Matchday 57: Chelsea 2 Sunderland 1

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Date: 07/04/2013

Competition: Premier League

Round: 31

Attendance: 41,500

Referee: Neil Swarbrick

Chelsea Team: Cech, Azpilicuerta, Ivanovic, David Luiz, Bertrand, Ramires, Mikel, Oscar, Mata, (Lampard 89′), Hazard (Benayoun 84′), Ba (Torres 46′). Unused Subs: Turnball, Ferreira, Terry, Marin. Scorers: Kilgallon own goal 46′, Ivanovic 54′.

Sunderland Team: Mignolet; Bardsley, O’Shea , Kilgallon, Rose; Johnson, Gardner (Colback 81′), N’Diaye, Larsson (McClean 70′); Sessègnon; Wickham. Unused substitutes: Westwood, Mangane, Laidler, Mandron, Graham.

About the game:

A good team selection in the midst of a very hectic period for Chelsea. Benitez went with a very strong team, possibly to silence the media criticism that he was only after the cups to enhance his personal CV.

Sunderland were pumped for this game, the controversial appointment of Paolo Di Canio served as motivation to fight their relegation battle and to silence the media too.

Chelsea took time to settle in this game but almost immediately scored when they did settle via Demba Ba. David Luiz became a hero at both ends as he almost scored from a  free kick then blocked a certain goal for the visitors.

The biggest shame of the first half was that Cesar Azpilicuerta’s first goal for the club was in the wrong net. Although it was a good finish.

Half time saw the visitors leading and a change for the blues as the man in the mask Fernando Torres replaced the injured Demba Ba. And was the presence felt. We saw glimpses of the ‘old Torres’ from Liverpool who terrorized many Premiership defenses. Within a quarter of an hour of the restart Chelsea were leading 2-1 when a Kilgallon own goal and a moment of sheer skill from Ivanovic gave Chelsea the lead.

The rest of the game was a bit shaky for Chelsea but the blues held on for a very, very important 3 points in the race for Champions League places.

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Matchday 56: Chelsea 3 Rubin Kazan 1

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Date: 04/04/2013

Competition: Europa Cup

Round: Quarter Final 1st Leg

Attendance: 32,994

Referee: Gianluca Rocchi

Chelsea Team: Cech, Azpilicuerta, Luiz, Terry, Bertrand, Lampard, Ramires, Mata (Oscar – 78′), Moses (Hazard – 65′), Benayoun (Marin – 83′), Torres . Unused Subs: Turnball, Ivanovic, Ferreira, Mikel. Scorers: Torres 16′, 70′. Moses 32′.

Rubin Kazan Team: Ryzhikov, Kuzmin (Kasaev – 82′), Ansaldi, Cesar Navas, Sharonov, Orbaiz, Kaleshin, Eremenko, Karadeniz, Natcho, Dyadyun (Jose Rondon – 46′). Unused Subs: Arlauskis, Marcano, Ryazantsev, Kisliak, Gokhan Tore.

About the game:

Benitez got the tactics spot on in this game. Resting the right players ahead of a very busy schedule. But, this won’t be the main talking, that would be the masked number 9 who was on display yesterday.

What a game by Fernando Torres. He had fire, desire, passion, hunger and the trickery which seemed to have deserted the number 9 and were left behind on the Merseyside. Everything was chased, he battled but, the negative side has to bought to light, which is, where would Chelsea be if this number 9 had been present throughout the season? I won’t be too harsh, after all, it is here and now we need to concentrate on. With Chelsea having a rarity of two strikers on form, a top 4 finish is in sight but, as every Chelsea fan knows, which Torres and which Chelsea will be seen over the finish line?

All in all, the team were good in this match, with the exception of one. Frank Lampard. This is the worst performance I have seen him put in since he has been at Chelsea. I may be harsh but, show me otherwise?

Mata seemed a bit rusty in spells but in other times you can see why Chelsea fans see a resemblance to a former number 25. His movement is pure magic at times. With Hazard Chelsea have one of the most potent play makers in Europe. Speaking of the Belgian, Hazard’s 25 minute cameo saw him make more successful dribbles than the entire Rubin Kazan Team did in 90.

I have said it before. The future is bright, the future is blue!

Matchday 55: Chelsea 1 Manchester United 0

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Date: 01/04/2013

Competition: FA Cup

Round: Round 6 (Replay)

Attendance: 40,704.

Referee: Phil Dowd

Chelsea Team: Cech, Azpilicuerta, Luiz, Ivanovic, Cole (Bertrand – 21′), Mikel, Ramires, Oscar (Moses – 90′), Hazard, Mata, Ba (Torres – 90′). Unused Subs: Turnball, Terry, Lampard, Benayoun. Scorer: Ba 49′.

Manchester United Team: De Gea, Evra, Jones, Ferdinand, Smalling, Valencia, Carrick, Nani (Giggs – 65′), Cleverley (Van Persie – 61′), Hernandez, Welbeck (Young – 80′). Unused Subs: Lindegaard, Vermijl, Powell, Kagawa.

About the game:

Bravo Benitez! And I doubt I will say that many times for the remainder of the season!

Everything tactically was spot on! Although you could argue that 1 – 0 flattered us. We could have easily had a few more and probably should have. Everyone was superb today from Cech to Ba. I mean, what a finish by Ba but the save from Cech was worth a hat trick. Even Hernandez admired the save, I am certain he was ready to celebrate an equalizer.

I think what spoke volumes was not only we outplayed and beat Manchester United but we did it without Terry, Lampard and Cole. If we can keep these kind of performances up I am certain a top 4 finish will be in our reach.

Win like this without the old guard. Our future is certainly looking bright!

