Posts Tagged ‘Joe Cole’

Season Previews 2010/11 – Chelsea

12/08/2010

Chelsea

Last Season: 1st + FA Cup Winners

New Signings: Ramires, Benayoun, Kalas, Delac

Key Player: Didier Drogba

One To Watch: Gael Kakuta

Needs  A Big Year: Nicolas Anelka

Would Quite Like: Champions League glory. Preferably over the Special One in the final.

Prediction: 3rd

Thoughts: Chelsea are one of the most difficult teams to preview this season in my opinion. Clearly the strongest team last season, the double winners have by their standards undertaken quite an overhaul. Out go Joe Cole, Michael Ballack, Deco, Ricky Carvalho and youngster Miroslav Stoch to be replaced so far by just Ramires and Yossi Benayoun in terms of players who will contribute immediately.

There is obviously a determination to reduce the age of the squad and introduce some fresh blood to a team who has won everything but the Champions League in the last five years. Benayoun is a less injured and more consistent version of Cole while Ramires gives them a valid option on the right hand side of midfield. Ballack and Deco won’t be missed but the sale of Carvalho is an interesting one.

He certainly wanted to leave, stating he would even swim to Madrid to join Jose but I’m intrigued as to whether Chelsea will replace him or promote Bruma to 4th choice and play Alex alongside Terry. Carvalho was the best pure defender at Chelsea in my opinion, knowing all the tricks of the trade. However I guess Chelsea considered £6m+ for an often injured 32-year-old who played 30+ league games just once in his six year stay as good business.

Carvalho doing what he does best.

The main reason I’m a bit down on Chelsea this season is I just can’t see Lampard, Drogba and Malouda all having as good a year as last season, where they scored 63 goals put together. Terry looks ever more lumbering at the back while at full back you have Ashley Cole’s off-field issues clearly affecting him and Bosingwa still without a comeback date. Their rivals will be stronger too and it’s unclear whether the young players coming through at Stamford Bridge will be effective.

In terms of positives, everyone in the Chelsea squad has been there and done that – the team is full of proven winners. Drogba, Lampard et al may all be another year older but they’re still better than most. Plus the biggest bonus will be the return of Michael Essien, who is the best box to box midfielder in the league. His return to fitness should see 433 being played again with Lampard and Ramires joining him in a fearsome midfield. I sense that we may yet see a creative superstar come in to play alongside Malouda and Drogba in the forward line. Mesut Ozil perhaps?

Super good.

Chelsea will be there or thereabouts and even though I have them 3rd I could quite easily see them finishing anywhere from 1st through to 4th. I just feel that it may be the last shot at the Champions League for this generation and all eyes will be on that particular trophy.

T.

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Season Previews 2010/11 – Liverpool

11/08/2010

Liverpool

Last Season: 7th

New Signings: Cole, Shelvey, Jovanovic, Wilson

Key Player: Fernando Torres

One To Watch: Dani Pacheco

Needs A Big Year: Alberto Aquilani

Would Quite Like: A fully fit Fernando Torres firing them back into the Champions League. Alberto Aquilani to show he’s worth £20m.

Prediction: 5th

Thoughts: Last season was a dreadful one for Liverpool. Benitez seemed to have lost the dressing room, Torres again played only 20 games and off the field problems were mounting as it was clear that Hicks and Gillett had no money, which in turn meant Rafa had none either.

The summer has seen something of a shake-up take place with Roy Hodgson and his safe pair of hands takeover. He did brilliantly at Fulham and I fully expect him to reinvigorate Liverpool too. People seem to forget that their first XI is actually pretty damn good and were last season hampered by tactical tinkering and injury.

The new boys.

While Mascherano will probably be sold, his main appeal was the job he could do in Europe against the very best and that isn’t an issue this season. I don’t think he’ll be missed in games against Stoke, etc. It looks like Gerrard will drop back and Joe Cole will play behind Torres.

This could be quite successful, Gerrard wasn’t exactly a bad central midfielder while Cole gets to realise his long held ambition of playing as a No.10. Let’s see if he can do it. The wide players aren’t as creative as some but Kuyt and Jovanovic are consistent.

I think Liverpool’s defence is a good shout to be the tightest this season – solid across the back four and one of the world’s best keepers behind them. If Hodgson is known for one thing then it’s organisation where every player knows his role.

Left back is a slight concern but they’ll manage with Aurelio and Insua if he stays. Fulham players moaned about repetitive training but appreciated that it got them results as they were so hard to break down. I predict the same with Liverpool this year given they have better players.

True, they are a Torres injury away from struggling in front of goal but with Hodgson sides, one goal is often enough. It won’t be boring but it won’t be super exciting either, somewhere in the middle instead. This effectiveness should see something of a renaissance and 5th place.

