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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Cristiano Ronaldo confident United will finish off Inter, Unhappy Hiddink As Chelsea Perform Below Par In A 1 - 0 Victory Over Juventus

Unhappy coach Hiddink lays into underachieving Chelsea stars

Guus Hiddink tore into his underachieving Chelsea stars after they scraped a 1-0 win over Juventus in the Champions League.

Didier Drogba's 12th-minute strike put Chelsea in command of the first leg of this first knockout round tie at Stamford Bridge but they were unable to press home their advantage and will travel to Turin in two weeks time defending a narrow advantage.

Former Chelsea manager Claudio Ranieri and current boss Guus Hiddink watch on at Stamford Bridge

The old and the new: Former Chelsea manager Claudio Ranieri and current boss Guus Hiddink watch on at Stamford Bridge

Hiddink was furious that his Chelsea side were unable to break Juve's resistance after Drogba had put them ahead.

The Dutch coach, who has now won his two games in charge of Chelsea 1-0 following the win at Aston Villa, said: 'I am satisfied that we won but overall I am not satisfied with the performance.

'We started well but after the goal we dropped off too far and we were too anxious. Juventus dominated the second half but did not create any danger.

'The tie is evenly balanced but I'm pleased we kept a clean sheet.

'I was not happy with the functionality of the team but we will improve it.'

Didier Drogba

Jumping for joy: Didier Drogba celebrates his superb goal with a giant leap

Hiddink also confirmed that the players he has inherited from Luiz Felipe Scolari are not fit enough to play top-level football and admitted his team tired in the second half against former Chelsea boss Ranieri's ageing Italian team.

Hiddink added: 'They are not at tip-top physical level. They are at a high level of fitness but not near the top for games like this. It is something we will work on.'

Ranieri was greeted by a standing ovation by the Chelsea fans who protested his removal five years ago and despite his team's second-half efforts, that was the highlight of his evening.

'I was extremely happy because it shows that they haven't forgotten me,' said Ranieri.

'People tend to forget very quickly, so I'd like to thank them.'

Source - DailyMail

Frank Lampard praises Chelsea's rearguard action

Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard highlighted the importance of not conceding an away goal after the 1-0 win over Juventus in the first leg of the Champions League last 16.

Didier Drogba scored the only goal in the first half of a closely-fought tie at Stamford Bridge, giving the Blues the upper hand going into the second leg in Turin in a fortnight.

"We created enough chances to score more but it's very important we keep a clean sheet at home,'' Lampard told Sky Sports.

"Juve are a top team. We're past the group stages now and any team you play are going to cause you problems.

"But it's good we didn't concede and we have the chance to go there and cause them some problems.

"It wasn't the best performance over the 90 minutes but it was a big performance and a big result.

"There were patches where we played well. We started very well but at times we maybe sat off a little bit.''

Drogba insisted his timely return to form was not down to new boss Guus Hiddink taking over from Luiz Felipe Scolari.

"No, no, I don't think it's because of a change of manager,'' he said.

"We did our best. It was a difficult game and we created chances to score more but it's a good result.

"We need to improve a lot of things but it's good for the team that we have players who can make a difference and score goals.''

Hiddink was not totally satisfied despite the win, although he accepted Juventus did not make it easy for his team.

"We started very well and for the first 20 minutes we were pressing well and scored a very good goal,'' said the Dutch coach.

"We should have scored at least one more to give ourselves a bit of a breather because, let's be honest, in the last period of the game we suffered a lot.

"What I like and what I think we still have to work on a lot is to have more control even in these tough games.

"It's not an easy team to play against, Juventus. They can play very well in between your defensive and midfield line. So it's very difficult to play them.

"But, nevertheless, we should have controlled more and that's what I didn't like about the last part of the game.''

Jose Mourinho: Rearguard action was a necessary tactic

Jose Mourinho has revealed he had to play a rearguard action against Manchester United at the San Siro to protect his team from conceding a crucial away goals.

Jose Mourinho celebrates FC Porto's infamous victory at Old Trafford in 2004.

Inter Milan and United are locked at 0-0 after the first leg of their Round of 16 tie, and Mourinho now believes he will be able to continue his fine run of form against Sir Alex Ferguson which has resulted in just one defeat in 13 matches.

The Portuguese coach knows that any goal Inter can muster at Old Trafford will be worth double should the teams finish level meaning his side would then progress on away goals.

With United able to play with pace and power, Mourinho chose to play a containing game in the first half which only just came to fruition as the visitors dominated.

Mourinho will hope Inter can emulate his FC Porto side and knock Manchester United out on their own turf.

"They are a very quick team and we don't have these characteristics,'' he explained. "The only reason I lost only once against Manchester United is that I understood this immediately.

"If they had scored in the first half, the situation would have been harder for us and, for this, it is not an easy decision to make to sit deep and try to block them.''

Mourinho apologised to his team's fans for the fact the game ended goalless, but he still thinks they will thank him in the long run for not going gung-ho against the Red Devils.

And he seems to have got the hang of the tactical dependency of Italian football.

"It is a shame for the fans who have come here and seen a 0-0, but it was still a high quality game,'' he said. "If we had played further up the field, then it gives us more options in attack, but it leaves us more room behind.

"They are quick on the wing, but then so too are (Davide) Santon and Maicon, who are truly fast.

"Is it better to have (Sulley) Muntari and (Javier) Zanetti covering for them or pressing (Darren) Fletcher a bit higher up the field? It is not an easy game, but it is a beautiful one.''

Meanwhile, UEFA is considering disciplinary action against Mourinho after his post-match allegations of refereeing bias.

"We are looking into the comments along with our disciplinary department," a spokesman for European soccer's governing body said on Wednesday.

Following the first knockout round, first leg encounter, Mourinho said he was unhappy with Spanish referee Luis Medina Catalejo particularly over his dismissal of a penalty claim by Inter striker Adriano.

"If we have a referee that gives the same protection to the away team (at Old Trafford), we will go into the quarter-final," Mourinho told reporters.

Cristiano Ronaldo confident United will finish off Inter

Manchester United winger Cristiano Ronaldo has insisted the club are on track for the Champions League quarter-finals after being held to a 0-0 draw by Inter Milan in the San Siro.

The Portuguese star insisted that United were the better team and have what it takes to finish off the job back at Old Trafford in two weeks' time.

