Posts Tagged ‘Chelsea’

UEFA Champions League PLAYOFFS Draw (2008-09): It’s Serie A vs. Premier League…

Friday, December 19th, 2008

UEFA Champions League

The draw for the 1st knockout round (Round of 16) of the UEFA Champions League took place at the House of European Football in Nyon, Switzerland, today at 12:00 CET (I liveblogged the event on Soccerlens). And boy oh boy, are there some good games comin’ up.

As far as Italian teams go, Inter, Juventus, and Roma didn’t exactly pick the easiest games of the lot. Quite the opposite in fact. And to make matters worse, lady luck bad luck gave them the scourge of Italian teams in the last decade, namely… Premier League clubs!

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Chelsea 1-0 Roma: So Close for the Giallorossi, John Terry Has a Late-Match Hammer (UEFA Champions League 2008-09)

Thursday, October 23rd, 2008

Unlike Chelsea, ranking 1st in the Premier League and undefeated domestically since February, AS Roma approached their UEFA Champions League Matchday 3 fixture with extreme caution. Coming from a 0-4 home loss to Inter Milan this week-end, the Giallorossi were counting on returning iconic captain Francesco Totti to sound the charge on the Stamford Bridge fort (or at least, avoid getting killed in the process), hoping for a point or three to re-invigorate a fairly mediocre season so far.

Alas for the visitors, John Terry had other plans.

Indeed, in a match with very tight defending and not many scoring chances, had it not been for the Blues’ captain victorious headed effort in the 77th, it would be tempting to use the words “tactical solidity” and “great determination” when describing Roma’s performance Wednesday. Instead, the main consideration to be made is that much like their season debut, the Giallorossi are cruelly lacking goalscoring power. Chelsea, whose keeper Petr Cech spent the evening essentially sipping tea and eating cookies, can on the other hand be satisfied with their 7-point leader status.

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UEFA Champions League – Inter, Roma, Juventus, Fiorentina GROUPS Analyzed

Friday, August 29th, 2008

For the first time in 3 years, the Italian Serie A managed to get 4 Clubs to the UEFA Champions League Group Stage. With the DRAW taking place yesterday, “someone came out smiling” and others not so much. “Four Italian teams and four levels of satisfaction” as Gazzetta would say.

Let’s have a look.

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Group B
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Inter Milan Inter Milan
Werder Bremen Werder Bremen
Panathinaikos Panathinaikos
Anorthosis Famagusta FC Anorthosis

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All things considered, Inter were the luckiest ones. Being seeded in the first pot certainly gave them a big advantage, but they also avoided all the tough obstacles (e.g. Bayern Munich & Villareal from pot 2, Zenit & Marseille from pot 3). José Mourinho & Co. will thus face Diego’s Werder Bremen, Panathinaikos and Cyprus’ Anorthosis Famagosta. On paper a fairly easy group, as it’s difficult to find a squad that could cause problems for Inter.

Werder Bremen ranked 3rd in the Bundesliga last year, solidly ranking in the top 3 since 2004. They also have the reputation of being very productive goalscoring-wise, but alas at a cost: they concede a lot too. Against Mourinho’s openly attacking-style 4-3-3 formation (who unlike Werder contains some pretty solid defenders at the back) expect the Nerazzurri to prevail.

As for the other two teams, Panathinaikos should provide an interesting match-up if only to see Giorgos Karagounis meet his old teammates again (the Greek midfielder spent two seasons in Milan, with only 20 club appearances however). Also, the biggest curiosity will be the match against Anorthosis, champions of the Cyprus first division and a first-timer in the Champions League (getting rid of Rapid Wien and Olympiakos on the way). Their nickname is “the Old Lady”, but… does anyone believe they could be as strong as Juve?
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Match Schedule
16 September Panathinaikos
vs.
Inter
1 October Inter
vs.
Werder Brema
22 October Inter
vs.
Anorthosis
4 November Anorthosis
vs.
Inter
26 November Inter
vs.
Panathinaikos
9 December Werder Brema
vs.
Inter

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Group A
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Chelsea Chelsea
AS Roma Roma
Girondins de Bordeaux Bordeaux
CFR Cluj CFR Cluj

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The silver medal in satisfaction goes to Roma. As a second seed, the Giallorossi couldn’t avoid one of the big ones, but I’m sure every Romanista smiled when the club dodged the big Man Utd bullet here.

Not that Chelsea is necessarily a better deal mind you. The UCL 2007-08 finalists are back stronger than ever this year, scoring 4 unanswered goals in their EPL debut. Since last season, big-name recruits like Deco (£8m), José Bosingwa (£16m) and very soon, Robinho, have fortified the ranks of the EPL juggernaught, who will undoubtedly have a score to settle with fate after losing last year’s competition to penalty kicks.