T.

Weekly Photoshop – Joe Cole

27/07/2010

This week’s theme was new Liverpool signing Joe Cole. After weeks of speculation over where he would sign, Cole surprisingly chose to leave London and head north. I’m sure Harry Redknapp must be gutted.

I never quite understood the clamour to sign him; he hasn’t consistently performed for several seasons now. Of course injuries have taken their toll but if he was that good, Chelsea wouldn’t be letting him go. A decent signing considering he’s free but I bet Benayoun has more impact as his replacement at Chelsea.

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joe cole liverpool

It might have seemed like a good idea at the time, but I worry for the future of this relationship...

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More here.

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T.

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Archive.

Fantasy Premier League – Gameweek 16 Preview

11/12/2009

A quick one this week but hopefully still with enough time before tomorrow’s transfer deadline. I had a decent week last weekend with a slightly above average score of 51 but lost ground on some of the people ahead of me.

However, of the three people ahead of me in our league, I’m only worried about Sportboy P and I gained a few points on him. I was a bit concerned that Rooney wasn’t going to do anything last week but thankfully he got a goal to justify my captain choice. Should really have gone with Richard Dunne though.

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Gameweek 15 Top Gun (aka Tom Cruise Approves):

James Milner Top Gun Aston Villa

Maverick approves of Milner's increasingly influential performances.

Aston Villa’s James Milner top scores with a relatively low 14 points last week. He scored, assisted, kept a clean sheet and got three bonus points. He has been playing quite well in recent weeks and looks a much better fantasy option than Ashley Young right now.

Elsewhere only six other players got into double figures points wise. Hreidarsson and Larsson both got 13 points while Andrei Arshavin offered hope for the future with 11 points from his first game as central striker in Arsenal’s 4-3-3.

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Three Captain Choices:

1. Defoe or Lennon/Spurs – I personally think Defoe is a touch overrated as a consistent fantasy option this season – eight of his 12 goals have come in two games against crap teams. For me Darren Bent is a more reliable option week in week out. That said Spurs face Wolves at home and I can see a home victory by at least 3 goals. Spurs at home against useless teams usually means Defoe and Lennon fill their boots so you’d be wise to go with one of them as captain this week.

2. Giggs/Man Utd – The Welsh wizard has been in particularly good form recently and in his last three games has averaged 10 points through a goal, four assists and five bonus points. Man Utd face Aston Villa at the weekend and they haven’t lost to them at home since about 1995. Despite some struggles with injuries they should still beat Villa again. Failing Giggs, Rooney is also a good option with five in his last five against Martin O’Neill’s side.

3. Arshavin/Arsenal – What price the little Russian repeating his four goal Anfield haul of last season? Unlikely really but that’s not to say he won’t score. He played really well as striker against Stoke and he should find Carragher and Agger an easier challenge due to their lesser size. It’s a gamble but it could pay off with a goal or two.

Aaron Lennon Spurs

Gets a Captain's tick.

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Three Suggested Transfers In:

1. Milner/Aston Villa – As shown through this week’s Top Gun award, Milner is in pretty good nick right now. He has two goals, three assists and two man of the match awards in his last four games and is worth looking at despite Aston Villa’s relatively hard upcoming fixtures.

2. J. Cole/Chelsea – With Essien out injured, Chelsea’s midfield will get a bit of a reshuffle and we might start to see a bit more of Joe Cole now that Deco has been anonymous in Chelsea’s away defeats to both Aston Villa and Man City. Cole is a tricky one as he has the talent but injuries have stopped him being a reliable option. He can quite easily put in a goal and two assist performance in any give game and is worth keeping an eye, despite a high £9m price.

3. Sorenson/Stoke – This isn’t really a suggested transfer in, as he is highest selected goalkeeper already.  More  a suggestion to play him over whoever else you have. I have missed out on both his two recent penalty saves as well as 28 points in three games.

James Milner Aston Villa

Might be worth a pick.

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Three to avoid:

1. Everton, Fulham, Stoke & Hull players – Not playing next week so bear that in mind when making transfers this week.

2. Essien & Mikel/Chelsea – The former is injured and then off to the African Nations Cup once he gets fit while the latter won’t do anything as his replacement.

3. Bullard/Hull – Out till the end of January.

Ryan Shawcross Stoke

Are you taking the mick?!

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T.

The Six Pointer – Leads let slip, beached whales & more…

27/10/2009

That was the weekend that was…

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1. Liverpool deserved to beat Man Utd yesterday but I think Fergie was right to have another moan at the ref. For me Carragher should definitely have been sent off for the tug on Owen in the second half. It can be argued that it wasn’t a clear opportunity but I think he would have got a shot away before the other defenders closed him down, they were quite far away.