"We played better than Inter last night,'' said Ronaldo. "We created more chances, especially in the first half, and we deserved to win. At home I feel we have a better chance.

"I don't know whether Inter will be a better team in Manchester. We respect them but in my opinion we have a better chance at Old Trafford because we have a better team.''

Ronaldo was not too down heartened despite finding goalkeeper Julio Cesar in top form.

"It is not a concern, it happens sometimes,'' he said. "Their goalkeeper made so many great saves but overall it was a fantastic performance. The lads were brilliant and I am very proud to have been part of a team that played like that.

"I know we didn't score but if we play like that in the second leg, I think we will win.''

Source - Soccernet

Madrid caught by Benayoun sucker punch

Wednesday 25 February 2009
Match report by Chris Burke from Santiago Bernabéu
Yossi Benayoun heads in the winner
Yossi Benayoun heads in the winner (©Getty Images)

Liverpool FC hold the whip hand in this tie after Yossi Benayoun secured the Premier League side a famous 1-0 victory at the Santiago Bernabéu, leaving Real Madrid CF with it all to do if they are to seize a UEFA Champions League quarter-final berth at Anfield on 10 March.

Tense encounter
Benayoun decided a tense first leg with a header after 82 minutes, rising unmarked to direct Fábio Aurélio's free-kick past Iker Casillas. It capped a resilient performance from Rafael Benítez's charges, who began the game a little wastefully but grew in confidence as the clock ran down.

Gerrard absence
Steven Gerrard's absence from the Liverpool starting lineup undoubtedly gave Madrid a pre-match boost. The sizzling atmosphere cannot have hurt either as the men in white made early inroads. An Arjen Robben through ball almost led to an opening goal after five minutes and, although Pepe Reina denied Raúl González, an early pattern had emerged. Madrid were dominating possession and hunting down openings, while the visitors lost the ball too easily and looked increasingly resigned to a night of defending.

Liverpool chances
When a first chance did arise for the Reds, it sprung from a lapse at the back, the Madrid defensive line failing to intercept a long clearance towards Fernando Torres, who strode forward and forced Casillas into a fine reaction save from close range. The Spain goalkeeper was called into action shortly afterwards too, as Benayoun collected another long pass down the right and tried, unsuccessfully, to beat him with a lob.

Those counterpunches restored some balance before Madrid had the ball in the net with half an hour gone, only for Gonzalo Higuaín's header to be disallowed for offside. Marcelo and Robben then fired wide, as did Higuaín following a surging run, yet Liverpool's dogged tackling kept them competitive and Reina did the rest, showing good reflexes to deny Robben via Albert Riera's outstretched leg. Closing out the half, Xabi Alonso tested Casillas from within his own half to restate the visitors' attacking threat.

Robben danger
The Liverpool midfielder was less accurate from significantly closer when he tried his luck again after the restart, with Madrid's own No14, the fit-again Guti, now on in place of Marcelo. Robben shifted to the left to accommodate the newcomer, but the winger continued to enjoy a free role and shot wide from the right. Both coaches had predicted a tight affair and they were being proved right, with neither team able to establish genuine supremacy as time ticked down. In terms of individuals, Robben remained the danger man for the hosts and Benayoun made some good runs for Liverpool, with Torres subdued after receiving a knock and eventually replaced by Ryan Babel.

Benayoun goal
The greater urgency unsurprisingly belonged to Madrid, eager to build a first-leg lead, but after yet another Robben effort – the Dutchman unleashing a powerful strike that Reina tipped over – Benayoun had the final, and potentially decisive, word. The entrance of Gerrard at the end merely capped a memorable night for the noisy travelling supporters, although Riera will be suspended for the second leg.

Source -

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Running scared: United will not be able to look us in the eye, goads Jose

Jose Mourinho renewed his rivalry with Sir Alex Ferguson by declaring that Manchester United will not have the nerve to go ‘eye to eye’ and attack Inter Milan in the San Siro tonight.

Mourinho and Ferguson come face to face for the 13th time with the United manager having won just two of the pair’s previous 12 meetings — one of those on penalties.

And former Chelsea and Porto boss Mourinho lit the touch paper ahead of what should be a titanic Champions League last 16 tie by predicting United will change their attacking style to try and avoid first-leg defeat.

Mourinho, nine points clear in Serie A and confident enough to name his Inter team in front of the English media, said: ‘I don’t think they are coming here to play eye to eye, to try to win the game here.

Warming to the task: Rio Ferdinand (centre) and the rest of Manchester United's stars looked anything but frightened as they jogged around the San Siro Stadium in training ahead of tonight's clash with Jose Mourinho's men

Warming to the task: Rio Ferdinand (centre) and the rest of Manchester United's stars looked anything but frightened as they jogged around the San Siro Stadium in training ahead of tonight's clash with Jose Mourinho's men

‘I have paid great attention to every match in the previous year in the Champions League. Man United changed. They will go to this game with a different approach to normal.

‘I know Sir Alex doesn’t like the word — and a team like Man United doesn’t like the word — so I’m not saying they are afraid of us. But they respect us. They know they can lose.’

Confident: Mourinho is convinced his Inter Milan side can knock out Champions League holders United

Confident: Mourinho is convinced his Inter Milan side can knock out Champions League holders United

Ferguson laughed and smiled through his own press conference, amused by Mourinho’s familiar display of bullishness. He admitted that the Portuguese coach was right in one way, confirming that he will meddle with United’s usual formation.

It is expected that Wayne Rooney will play on the left of a five-man midfield, with Dimitar Berbatov operating as a lone striker. But the United manager was also happy to hit back at the Inter coach and predicted an away goal for United that will ensure they go through when the teams reconvene at Old Trafford next month.

Ferguson said: ‘I am sure that Jose has seen us enough to know that we will try to win the game. That won’t change.

‘There could possibly be one positional change, but other than that we will play the same way as we do in the Premier League. I am basing my tactics on the way they will play and I am hopeful and confident that we will be able to impose ourselves on them. I’m told that Jose thinks the game will go to extra-time when we get to Old Trafford, but I don’t.’

Attacking intent: Ferguson claims his side will aim to win in th San Siro

Attacking intent: Ferguson claims his side will aim for victory in the San Siro

United arrived in Milan yesterday beset with injury problems in defence, a situation reminiscent of the time they came to this stadium to face AC Milan without key men two years ago and were hammered 3-0.