Apart from playing against the Blues, Roma will have to face Laurent Blanc’s Bordeaux, Ligue 1 runners-up and the only team that could provide a serious title challenge to Lyon last year. They also now have former AC Milan player Yohann Gourcuff in their ranks.

Finally there is CFR Cluj, a Romanian football club from the city of Cluj-Napoca. Another first-timer in the Champions League, but one who managed to outrank veterans like Steaua Bucharest in last year’s Romanian Liga I. If you have a look at their current team roster, you’ll notice they actually have very few Romanians on the squad. Could *they* be the Inter Milan of Transylvania? :mrgreen:
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Match Schedule
16 September Roma
vs.
Cluj
1 October Bordeaux
vs.
Roma
22 October Chelsea
vs.
Roma
4 November Roma
vs.
Chelsea
26 November Cluj
vs.
Roma
9 December Roma
vs.
Bordeaux

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Group H
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Real Madrid Real Madrid
Juventus Juventus
Zenit St. Petersburg Zenit
FC Bate Borisov Bate Borisov

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Things could have turned out a bit better for here. Although they had some luck (Schalke, who had a better UEFA coefficient than the Bianconeri, was conveniently eliminated in the Preliminary Round, putting the Old Lady in pot nº2), Juventus were probably hoping for an easier group.

Real Madrid are a well-known adversary, bringing back painful (1998 UCL Final) but also happy memories (2003 UCL Semi-Finals… I was there by the way :mrgreen: )

Zenit St. Petersburg, who will play the UEFA Super Cup final against Manchester United today, were one of the most feared unknowns. That Andrei Arshavin guy is one freakingly good player, and no, I don’t believe he’s overrated. (and let’s not forget last year’s UEFA Cup topscorer, who managed to score as many goals as Luca Toni, a certain Pavel Pogrebnyak)

Belarus’ Bate Borisov seem to be the easiest opponent in Group H, but let’s not forget they got rid of Anderlecht and Levski Sofia (not exactly UCL newbies) to get here.
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Match Schedule
17 September Juventus
vs.
Zenit
30 September Bate Borisov
vs.
Juventus
21 October Juventus
vs.
Real Madrid
5 November Real Madrid
vs.
Juventus
25 November Zenit
vs.
Juventus
10 December Juventus
vs.
Bate Borisov

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Group F
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Olympique Lyonnais Lyon
Bayern Munich Bayern Munich
Steaua Bucharest Steaua Bucharest
Fiorentina Fiorentina

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Finally, those getting the short end of the stick were undoubtedly Fiorentina, something which everyone expected because of their low ranking (pot 4).

With an ironic twist of fate: Toni and Bayern Munich is a recipe for an exciting match, but one which will prove of considerable difficulty for La Viola. The German giants need no introduction really, having regularly appeared on top of European football in the past decade (and beyond). A bleak 2006-07 campaign resulted in the club’s chairmen to make massive moves on the transfer market, resuling in talented recruits such as Hamit Altintop, Miroslav Klose, Franck Ribéry, and the aforementioned Luca Toni. The following year Bayern won 3/4 tournaments they were competing in.

Lyon and Steaua Bucharest aren’t easy opponents either. The French club has been dominating the Ligue 1 scene since 2002 (when, believe it or not, they won their first French championship). From then on, there was virtually only one club dining at the big 1st-spot table in France, all the others playing for scraps. As for the Romanians, they have not won their home league since 2006 but remain the most decorated football club in the country (with 23 championship titles).
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Match Schedule
17 September Lyon
vs.
Fiorentina
30 September Fiorentina
vs.
Steaua
21 October Bayern Munich
vs.
Fiorentina
5 November Fiorentina
vs.
Bayern Munich
25 November Fiorentina
vs.
Lyon
10 December Steaua
vs.
Fiorentina

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For the full table of the UEFA Champions League 2008-09 Group Stage draw, see this post.

Chelsea 5-0 AC Milan: Rossoneri Humiliated by Blues in Russian Railways Cup 2008

Sunday, August 3rd, 2008

 

Or in other words: ouch.

With this year’s Russian Railways Cup (an annual pre-season football tournament held in the Russian capital and hosted by FC Lokomotiv Moscow) featuring prestigious teams such as Sevilla, Chelsea, and AC Milan, this was the perfect opportunity for the Rossoneri to test their European pre-season form. The loss against FC Sevilla (capped by a Gattuso own goal) on Saturday was already disappointing enough for Milan supporters, but needless to say that after today’s whopping 5-0 defeat at the hands of Chelsea (goals by Lampard and a Nicolas Anelka quadruple), Ancelotti has a lot of work on his hands if he hopes to achieve anything in the UEFA Cup this season (or Serie A for that matter).