His hatchet job on Carrick in the first half was a penalty – Carrick just got to the ball before Carragher and you just can’t go lunging in like that in that area of the pitch. He somehow got away with both but once more looked like the weak link in the Liverpool defence. The Vidic and Mascherano reds were both justified I reckon – I can’t believe the Serb has been sent off in three straight games against Liverpool!

It was clear that both managers had gambled with their unfit strikers and from what we saw it was clear that Torres had recovered more than Rooney. The Spaniard took his goal magnificently, both out-pacing and out-muscling Rio Ferdinand. He didn’t do much else during the game but it was enough. It’s a tough call between him and Drogba for title of best striker in the league but I’d possibly veer on the side of Torres right now. A good result for Liverpool but lets see if they can do the same away at Fulham next week.

torres-liverpool-man-utd

Eats Vidic and Rio for breakfast.

Man Utd meanwhile have a few areas of concern. Both centre backs seem currently susceptible to pace (not something you’d previously say for Rio) so what chance Jonny Evans coming in for a bit? In midfield Fletcher was once more missed – the one bright note being that he and the soon to return Hargreaves will be a fearsome partnership. Up front, Rooney can be forgiven for being unfit but he has been out of form regardless. Berbatov on the other hand did his usual thing of nice flicks and passes but no real cutting edge. He doesn’t really do it in the big games does he?

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2. For the third time in a week Arsenal completely switched off in a game where they went ahead and for the second time in a week it proved costly. After getting away with against Birmingham, they conceded a last minute equaliser against AZ Alkmaar in midweek Champions League action. They’ve learnt their lesson said the players. So what should happen yesterday against West Ham? A comfortable 2-0 lead with 16 minute left and one poorly dealt with free kick and one silly challenge in the box later and they find themselves going back to north London with one point instead of three.

The free kick for West Ham’s first was soft but Mannone made the cardinal sin of palming the ball back into the danger area instead of out wide. Cole pokes it home, game on. Then with ten minutes to go Alex Song decides to clip the back of Cole’s heels in the box with no real danger. Cole went down, penalty given, penalty scored. Wenger was rightly furious with his team after the game and it is these kind of games which results in Arsenal not properly challenging for titles. For 75 minutes Arsenal dominated but once again couldn’t close it out. They won’t win anything until they learn how to.

wenger-annoyed

They just never learn...

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3. Man City ensured Arsenal weren’t the only title pretenders to blow a two goal lead. Mark Hughes will be concerned at how his £24m centre back Joleon Lescott is a bit rubbish at the moment – Man City have a definite vulnerability in the air. Their form isn’t particularly good either with three successive draws and one win in five.

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4. Spurs surprisingly lost to Stoke at home and it was particularly annoying for me as I had Abdoulaye Faye’s nine fantasy football points marooned on the bench (I didn’t think Stoke would do anything). My point is that given Spurs have lost just twice at home since Redknapp took over and Stoke were winless away in their first four games, it shows just how good (and unexpected and fortuitous) a result it was for Pulis’ team. I certainly wasn’t expecting it and it confirms Stoke should be pushing for a top half finish this season.

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5. Congrats to Bobby Zamora, who I don’t think anyone will beat for miss of the season award. Wow. I know there are strikers who are lauded for their hard work rather than goals (see Heskey, Emile Ivanhoe) but that was ridiculous. To be fair he has already equalled his goal tally for last season but I reckon it’s a long time since the chant “When the balls hits the goal, it’s not Shearer or Cole it’s Zamora” was heard (not least because Shearer and Cole are retired but you know what I mean). Isn’t it now “When the ball hits your head and you’re sat in row Z, that’s Zamora”?

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6. Chelsea gave Blackburn a spanking and from a fantasy perspective it was good to see Frank Lampard return to goalscoring form with a double. I picked him as captain so was pleased with the 28 points he scored. It’s a little early to say for sure but based on that game it appeared that the return of Joe Cole helped as it allowed Lampard to play deeper and make his undetected runs.

Cole himself was excellent too and should stay in the hole behind Drogba and Anelka rather than on the left. He’s not quite at full fitness yet but I reckon Deco should be fearing for his place. I agree with what the Football Guy says – Paul Robinson is just shocking on long shots. I know he’s fat but it be that hard to shift all that body mass. On second thoughts…

paul-robinson-blackburn-beached-whale

Try as he might, Paul 'the beached whale' Robinson just couldn't shift himself to save the shot...

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T.