With Nemanja Vidic suspended and Gary Neville, Wes Brown and Rafael Da Silva injured, United also have doubts over Jonny Evans and John O’Shea.

Injury doubt: Ferguson hopes O'Shea (left) will be fit, while Rooney (right) may play in midfield

Injury doubt: Ferguson hopes O'Shea (left) will be fit, while Rooney (right) may play in midfield

Last night, O’Shea trained with his team-mates while Evans looked on from the sidelines, suggesting that the former will partner Rio Ferdinand in the centre of defence while Darren Fletcher will fill in at right-back.

However, it is understood that Evans has a much better chance than Ferguson has suggested of shrugging off his ankle injury. Inter are missing Argentina defender Walter Samuel, the only key player unavailable.

Ferguson added: ‘We do have some major problems and if neither O’Shea nor Evans make it then it will be time to panic.

‘They are both big concerns for me but we have to accept that one or both might be missing and get on with it. The crowd and the atmosphere will help our players, I am sure of that and we have come a long way since a couple of years ago.’

Mourinho has always been more than comfortable facing Ferguson since the day in 2004 when his Porto team shocked United at Old Trafford by knocking them out at this stage, 3-2 on aggregate, after a late goal.

Ferguson, for his part, claimed not to be bothered about his record against Mourinho.

‘He came to England saying he was the Special One and it galvanised Chelsea,’ he reflected. ‘They caught us on the hop at the time. But I don’t worry about the record. If I had lost them all, maybe I would worry.’

The United players were watched last night by their former club-mate David Beckham as they trained and the current AC Milan star may even be in the visiting end with his father, Ted.

Possible Line-Up

INTER MILAN (4-4-2): Julio Cesar; Maicon, Cordoba, Chivu, Santon; Zanetti, Cambiasso, Stankovic, Muntari; Adriano, Ibrahimovic.

MAN UTD (4-3-2-1): Van der Sar; O’Shea, Ferdinand, Evans, Evra; Ronaldo, Carrick, Scholes; Giggs, Rooney; Berbatov.

Ref: Luis Medina Cantalejo (Sp).

The winner takes all? Mourinho and Ferguson prepare to lock horns again in Europe

Such is his respect and admiration for Sir Alex Ferguson, Jose Mourinho stopped short of naming Manchester United's team yesterday. It was a tactic he so memorably employed when he arrived at Barcelona as Chelsea manager, predicting Frank Rijkaard's starting line-up as well as revealing his own in what amounted to a wonderful piece of theatre.

But there is a mutual appreciation between the Special One and the knighted one and Mourinho resisted the temptation to be quite that provocative on this occasion.

Sir Alex Ferguson and Jose Mourinho

Tonight, however, is a game Mourinho desperately wants to win. He spoke at Inter Milan's picturesque training ground of his desire to 'celebrate a victory against the European champions in 15 days' but it is so much more than that. It is the chance to conquer the club that conquered the club that kicked him out of English football 18 months ago. The opportunity to remind Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich exactly what he is missing. 'It's nothing special,' said Mourinho. Oh yes it is.

It was why he went as close as he was going to get to taunting Ferguson and his players, declaring that United undergo something of a transformation when visiting the bigger European sides. He said they are cautious rather than cavalier and while he made a point of saying they were not 'afraid' of such ties, he as good as said they were. In English, Italian and Portuguese. Ferguson would no doubt agree that Mourinho can be a cunning linguist.

He is a performer. He once referred to his encounters with the media as 'the salt and pepper of his day' and he was eager to entertain his audience yesterday. First came the looks of utter boredom during the press conference Javier Zanetti gave prior to his, then the histrionics when the interpreter misquoted him.

In his carefully prepared words, though, came the real magic. 'I have paid great attention to every match in the previous year in the Champions League,' said Mourinho. 'Man United changed.

Jose Mourinho

Same old Jose: Inter Milan coach Jose Mourinho was in good form during his media conference ahead of the Champions League clash against Manchester United on Tuesday night.

'Remember the way they played against Barcelona, for example. They go to this game with a different approach. I know Sir Alex doesn't like the word and a team like Man United doesn't like the word, so I'm not saying they are afraid of us, but they respect us.

'They know they can lose. Because of that, I don't believe they will come here with the same approach they have in the Premiership. I know that. They will change more than us. We will play the same way we do in our championship. We will play 4-4-2. We will play with Adriano and Ibrahimovic up front, with four at the back and a diamond in midfield. We have no fear to say that in midfield we will play Muntari, Stankovic, Cambiasso and Zanetti. At left back we will play the 18-year-old, Davide Santon.

'We have no fear to admit this is how we will play. Man United will not play like they do in the Premier League with Ronaldo, Tevez, Berbatov and Rooney. They will go with Scholes, Carrick, Giggs, Park, more defensive. I don't think they are coming here to play eye to eye, to try to win the game here.'

Ferguson responded as Mourinho suspected he would. With a smile, a knowing laugh and a warning. So Mourinho thinks the tie could take '210 minutes'. Ferguson replied by suggesting it would be all but over after 90 minutes of enthralling battle at the San Siro this evening. 'We'll just have to wait and see,' he said.

Mourinho does have a point about last season's game at the Nou Camp and even Ferguson admitted he had 'one slight modification' in mind for this contest. A move away, one would assume, from 4-4-2 to a 4-3-2-1 formation that sees Berbatov deployed as a lone striker with Wayne Rooney to his left and Cristiano Ronaldo to his right. Not a bad team, but not as aggressive as it could be.

Not that anyone should be surprised. Mourinho is the only manager in world football whose record against Ferguson reflects so badly on the Scot. Six wins and just two defeats in his 12 meetings, first with Porto and then Chelsea.

Ferguson acknowledged as much at the San Siro, again out of respect for his opponent. But there was a quiet confidence about Ferguson, perhaps because he knows he has the better team.

Sir Alex Ferguson

Relaxed mood: United boss Sir Alex Ferguson could also afford a smile as he faced the press in Milan.

While Inter Milan are nine points clear at the summit of Serie A, it is not the league it used to be. It lacks the quality of England and Spain and cannot claim to have the world's finest player, whatever Mourinho thinks. Mourinho declared Zlatan Ibrahimovic would soon follow Ronaldo in winning the Ballon d'Or and FIFA's World Player of the Year award. Let's just say you have to admire Mourinho for trying to inspire confidence.