Some might even seize this opportunity to badmouth, and say that perhaps it’s not such a bad thing Milan aren’t in the Champions League this year :twisted: , but I’m not going to go that far. Indeed, without a real striker providing weight up front (Inzaghi, Pato, and Borriello were all unavailable) the Rossoneri are losing much of their well-oiled machine capabilities, so let’s just wait till the manpower is back from injury and/or the Olympics (along with a certain Ronaldinho) before making hasty conclusions.

Still in the meantime, eating five goals from Chelsea has got to hurt…

(From Gazzetta): MOSCOW, 3 August 2008 – Humiliated and shattered. AC Milan leave Moscow with a heavy heart, after being defeated by Chelsea in the third place match of the Russian Railways Cup, a game which ended with a 5-0 victory for the Blues. Playing without a clear tactical plan (due to the many absentees, especially the strikers), the Rossoneri never got in the game and completely fell apart when confronted with their Premiership opponents. A devastating gap, highlighted by the difference in preparation between the two teams and also in the way each one approached this friendly encounter.

NO STRIKERS – All things considered, the loss is far easier to understand if one looks at AC Milan’s line-up. Carlo Ancelotti selected Kalac at goal, a defensive line-up that included Bonera, Maldini, Simic, and Favalli, with Zambrotta and Jankulovski out on the flanks in midfield and Gattuso and Flamini inside. The “strikers”? Pirlo and Ambrosini (no, that’s not a typo), with the former operating behind the latter. Such a combination doesn’t even begin to make sense, but this was a necessary arrangement due to the unavailability of almost all strikers and Alberto Paloschi being left on the bench.  Chelsea on the other hand could count on “full troops”, as Luiz Felipe Scolari lined up his best team (or almost) with Cech – Ivanovic, Alex, Terry, A. Cole – Ballack, Mikel, Lampard – Wright-Philips, Anelka, Malouda.

The Londoners just needed a third of the first half to slice Milan: Frank Lampard opened the score in the minute 3, followed by Nicolas Anelka in the 8th and 18th. Shivering stuff.  Zeljko Kalac couldn’t get his hands on a single shot, the kind of performance that ranks a keeper back to third choice (because that’s as low as you can get). By comparison, Dida gets the Lev Yaschin award. As for the defence, it could have made you pull your (rossonero) hair out: bad clearances and acres of space being left to the British team, able to maneuver pretty much unopposed. Plenty of confusion in midfield as well, while a very composed Chelsea kept spreading out.
 
ALARMS – The substitutes entering in the second half (Seedorf, Kaladze, Digao, Antonini and Paloschi) didn’t seem to make any difference. Actually, Chelsea pushed even harder and Nicolas Anelka scored two more goals, much to Roman Abramovich‘s delight (who in good company in the stands with girlfriend Daria Zhukova, couldn’t stop applauding). In the 66th minute, Anelka left the pitch for Andriy Shevchenko, who until then had been a mere eye-witness to his former teammates’ baffling performance. Sheva was committed to creating confusion and pushed Kalac further to the limit, as Milan’s goalkeeper continued his state of shock and progressively made his bench-warming role for future line-ups more and more certain.

Eventually, the massacre ended 5-0 without any further casualties, with a spectacle that Milan could have avoided and that will go down in history, despite this being a friendly match. Who knows, maybe Sunday was useful to make Milan’s powers-that-be understand Serie A is not a joke, and that they still have one month to sign a decent goalkeeper and at least a couple of real defenders. Surely they’ll want to leave the battle against relegation to other teams.

 
 
 

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 Chelsea F.C. CHELSEA-MILAN
5-0
[Match Highlights]
 AC Milan
GOALSCORERS: 3’ Lampard (C), 8’, 19’, 50’, 58’ Anelka (C)
CHELSEA (4-3-3): Cech (71’ Cudicini) – Ivanovic (61’ P.Ferreira), Alex, Terry (61’ Carvalho), A.Cole – Ballack (46’ Deco), Mikel, Lampard – S.W.Philips (77’ Sinclair), Anelka (66’ Shevchenko), Malouda. Coach: Scolari.
MILAN (4-5-1): Kalac – Bonera (46’ Paloschi), Maldini (46’ Digao), Simic (46’ Kaladze), Favalli (64’ Antonini) – Zambrotta, Gattuso, Flamini, Jankulovski, Pirlo – Ambrosini (46’ Seedorf). Coach: Ancelotti.

