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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Chelsea Transfer Market

Possible Transfer In : David Villa, Ribery, Ibrahimovic, Tevez, Pato, Zhirvok, Turnbull, Sergio Aguero, Eto

Possble Transfer Out : Ricardo Carvalho, Deco, Drogba, Andrei Shevchenko, Di Santo

• Chelsea Jersey Release Date: May 14 (home, 2009-2011 seasons), July (away, 2009-2010 season), August 27 (third, 2009-2010 season)

Thursday, May 07, 2009


It took quite some time for Guus Hiddink to emerge from the Chelsea dressing room to give his verdict on heartbreaking European elimination.

The reason was he had prepared first by watching key incidents in the match all over again, as dispassionately as possible, before facing questions. He even clutched a DVD of the action as if to emphasise the point.

That was important, because in the cold light of night and in front of the world's media, the highly-experienced coach was in no doubt refereeing decisions had cost his team dearly.

'Players make mistakes, coaches make mistakes, the referee can make mistakes,' Hiddink began. 'And that is why we give them the benefit of the doubt sometimes. That is all in the game.

'But if you have seen three or four situations waved away, then it is the worst I have seen.'

The denying of a multitude of penalty appeals by Chelsea, already 1-0 up due to Michael Essien's eighth-minute stunner, will remind older Chelsea fans of a home FA Cup tie against Millwall 14 seasons ago when referee Martin Bodenham turned down three absolute clear-cut shouts and the Blues went out.

The stage this time was a whole lot bigger and the opposition could not have been more contrasting, but the feeling of injustice was the same. Norwegian Tom Henning Øvrebø was the official at the centre of it all.

'You have sometimes to give the benefit of doubt to the referee,' continued Hiddink, 'because you can discuss whether there was a penalty when Drogba had his shirt pulled in the first-half but you can also discuss last week whether Henry was pulled on his shirt in the area. But if you have three or four situations?

'In the first half you see it with Malouda, clearly pulled over in the area. The ref had a perfect view. Then you see waved away the two handball situations when the arms were going up. We got a penalty against us away to Juventus when Belletti went up with arms high in the wall. After when I saw that I said yes, it was a penalty.

'It was a similar situation today with Anelka's ball when the hand was lifted by Piqué. You cannot draw back your hand in that situation. And the second one when the shot came from Ballack and Eto'o lifted his arm.'

Though frustrated, the Dutchman refused to be drawn into suggestions of a conspiracy by some who may not wish for a repeat of last year's Champions League Final.

'I don't want to go with those tough words because then I would have to prove it. That is difficult to do.'

He was however willing to defend the actions of previously-substituted Drogba who returned to the pitch after the final whistle to leave the ref in no doubt as to his view of the crucial calls.

'I can understand fully his reaction, full of emotion, full of adrenalin. People say you should be in control. He was in control. The moment a player is full of emotion and starts hitting, he is going beyond where he should go. I fully understand his behaviour and I will protect that.'

'I can understand that Chelsea can be disappointed by the performance of the referee,' said Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola. 'They say a lot of penalties is possible but I didn't see.

'We didn't create so much. I expected Chelsea to come a little bit more for us but they didn't so it was difficult to create many chances. It is difficult to play Chelsea 11 against 11 so you can imagine 10 against 10,' he added with reference to the second-half red card for defender Eric Abidal.

Robbed was the overall mood in the dressing room following Andrés Iniesta's stoppage time tie-decider Hiddink reported, although there was also some regret over the Chelsea players' own actions in the match.

'We played a very decent game and we did tactically well. The only thing is we should have decided the game already outside of the big worldwide discussion over the penalties.

'At this level it is very difficult and there were two or three open chances we should have taken. Then we wouldn't have this fuss about penalties.'

Michael Ballack

RAGE ... Ballack lets off steam

The Blues skipper blasted Norwegian Tom Henning Ovrebo, who denied the Blues FOUR penalties against Barcelona.

The Spanish outfit then went through to the May 27 final in Rome on the away goals rule as Andres Iniesta’s 93rd-minute strike cancelled out Michael Essien’s opener.

While Chelsea’s players stopped short of saying they were victims of a conspiracy, the feeling was UEFA did not want two English teams in their showpiece final for a second straight year.

Terry said: “Over two legs they played well but the fact is that, in this game, we had six or seven penalty claims waved away and that is astonishing.

“Anywhere else, anywhere else in the world that would not happen.

“You can see he might not have given the first one, but come the second where Nicolas Anelka puts it round Pique and he slams it down with his hand?

“It’s decisions like that which are wrong — Darren Fletcher misses the final after being sent off for Manchester United on Tuesday, a bad decision. He can’t play in the final and neither can we, because of a bad decision in this match.”

England captain Terry refused to go as far as to say that there was a UEFA conspiracy to deny a repeat of last year’s United v Chelsea final.

But he was severely critical of the governing body for appointing such an inexperienced referee.

He said: “The word conspiracy is maybe the wrong one. It’s difficult when players are so high on emotion after a game.

“However, people are saying we shouldn’t have reacted the way we did. But the fact is, six decisions went against us in front of 40,000 people. And for the ref to not give one of them is unusual.

“I’ve seen all of them and for the ref to not give at least two...

“So it’s not surprising for us to come off the field and show that emotion.

“Why did we get a referee who has officiated in 10 games in the Champions League in his career?

“To be given the Champions League semi-final, that’s not good enough.”

Chelsea boss Guus Hiddink was also furious. He said: “If you’ve seen the three or four situations waved away, this is the worst refereeing performance I’ve ever seen.

“You can never prove UEFA didn’t want an all-English final. It’s just... out of emotion. Five or six situations — not just one. The Malouda situation, he was grabbed inside the box.

“It’s not just one doubtful situation as the Thierry Henry situation was in Barcelona, it’s three, four.

“But we should have scored ourselves, whether some people don’t want an all-English final again.

“Conspiracy is a very tough word and you have to prove it. I don’t want to go with that tough word.

“It was said in the build-up that it would be nice to have a repetition of last year’s final. But I can only say what I see.

“I cannot say if UEFA would not like another all-English final.


“What I’m sure about, in big games like this, is that you need top-notch referees who have lots of experience of refereeing in the big leagues in Italy, Spain, England and Germany.”

Didier Drogba faces a UEFA inquiry after his outburst against the referee after the final whistle.

The striker, who had been subbed, raced on to the pitch at the end and aimed a vicious tirade at the ref before having another go at him in the tunnel. Sky TV had to apologise for Drogba’s language — and the Ivory Coast hitman now faces a huge ban. But Terry defended his team-mate saying his argument was justified in the circumstances.

He said: “I’m fully behind Didier, the way he reacted. You can see the passion he played with in the game and afterwards.

“But the fact is the referee is the one who should face the consequences, not Didier and not us.

“We did exactly what we needed to do to beat Barcelona and we’ve every right to expect referees to do the right thing in these top games.

“You can’t say that enough. The referee made bad decisions and that’s what happens with inexperienced refs.

“Players come into these games hoping and praying they don’t make mistakes but referees are the same — only they get away with it.

“He makes mistakes, but he knows next time he will get away with it. But a player who makes mistakes time after time knows he will be dropped.

“Refs keep getting the big games. When it gets to this stage, it’s down to UEFA to be strong enough and give the big games to their best referees.

“You need experienced refs to look after experienced players in these ties and we didn’t get the referee we needed to do that.

“You see the United game and what happened to Fletcher. It was a bad decision and we suffered the same again tonight.”

Chelsea's Jose Bosingwa: Referee Was Bought

The right-back lashed out at the match official following the highly controversial scenes in London on Wednesday night...

CL: Michael Ballack & John Terry - Tom Ovrebo, Chelsea - Barcelona (PA)
Chelsea will not have the chance to repeat last season's story and reach the Champions League final along with Manchester United after a home 1-1 draw against Barcelona.

The Blues, who are out of the competition on away-goals rule, are very critical of Tom Henning Ovrebo as they feel the referee failed to signal what they describe as clear penalties.

After the game, striker Didier Drogba could not control his emotions and called Ovrebo a "disgrace", and Bosingwa has now echoed the Ivorian's frustration.

"This referee was bought. I do not know if he is a referee or a thief. There are no words to describe the person that was on the pitch here," he told RTP after the game.

"We are all sad, but we have to raise our heads high again. There is nothing to say about Barcelona's goal, but there were penalties that were not awarded."

On the performance of the man in charge of the game, the Portugal international added, "The way he refereed the match was not the most correct one. He should never referee again."