To the suggestion that Italian football is now inferior to a league which has occupied three of the four semi-final spots in the Champions League for the last two seasons, Mourinho went on the defensive.

'Different competition,' he said. 'You can't say one is better than the other. The game in England is more emotional. It is beautiful and open, with an incredible atmosphere. But from a technical point of view, here it is stronger.

'We were happy with the draw and for me it is very easy to prepare for the game from a psychological point of view. I don't need to motivate the players. Everything is there. The smell of the game is in the air, the adrenaline is in the air. The job for me is easy in that respect. We know they are a tough opponent but I'm 100 per cent sure that they know they have a tough job.

'They are the champions. We respect that but we will see if they are the best. I'm not speaking in a negative way about them. Never, never. I'm speaking positively about them and they are really top, with a top manager. But I am calm in my mind. I'm confident and ready.

'You know the way I am. I started with a small team and worked my way up. I have my way of managing. I live very closely with my players. I believe 100 per cent in them. I know for many years that Inter did not win the big cups in Europe. Milan and Juventus have had a lot of success. But tomorrow is what counts. The past is a museum. It might be a beautiful museum, but it is no more than that.

'Ferguson has had great glories in the past, won so much, but what is important is what you do today and what is coming up.'

And then, a final word of warning. 'Anything can happen in these games,' he said. 'In 2004 Man United went out to a young Porto team and nobody would have bet a euro on that.'

Now what made him think of that?

Mourinho v Manchester United

Ronaldo insists Manchester United must 'kill or be killed' against Inter Milan

Ronaldo said: 'They are a team we have to respect. They are a very good side who lead the Italian league by a lot of points so we must be very careful.

'It's time to kill - or be killed.'

Ronaldo hopes to repeat last year's Champions League success

Unique feeling: Ronaldo hopes to repeat last year's Champions League success

No team have ever retained the Champions League but Ronaldo aims to help United create history after the shootout victory over Chelsea in last year's final.

The World Player of the Year said: 'The feeling of the Champions League is unique.

'When you hear the music and you come out onto the pitch it's a completely different game and atmosphere to the others.

'The emotion of winning my first Champions League medal was spectacular. When [Edwin] van der Sar stopped [Nicolas] Anelka's penalty it was like the earth stood still.

'I hope to repeat that feeling very soon.'

Manchester United winger Cristiano Ronaldo emphasised the importance of tomorrow's Champions League tie against Inter Milan - 'it's kill or be killed.'

The knockout stage begins this week with the holders and Barclays Premier League leaders United up against a team on course to win their fourth consecutive Serie A title.

The mind games between Sir Alex Ferguson and Jose Mourinho will provide a fascinating sideshow to what many see as the tie of the round.

Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo

Ready to rumble: Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo hopes to take his goal-scoring form into this week's Champions League clash against Inter Milan at the San Siro

Remember me? I knocked United out in 2004 and I'll do it again with Inter, goads mischievous Mourinho

Jose Mourinho today warned that he is ready to inspire the underdogs to another shock Champions League triumph over Manchester United.

The Portuguese boss was in charge of Porto when they sent United crashing out in 2004 and he is now ready to inspire Inter Milan to a place in the quarter-finals at the expense of the holders.

United face a testing first leg at the San Siro tomorrow night before the return clash at Old Trafford in a fortnight.

Jose Mourinho

Confident: Inter boss Jose Mourinho

And former Chelsea boss Mourinho has now turned up the heat before his latest showdown with United counterpart Sir Alex Ferguson.

Jose Mourinho

Party time: Mourinho celebrates at Old Trafford after Porto's win in 2004

Fergie was left reeling five years ago when Porto grabbed a late winner at Old Trafford to seal a spot in the last eight.

A suited Mourinho famously celebrated by sprinting down the touchline and sliding on his knees.

'This competition is different to the league where there are normally three or four teams who can win the competition,' said Mourinho.

'In the Champions League I think there are a minimum of 10 to 12 teams with the ambition, quality and capacity to do it.

'Inter in the past went out in the last 16 to teams like Valencia or Villarreal who they should normally be beating, but that's football.

'In 2004, Manchester United went out to a young Porto that nobody would have even bet a euro on winning and that's football.'

Mourinho went on to make a tongue-in-cheek remark over his upcoming reunion with Ferguson by claiming it will be an equal privilege for both men.

Sir Alex Ferguson

Rivalry: Sir Alex Ferguson is ready to face Mourinho

The pair tussled for the Barclays Premier League during Mourinho's time in England but Fergie's trophy haul puts his younger rival in the shade.

'From what I know of him as a coach, he has a lot of faith in himself and his
team, and rightly too,' he added.

'If I am relaxed here now, he will certainly be the same, if not more relaxed than me.

'It will be a great pleasure to meet him again and it will be the same for him. We have had a great relationship from the start built on great respect and I hope it goes on like this to the end.'

Mourinho believes the clash with United will be settled at Old Trafford next month.

Jose Mourinho

Focus: Mourinho in training today

'I have told the players that they have got to go into this tie and not be afraid of the possibility of, in 15 days, Inter being out of Champions League,' he said.

'We have got to go into this tie thinking that in 15 days probably we can celebrate that we have beaten the European champions.

'Nothing will be decided tomorrow. After the game, we will all have the feeling that there is going to be another great game at Old Trafford.

'Probably come the last minute at Old Trafford, nobody knows who is going to go through.

'I am not expecting a result tomorrow that you can say it is done, that Manchester United or Inter have done it.'

Mourinho went on to suggest United will be negative at the San Siro in an attempt to avoid defeat, while also claiming that they will not miss suspended centre-back Nemanja Vidic.

'I think United is of course a great team technically, but I watch with great attention every match in the previous season in the Champions League,' Mourinho added.

'Man Utd changed to play away from home. They are not going to come here to have fun.

'I am not saying they are afraid of us, no, but they respect us and they know that they can lose.

'They are only strong in defence because their opponents have been poor. There are teams who go to Old Trafford and do not play with much ambition. It then becomes easier for them to control the game.

'Obviously Vidic is a great player, but they have John O'Shea and Jonny Evans, who is
playing really well.

'Paul Scholes and Michael Carrick give them a lot of stability so the fact Vidic is not playing will not be a big advantage for us.'

Source - DailyMail

Beckham 'Can't Wait' For Manchester United - Inter Clash

David Beckham has spoken about his excitement ahead of his former club's Champions League tie with Inter this week.