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Inter’s New ‘Kid’ is in Town: The José Mourinho Show Begins…

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2008

The news almost got lost amidst all the post-Cannavaro injury chaos, but José Mourinho‘s first official press conference as Inter manager already left its mark in Italy. Showcasing an almost perfect mastery of the Italian language, the ex-Chelsea manager lived up to his reputation; clarity, self-confidence, and witty repartee were all present in the 45 minutes Mourinho spoke to the press, and one thing was clear at the end of the day: the ‘Special One’ wants to win titles!

From Gazzetta: Inter directors Giuseppe Baresi, Marco Branca and Ernesto Paolillo were at his side but Mourinho did all the talking himself, speaking at length and holding nothing back. The Portuguese manager feels strong and eager to start his new project: as a perfectionist who demands the best from himself, the press conference even began a few minutes early, and Mourinho threw himself into his studies like he does into the game: with all his heart and soul. His Italian is already fluent and requires no need for interpreters. He switched easily between Italian and English, answering journalists’ questions in their mother tongue, stressing however that for him English was now the exception, and would only be used to give individual answers.

Mourinho said he does not shy away from responsibility and is not daunted by following in Roberto Mancini’s footsteps; he even mentioned the ex-Inter coach several times. He wants to win (particularly the Champions League), and his broad shoulders and CV that speaks for itself should provide plenty of ammunition to achieve that objective.

THE ‘SPECIAL ONE’? - “I am at a special club, so I want to be known only as ‘José Mourinho’. I think I am a great manager but here I am just another cog in a big machine. I will be starting a new chapter, following on from that led by Roberto, also a great manager. I am different, however: this is my challenge now. I know I do a good job, so results are sure to follow. I’m delighted to be here: I have always dreamed of working in Italy, which is a fantastic country from a football perspective. I would like to thank Moratti and Branca for having brought me here.”

ROSTER & TRANSFERS – “According to what I read in the press, I must be aiming to work with a squad of 60 players. I actually want 21, plus three goalkeepers. I like the current squad and we don’t need to make dramatic changes. We need 2, maximum 3 players to improve and change our style a little. These players are now my players and from this moment on they are the best in the world. I want them to know that I like what I have. I am dying to start; it will be difficult to wait until July 15. I am aiming to only take 21 players to our training camp in Brunico, perhaps giving Materazzi a week’s rest. Regarding Chelsea players, I’d love to sign them if they’re for sale. Many of them would love to play for me again.”

NEGOTIATIONS WITH INTER – “The initial contact was made the day after the second leg of the Inter-Liverpool match. I didn’t begin studying Italian then, however: I’ve only been learning for three or four weeks. It’s a Latin language and I speak Portuguese and Spanish, so it isn’t very difficult for me to learn.”

SERIE A – “Serie A is improving and will go back to being the best league in the world. Milan, Juventus and Roma have excellent teams and are looking to improve; they are sure to make big signings. I want us to be up there fighting for the title.”

CHAMPIONS LEAGUE – “It is not only the fans that dream of a Champions League triumph. There will be 11 teams looking to win it next season: 3 Italian, 4 English, 1 German and 3 Spanish. It is a competition in which details matter and make the difference between triumph and failure. During the last 4 years I have won it once and reached the semi-finals twice. I have also won the UEFA Cup. I think I am good in cup competitions, whether domestic or European and I don’t think it will be more difficult here than it was with Chelsea, who had less pedigree. For me the challenge is always the same: I want to win. That will be our aim in every competition, even the Super Cup.”

LEADERSHIP – “I need to talk to my players to decide how we will play. I like to communicate, then I take the decisions myself.”

ADRIANO & the other Brazilians - “I will go to Brazil on June 18 for Brazil-Argentina, to talk to my Brazilian and Argentine players. Crespo, who has already played with me at Chelsea, will be able to help me tell his team-mates that with me in charge players have to work hard if they want to play. Lazy players don’t get on the pitch.”

TACTICS – “I like to have one main formation, but then be able to adapt and be multifunctional.”

WINNING VALUES – “The Chairman gave me a wonderful book on the history of Inter, but now I want to begin writing a second volume: I want to turn a new page. The first rule will be to forget past victories: they are in the past and should be consigned to history. The day I wake up without ambition will be the day I go back to Portugal.” It seems a long way off…

Finally, in pure Mourinho style, the Portuguese manager had this to say to a journalist who, for the upteenth time, asked him about players from Chelsea:

Journalist: “From what you have observed in England, would a player like Frank Lampard or Michael Essien have a difficult time at playing here in Italy?
Mourinho: “Why do you ask about Chelsea players?
Journalist: “Because it’s a smart way to ask the same question as he did” (points to a journalist who had previously asked if Mourinho would try to bring Lampard & Essien to Inter)
Mourinho: “Yes… yes… (pause) però io non sono pirla (but I am no fool)”

You can find bits of Mourinho’s press conference (in Italian) on Gazzetta’s MediaCenter: part 1 & part 2.