RTÉ.ie Sport: Guus Hiddink felt Chelsea should have been awarded at least three penalties
Guus Hiddink felt Chelsea should have been awarded at least three penalties

Chelsea suspect anti-English agenda

Chelsea manager Guus Hiddink said it would be impossible to prove claims UEFA did not want an all-English Champions League final.

The London side were furious about a number of what they saw as clear penalties which were not given by referee Tom Ovrebo as Barcelona progressed on away goals thanks to a 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge achieved with an injury-time leveller by Andres Iniesta.

According to Sky Sports, some of the Chelsea players were speculating afterwards that UEFA wanted to avoid a repeat of last year's all-Premier League final.

Asked about it on Sky Sports 2, Hiddink said: 'You can never prove this but it's just sad and it's out of emotion but if you see five, six situations, not just one...'

Chelsea dominated the semi-final second leg and seemed to destined to seal a date with Manchester United for the second year running after Michael Essien's wonder strike, particularly when Eric Abidal was dismissed for a challenge on Nicolas Anelka.

But the referee denied Chelsea a number of spot-kicks for perceived offences including a shirt pull on Didier Drogba and handballs by Gerard Pique and Samuel Eto'o.

Hiddink said: 'We are so disappointed because there are two issues. One is that we could have and should have scored in some open situations and because we talk a lot about the not given penalties.

'Didier's shirt-pulling is okay, we had [Thierry] Henry's situation in Barcelona, okay. But there were three other situations that were so clear. I shall not say what we really feel but it's injustice.

'It's not just that you can be mistaken. It's difficult, for instance, for the red card of Abidal on Anelka - difficult because, I think, Anelka was through, he touched with his left leg Anelka.

'You can discuss these situations for a referee.

'But if you have seen clearly and he was five yards [away], if you have seen clearly the ball on Pique... If he was blocked there is also an assistant referee.

'There's one I think with the shot on Eto'o and he's turning around and you have to have your arms down. Those two situations make you think.'

He continued: 'The [Florent] Malouda situation in the first half when they were struggling a bit. They go in the box, [the referee] had a perfect view, and he was grabbed inside the box. That's also a penalty, which means there were three, four clear situations, not just one doubtful as the Henry situation was in Barcelona, let's be honest.

'Nevertheless, we should have scored in other situations as well. Whether people don't like an all-English final or not, we should have scored also.'

There were ugly scenes in stoppage time and at the final whistle as players including Michael Ballack and Drogba confronted the referee.

But Hiddink vowed to stand by his players, telling Sky Sports 2: 'I can fully understand in the emotion of the game, as long as they don't touch him, I can fully understand this disappointment.

'It's not just one decision in doubt but it's several not made decisions.

'I can fully understand and I protect my players for this when they have this emotion, just with loads of energy and adrenaline in their bodies.'

The referee was wrong

Chelsea might have had at least four penalties. One would have been enough.

There was a trip, a body check and two handballs, including the late appeal from Michael Ballack deep in added time.

In any game, on any other night, any of at least three appeals would have been given, and Chelsea can feel justifiably hard done by, even enraged, at the injustice. Chelsea

Four penalty appeals and a funeral: Florent Malouda is held back by Daniel Alves

Despite that, their behaviour in the closing stages and after the final whistle was unacceptable.

Chelsea's players will regret their antics towards the referee, especially Ballack, whose aggressive chasing on the pitch of the official may lead to a rebuke from UEFA. Didier Drogba also went wild after the game and was screaming into the cameras.

He was booked and will also find himself with explaining to do.

UEFA will not accept such behaviour in a showpiece game. Some Chelsea players seemed to lose control.

Norwegian official Tom Henning Ovrebo, who did not have the best of games, will send through his report and UEFA will react accordingly.

Expect some bans that will run into next season.


A string of missed penalties: Chelsea striker Didier Drogba goes down under
Yaya Toure’s challenge

It was a bad end to a miserable night which should have seen Chelsea heading for Rome.

They had some good fortune when Eric Abidal was caught out by Nicolas Anelka's acceleration on the blind side and, although it looked as though the striker had been tripped by his France team-mate, replays suggested otherwise.


Three and easy: The referee has a clear sight of Gerard Pique's handball from Nicolas Anelka’s flick - but fails to award a decisive penalty kick

Yaya Toure might have got round on the cover, too, also raising questions as to whether Abidal was the last man.

Abidal - like Manchester United midfielder Darren Fletcher - will miss the final after his red card. Daniel Alves collected a yellow and he, too, will be banned after his second such offence.


Four and out: Michael Ballack’s late shot is blocked by the arm of Samuel Eto’o

Chelsea's Alex would also have been suspended, although that doesn't matter now.

Chelsea are out and, before Drogba blames the official too much, he might remember the chance he missed at 1-0.

Everyone makes mistakes.

Guus Hiddink Backs Chelsea's Furious Players After Barcelona 'Injustice'

Guus was far from pleased after Chelsea's dramatic Champions League tumble...

CL: Michael Ballack - Tom Ovrebo, Chelsea - Barcelona (PA)
Guus Hiddink just about managed to keep his emotions in check after seeing his Chelsea side eliminated from Europe by a late Andres Iniesta stunner.

Michael Essien's early goal looked to be taking the west London side to the Champions League final until the death, when the Spanish side, by then reduced to ten men, found a late away goal.

However, the real talking points of the game were the four or so penalty appeals which Hiddink's troops saw waved away by Norweigian referee Tom Henning Ovrebo.

Didier Drogba described the outcome on camera at full-time as "a ******* disgrace." His gaffer didn't go that far, but he was nevertheless far from impressed.

"I'm still very disappointed," Hiddink said to Sky Sports after spending a long time with his players. "It's not easy to analyse the game when the adrenaline is running.

"Regarding the appeals, I won't say what we really feel, but it's an injustice. [Gerard] Pique and [Samuel] Eto'o shouldn't have had their arms up.

"It's sad to see. There's situations like Drogba, who was having his shirt pulled, and Malouda, who was grabbed inside the box [by Dani Alves allegedly]. It's also a penalty.

"It's not just one doubtful call. Ask the people who put the referee in charge of this game [about it]."

Chelsea did have other chances, though, and Barcelona's Eric Abidal was sent off, despite making minimal contact as he chased Nicolas Anelka.

"The red card? It was difficult," Hiddink admitted.

"We should have scored from open situations, too."

Ending with a word about the furious conduct of the likes of Drogba and Michael Ballack at the end of the contest, the Dutchman added, "I can fully understand [their reaction] in the emotion of the game. I thank my players for this emotion."

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Chelsea The Best Bet Of The Big Four To Win The Champions League

English Angle: Chelsea The Best Bet Of The Big Four To Win The Champions League
This weekend's action saw four more wins for for the Prem's finest and revealed why the Blues are the best bet to stop Barca winning in Rome, according to's Sulmaan Ahmad