David Beckham attended Manchester United's training session in Milan the San Siro earlier, ahead of their Champions League match-up with Inter tomorrow night, and spoke about the massive sense of anticipation he is feeling prior to the tie, even though he is not playing.

"I can't wait," the England midfielder told Manchester United's official website. "I haven't been to many United games since I left so as soon as this match was announced I looked to see if I was still going to be in Milan when it would be played.

"I'm so excited about it, but it's also a great opportunity to see the likes of Rio [Ferdinand], Wazza [Wayne Rooney] and, of course, Giggsy [Ryan Giggs] and Scholesy [Paul Scholes] who I haven't seen for a while.

It's a match between two of the biggest clubs in the world and two great teams who are both in top form, so it's got the makings of a fantastic game. Both managers are so experienced so technically and tactically I'm sure it'll be a very tight contest."

The iconic midfielder went on to reiterate his undying loyalty as a supporter of Manchester United, and expressed hopes that they could go on and capture a historic 'quadruple' of trophies.

"Oh yes, I've been a United fan all and always will be," he continued. "I've still got friends in the team who I played with at Old Trafford and still play with for England. So I always follow how they're doing.

"I really hope they'll win every one of them. It would be amazing if they could. It was a fantastic achievement when we won the Treble in '99 and for them to be involved in four competitions this season is brilliant - as a player there's nothing better than that. Hopefully they can do it."

As for the key to beating Inter, Beckham felt that it might well be to stop their deadly front two of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Adriano from performing at their best.

"Inter have got top players throughout their team, but, yes, the two forwards are the players who can cause the most problems," Beckham explained.

"But United have got great defenders and don't forget, Inter will also be worried about the players United have got in attack."

With all the talk of 'quadruples' and 'domestic clean sweeps' that's currently doing the rounds, Beckham also felt that the current United team was every beat as good as the one with which he won a famous 'treble' in 1999.

"Yes definitely," he affirmed. "It's so strong all the way through from the goalkeeper to the strikers. It's an amazing squad of players and I'm sure they'll go on to achieve great things."

Marco Materazzi And Patrick Vieira Left Out Of Inter Squad To Face Manchester United

The number 23 has not been picked by coach Jose Mourinho as a result of an ongoing problem with his thigh according to reports...

Inter defender Marco Materazzi and French midfielder Patrick Vieira will not line up against European champions Manchester United tomorrow night after being left out of the squad.

The Italian was at Appiano Gentile with the rest of the squad today, but he has failed to shake of a niggling problem to one of his thigh muscles. Vieira who came on against Bologna on Saturday has not been passed fit enough by Mourinho and he will not be risked.

Sky Sport Italia claim the Italian was sent home early as the rest of the team stayed behind to continue preparations into the afternoon. It is believed 18-year-old Davide Santon, who has been outstanding this season, will take 'Matrix's' place in defence.

Inter have released the list of 19 players who have received the nod and the wink from Mourinho.

The squad to play Manchester United in the Champions League on Tuesday night is as follows:

Goalkeepers: 1 Francesco Toldo, 12 Julio Cesar, 22 Paolo Orlandoni.

Defenders: 2 Ivan Ramiro Cordoba, 6 Maxwell, 13 Maicon, 16 Nicolas Burdisso, 24 Nelson Rivas, 26 Cristian Chivu, 39 Davide Santon.

Midfielders: 4 Javier Zanetti, 5 Dejan Stankovic, 7 Luis Figo, 19 Esteban Cambiasso, 20 Sulley Muntari.

Strikers: 8 Zlatan Ibrahimovic, 9 Julio Cruz, 10 Adriano, 45 Mario Balotelli.

The news of both absences will be welcomed by Sir Alex Ferguson's side. The Red Devils will be hoping to come away from their trip to Milan with the right result.

Champions League Preview: Inter - Manchester United

Inter are all set to lock horns with Manchester United in what promises to be an enthralling affair at the Giuseppe Meazza on Tuesday evening...

Time For The Special One To Deliver

When Jose Mourinho entered the San Siro last summer, the Portuguese tactician was under no illusion that Champions League success was pivotal to Inter patron Massimo Moratti’s decision to hire him.

‘The Special One’ is not a man inclined to feel pressure, but the ghost of ex-head coach Roberto Mancini will hang in the Milan air as Manchester United swing into town for the first leg of this second round clash of the titans.

Mancini was famously jettisoned by Moratti after gifting the Nerazzurri three Serie A titles in a row, but it was his failure to make a splash in Europe's premier club competition that sealed his fate.

Mourinho has upheld Mancini’s fortunes in Serie A, with last weekend’s 2-1 win over Bologna sending La Beneamata nine points clear of Juventus at the top of the division.

Worryingly for the Champions League winner from his days at Porto, he seems to have inherited his predecessor's luck in the Champions League.

Inter stumbled through an elementary group in the first round, drawing 3-3 with Cypriot minnows Anorthosis, and registering defeats to outsiders Werder Bremen and Panathinaikos.

A repeat of these wretched performances will blow apart Moratti’s master plan for Il Biscione to be proclaimed as the continent's finest and place an intense spotlight on the latest incumbent of his clubs hot seat.

Defensive Nightmare

Manchester United have one hand on the Premier League crown after this weekend’s events, but their grip on the Champions League trophy has diminished after a defensive injury crisis took over Old Trafford.

Last season’s double winners charged to a seven point lead at the summit of the English top flight after Liverpool’s 1-1 draw with Manchester City followed the Reds controversial 2-1 win against Blackburn Rovers.

Amidst the euphoria surrounding the Merseysiders slip up, the treatment room at United’s Carrington training base has dampened the sense of excitement.

From the moment that centre-back Jonny Evans felt a recurrence of the ankle injury that sidelined him for the majority of February, Sir Alex Ferguson knew he was in trouble for the trip to the San Siro.

Already missing the suspended Premier League’s defender of the moment Nemanja Vidic, plus the injured duo Wes Brown and Gary Neville, Ferguson was counting on the Ulsterman to contain the twin threats of Adriano and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Now, Evans and team-mate John O’Shea face a race against time to be declated match fit. Without them, the Scottish manager faces an examination of the depth of his squad as he struggles to conjure up a centre-back capable of keeping Inter’s strikers from breaking down the door.