Fantasy Premier League Preview 09/10 – Midfielders

30/07/2009

It’s time to preview the midfielders in Fantasy Premier League. This will basically be the area where your leagues are won and lost, as most of the big hitters are here and your captain choices will often come from this group. The big change this season of course is the absence of a certain Portuguese winger. No, not Boa Morte or Nani (though the former is injured till Christmas) but Cristiano Ronaldo who has been the backbone of the majority of teams over the last three seasons. His goalscoring feats were a bit ridiculous, not least in 2007/08 when you had the fear every week if you were foolish enough not to pick him as captain. He’d usually make you pay with twelve to sixteen points which were then doubled as captain. Good times.

Someone else will have to be captain now.

Someone else will have to be captain now.

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On a side note the Football Guy and I were debating recently about whether Thierry Henry would have got more points fantasy wise when at his peak for Arsenal. I think we reached the conclusion that C-Ron would have beaten him just due to his goals being worth more as a midfielder. Ronaldo got 283 points in 07/08 if I recall – 31 goals, a bunch of assists and somewhere in the region of 40 bonus. In his best overall season in 2002/03 (he scored more the following year but assisted less) Henry scored 24 goals (=96pts), assisted 23 (69pts), played 37 (74pts) and probably would have a bonus figure in the thirties. This would leave him at around 270. Pretty impressive all told but we can only speculate at FPL didn’t exist then. Anyway, I digress somewhat, we’re trying to find the new Ronaldo after all.

A booking for taking his shirt off. That's minus one point.

A booking for taking his shirt off. That's minus one point.

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Expensive (£9m-£12.5m)

The three most expensive midfielders this season are Gerrard, Lampard (both £12.5m) and Arshavin (£11m). I would advise to get at least two of those three in your team. They’re all dead certs for more than 200 points and will be the main creative outlets at their respective clubs. It looks like Lampard will play in an advanced role behind the front two at Chelsea so I reckon he could push to 15 league goals as well as his usual ten assists. Gerrard is Gerrard, double figures in goals and thirty five bonus points every year. He only played 30 games last season so with a fill campaign could possibly reach around 240 points.

I’m put off Fabregas a little bit after his truncated season last year but at £10.5m he should bounce back nicely. It will be interesting to see how the assists are shared between him and Arshavin but I expect Cesc to still get around 180 points if not more. If nothing else, the man is a bonus point machine. Arsenal’s start is quite tough so perhaps look elsewhere initially and bring one of those two in after a few weeks.

A big season coming up.

A big season coming up.

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I do wonder if Dirk Kuyt can repeat his career year of 08/09 this time round. Only Carragher played more outfield minutes for Liverpool last season and the Dutchman weighed in with twelve goals and lots of clean sheet points in his new classification of midfielder. He will play a big part in Liverpool’s title bid but the signing of Glen Johnson is designed to provide width going forward which may impact on his assist total.

I don’t understand why Joe Cole is at £9m. Yes he’s good when he plays but that’s the problem, he never does. He does seem to bounce back in alternate years so he’s due a good season but he also has competition from Zhirkov and Malouda. Steer clear I’d say. Stephen Ireland at £9m is another debatable choice. Man City’s best player last season with nine goals, ten assists and 16 bonus, he faces a tougher time this season with all the players they have bought. By that I mean that whilst City will be better, they won’t be relying on him as much hence the goals and assists are likely to be more spread out with Barry, Tevez and Adebayor all after a share of the spoils.

If only they gave points for being injured...

If only they gave points for being injured...

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Mid-range (£6m-£8.5m)

One or two of these guys to supplement the big hitters, and you’re looking at a very nice midfield. The choice is very wide here with lots of players who have the potential to hit 180+ is they have a good year. First and foremost I’d be looking at Ashley Young at £8.5m. It’s weird to think I was disappointed with his 153 points last year but expectations were high after a stellar 07/08. He is the hub of all creativity at Villa and arguably the best crosser in the Premier League. I expect closer to the 17 assists he two seasons ago and perhaps finally double figures in goals too. Next up you’ve got the two Everton guys, Cahill and Arteta. You have a choice here between goals or assists but both will score well and represent good value at £8.5m.

The main man at Villa.

The main man at Villa.

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I don’t expect too much from Valencia (£8.5m) but then none of United’s midfielders look particularly appealing this season. There’s a bunch of players at £7.5-8m whose price is based on reputation and they aren’t worth getting. In this I include Ballack, Deco (both past it), Kalou, Walcott, Wright Phillips, Elano (not consistent/guaranteed starters), Nasri and Downing (both injured). Barry will be good at Man City and may well take the occasional penalty while I think Modric may have a big season at Spurs. Certainly a better one than Lennon.