Manchester United Another routine dose of Premier League conformity saw a thrashing, two comebacks - one being closer than the other - and a whirlwind start followed by a capitulation that almost threatened the game's result, but didn't.The big four all reached their destination, by one route or another, while the chasing duo squared off and shared three goals each; each giving their all and in doing so, essentially ruling themselves out of contention for Champions League football next season. Europa League, here they come.Meanwhile, the frail-looking four turn their attentions back to the big time. Three of them undershot in the first leg and their collective dominance is now already under scrutiny. They barely got past their domestic opposition at the weekend - with the exception of the team who have the least hope in Europe - and with every passing day, Barcelona are looking more and more like potential winners.But then, it's never that simple. As good as Barca might be, their chances of winning the trophy can never be greater than 50 per cent and when observing their hypothetical route to the final, it becomes increasingly obvious that if anybody is going to stop them, at this stage it looks far more likely than not that it will be a Prem side.Looking towards Barcelona, from this weekend's action we can at least surmise that Liverpool don't rely on Steven Gerrard quite as much as people think they do. Both Javier Mascherano and Fernando Torres have become more key components in the setup - speaking from a strictly tactical perspective - and that every now and again, the Reds really can dominate a game.It doesn't happen often and, unfortunately, it only seems to happen too late in the day, but what it did show is that if Liverpool make it past Chelsea, they have all the ingredients to be the most likely to eliminate Barcelona as well.Their problem is that they're as good as out already. We all remember what happened in Istanbul, we all remember that Hiddink, in charge of Russia, lost by three clear goals twice to Spain at Euro 2008 and yes, we all remember the Blues shipping three at home against Bolton, because it was two days ago.Three factors here are key:1) This is a two-legged tie, unlike the 2005 Champions League final, and the time between each 'half' to reassess, reorganise, re-energise allows them to head out at Stamford Bridge with a Guus-crafted seventeen-prong gameplan allowing for every eventuality to ensure that, above all else, they do not lose the tie. They will not lose the tie.2) On top of that, the gulf in class between Spain and Russia is far more discernible than that between Chelsea and Liverpool - that is to say if there is a gulf at all.And 3) Yes, they did ship three in nine minutes against Bolton at the Bridge in their own little Istanbul moment, but they were already winning by four and had taken off their key players ahead of Tuesday's showdown. Liverpool not only need to score three but to win by two - and that will only get them extra time.So based on the assumption that Chelsea and Barcelona do what they should do, they will square off in their first ever semi-final. This clash has become a classic, second only to Chelsea-Liverpool in recent years. But this time, there will be no Mourinho, Rijkaard or Ronaldinho. Both sides are mostly the same, but that little bit different.If Barcelona make it to the final, it would take a brave man to bet against them winning it. They already monopolised possession and chances against Man United last year, and that was in the middle of a slump - just imagine what they could do now. Arsenal don't have the resilience they did in 2006, and while they would most likely have the added bonus of their goalkeeper not getting sent off in the early stages, this would be unlikely to affect the outcome when they face a team like their own, but stronger - literally, as well as in terms of the quality they possess.What Fergie and Wenger's men lack is the midfield strength of the Blues - and that could be key to cutting through Barcelona and exposing their less than perfect defence.There of course remains the small matter of fact that should the Blues even manage to overthrow Barca - not to say that they will, but they are the most likely - they will then have to contest a final. What makes them the favourites to win that?They will certainly feel as though they have a score to settle after last year's heartbreak. Drogba in particular, will look to erase the memory of the one big game in which he has not only failed to perform but as good as sealed his side's exit with his late sending off. Guus Hiddink will be a man under no pressure whatsoever, much like Luis Aragones with Spain, knowing that he is already leaving. And lastly, the fact they will have just beaten Barcelona to get to Rome is bound to unearth an insecurity or two in the likes of United, Arsenal or even Porto, with Villarreal highly unlikely to make it to the semis with their injury and consistency afflictions, never mind the final.We cannot underestimate the capabilities of Arsenal on their day, particularly as they now have fourth place sewn up in the league and are unlikely to care too greatly about the FA Cup. And United, of course, even when they look flimsy, can turn out a result like the best of them. It's Chelsea who are peaking at the right point to succeed in the pressure cooker environment of Champions League football.What may motivate them most of all is that this really could be their last chance for a couple of years, as a new cycle beckons, with no Hiddink in the picture and it may - not will, but may - take time to get back here again.

Sulmaan Ahmad,

Essien - All about the team
Blues midfielder happy to play anywhere for Hiddink

Michael Essien insists he is willing to do any job asked of him by Chelsea manager Guus Hiddink.
The powerhouse midfielder caught the eye with an exemplary man-marking job on Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard in last week's 3-1 win at Anfield in the first leg of the UEFA Champions League quarter-final.
Essien reined in his natural box-to-box instincts to keep Gerrard quiet after making an impressive return from a knee injury.
He scored against Juventus in the previous round of the Champions League on his first start back, but Essien insists the team's performance is always the priority.
"Everybody said I must have been very happy with the goal, but for me, it is all about the team work," said Essien.
"We did a good job in Turin and it was a very positive result, so that is what is most important. I don't play for myself, I play for the team.
"I'd describe myself as a box-to-box midfielder, but I'll always respect the manager's decision, wherever I'm picked to play.
"Against Juventus it was a tactical move to put me on the right to try to stop the runs of Pavel Nedved.
"I always listen to the manager and I just go onto the field for every game and do what he asks me to do. So I don't really mind where I play as long as I'm out there doing a job for the team and the manager."
Hiddink is in charge of Chelsea until the end of the season and Essien admits the players are keen to send the Dutchman on his way with a trophy.
"He knows how to talk to his players and he has his own style which is very different to the others I've played for here," revealed Essien.
"Hopefully we can win something for him before he leaves. But we'll see what happens, We've got some really big games coming up that aren't going to be easy.
"We'll just have to try our best and make sure we win those games.

Hiddink demands correct attitude
First leg result: Liverpool 1-3 Chelsea Uefa Champions League, Quarter-final second leg Venue: Stamford Bridge

Guus Hiddink is wary of the threat Liverpool present
Guus Hiddink has demanded Chelsea's players put his summer exit out of their minds when they face Liverpool in the Champions League on Tuesday.
The Dutchman said: "If the players are underperforming because the manager is leaving at the end of the season, it's not the right professional attitude.
"We're very sharp on that attitude. Even though I'm not here next year, they have to respond.
"If they don't, they're not equipped to be at a big club."
On Monday, the day before the quarter-final second leg against Liverpool, Chelsea confirmed Hiddink would leave the club and return to a full-time role with Russia at the end of the season.
Chelsea won the first leg 3-1 at Anfield but they go into the game on the back of conceding three late goals in their 4-3 win against Bolton on Saturday.

"Going 4-0 up against Bolton and then conceding as we did was like an alarm clock ringing for this upcoming game," Hiddink added.
"We should have controlled the last part of the game. We can concede one, but that one alarm bell should be enough.
"We've prepared very seriously for Liverpool. A lot of people have said that if you win an away game in Europe like we did, then you won't have any concerns for the second leg. But we're not thinking like that.
"Liverpool are a very good team who play beautiful football and we're very aware of that. There is no reason to have complacency against any team, but especially Liverpool with what they have done in the past."

Chelsea v Liverpool: Rafa: 'We must use lessons of Istanbul'

Liverpool have nothing to lose and maybe even a Premier League to win, as they travel to Stamford Bridge tonight.
That was the message from boss Rafa Benitez yesterday, as he insisted that the Champions League showdown with Chelsea could offer a springboard towards glory.
The Spanish coach accepts that the odds are stacked against his side as they try to reverse a devastating 3-1 setback from the first leg of the quarter-final.
But Benitez believes his team can now go out and play without pressure, express themselves and show the sort of pride that could provide a lift in the remaining weeks of the season.
With Liverpool needing to score at least three times to reach a semi-final against Barcelona, Benitez has called on his players to summon up the spirit of Istanbul where his side fought back from 3-0 down to win the European Cup against AC Milan four years ago.
Guus Hiddink’s team will be without their captain John Terry who is suspended, and after conceding three goals in seven minutes to Bolton on Saturday, the Blues may have doubts lingering at the back of their minds.
“If we do get through, then it would be fantastic for the fans and for the club, and it is a good message for the players to use the lessons of Istanbul,” said Benitez. “That showed anything is possible. And Chelsea will be confident after beating us...and that could just be dangerous for them, you never know.
“In football, it is always dangerous to believe you have the job done when it isn’t. When you have conceded three goals in your last game, as Chelsea did, then clearly you are a little nervous, and there may just be some doubt in their mind.”
Benitez has his own doubts over the game, most particularly in whether to risk skipper Steven Gerrard for a tie his side most probably now can’t win.
The midfielder has responded to treatment on a groin injury, but even though he is desperate to play, he isn’t fully fit, and the manager knows his presence would be a risk, given that the league title is also at stake.
“He wants to play, that is clear, and if he is available then we would want him from the start, because it is a risk with an injury like that to come on cold as a substitute with a different type of warm-up,” explained Benitez.
“But we will have to see. He has played before with this injury, but now we need people who are 100 per cent fit. It is not a massive would be a calculated one, because we could lose the player for 10 to 15 days if he breaks down.”

Chelsea v Liverpool: Guus lays down law: ‘History tells us if we take Reds for granted we’re in big trouble’

Guus Hiddink last night laid down the law for his Chelsea side as he told them: “You must NEVER underestimate Liverpool.”
Chelsea run out against Rafa Benitez’s Reds as odds-on favourites to complete their passage to a fifth Champions League semi-final in six years after their Anfield masterclass.
Champions League history makes even grimmer reading for the Merseysiders, with 24 of the 25 sides who have lost the home first leg in the competition having been eliminated.
Yet, as Hiddink ordered his men to go for the jugular again and not give Liverpool even a glimmer of hope of a momentous comeback, the Dutchman admitted Benitez’s team are the one side in Europe you cannot afford to write off.
Hiddink said: “There is no room for complacency, whatever the team you are playing against.
“But when you are playing Liverpool, especially with what they did in the past, you know you cannot have any at all.
“I don’t like to depend on luck. It gives you an excuse most of the time and we’ve prepared very seriously.
“A lot of people have said that if you win an away game in Europe like we did, you won’t have any concerns for the second game.
“But we’re not thinking like that and we must not think like that. Liverpool are a very good team who play beautiful football, and we’re very aware of that.”
Fernando Torres scored against Chelsea to take last season’s semi-final meeting into extra-time and also opened the scoring last week before Branislav Ivanovic’s set-piece threat and Didier Drogba’s super finish put the Blues in control.
And while Hiddink hopes Michael Essien can again bottle up Steven Gerrard, he thinks keeping Torres under wraps is the key to progress.