Veteran centre-backs Walter Samuel (calf) and Marco Materazzi (knee) miss the visit of Manchester United, whilst midfielders Patrick Vieira and Luis Jimenez are also unavailable to Jose Mourinho.

Squad: Toldo, Julio Cesar, Orlandoni, Cordoba, Maxwell, Maicon, Burdisso, Rivas, Chivu, Santon, Zanetti, Stankovic, Figo, Cambiasso, Muntari, Ibrahimovic, Cruz, Adriano, Balotelli.

Possible starting XI: Julio Cesar, Maicon, Cordoba, Chivu, Santon, Zanetti, Cambiasso, Muntari, Maxwell, Ibrahimovic, Adriano.

Manchester United:

Sir Alex Ferguson is definitely without the suspended defender Nemanja Vidic, Gary Neville (illness) and Wes Brown (metatarsal). Jonny Evans (ankle) is a severe doubt, whilst John O’Shea (heel) faces a late fitness test.

Brazilian midfielder Anderson (ankle) has returned to training, whilst Owen Hargreaves (knee) is sidelined until next season.

Squad: Van der Sar, Foster, Kuszczak, Ferdinand, Evra, O'Shea, Evans, Fabio, Eckersley, Giggs, Park, Carrick, Nani, Scholes, Possebon, Gibson, Fletcher, Ronaldo, Rooney, Berbatov, Tevez, Welbeck

Possible starting XI: Van der Sar, Evra, Ferdinand, O’Shea, Rafael Da Silva, Ronaldo, Park, Fletcher, Carrick, Berbatov, Rooney.


A predator strikes when it senses weakness. For Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the prospect of facing a decimated Manchester United defence is an opportunity to be ruthlessly exploited. Ibrahimovic has been terrorising Serie A’s backlines this year in his charge to the upper regions of the scoring charts. The Swede should fill his boots again on Tuesday against the rag tag United rearguard.

Manchester United:
Never has there been a time in Rio Ferdinand’s career when he’s been more vital to his team than this Champions League second round meeting. The England international is Manchester United’s only fit centre-back. Ferdinand was flawless in his last visit to Italy against Roma last year. A repeat show will give the Red Devils a chance of progressing.


The attention of Europe will fall on the San Siro as the Italian emperors face the Premier League’s finest.

No matter the grandeur, Manchester United will take to the pitch as a wounded beast. This puts the ball firmly in Jose Mourinho’s court, a position the Portuguese is loath to abandon.

Damage limitation is the name of the game for Sir Alex Ferguson. If his charges can register an away goal, then this trip to the Italian peninsula will be considered a success.

Prediction: Inter 2-1 Manchester United

Source -

Monday, February 23, 2009

Guus Hiddink: I cannot lose as Chelsea manager

Guus Hiddink, the Chelsea manager

A quick glance through the recent history books suggests that Chelsea are the most intense, pressurised club at which to work in the Barclays Premier League, with Roman Abramovich casting off managers as a Roman emperor would his concubines, but these circumstances are the exception that proves the rule. Until the end of the season, Hiddink is in a win-win situation.

If he is successful, by ending the club’s long wait to win the Champions League, there will be such a clamour for him to be appointed permanently that even Abramovich, the owner, will struggle to ignore it, leading to a political wrangle with the Russian Football Union for his services. If he fails, he can return to Moscow for a quiet life to steer Russia to next year’s World Cup finals in South Africa. As Hiddink acknowledged yesterday, his position is as close to bulletproof as it gets.

“At the end of the season, I cannot be sacked,” he said. “Before? Maybe. But not at the end of the season, because our working relationship ends at the end of the season.” The challenge begins this lunchtime away to Aston Villa, where Ricardo Carvalho could make a surprise return after a hamstring injury, having trained yesterday.

But Hiddink cannot really come to harm, even in the more intangible area of maintaining his international reputation, because he will take the credit for any success while being able to blame setbacks on the unrest in a dressing-room whose divisions have already been made public. No wonder Hiddink did not consider joining Chelsea to be a risk, with the only danger being that he will antagonise fans in Russia, such as those who protested against his dual role in Moscow yesterday.

“It was not an easy decision to make, but in this business I don’t think it’s important to spend too much time worrying about risks,” the Chelsea interim manager said. “I love the game and working with young, energetic people and I am not so concerned about what might happen in the future. If you think too much about risks then you should sit at home and watch plastic flowers.”

All of which goes some way to explaining Hiddink’s relaxed demeanour at Stamford Bridge yesterday, but the tone he has taken with his players has been rather different. There has been a marked increase in intensity on the training ground this week and, in keeping with his preference for flexibility, the players have switched repeatedly between 4-4-2 and 4-3-3, in contrast to his predecessor’s dogmatic devotion to 4-1-4-1.

Hiddink is well aware of the fact that several players were implicated in Luiz Felipe Scolari’s departure, by failing to perform to their potential if nothing else, and made a point of reminding them of their responsibilities. The 62-year-old will revert to his senior players at Villa Park today after watching Ray Wilkins experiment with youth in the FA Cup win against Watford, but will stick with them only if they respond to his methods.

“In any group, whether you are footballers or anyone else, there is a hierarchy,” Hiddink said. “And that is how it should be because with the right attitude, you can challenge those players to take responsibility. I like to have a recognised hierarchy in my team because they can help boss the younger players, and I see that as healthy.

“A manager has power, but it’s limited power. When you bring in new ideas it’s not a revolution at all. The players have to cope with these ideas and they have to execute. I said to the players that I like very much the experience of the Premier League, but I’ve not come and asked them to give me three or four weeks and then we’ll start work. Chelsea are now in circumstances to deliver. The players must deliver up to their standard, up to the club’s standard. I don’t give them any excuses, saying let’s give it three or four weeks to see what has been changed.

“At any level, but especially the high level, you have to have the attitude to deliver and take your responsibility as a big player. If you take the responsibility then you have the right to fail every now and then because they are human as well, but not by not taking responsibility. They must always do that, no matter who is the manager and who is in charge. They owe that to the fans, who are very loyal to the club. They owe more to them than to managers or whatever.”

Having laid down the law to his players, Hiddink felt sufficiently relaxed to discuss his relationship with Abramovich, a subject that troubled most of his predecessors and ultimately did for them. Whereas Scolari spoke to the Russian “four or five” times in the space of seven months, Hiddink and Abramovich have been almost inseparable for the past week, with the owner attending the win away to Watford and the reserve-team match against Portsmouth at Griffin Park, as well as making regular trips to the training ground. Not even Avram Grant was able to work in such close proximity to Abramovich.