Matchday 54: Southampton 2 Chelsea 1

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Date: 30/03/2013

Competition: Premier League

Round: Match 30

Attendance: 31,779

Referee: Jon Moss

Southampton Team: Boruc (K. Davis – 46′), Clyne, Yoshida, Hooiveld, Shaw, Scheneiderlin, S Davis (Fox – 85′), Cork, Puncheon (Ward-Prowse – 62′), Lambert, Rodriguez. Unused Subs: Fonte, Forren. Scorers: Rodriguez, Lambert 34.

Chelsea Team: Cech, Ivanovic Terry, Azpilicuerta, Bertrand, Lampard, Oscar (Benayoun – 76′), Mikel (Ramires – 71′), Moses, Marin (Hazard – 60′), Torres. Unused Subs: Turnball, Cole, David Luiz, Ba. Scorer: Terry 32.

About the game:

The first goal was a nice pass and move by Southampton which encouraged Rodriguez to take the first time finish.

Chelsea equalized on 32 minutes when John Terry rose high to head Marko Marin’s corner into the net.

The Saints regained the lead almost immediately when Lambert hit a sweet free kick which sailed to Cech’s right side.

Chelsea had a Torres goal disallowed and Moses was unlucky to equalize. But, today Chelsea were not at the races.

First problem lies at the feet of the boss., why would he take a relegation battling side lightly and field a second team in the hopes of resting players for the FA Cup? Obvious. From now and until the end of the Season Rafa will simply prioritize the FA Cup and Europa Cup in the hopes of enhancing his personal CV. Chelsea get top 4? Why should he care! He will not be leading the blues next season into the European Cup so no benefit. Any decent manager would have started strong and made the changes once the 3 points were guaranteed but, not our Rafa.

That being said, the team selected should have got a win at Southampton no problem. But the simple tactics of a top side, the breaking down of a stubborn team, stringing together attaching movements, that’s where the fault was with Chelsea. And that ladies and gents is another issue that lies at the feet of the management and coaches.

Youth Prospects: Part 2: Thibaut Courtois

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Name: Thibaut Courtois

Age: 20

Position: Goalkeeper

Current situation: Currently on a season long loan at Athletico Madrid

Current progress:

Unbelievable progress, seriously. Even the Chelsea scouts and officials had underestimated how quick the development of Courtois would be. He’s currently the number one for one of Spain’s top teams and challenging for the Belgium jersey. He has been getting experience on the European scene with the Europa cup and against the likes of Barcelona and Real Madrid. I really can not wait to see Courtois in action because initially to succeed big Petr Cech we thought would take time but, oh no, we have someone in Courtois to step in immediately.

Is he ready yet?

Absolutely. The only concern is why is he on loan? He should be at Chelsea now getting games and challenging Cech. Let’s not kid ourselves, there is some gulf of class between Courtois and Hilario/Turnball. Even having Courtois as second choice would benefit Cech as the element of competition would drive Cech to stay at a very top level. We have seen a few errors this season from Cech which would never be seen from him and the Courtois competition could only be good for all involved.

Future Chelsea star?

No shadow of a doubt and he could be a star sooner rather than later.

Youth Prospects: Part 1: Romelu Lukaku

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Name: Romelu Lukaku

Age: 19

Position: Striker

Current situation: Currently on a season long loan at West Bromich Albion

Current progress:

Settling into the English Premier League very well. Showing real potential, maybe more. He is showing pace, finesse in his finishing, he bullies defenses and plays for the team ahead of himself. He reminds me of a former number 11 at Chelsea but nowhere near the finished product. It’s almost a shame he is on loan because I think Chelsea could have done with someone like him in the starting 11 this season.

His interviews show a very well grounded individual, someone who knows he has time on his side and will use that time to fully develop. A real class act!

Is he ready yet?

Is he ready for the English Premier League? Definitely. Is he ready for Chelsea? Just needs some polishing up before. Sometimes he can have a very heavy touch and as a result loses a scoring chance. I think his back-to-goal skills may need a little bit of tidying but hopefully this experience in West Bromwich Albion can iron these out and then we will have a class striker on our hands.

Future Chelsea star?

Oh yes. What excites me is he is so close to being a finished article and he’s only 19. Imagine having this beast for close to 2 decades. I can not wait until he is our main man.

Transfer Rumors: Part 3: Marouane Fellaini

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Name: Marouane Fellaini

Position: Defensive Midfielder

Age: 25

Current Club: Everton

Approximate Value: 28 million Euro

Reliability of rumor:  Very Strong

Overview:

Marouane Fellaini is a midfield player who can both play in the holding role or in a further advanced position almost playing as a second striker. Regardless, Fellaini plays either position with precision, determination and can sometimes surprise you, (see Zidanesque spin against Manchester City).

His passing is quite exceptional, able to play tidy short passes and be able to ping long balls behind the defense.

Current club record:

Everton: Appearances: 166; Goals 32.

Is he likely to sign?

In a word yes. I think as well as the ‘peculiar number 9’ position at Chelsea the deep position or pivot is another one to be addressed. Although, we have tried a few players in the position, we never seem to have a balance in that role. I could see a Lampard-Fellaini or Luiz-Fellaini partnership working if we stick with the 4-2-3-1. If we ditch towards a possible 4-3-3 I believe Fellaini could still do a job in the pivot. I believe this may in fact be a done deal personally, with rumor circulating that Fellaini has a gentleman’s agreement to leave Everton this summer.

Final word…

Would Fellaini be a good signing? Possibly. Is he the answer Chelsea need? I think no. Nathaniel Chalobah in my opinion should be given a shot at the position. With financial fair play coming in why blow an unnecessary 25 million? This is a position we can fill internally if we use job speak and the funds could go to funding a deadly striker and a decent center back.