Steven Gerrard injury boost for Liverpool

Steven Gerrard is set to be fit in time for Liverpool's Champions League clash with Chelsea tomorrow night according to boss Rafa Benitez.
Gerrard has been struggling with a groin injury, but Benitez today revealed his captain was responding well to treatment ahead of the crunch match at Stamford Bridge.
"Steven is getting better, he has been working with the physio and will train later today," he said.
"We will then discuss the situation with the doctors, but Steven will travel with the party to London and I will make a decision tomorrow".

"We are 3-1 down and we know that everything can change if we have Steven in the side and he plays well."
The Reds will also have midfielder Javier Mascherano back from suspension, while Chelsea will be without captain John Terry, who is banned after being booked during the Blues' 3-1 first-leg victory at Anfield.
Jose Bosingwa remains a doubt for the Blues with a hamstring injury.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Chelsea Hiddink Plans And International Week

National service leaves Premier League bosses with a nervy wait and deserted training pitches

There will certainly be some empty training grounds among the Barclays Premier League clubs this week.

With players on international duty in all corners of the globe, the top-flight managers have 10 days of fretting to ensure their boys come back wrapped in cotton wool.

Manchester City have the most players on international duty (18), but United, Chelsea and Arsenal are not far behind with 16 or 17 players from each club representing their countries.

Liverpool have released half of the Spain team and there's a large French contingent leaving the Emirates, while Bolton provide the only representative from Oman and a Portsmouth player is the sole Canadian.

From Ecuador to Egypt and Switzerland to Slovakia there will be Premier League players busting a gut for their national team.

Sportsmail looks at the men who are swapping their day jobs for some international jet-setting.

Arsenal (17)

Emmanuel Adebayor (Togo)

Andrey Arshavin (Russia)

Abou Diaby (France)

Eduardo (Croatia)

Kieran Gibbs (Eng U21)

Bacary Sagna (France)

Carlos Vela (Mexico)

Nicklas Bendtner (Den)

Johann Djourou (Swi)

Lukasz Fabianski (Poland)

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From Russia with love and hopefully no injuries: Gunners star Arshavin

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Forward thinking: Heskey's hard work is key for England

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john terry

Natural leaders: Ballack left) and Terry wear the armbands on international duty

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Spain gain: Torres downed Germany in the final of Euro 2008

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robinho and elano

Samba stars: Brazil hero Kaka, a Manchester City target in January, with Eastlands regulars Elano (left) and Robinho (right)

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Scot the lot: Fletcher has had a fine season with Manchester United

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Safe hands: James

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Tall order: Peter Crouch

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alan hutton

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By the Croat: Modric

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Chelsea face up to life without Hiddink as plans are made for next season


Time is running out: Blues can't wait for Hiddink

Chelsea chairman Bruce Buck insists the club have started planning for next season without Guus Hiddink because they can't afford to wait until November to see if he can become their permanent manager.

Hiddink, who is also coach of Russia, took over in February on the proviso he would only stay until the end of the season.

The 62-year-old has made a big impact at Stamford Bridge, but is determined to help Russia qualify for next year's World Cup.

He revealed last week he has a clause in his Russia contract which could see him leave in November should they fail to qualify and will meet officials in Moscow tomorrow (Wednesday) to discuss the situation.

But Buck said: 'The situation is the same as it was when he came. We are planning on that basis.'

Forget Liverpool - Hiddink is already planning a last hurrah with Chelsea in Rome Euro final

Guus Hiddink has brushed off Liverpool's Champions League challenge by insisting he expects Chelsea to overcome the Reds and reach the final in Rome.

Guus Hiddink

Final countdown: Guus Hiddink intends to be in May's Champions League final

The Dutchman admits he was heartbroken that his team lost at Tottenham and is now focusing on European glory after conceding the Barclays Premier League title appeared to be out of reach.

Hiddink reiterated the official line that he will leave Chelsea to resume full control of Russia at the end of the season, though he intends to go out on a high.

'It's true that many people have urged me to stay on at Chelsea,' he told Russian newspaper Sovetksi Sport. 'I'm tired of repeating the same thing over and over.

'But the situation has not changed; I will leave Chelsea in May. I intend that this is very late in the month - after the match in Rome.'

With Liverpool firmly embroiled in the fight for the Premier League title following Manchester United's back-to-back defeats, Chelsea hope the Reds will be distracted when they meet in the Champions League quarter-final over two legs next month.

The winners face Barcelona or Bayern Munich in the last four, but Hiddink will be able to give plenty of attention to the European assault after admitting that Saturday's 1-0 defeat at White Hart Lane had left them with little hope of winning the league.

Luka Modric

Heart-breaking: Luka Modric fires through a crowd of players to score for Tottenham against Chelsea on Saturday

'My heart is full of bitterness and sorrow,' he said of defeat to Spurs. 'Chelsea missed a great chance to catch up with Manchester United.

'Neither Liverpool nor Chelsea can now make the slightest mistake. Liverpool can take advantage and we, unfortunately, can't.'

He said the title race was continuing, but admitted: 'We still need to win all our remaining matches. As you can see, this will be quite difficult.'

Hiddink, preparing his Russia squad for World Cup qualifiers against Azerbaijan and Liechtenstein, said he would leave the national team post in the autumn if they failed to qualify for South Africa 2010.

But he insisted this did not have a bearing on his future in England. 'We will do everything - and even more - to qualify for the World Cup,' he said.

'But if not, the (Russian Football Union) will certainly want to find new strategies for the development of football in the country. And for that they need other people, not me. In that situation, I am ready to leave in November.'

Chelsea striker Nicolas Anelka an injury doubt for Champions League clashes with Liverpool

Injury concern: Nicolas Anelka could miss Chelsea's Champions League quarter-final ties against Liverpool

Injury concern: Nicolas Anelka could miss Chelsea's Champions League quarter-final ties against Liverpool

Nicolas Anelka is a major doubt for the first leg of Chelsea's Champions League quarter-final against Liverpool after aggravating his fractured big toe in the defeat against Tottenham on Saturday.

Anelka has withdrawn from the France squad for the World Cup qualification double-header against Lithuania.

A statement on the French FA website claimed Anelka would be out for three weeks, meaning Chelsea's top scorer could also miss the second leg against Liverpool.

However, Chelsea medical staff are hopeful Anelka is set for a shorter lay-off.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Latest Chelsea News

Bosingwa remains upbeat

Blues ace sets sights on silverware

Bosingwa Jose

Bosingwa: Trophy dreams

Jose Bosingwa envisages Chelsea will enjoy a successful climax to the 2008/09 campaign.

The Blues remain in the hunt for Premier League and UEFA Champions League glory and are desperate to avoid ending a second consecutive season empty-handed.

Sitting four points behind league leaders Manchester United, albeit having played a game more than their rivals, the Blues appear well placed to launch a title tilt.

They have also progressed safely through to the quarter-finals of Europe's premier club competition and will be looking to go one better than last season's runners-up spot.

Bosingwa is confident Chelsea will get their hands on at least one piece of silverware this term, with the Portuguese full-back believing the club have found form at just the right time.

"After recent results, the spirit in the squad has risen and we are playing much better," he told the Portuguese media.

"The mentality of the squad has changed and that is partially due to the arrival of (Guus) Hiddink.


"We now use a different system and have improved as an attacking force.

"The return of (Didier) Drogba to top form is also crucial for us. I think he is very happy at the moment and that is positive for us. He is one of the best strikers in Europe and his quality is unquestionable."

Bosingwa admits the club's disappointing start to the season under former boss Luiz Felipe Scolari affected team morale, but is confident Hiddink can bring the good times back to Stamford Bridge.

"Although it was sad, what happened under Scolari, that is all in the past now," he added.

"Our only interest now is to play well for Hiddink and to do our best in all competitions.