“Let’s be realistic, Abramovich’s interest depends on results,” Hiddink said. “Of course he likes to see results, but there was no demand to ‘do this’ or ‘do that’. I cannot judge before, but what I have noticed in the last few days is that he is also at Cobham \. I respect the way he contributes to Russian football and every now and then we see each other to see how it is developing. We are not friends. Friends you see every day of the week and they know all the bad things about you.

“We don’t talk a lot about the specific tactics or strategy. We talk generally about football and he loves it. He watches a lot of games live and on the TV. He can enjoy it when he is watching. For instance, this week at Brentford with the reserves, I looked at the players and also 180 degrees to see that he is enjoying watching young players. He loves it. He is not just showing off.”

The one big question mark against Hiddink is his lack of success at a leading European club, with his spell at Real Madrid a decade ago lasting half a season. Hiddink was sacked at the Bernabéu after falling out with Lorenzo Sanz, the the Real president, but does not envisage any problem with Abramovich, as long as the owner does not attempt to pick the team.

“I did that job ten years ago and we got this clash after winning the World Club Cup,” he said. “There was a little bit of a clash with me and the president about playing some players whom he liked to have played in the squad. Then you know what the consequences in a few weeks are.”

The only other doubt surrounds Hiddink’s absence from the club game for several years, although in this respect it would be unfair to compare him to Scolari, who had never worked at a European club before arriving at Chelsea. Hiddink took PSV Eindhoven to a Champions League semi-final as recently as four years ago — he won the European Cup for the club in 1988 — and any doubts over his stamina should be allayed by the fact that he was also coaching Australia at the time, a far more challenging commute.

“I’ve been in national team management for the last few years but recently I was also at a very respected club, PSV Eindhoven,” he said. “Every morning I am on time to Cobham so I don’t forget. I don’t say, ‘Oh, I’m national team manager, I don’t have to go. Oh, when is next game? March? Oh, I can sleep for three weeks.’ I love working daily with the lads.

“When I worked in Spain in the 1990s, I said to myself that I’d quit and do something different, but that was around ten or 12 years ago. As long as I like the job, I’ll cope with the pressure. As long as it isn’t paralysing me and gives me energy, I can go on for a few months or years.”

As for his ambitions for the rest of the season, the job description is very simple — qualify for the Champions League next season and anything else is a bonus. Hiddink admitted as much yesterday when his eyes almost glazed over at the dreamy prospect of running Manchester United close in the Premier League and reaching the Champions League final.

“Finishing second to Manchester United and getting to the Champions League final sounds like a movie,” he said. “That would be a beautiful end to the season. You’ve given me a good idea and we’ll work on that. That would be very OK.”

Such achievements were not enough to stop Grant being sacked last season, the one fact that seemed to elude Hiddink on an impressive debut in front of the cameras, but that was then and this is now. As the beaming smile on his face testified, Hiddink has nothing to lose.

Before the axe fell

When Roman Abramovich bought Chelsea in July 2003, he said: “We have no plans to change the management here at the moment.” This is what Guus Hiddink’s four predecessors had to say.

Claudio Ranieri (September 2000 to June 2004)

“I don’t know Mr Abramovich and I would like to speak to him. To be honest, I don’t know anything about these rumours regarding the new owners and another manager. But I do know the rules of the game, and that when control of a club passes from one man to another anything can happen.” — July 4, 2003

José Mourinho (June 2004 to September 2007)

“Please don’t call me arrogant. What I am saying is true because I’m a European champion. I’m not one from the bottle, I’m a special one.” — June 2, 2004:

Avram Grant (September 2007 to May 2008)

“I am not a special one, I am a normal person. I did not get the job because I am a friend of Roman Abramovich. I remember when Arsène Wenger came here, people said, ’Arsène who?’ and he did a great job.” — September 21, 2007

Luiz Felipe Scolari (July 2008 to February 2009)

“I’m special for my friends, family and country — as a manager I’m so-so. I’ve always been a fighter. Until now, everything I have fought for and tried to achieve I have done. Even when it was very difficult, I got there. My team will be the same.” — July 8, 2008

Thursday, February 19, 2009

~ Guus Magic At The Bridge And Essien Return ~

Chelsea open up the Bridge to allow kids watch their heroes train

By Sportsmail Reporter
Last updated at 3:35 PM on 17th February 2009

There's no doubt new Chelsea boss Guus Hiddink means business. Not only did he go to a reserve team match along with owner Roman Abramovich last night but now he's showing Blues fans just how he's going to get his well-paid stars into Champions League-winning form and fitness.

He has blasted his squad for not being fit enough so when the Stamford Bridge doors were opened to allow kids to watch the first team train during half term there was no shortage of takers - around 6,000 turned up to watch Hiddink put them through their paces today.

Many players probably wished they were at the anonymous Cobham training base but for one day only they were centre stage while they were learning - and supporters lapped it up.

the bridge

Here come the players: Chelsea stars trot out for trainng


Maybe we should charge to watch training every day: Roman Abramovich contemplates his latest credit crunch solution

Guus, Wilkins

Can you leave the pitch please Mr Kenyon: But then Guus Hiddink realises it's actually his assistant Ray Wilkins in the big coat


For my next trick...Chelsea skipper John Terry practises his offside appeals


The exit's that way if you can't cope: Hiddink shows his players the path to fitness


Stretching a point: Chelsea players do their best to impress new boss Guus Hiddink


Watch those two, they're trouble: Ray Wilkins (left) helps Hiddink evaluate Michael Ballack and Didier Drogba

Guus Hiddink to make impact at Chelsea with double changes

Guus Hiddink gave a clear indication yesterday of his desire to partner Nicolas Anelka with Didier Drogba as he took charge of his second training session at Chelsea, although problems at the other end of the pitch will most concern the interim manager before his first match against Aston Villa on Saturday. Alex missed training with an ankle injury to leave Hiddink with the daunting task of patching up a threadbare defence because Ricardo Carvalho (hamstring) and Ashley Cole (suspension) are already unavailable for the visit to Villa Park.

