwhile the prospect of a Fabregas-Xabi Alonso partnership at the heart of the midfield has got Real fans worked up as well.  They voted the Arsenal man as third most popular choice if they could have the pick of anyone in world football, proving he has lost none of his appeal to fans of Los Merengues by coming in third.

Less popular was Wayne Rooney, who managed a paltry 14% of the vote, in comparison to Ribery who got 75% as top transfer target, so it looks like Coleen and Wayne won’t be making the same journey that Posh and Becks made back in 2003.

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