Essien is the only defensive midfielder worth having in my opinion due to his bonus point skills but it takes a rich man to spend £7.5m on him. Of the £7m men I think Rosicky could be an interesting gamble if he stays fit (big if) while Fellaini seemed to cut the yellows towards the end of the season whilst scoring an excellent eight goals. Matt Taylor at Bolton loves to score and will assist plenty too and I shall be keeping an eye on Kranjcar as he’s now the one good player at Pompey. Bentley, Riera, Babel, Nani? Meh. Milner is becoming a big player for Villa and is a good secondary option to Young while Petrov will create, but sadly just won’t play much in the new look City side.

Faces a lone battle to keep Hull up.

Faces a lone battle to keep Hull up.

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At £6.5m I’d go for Murphy or Dempsey, both consistent Fulham midfielders who will assist and score respectively. Gamst Pederson has been getting worse each year but I don’t see where else Blackburn’s creativity will come from. Oh wait Fat Sam is in charge so it doesn’t apply. Geovanni is the only player of interest to me at £6m. Oh and maybe Richardson or Malbranque at Sunderland.

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Cheap (£4.5m-£5.5m)

This is an area where you forget about players you know and start working out who got most assists for the likes of Wolves and Burnley last year. Stoke midfielders are still pretty cheap. Delap and his power throw can still be had for £5.5m. A few West Ham players at that price too but I’ll be honest and say I wouldn’t know who to pick. N’Zogbia should get forward for Wigan while Kightly was Wolves’ provider last year in the Championship and could make the step up. Belhadj is now a midfielder at £5m – he did well for Pompey last season.

Likes assists. Apparently.

Likes assists. Apparently.

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Seb Larsson was a bit of a legend two seasons ago and is still just as cheap at £5m. Moving down to £4.5m you want to find someone who plays every week first and foremost. McSheffrey, Gudjonsson, Muamba, Etuhu and McCann aren’t going to get you much each week, but as they’re relevant only a few times a season it shouldn’t matter.

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T.

Champions League Preview – Chelsea vs Juventus

11/02/2009

draw_1209300c

Having covered three of the eight Champions League ties, this seems to be the poignant moment to analyse Chelsea’s chances of progressing to the Quarter Finals and winning that precious first European Cup title. Not only do the Blues face a rejuventad team that finds itself second in Serie A, they also find themselves manager-less. Here at the Sportboys we like to provide up-to-the minute analysis of the major football news, so posts on the Scolari sacking can be found here.

Only 48 hours after Big Phil’s dismissal, Guus Hiddink has come in at the Bridge until the end of the season. The Dutch wonder manager’s close relationship to Roman Abramovich and previous experience of managing both club and country (PSV and Australia) made this the most likely outcome. He is generally a nice guy and everyone seems to have something nice to say about him. Judging by this video, even the North Koreans love him.

Without going into the debate of whether Scolari should have been sacked, in my mind this is not the best moment to expect a new manager to come in and turn things round. Hiddink may be lauded for his man management skills but he will face a crunch away game against Aston Villa a week Saturday, followed by the first leg against Juventus at the Bridge. That is a very small amount of time to understand the dynamic of the squad and get them in the right frame of mind.

The demands at  Chelsea dictate that third place in the league, seven points behind the leaders, and places in the fifth round of the FA Cup and knockout round of the Champions League are not suffice for a manager to keep his job. Nevertheless, Chelsea remain a team of world class players and Claudio Ranieri will be aware that their recent dip in form will not bear too much on the outcome of the Second Round tie.

Frank, I know how you feel about your physique but trust me this helps

Frank, I know how you feel about your physique but trust me this helps

Hiddink’s Chelsea

Guus will want to come in and judge for himself as to which players are hungry to win for the club and that he can get the best out of for the remainder of the season. How this will translate into terms of formation, tactics and lineups, there doesn’t seem to be too many options in this current Chelsea squad. I would be surprised to see Drogba and Anelka playing together but Guus will need to get the best out of both of them in order to turn the Blues’ season round.

Creative Spark?

Possibly the major challenge for Hiddink will be to make Chelsea a more unpredictable side to play against. It remains to be seen whether an upturn in Deco’s form can be achieved but he could be the key against Juventus should he play. He will be afforded more time on the ball against the Italians despite Ranieri’s awareness that he is the main man. If Joe Cole can regain fitness, he too could give extra edge, either from the centre of the park or the wings. The trump card could be Ricardo Quaresma, who I have already raised my doubts about in a previous post.

I don’t see Hiddink deploying Quaresma in a three man forward-line and my feeling is also that the Dutchman will stick with a 4-5-1, considering Chelsea’s best players favour that lineup. However, if Hiddink has been doing his homework, he may try to change things up by going to a 4-4-2, as he has done with Russia on occasions. Attacking full backs will feature prominently but as we now know, that isn’t enough of a threat to win games without the requisite movement from the rest of the team.