"A club like Chelsea is built to compete at the latter stages of competitions like the Champions League."

Juve ready to go with £11m Flo

TURNAROUND ... Florent Malouda

MALOUDA ... wanted in Italy

JUVENTUS are preparing an £11million summer bid for Chelsea star Florent Malouda.

The Italian giants will swoop for the French international midfielder after making contact with his representatives.

Juve have targeted Malouda after Czech Republic legend Pavel Nedved, 36, announced last month he will retire at the end of this season.

A top source at the Turin club said: “We have been looking at a number of options and Malouda is very high on this list.

“Let’s see what happens at the end of the season.”

Malouda, 28, was set to stay on at Chelsea under old boss Big Phil Scolari but is now considering his options.

The France winger is close pals with striker Didier Drogba, whose Blues future is also in question.

Since new Chelsea gaffer Guus Hiddink took charge in February, Malouda has only started two games.

He moved to Stamford Bridge from Lyon for £13.5million in July 2007 but has only shown glimpses of his talent.

Flo: Michael is Essential for us

Michael Essien

COMEBACK KING ... Michael Essien

FLORENT MALOUDA has backed Michael Essien to propel Chelsea to glory.

Ghana star Essien helped Chelsea to regain second place in the Premier League with a first-half winner against Manchester City on Sunday.

The victory was their fourth straight win under coach Guus Hiddink.

And France winger Malouda believes Essien's return has given the Blues a huge boost.

Malouda said: "He can make the difference.

"We are still trying to win three titles so we know that we will have a lot of games.

"Michael has that spirit, he has worked a lot to come back.

"I hope he will keep on scoring, help the strikers to score and improve our game.

"It's really important for us to see that after those months he spent working every day, to come back and be fit again is good.

"You can see his energy, his spirit and commitment to the team.

"He helps the game for the strikers because he keeps on running, gives good balls and yesterday he scored.

"He has a positive attitude and he gives a lot to the team.

"When you spend five months injured, you want to prove that the time you spent on the sidelines is not lost time.

"He will help all the players in the squad."

Malouda was also delighted to see Liverpool beat leaders Manchester United.

He added: "There is a big hope for us because of the result on Saturday.

"That victory will give hope to the other teams that play United because even if we win all our games we have to hope they fail and lose points."

Deco KO blow hits Blues bid

RETURN ... Deco was back in action against Manchester City

RETURN ... Deco was back in action against Manchester City

DECO could be out for the rest of the season with a niggling hamstring injury.

The Chelsea ace has been troubled by the problem for the last two months and was substituted in the first-half against Manchester City today.

He was making his first start since January and Hiddink thinks it is very doubtful that Deco will return this term.

Hiddink said: "He was fit and worked hard, but after 20 or 25 minutes he had this problem again, so he will be out again for a while.

"I think Deco will not be recovered very shortly.

"He'll have to be very fit to come back this season.

"I have my doubts to be honest but let's see what happens."



Deco could have played his last game for Chelsea with Atletico Madrid lining up a £5m summer move.

The 31-year-old midfielder picked up a hamstring injury at the weekend which could see him ruled out for the rest of the season.

But La Liga high-flyers Atletico want to take former Barcelona star Deco back to Spain.

Deco only arrived at Stamford Bridge in the summer in an £8m move from the Nou Camp as Big Phil Scolari’s main signing.

But the Portugal international has struggled with both fitness and form.

Atletico’s sport director Jesus Garcia Pitarch is believed to have already spoken to Deco’s agent Jorge Mendes according to sources in Spain.

It is unlikely, however, that any decision will be taken by Chelsea to sell the player until the summer because of the speculation over who will become their next permanent manager.

Guus Hiddink still maintains that he will not carry on beyond the end of the season due to his commitment to the Russian national team.

But Roman Abramovich is likely to cut his losses on the ageing midfielder, given that Chelsea hope to raise any transfer funds from players sold at the end of the season.

The player himself is eager to get back from injury before May to try to have a say in the final stages of the season.

Barcelona defender Dani Alves insists he will not be leaving the club this summer despite reports linking him to Chelsea.

You'll never buy John Terry

LOYAL ... Guus Hiddink reckons Terry will be a Blue 'forever'

LOYAL ... Guus Hiddink reckons Terry will be a Blue 'forever'

MOST things in football can be bought — including clubs, players and loyalty.

But according to Guus Hiddink, John Terry is the exception to the rule.

The Chelsea captain is coveted by mega-rich Manchester City but JT’s love for his club is stronger than the lure of big bucks.

And it is his emotional attachment with the Blues which will see him end his career where he started it.

City, managed by Mark Hughes, made an enquiry for the England skipper last December but it was rejected out of hand by Chelsea.

And new Stamford Bridge boss Hiddink does not believe they are in danger of losing their on-field leader. He said: “I’m not in a position to talk about City’s enquiry but John made a very clear statement — that he is a Chelsea man and wants to stay a Chelsea man.

“I’m not the money man but the club made it very clear that they want to continue ‘forever’ with John.

“Some players are brought up within this club so it would be difficult to see him leave. There’s also a kind of history with him.”

But Chelsea were more than happy to accept around £20million from Sparky’s City side for Shaun Wright-Phillips and Wayne Bridge. Since last summer, Blues owner Roman Abramovich has become an interested spectator as the Arab billionaires in charge at Eastlands have become the new Chelsea.

City outbid Red Rom to bag Robinho for £32.5m from Real Madrid last August and followed that up with an unsuccessful world-record £105m bid for Milan’s Kaka.

But Hiddink voiced his discomfort at astronomical bids for players.

The Dutch gaffer said: “I’m rather amateur in this. Then you go to a philosophical approach — is a human being worth £1 or £200m to perform?

“Is it worth spending that money? Some people might think so but I don’t have the right answer on that.

“With people who invest money in the clubs, of course it’s a decision. But I don’t care if it’s £100m or £10m.

“If I can have good players then the next step is whether the other management think it’s responsible to invest so much.

“Yes, it’s immoral but where are the boundaries? Is it £10m or £100m? It’s difficult to say.”

Hiddink is considering resting defender Alex for tomorrow’s lunchtime match and starting with the fit-again Ricardo Carvalho.

By then, Chelsea will know the result of today’s titanic showdown between Manchester United and Liverpool so will know what they must do to stay in the title battle.

Terry: Forget about it, City

BLUE SUNDAY .... John Terry celebrates after Michael Essien scored against Manchester City

BLUE SUNDAY .... John Terry celebrates after Michael Essien scored against Manchester City

JOHN TERRY has told Manchester City to forget about signing him.

The Chelsea and England skipper insists he wants to spend the rest of his career at Stamford Bridge.

Terry, who was linked with a big-money move to Eastlands, said: "I can't ever see myself leaving Chelsea - I love this club.

"I've been here since the age of 14 and I never want to leave.

"I've done a statement because there was some speculation a few months ago and that's what I'm putting in it - I never want to leave Chelsea football club, simple as that."

Chelsea starlet offered tempting proposition

Chelsea starlet offered tempting proposition

Liverpool and Manchester City are both monitoring Chelsea’s exciting defensive prospect Michael Mancienne and could move for the under-21 international in the summer, according to The Times.

The 21-year-old, who spent the first half of the season on loan at Wolves, has seen his star rise this term and was even the subject of a surprise call-up to the England squad at the end of last year.

The youngster is expected to begin contract negotiations at Stamford Bridge at the end of the season but having failed to secure regular first team football ahead of established figures such as John Terry, Ricardo Carvalho and Alex, the suggestion is that he could find his head turned by other offers.

Manchester City in particular would have the financial power to make an attractive offer to Roman Abramovich and with other a proven track record of givin young English defenders a chance at the highest level they represent a tempting and exciting project to join.

Drogba rules out Manchester City move

Didier Drogba will not be joining Manchester City Football Club in the summer.

The Ivorian striker is out of contract at the end of next season and has been linked with a move to City, but he insists his immediate future is at Stamford Bridge.

“The only thing I can say about my commitment is that nobody can question it. Not even the Chelsea fans,” Drogba told Setanta Sports.

“They cannot complain about my commitment. Sometimes as a man you take decisions or say things that turn out to be mistakes.

Arsenal boss Wenger backing Tottenham to beat Chelsea

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger believes Tottenham could end Chelsea's title bid this weekend.

He told “I watched the [Villa v Spurs] game. When you are in a position where you absolutely have to win the game it makes the game more difficult. When you are 1-0 down that becomes even more difficult.