Case for the defence

The biggest gulf in class between Manchester United and Chelsea at the moment is defensively. Ok, United may be on a historic run of clean sheets but Chelsea are conceding way to many goals for a defence that man-for-man is one of the best in the world. Rather than deliberating over man-to-man or zonal systems, Hiddink will simply need to get the back line playing as a proper unit. Carvalho is sorely missed but Guus has worked with Alex before, and that was when he was known as the ‘tank’ (never listen to a man that says someone with the nickname ‘tank’ has no class).

Heartless, I know

Heartless, I know

How hard? Lamp-ard

Fat Frank has been the most consistent performer for Chelsea this season and again will be the main man against Juve. Alongside JT, he makes up the remnants of Ranieri’s Chelsea side of 6 years ago. The Tinkerman will undoubtedly spend half of his pre-match conference telling us how they were ‘great lads’ and avoiding questions as to whether he would like to bring Lamps to Turin and give his career a Beckham-esque Italian challenge. Deep down he knows Lampard’s goals could be the difference, and no, Momo Sissoko won’t be able to mark him out of the game.

The Old Lady of Italian Football

The Old Lady of Italian Football

Juventus – La Vecchia Signora

Following a year’s sabbatical in Serie B, the team from Turin are back in the competition which history dictates they should always be in. This season they really have taken the competition by storm, beating Real Madrid home and away and with the likes of Nedved, Camoranesi and Del Piero still going strong, they will feel confident of going far.

Up to a couple of weeks ago Juve also looked strong in Serie A, taking advantage of a dip in Inter’s form. However, back-to-back defeats against Udinese and Cagliari mean that it looks unlikely they will catch Mourinho’s boys this year, despite retaining second spot a point ahead of Milan.

Ranieri has quietly gone about his business at Juventus, building his own team and spending alot of money on a couple of additions to the squad (Poulsen and Amauri). While the older players remain, there are a few younger Italian faces (Molinaro, Giovinco and Marchionni) ensuring that the next generation emerges to replace the current crop.

alessandro_del_piero_4

The Del Piero Factor

What can you say about this man? He is 34 years old and is still the star of the Juventus team. Last season he was the Capocannoniero of Serie A with 21 goals in 37 matches; this year he has 13 in 25 from all competitions. The British media rave about Ryan Giggs and the Italian press love to do the same about Del Piero. He is the most dangerous free kick taker in the game at the moment, demonstrated by these peaches that were all scored this season. At the heart of the Juventus attack, Chelsea will find it difficult to stop Alex. Obi Mikel will have to be wary of stupid tackles anywhere within 35 yards of the Chelsea goal.

Dearth of attacking talent

Del Piero is still the man but Juve also have potent threats in the shape of Amauri, Iaquinta and Trezeguet. Amauri in particular is having a great season for Juve, scoring 11 in 17 in the league and 2 in 2 in Europe. He is likely to start up front alongside Del Piero. However, having players in Trezeguet and Iaquinta who are both a handful physically and in terms of goal poaching potential, it will be a stern test of Chelsea’s defence under Hiddink.

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Buffon behind a suspect defence

For me, Gigi Buffon remains the best ‘keeper in the world. This isn’t reflected simply by the stupid money that  Man City were reported to be willing to throw at Juve for his services. Rather, Buffon continues to pull off phenomenal saves week-in week-out. This season he has been called upon regularly, as the Bianconieri’s backline struggles to live up to the stinginess of its predecessors. In contrast to Petr Cech’s this season, Buffon is winning games for Juve. Let’s not forget the heartthrobs’s great acting skills either.

Mellberg, Grygera and Legrotallie have not looked the best outfit, although Chiellini remains an important tower and leader. The current Chelsea style of play may make it easier for the Juve defence but should Drogba and Anelka click, I see goals both in London and Turin.

Prediction – Midfield battles

Sissoko and Poulsen give Juventus bite in the centre of the park, so an Essien-less Chelsea will have their work cut out for them. A big performance from Ballack will be key – covering the ground and finding the goal-scoring boots that have evaded him so far this season.

Chelsea are at home first, which should favour them. Nevertheless, that gives Hiddink a short amount of time to get things right. I would not be surprised if he approaches the leg at Stamford Bridge conservatively, thus biding his time for a favoured counter-attacking performance at the Stadio Olimpico. This may play into the hands of Ranieri, who will fancy his team’s chances with a Second Leg onslaught.

The Call

Probably quite an uncontroversial prediction in the current climate but I think Juventus will pip Chelsea. Hiddink won’t be afforded too much blame if so and it would make a fairytale story for Ranieri. On the other hand, who knows with the Tinkerman? Can he prove that his loser moniker is now behind him?

 

P.

Southend vs Chelsea minute by minute!