“Spurs are a good team, they have shown that they can beat anybody in the league on their day. I feel they are improving as a team and that’s why they can make it difficult and I think they have a chance against Chelsea on Saturday."

“As a human being we make mistakes and sometimes you have to apologise. But I’ve said before I will honour my contract and I will stick to my word.

“I am very happy at Chelsea right now.”

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

~ Essien Earn Praises All Around, Deco Out Of The Season, Drogba Fit For Spurs And Chelsea Back In Title Race ~


Posted on: Mon 16 Mar 2009

After half-a-year hidden away in the rehabilitation rooms and gyms of Cobham, you can't keep Michael Essien out of the spotlight. John Terry has been quick to hail the return of a player he describes as a 'machine'.

Against Juventus five days earlier, Essien's goal had been the outstanding moment from his first start since reconstructive knee ligament surgery. Against Man City on Sunday there was much more - a full 90 minutes, chances created by defence-splitting passes, scoring attempts with shots and headers, plus of course the winning goal.

'Only Michael could do that,' announced Terry after the 1-0 win. 'Only he could come back and after two games have scored two goals and play as well as he has been.

'After so long out you think it would take three or four games to find his feet but he is an absolute machine. You see him working his socks off for six months in the gym and it pays dividends. He is brilliant and it is great to have him back.'

Terry's fellow centre-back Ricardo Carvalho was another playing his first 90 minutes since injury, although the latest of his lay-offs was five months shorter than Essien.

'We are both fit at the same time and Essien is very important for us. He showed in this game he has got a great quality and he fights every time,' said the Portuguese defender, joining in with the praise for his team-mate.

'I've been out too long but I am happy to be back now. We have been having good results every match so everyone is more happy and when it is like that, it is easy to come back.

Man City home

'We are playing as a team and when we do we have quality in our squad and we can win our games.'

For players like Essien and Carvalho, their return comes at a time when eyes are still fixed firmly on silverware, even if the Barclays Premier League trophy is eyed-up with realistic caution, the weekend's events still leaving Man United four points ahead with a game in hand.

'We have still got three competitions and for the Champions League and the FA Cup we must look for ourselves,' says Carvalho, 'but the Premier League we have to wait for Man United to drop points so it is more difficult, but still possible.'

'We have still got to win all our games to push them right to the end,' adds Terry.

'We have shown our strength and character in the last month and if we keep doing that, we can apply some pressure to them. If they slip up, they know we are coming up behind them.

'Since the new manager has come in here we have played very well and got the right results. He has changed a few things, given a few of us a kick up the backside which I think we needed.

'Man United have good players but after a big defeat like they had this weekend, you never know how they are going to react. Hopefully they are going to go on a bad run but the main thing for us to do is keep winning and applying the pressure,'

Finally, Sunday's game against Man City, the club that put in an enquiry about buying Terry late last year, led to the subject being raised once more. Guus Hiddink in his short time here has seen a one-club man in the captain and said so on Friday.

'I can't ever see myself leaving Chelsea Football Club,' Terry now reiterates.

'I love this club, I have been here since the age of 14 and I made a statement because of speculation a few months ago and that has still not put an end to it. I never want to leave Chelsea Football Club, as simple as that.'

Chelsea's Frank Lampard is a credit to himself and his profession

Frank Lampard, Chelsea (Getty)

You can argue with someone, but still recognise their qualities. You can reject what they represent, but respect their achievements.

So here goes. Frank Lampard is a credit to himself and his profession. He deserves the serenity he seems to crave.

He will welcome the diversion of the billionaires’ bunfight at Stamford Bridge this afternoon. For an all-too-brief period it will all make sense.

Lampard will be in his element, finding refuge in the eye of the storm that passes as a Premier League match. The release of Manchester City’s visit will be fleeting, reassuringly familiar.

It will not matter that his personal life is the subject of a million water-cooler moments. He will be absorbed in the emotional ebb and flow of a game watched by millions from Abu Dhabi to Zanzibar.

Regular readers may remember we have previous. Lampard took exception to my damning comparison between his contract demands and the rewards of NHS staff.

You don’t get far in my game if you betray confidences, and it would be unforgivable to go into detail.

Suffice to say a long, occasionally loud, conversation followed which ranged from definitions of greed, through the pain of loss, to the importance of allegiance.

As he has subsequently admitted, he was on the ragged edge at the time, mourning his mother. The world has moved on, without minimising his sense of grief.

The recession has become a depression. A seat at a football match is in imminent danger of being a luxury item.

City’s Arab owners have cheapened themselves, and their pet “project”, by accelerating football’s insane inflationary spiral.

It’s still impossible to justify Lampard’s £39.2million deal, but that’s positively frugal compared to the ransoms being offered to Kaka & Co.

Those contracts have too many inducements, too few performance clauses.

Lampard, at least, gives everything of himself. His form has been the most constant factor in another comic strip season at Chelsea.

Were it not for the remarkable longevity and winning personality of Ryan Giggs, he would be a persuasive candidate for Footballer of the Year. The numbers – 67 England caps, 125 goals in 411 Chelsea appearances – don’t add up if they are the only things by which Lampard is judged.

The composure with which he accepted his absurd dismissal at Anfield earlier this season was especially impressive. It hinted at hidden virtues and values.

Guus Hiddink, his latest manager, has an instinct for influence, an eye for individuals to whom lesser characters gravitate.

Hiddink quickly understands the culture of a team he inherits. He dissects a dressing room, mentally separates the sheep from the stronger beasts.

He saw, instantly, that Lampard and John Terry were central figures. They’re more subtle than shop stewards. They’re leaders, lobbyists. Smooth operators.

That, of course, would be irrelevant if their performances did not match their political acumen. They deliver.

Lampard, in particular, has always made the most of his talent. It is the fluff of fame that irritates.

Footballers are accustomed to apologists. Somewhere, in the transition from promising player to global star, most of them lose a little of their humanity.

It is no surprise they become self-absorbed. As one respected coach advised last week: “To understand footballers you have to study what has shaped them.

“They’re conditioned to being cynical. The game teaches them no one else looks after them. They spend their lives in constant competition.

“They’re either looking to get someone’s job, or to protect themselves against the kid who wants their place. They can’t stand still.”

He wasn’t being specific, but the summary rang true.

Run, Frankie, run.


Posted on: Mon 16 Mar 2009

There was no need to beware the Ides of March this year as one midfielder did his talking on the pitch and one from the past did his off it.

If Michael Essien's first 90 minutes back surpassed expectations it is only because those expectations didn't take into account everything already known about our midfield powerhouse.

The biggest surprise about the Ghanaian's season is that his body was capable of succumbing to injury in the first place. When in the first 10 minutes on Sunday he surged through the centre in possession like a rugby league star in full flight, it was clear that the force was once again with him.

During 65 minutes play away at Juventus, his passing understandably lacked sharpness and precision but on the second of his early advances against Man City, Essien played one of the balls of the game, working a long pass through two tight markers to the feet of Didier Drogba.

Vision on the ball may not generally be talked about as one of the player's key strengths but his pass to pick out Drogba again immediately after the interval, when only an expertly-timed Nedum Onuoha tackle prevented a goal, would have made Frank Lampard proud had he supplied it. Essien was also heavily involved in a great combination of passes that so nearly played Lampard through in the early stages.

No-one is pretending the timing was right on the goal (although good reactions were needed to make any sort of contact on the swivel) and his strike on 30 minutes was hooked wide, so perhaps the shooting is yet to come. however a second-half piledriver on the run went a lot closer and sure enough, who was it still carrying the attack to Man City by charging up the pitch in the 88th minute?

Matching Essien for moments of individual dominance this Sunday lunchtime was John Terry with his one-man salvage operation just before half-time. That was after Stephen Ireland had played the ball past him to Felipe Caicedo. The skipper also took over when City went aerial as the game drew on. It's little wonder the visitors took until the 82nd minute for a shot that dirtied Petr Cech's gloves.

Following the game Man City manager Mark Hughes spoke of leggy players, Chelsea's success in preventing his forwards making an impact and a difference in preparation time as robbing his side of its spark, handing the headline writers their words on a plate.

And he may have had a fair point, with City playing Thursday then Sunday compared with our Tuesday- Sunday. However the Chelsea team had been away in Europe, traditionally considered a wrecker of form the following weekend. Man City had played at home.

So far this season the squad has done relatively well after Champions League away trips with three out of the four games that followed won, including the impressive home victory over Aston Villa.