14/01/2009

Live minute by minute coverage of the FA Cup 3rd round replay between Southend and Chelsea.

Pre-amble:

The game had been called off due to fog but it has cleared and the match now goes ahead.

Drogba and Deco are dropped from the squad completely. 

A night in for him

A night in for him

 

Teams:

Southend: Mildenhall, Sankofa, Clarke, Barrett, Herd, Grant, Christophe, Moussa, Stanislas, Barnard, Revell

Subs: Francis, Walker, Freedman, Betsy, Joyce, O’Keefe.

 

Chelsea: Cech, Bosingwa, Alex, Terry, A Cole, J Cole, Lampard, Mikel, Ballack, Kalou, Anelka.

Subs: Cudicini, Ivanovic, Carvalho, Di Santo, Belletti, Mancienne, Stoch.

 

ITV go with the angle of Chelsea crisis. Lots of that echo-ey commentary over the top of images of newspaper headlines. It was a bad defeat but they’re hardly out of the title race. We only get Andy Townsend in the studio, obviously they couldn’t persuade any ex-Chelsea players to make the trek to deepest Essex…

Anthony Grant is an ex Chelsea youngster which could be a mildly interesting angle if he does anything.
 

1 min: Southend kick off and win a free kick within about seven seconds. It’s only in the centre circle though and the long pump forward comes to nothing.

2 mins: Chelsea settle into possession. Their yellow away kit is almost as bright as the grass at Roots Hall.

3 mins: Kalou runs through everyone down the left but his pass in the area evades everyone. Ballack gets on to it late but his side foot shot is off balance and lacks any real power.

4 mins: The Southend crowd is well up for this. They ask Michael Ballack “Who are ya?” It is a shame he can’t reply. If he could perhaps he talk about how twice in his career he has finished a season being runner up in four competitions.

5 mins: The first instance of the celery chant by the Chelsea fans.

If she don't...

If she don't...

6 mins: Joe Cole fires in a shot from the angle but the keeper saves with his leg.

9 mins: Chelsea well on top, the Southend players aren’t really closing them down that much. When they do get the ball it is given away after a few passes.

11 mins: Fat Frank slices a shot well wide. Meanwhile Man Utd are already 1-0 up at Wigan, Rooney having scored in the first minute.

13 mins: Chelsea win a corner. Alex gets his head to it but there are defenders to block. Southend kind of break but then lose the ball.

15 mins: Alex and his club foot tries a back pass and whacks it so hard he gives away a corner as Cech can’t reach it. Cech punches the first corner away for another one. 

16 mins: GOAL! Southend 1-0 Chelsea. I was bout to say Chelsea had men on the post but they didn’t really. The second corner came in and the Southend captain Barrett has a free header, which he plants in the corner where a man should be. Chelsea were marking the zone not the man.

18 mins: Chelsea are stunned by that but immediately set about trying to equalise. A Ballack header from a corner is blocked and there are half hearted appeals for handball in the resulting melee but nothing given.

19 mins: Mikel shoots wide. 

22 mins: Bosingwa crosses to Anelka who heads wide. It was decent chance to be fair. Chelsea have had 79% possession. This reminds me of those Football Manager games where you dominate and have about thirty shots but the opposition score with their only attack. 

25 mins: Chelsea almost equalise. About three shots are pinged in in quick succession – Lampard’s initial effort is a pure reaction save from the keeper who didn’t know much about it. Cole tries the second but it’s blocked and the third shot is high and wide and Southend are let off. Chelsea are 1/6 to score next. Understandably so.  

28 mins: Southend are defending so deep and inviting pressure. In an odd way this is perhaps the best policy as they completely nullify Anelka.

29 mins: Just as I say that he runs form deep and takes a shot. Straight at Mildenhall though.

30 mins: Lampard played through and tackled in the box just as he’s about to shoot. Fair tackle and no penalty.

32 mins: Lampard dinks a nice ball into the box and Anelka shoots. They win a corner but it comes to nothing.

34 mins: Ballack chests and dips a volley at goal. It goes over. 

35 mins: Southend have never beaten a Premier League team in the FA Cup. They did beat Man Utd in the Carling Cup a couple of years back though.

37 mins: Big Phil looks in disgust as Mikel needlessly fouls from behind. If looks could kill…

Angry Big Phil

Angry Big Phil

38 mins: Southend again waste possession, Stanislas giving it away. They gain it back though and this time Grant sends in a great cross from the right. Revell gets his head to it but Cech makes a good low save. Stanislas shoots over from the follow up.

39 mins: Mikel booked for a foul in the break above. 

40 mins: Confusion in the Southend box as Lampard nearly gets his shot away. Keeper was there.

42 mins: Lampard flicks on a Chelsea corner but it goes wide instead of to a teammate.

44 mins: Club foot hoofs another back pass to Cech but luckily it reaches him this time.

45 mins: GOAL! Southend 1-1 Chelsea. Bosingwa send in a cross and Mildenhall comes and punches. It’s a rubbish punch which falls straight to Ballack on the edge of the box and he finishes superbly with the outside of his boot on the half volley. Poor mistake by the keeper as his centre back could have headed it away but it really was a great finish. Ballack had a lot to do and just guided over the covering defender and into the top corner. 

Half time: Chelsea fight back after that shock goal and deservedly go in level. I sense that if Southend were to have a proper go they could knock Chelsea out here. More likely is that Chelsea get a earful from Big Phil and score two or three in the second. 

Time for tea.

Half time cuppa

Half time cuppa

Andy Townsend says he’d like to see Kaka at Man City. I’d like to see Messi at Arsenal but you can’t always get what you want.

 

46 mins: Belletti on for Mikel. Chelsea kick off the second half. Ballack has an early shot but it goes over.

47 mins: Stanislas sends a testing cross into the box but Revell can’t get to it.

48 mins: Cashley Cole gives away a free kick on the touchline. Grant sends it in but whoever connected with it headed wide. 

50 mins: Ashley Cole shoots from 25 yard plus, it’s low and hard and forces the keeper into a tricky save.

53 mins: Chelsea win about four consecutive corners and there is all sorts of confusion before Kalou shoots and the ball deflects off an arm and goes wide. It’s ball to hand though and only (another) corner is given.

55 mins: Southend corner. Chelsea clearance.

56 mins: Bosingwa has some space down the right and decides to shoot. Slice. Goal kick.

58 mins: Alex gives away a corner. Close up of his face. I don’t know what’s going on in his prviate life but he looks like he some real personal demons. Christophe gets a head to the corner but it goes wide. Could have done better.

59 mins: Lampard shoots, get his deflection but it’s straight at the keeper.

60 mins: GOAL! Southend 1-2 Chelsea. Lovely goal by Salamon Kalou. Joe Cole gives him a cross field pass, Kalou runs into the box, sidefoots past a defender and places a shot in the far corner beyond the keeper. Good finish.

62 mins: Joe Cole shoots from the angle but it goes high. Frank Lampard is not impressed.

65 mins: Chelsea are hungry for more. They are probing around the Southend box but are yet to find the key pass.

69 mins: Corner to Chelsea. Lampard takes, Terry lurks. Joe Cole tries to flick it and it goes out for another attempt. The second corner is cleared but Southend’s break fizzles out.

71 mins: Joe Cole is caught by Grant and goes down in agony. There was minimal contact judging by the replay but this is Joe Cole we’re talking about.

Is he faking it?

Is he faking it?

72 mins: Oh look he’s fine and running about. Meanwhile Lampard crosses in the free kick and it falls to Anelka who shoots over. Some changes coming up.

73 mins: Dougie Freedman on for Barnard.

74 mins: My bad, Joe Cole pulls up and holds the back of his knee. He’s seems to have twisted or locked something. Yet another game he doesn’t finish. 

76 mins: Di Santo replaces him.

78 mins: GOAL! Southend 1-3 Chelsea. Anelka slots in the third. Lampard runs from deep, lays it wide to Kalou. He waits for Anelka to arrive in the box and without breaking stride the Frenchman puts it in the corner. This one is over.

80 mins: Southend change. Francis on for Grant.

81 mins: A Southend corner fails to beat the first man. Anelka and Kalou break two on one and manage to get called up offside due to inability to pass to each other at the correct time.

85 mins: Chelsea are toying with The Shrimpers. Di Santo can’t quite get to a Bosingwa cross. 

86 mins: Betsy on for Revell.

88 mins: The remaining Cole (Cashley) is Jim Beglin’s man of the match. No one has stood out really but I guess it’s always nice when they don’t just go with Lampard. Kalou has done quite well too.

89 mins: Man Utd have beaten Wigan and climb above Chelsea into second place in the league.

90 mins: Three minutes of Joe Cole stoppage time.

91 mins: GOAL! Southend 1-4 Chelsea. Fat Frank gets his goal. Chelsea wait and wait and eventually Kalou lays it off to Lampard who hits it effortlessly high into the roof of the net from about 15 yards. Simple stuff. The whole team celebrate together. Ahh, look how united they are.

93 mins: Full time. Southend 1-4 Chelsea. Di Santo shoves over a defender as the full time whistle blows. Class told in the end and Chelsea’s fitness and superior skill did for Southend but not without a scare. Big Phil still has a lot to work on, especially as set piece specialists Stoke are the next opponents.

 

T.


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