The home defeat by Arsenal following the draw in Bordeaux was the one failure, although our record matches Man United after Euro aways. They also lost to Arsenal following a game in Glasgow but won the other three, if a penalty shoot-out win in the Carling Cup Final is included.

After the Whistle caught up with a midfielder from Chelsea's past following the weekend game.

Craig Burley is likely to be seen with his false front teeth in these days, unlike his time on the pitch in blue. That's because the former Scotland international is now a major part of Setanta's Barclays Premier League coverage, the reason he was watching Chelsea's fourth straight league win.

'Obviously the title race door's been opened a bit by the Man United-Liverpool result so it was up to Chelsea to go and make the most of that, which they did,' Burley told us.

'I was quite pleased with their football at times, in patches they showed some good stuff, but at times I thought they were back to the Chelsea we'd become accustomed to which is a little bit ponderous.

'Having Essien back was obviously a huge bonus. His drive was belying somebody who has been out of the game for so long. Superhuman is the wrong word but it almost goes beyond the reality of being out for that amount of time to be able to produce that level of performance for that long.

'I was pleased to see Drogba having some nice touches and showing a completely different body language to when Scolari was here. HHe looks as if he's in a different mindset now and that can only be good for the run-in.'

Making sure Chelsea legs don't go before the end of the season will be part of the Hiddink plan although in his Friday press conference, there was a small but interesting insight into the temporary coaches thinking on this.

Rotating en masse to give rest is not something he especially believes in he stated. However players will be switched to make sure those not match-fit are in the best shape should they be the best option for future games.

By selecting Michael Ballack rather than John Mikel Obi as the anchor midfielder on Sunday, Hiddink showed that position is no longer a straight choice between the young Nigerian (who was missing from a league starting line-up for the first time since August) and Essien, or possibly Juliano Belletti in some circumstances.

And with an unshackled Essien showing what he can bring to the party, it is hard to imagine he won't be bombing forward with Lampard again in the coming months.

After a run of Nicolas Anelka on the left of a front three, Hiddink also showed the Frenchman can be used on the right of Drogba, where he and José Bosingwa left Robinho in the shade until Deco's injury sent Anelka back over to the left.

Following Claude Makelele's surprise drop-in on training at the Bridge recently, another back-to-back title winner came to see old friends this weekend. Having played and scored for Real Madrid on Saturday night, the winger was in London in time for our game.


Posted on: Mon 16 Mar 2009

Guus Hiddink praised Michael Essien's influence after the midfielder's goalscoring league return, while also ruling Deco out for some time.

Essien was making his first league appearance since August, while Deco, who had not started himself since January, limped off towards the end of the first half with more hamstring trouble.

Temporary coach Hiddink is expecting to be without the Portuguese playmaker for some time, and possibly until the end of the season. He did though report that Didier Drogba's injury which forced him off is not serious.

'He was fit, he worked hard the last weeks and played his games. After 20, 25 minutes he got his problem again and I think he will be out for a while,' was the verdict on Deco.

'That's a pity, I think when he starts now he has to be very long and intense after his recovery medically to be very fit, so I have my doubts to be honest [about the rest of the season] but let's see in the upcoming time.

'On the other hand it was good to see Essien, Carvalho playing for 90 minutes, although Alex did very well in recent games but I want to have Carvalho game fit for the upcoming time.

'Drogba I think is not a big problem, I think he likes to be with the team, he likes to play, he likes to train so I think he will be recovered very soon. I think tomorrow or the day after he will be okay.'

Hiddink believes there is still room for improvement in his side's displays, despite six wins from seven games.

'We make decent games, we can improve, today we didn't materialise the game, we didn't come under threat from City because we were solid defensively,' he analysed.

'I would have liked it much more if we could finish it off in the first half. If we could score a second goal I think it could be a 4-0 game, but that's the only thing.

'We had some good play, some good attacks but at the end we have to finish it off. That's the only thing we can be critical of, not to finish.'

It was the first time Essien has played 90 minutes since returning from his cruciate ligament injury, and his impact could not have been greater with a superbly taken first half goal.

'For the team and for the crowd it's very important that he came back after a long period of recovery and I think we played him already at Juve when he did a good job, not just by scoring. Today being in the team gives us a lot of confidence and that's good to see,' Hiddink said.

'I knew him before and he is very strong and gives a lot to the team. He gives me options to play differently with other players as well and that's good because when we go to the end of the season in three competitions we need a lot of players, so when he is available it is perfect.'

The win puts us within four points of Manchester United at the top of the table, and Hiddink admits the door is now slightly more open after their defeat to Liverpool on Saturday.

'I think every now and then you get a defeat which you don't expect. All of a sudden it happens, but on the other hand it is a very experienced team, and let's see how they react in the upcoming days but it is not the first time it happens and big teams always react,' he said of United.

'Four points - I think you have to add the one game as well. If it were four points it would be very close but they have that game in hand. It is clear after yesterday's unexpected result the attention has come back in the league.

'If we want to track them then we have to keep on winning which we are doing, and we must give attention to the end of the league.'

The Dutchman rejected suggestions that he will need to be ready to enter into mind games with Sir Alex Ferguson and Rafael Benitez.

'It is not a battle between the managers at the end, it is a battle between the players. They are both very experienced, Rafael is very experienced, Sir Alex is very experienced, let me as a schoolboy chase them,' he joked. 'There is no battle between managers, it is the players.'

Chelsea's Frank Arnesen to go for Frank Rijkaard

Frank Arnesen is to become the Godfather of Chelsea - making Frank Rijkaard a red-hot tip to be the next boss.

Arnesen will be promoted to director of football by Roman Abramovich and given a major say on appointing the next manager - with Guus Hiddink insisting he WILL go back to managing the Russian national team.

And that makes Dutch legend Rijkaard, out of work since leaving Barcelona a year ago, a big favourite for the Blues hot-seat ahead of AC Milan chief Carlo Ancelotti.

Insiders reveal that Arnesen was pushing for Rijkaard when Avram Grant left last summer, but the Dut chman wanted a year-long break from the game.

Arnesen wanted to team up with Rijkaard a year ago before Luiz Felipe Scolari came in and Hiddink had to rescue their season.

Arnesen went to Chelsea from Tottenham in a controversial move and has progressed behind the scenes from chief scout to the director who looks after their expensive youth programme.

But now Abramovich and his aides have reviewed the set-up and decided to promote Arnesen to an even more senior position that will see him have a large input in signings and finding a new boss.

Abramov i ch has listened to several people after a tough year at Stamford Bridge and he has now opted to back Arnesen - with some other noses likely to be pushed out of joint.

The former Spurs coach is rated highly and will have a new contract out of this shake-up.

Some had tipped him to go during a recent period of cutbacks and checks on the progress of the club's young signings that he had overseen.

Lyon eye up potential Benzema swap deals

French international striker Karim Benzema is fully expected to be the subject of an intense bidding war when the transfer window opens in the summer and with Lyon looking ready to do business with Europe’s top clubs, including Chelsea, Manchester United, Juventus, Barcelona and Real Madird it is thought that the saga could drag on for months. The latest round of speculation hints at potential swap deals involving attacking talents from the ranks of two potential Benzema suitors as the French champions look to lessen the blow of losing their prized asset.

Having revealed at the weekend that France and Juventus striker David Trezeguet was a target for Lyon, club chairman Jean Michel Aulas had pulses racing in the Italian media with several reports claiming the French side might do business with the Old Lady for Benzema.

“We wanted him two-and-a-half years ago," Aulas told Tuttosport.

"That is no secret, even if at the end of the day nothing came of it. Could we bring Trezeguet to Lyon now?

"I haven't spoken to our coach about it, nor to Juve, but we do like the player. He is an extraordinary marksman, but we have Benzema..."

Two weeks ago reports emanating from Spain hinted that Barcelona could also lure Lyon to sell Benzema by offering one of their youngest talents. El Mundo Deportivo claimed that 18-year-old Bojan Krkic, who scored twice for the Nou Camp outfit last night, was looking for a move away from Spain and could be ready-made-replacement for Lyon’s 21-year-old.

Chelsea coaching offer for PSG's Makelele

Chelsea want to bring PSG midfielder Claude Makelele back to Stamford Bridge.

The Blues want Makelele, 36, to return in a coaching and ambassadorial role.

Club officials have already sounded out Makelele and his advisers about it.

Cole: Essien absence cost us six points

Joe Cole told Setanta that Chelsea could be right on Manchester United's case had Michael Essien been fit all year.

A ruptured anterior cruciate ligament sustained in early September meant that Luiz Felipe Scolari and then Guus Hiddink were shorn of Essien’s services until his return to duty against Coventry in this month’s FA Cup quarter final.

What a return it has proved to be. Essien has started the next two games and scored twice in the process, receiving particularly widespread acclaim for his performance against Manchester City on Sunday.

Speaking in the aftermath of that game, Cole, himself out with a similar injury until at least pre-season, felt it impossible to underplay the impact the Ghana midfielder has on The Blues.

“It’s so difficult, I’m so pleased with him because we’ve got the same injury,” he told Setanta Sports 1. “To see him go out there and perform like he has, not just today but in the week in Turin [against Juventus], he was different class.

“You know how hard you’ve got to work as a footballer to get back from an injury like this. For him to perform like this is a credit to himself and the medical team.

“What we’ve missed is that little bit of pace in the midfield this year. We’ve been talking about getting tight to teams but he’s breaking up the play, he’s linking the play – he does a bit of everything. Any team would miss him, he’s our engine room.

“We’ve struggled with injuries but that’s no excuse – we’ve got the squad to deal with it. We’ve got players like Ballack, Deco, Lampard and Mikel. These are four world-class midfielders.

“But Essien would have made a difference. With him in the squad maybe we’d have had an extra five or six points.”

Liverpool's surprise 4-1 win at Old Trafford on Saturday lunchtime means that they and Chelsea are four points adrift of United having both played a game more.

English Angle: Michael Essien - One Big Player, But An Even Bigger Headache For Chelsea

The Blues are looking a much better side with their all-action midfielder back in the mix, but his presence will pose a few problems to some of his team-mates in the long-term...

EPL: Michael Essien, Chelsea v Manchester City (PA)
As Chelsea cut through Manchester City time and time again with the whole of Stamford Bridge behind them, there were more than a few echoes of the opening day of the season. Portsmouth were the victims that sunny afternoon in August, with the final score of 4-0 not in any way flattering the Blues in Luiz Felipe Scolari's first league game in charge.

They had the solidity through the middle that has been the cornerstone of their success since Jose Mourinho took charge, but on top of that was the guile of Deco and the freedom afforded to flying full-backs Jose Bosingwa and Ashley Cole. There was inspiration and flair, yet they looked as unbreakable as ever in defence - they had everything.

It was a Brazilian formula for success from one of the most successful Brazilian bosses of all time, but it had its limitations. There is a reason Deco only cost €10 million from Barcelona. For all his skill and pedigree, he has passed his peak and cannot consistently compete at the highest level anymore. The full-backs, though flying, were always restrained to a degree, knowing that the likes of Frank Lampard and Michael Ballack would never provide genuine defensive cover. This limited the width and pace that they could offer, a fact exacerbated further by the lack of speed in midfield.

Scolari soon realised he didn't quite have the squad he thought he did - to assert that Robinho would have solved all their problems would be absurd - and as the blues set in at the Bridge, it was time to for Scolari to get on out.

Guus Hiddink has taken temporary charge and had a similar galvanising effect on the players, so far, and with his introduction have come a few more minor innovations. The return of Michael Essien is, as they say, 'like a new signing'. He is the new Deco. Just as Deco gave Chelsea what they needed in August, Essien is giving them what they need in March. But what was the case then remains so now: it is one central player too many for a team desperately wanting for width.

The difference is that the Ghanaian has the years ahead of him to be the best for the long haul and is a man around whom the Blues should consider building their team, providing they embrace him for the player that he is and play to his strengths. Essien can defend very well - having played at right- and centre-back during his time in west London - but he is at his best breaking from midfield and making an irrepressible nuisance of himself to opposing defences. He and Didier Drogba's interplay split City over and over throughout the game; it was like nothing we had seen all season from anyone besides perhaps Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard - why would any manager in their right mind want to put an end to it by trying to make Essien, or Ballack for that matter, the new Makelele? It worked against Man City - so did Deco against Portsmouth - but such a system will be exposed over time, if for no other reason than neither Essien nor Ballack were required to do any defending at all. Against better teams, the Blues won't have that luxury.

While it is true that not every team needs a specialist defensive midfielder - the English, European and world champions certainly don't - with the likes of Lampard and Ballack on board as potential partners for Essien, Chelsea definitely do. Essien is not the new Makelele. Chelsea had the new Makelele, but they sold him to Arsenal, who sold him to Portsmouth, who were recently more or less forced into selling him to Real Madrid, where Makelele became a brand unto himself and defined his own 'Makelele' position to begin with (thus completing the circle of life). To build a new-look Blues, they will need a new, new Makelele. Is it Jon Obi Mikel? Many have had their doubts due to his failure to perform in the big games and Ballack doesn't have enough years left in him to be considered the 'new' anything.

For all Essien's exuberance, his inclusion as the all-conquering midfield general, along with the new Makelele, leaves only a single place in the line-up for one of Lampard, Ballack or Deco in attacking midfield. Wingers must still remain a priority at the Bridge though, as the diamond midfield formation is highly unlikely to stand the test of time in the Premier League.

Deco may have the most skill and Ballack may be the best all-rounder (at least on paper), but one thing is definite: 'Super Goals' has become the heartbeat of Chelsea. He has earned primacy in his position, and the fact he has had to share it in recent times has only limited and inhibited his ability to make champions out of Chelsea. The problem this decision poses is tempering two tremendous egos who will no longer be regulars - to sell one of them would probably be best for the squad to avoid a situation such as the one that faced Scolari in his last days; having more 'big' players than he knew how to handle.

Chelsea are an old team. Mourinho built for the now and was never one particularly concerned by youth development. The more he became disenchanted by the ever-tightening grip of Abramovich's iron fist, the less motivated he was to even try and effect change. First Hiddink, then Drogba and now Essien have finally reminded us just how special some parts of this Chelsea side can still be, but big changes are needed this summer. Out with the old, in with the Blue.

Chelsea boss Hiddink allays Drogba injury fears

Chelsea boss Guus Hiddink insists Didier Drogba is okay after suffering a knee strain during their victory over Manchester City.

Drogba was substituted with a knee injury, but Hiddink insists that he will be fit to face Tottenham at White Hart Lane next Saturday.

Hiddink said: "Drogba I think is not a big problem, I think he likes to be with the team, he likes to play, he likes to train so I think he will be recovered very soon. I think tomorrow or the day after he will be okay."

Deco blow for Hiddink

Portuguese midfielder suffers hamstring injury

Guus Hiddink led Chelsea to a 1-0 win over Manchester City on Sunday, but saw Deco hobble out of the action.

A solitary strike from Michael Essien was enough to keep the Blues in the title race as they reclaimed second spot in the Premier League standings.

However, the victory was soured by an injury to Portuguese playmaker Deco.

He was forced from the field four minutes before half-time after suffering a recurrence of a hamstring problem and could be sidelined for the remainder of the season.

"I think he will be out for a while," Hiddink said.

"He was fit and has been working hard but got the same problem again."

Asked whether Deco would recover before the end of the season, the Dutch coach said: "I have my doubts but let's see."

The injury blow aside, Hiddink was otherwise delighted to take three points from the City clash.


Chelsea now sit four points behind league leaders Manchester United, with all to play for between now and the end of the season.

"If it was just four points it would be very close, but they have that game in hand," he said.

"But it's clear that after yesterday's unexpected result (United's 4-1 defeat to Liverpool) that the tension has come back in the league.

"It's a boost. But if we want to track them, we have to keep on winning. That'll give tension to the end of the season, which is good for everyone.

"Every now and then you get a defeat you don't expect. Sometimes you don't expect it at home because you have a beautiful record, then all of a sudden it happens.

"But they're a very experienced team. Let's see how they react in the up-coming days. It's not the first time that it's happened, but the big teams always react.

"I don't know what their reaction will be. When you are in the driver's seat and someone else is coming, you can get a little bit nervous. It is a little bit open now."

Chelsea - Drogba Fit for Spurs!
Chelsea - Drogba Fit for Spurs!
The sight of Didier Drogba limping off the pitch, against Manchester City, gave everyone cause for concern yesterday.

Thankfully, it appears that the injury isn`t serious and that Didier Drogba will be fit enough to play against Tottenham Hotspur next Saturday.

In his after-match press conference Guus Hiddink remarked,

'Drogba I think is not a big problem, I think he likes to be with the team, he likes to play, he likes to train so I think he will be recovered very soon.'

"I think tomorrow or the day after he will be okay.'

Start panicking Ledley King and Jonathan Woodgate, the Drogster is coming!