Alex may come back into contention by the end of the week, but Hiddink will still have only two of his first-choice back four to call upon at a ground where Chelsea have not won for ten years. Paulo Ferreira will fill in for Cole at left back — a role he fulfilled regularly for Portugal under Luiz Felipe Scolari, the previous Chelsea manager — but replacing Carvalho will not be so straightforward.

Branislav Ivanovic and Michael Mancienne were given the opportunity to impress Hiddink yesterday in a ten-a-side practice match that pitted Chelsea’s first team against the reserves, but both contain an element of risk.

Ivanovic has made only six Barclays Premier League starts since signing from Lokomotiv Moscow 12 months ago and looked shaky in the FA Cup win over Watford last Saturday.

While Mancienne was more impressive at Vicarage Road, it was his first appearance for the club and he was deployed at right back. With Emile Heskey likely to return from injury up front for Villa on Saturday, supported by the pace of Gabriel Agbonlahor, Ashley Young and James Milner, Villa Park will be no place for a rookie.

Hiddink has plenty of experience elsewhere in his squad, however, with the earliest indications that he intends to use as much of it as possible. The Dutchman partnered Anelka with Drogba for the duration of the practice match, which was divided into four ten-minute periods, with the Ivory Coast striker scoring the opening goal as the first team won 2-1.

Such a team selection, even in a practice match, represents a considerable departure from the tactics employed by Scolari, who started the strikers together only once. Anelka said as much after scoring a 16-minute hat-trick when paired with Drogba for the final 20 minutes at Watford, complaining that Scolari never gave them the opportunity to prove themselves as a partnership.

The only other innovation made by Hiddink was the use of Deco as a holding player at the base of a three-man midfield. The Portugal player has struggled to produce his best form recently as matches have passed him by and Hiddink is determined to get him on the ball more often, encouraging him to dictate the pace of play and get Chelsea’s attacks going from a deeper role.

John Obi Mikel was also given an opportunity in his familiar role as a midfield anchor man, but Deco represents a more attacking option as Chelsea seek to close the seven-point gap between them and Manchester United at the top of the table.

The most intriguing sight at a training session that was open to the club’s supporters at Stamford Bridge was the presence of Roman Abramovich, the owner, who has watched more football in the past few days than in the first six months of the season. The Russian was also at the reserves’ 6-0 win over Portsmouth on Monday night after attending the victory over Watford, an indication of a resurgence of interest in the wake of his disenchantment with Scolari.

“I’m not here to entertain you all morning,” Hiddink said at the open training session, where 5,164 fans watched the action. “I’m here to lead the entertainment of the team. I hope we have a strong end to the season, but we need your support. I will give everything to make the team work.”

Essien: I'll be back in a month

by Tom Adams , 18 February 2009

New Chelsea coach Guus Hiddink will be delighted to hear the news that injury-stricken midfielder Michael Essien feels he is no more than a month away from returning to first team action.

The Ghana star has not played for The Blues since suffering a cruciate ligament injury in August but recently returned to first-team training and was included in Chelsea’s squad for the knockout stages of the Champions League.

And although he still has some work to do at the club’s Cobham training facility before he can be considered match fit, Essien is optimistic that he could make his long-awaited return at the end of March.

“According to [rehabilitation physio Thierry] Laurent, it should not take more than one month for me to play actively again,” Essien told 90minutes.

“He has assured me that once we go through a few other exercises for two or three weeks, I should be fit enough to return to the pitch.”

The former Lyon midfielder has also paid tribute to Hiddink after the Dutchman was appointed as Chelsea manager until the end of the season following Luiz Felipe Scolari’s departure.

Hiddink will combine his role at Chelsea with his responsibilities for leading the Russian national side and Essien believes the 1988 European Cup winner will reinvigorate a Chelsea side afflicted by mixed form and a reportedly divided dressing room.

“Hiddink has been around for quite a while and knows what it takes to get positive results out of nothing,” Essien added.

“He is a fantastic manager, so we hope he would bring the magic to give us strength we need to mount a challenge in all competitions.”

Chelsea sack Luiz Felipe Scolari: 10 reasons why he had to go

Luiz Felipe Scolari (pic:Getty)

Chelsea’s sacking of Luiz Felipe Scolari has stunned the Premier League – but to many Blues fans the decision came as a blessed relief. Here are 10 reasons they wanted the Brazilian out.

1) He’d lost the fans
At the end of Saturday’s dismal 0-0 home draw with Hull – a game which the Blues should have lost – an unusually quiet Stamford Bridge crowd got very vocal. They booed and chanted "You don't know what you're doing” as two fans unfurled a ‘Scolari Out’ banner which also called for the return of Gianfranco Zola and Steve Clarke from West Ham. With characteristic understatement, Scolari’s understudy Ray Wilkins called it “a tad out of order”.

2) He’d lost the dressing room too
Supporters were dismayed in December by claims that senior players had questioned Scolari’s substitutions in matches against West Ham and Arsenal. It was also alleged that John Terry and Frank Lampard had confronted the manager to ask for the intensity of training to be stepped up in a bid to return to the high-tempo football of the Jose Mourinho era. Some players privately grumbled about wanting a return to Jose Mourinho's rigid 4-4-2 system and moaned about the manager turning up late for training. The lack of respect ran both ways: Scolari simply didn’t seem bothered after a humiliating 3-0 reverse at Manchester United recently and his players echoed that with their resigned body language at Liverpool and against Hull in the games which sealed his fate.

3) He turned Fortress Stamford Bridge into a fun day out for visitors
Not only did the Blues’ 86-game unbeaten home record go against Liverpool in October, but the Scolari era saw 16 Premier League points dropped at home out of a possible 39.

4) He got his tactics wrong
Scolari’s firm belief in the lone striker – either in a 4-5-1 or a 4-3-3 formation – meant Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka never got an extended run together. Moves from man-to-man to zonal marking and the late addition of Ricardo Quaresma were too-little-too-late acknowledgments of Chelsea’s killer flaws at set pieces and out wide.

5) He struggled against the minnows
Home draws with Hull, Newcastle, Southend and Burnley – the latter made even worse by a 5-4 penalty defeat which knocked them out of the League Cup – would never have happened under Jose Mourinho. Neither would poor near-misses against Stoke and CFR Cluj.

6) He struggled against the big boys too
For once, Anelka wasn’t just sulking when he moaned last week: 'From the start of the season, we've lost our tests against the biggest teams. Whenever the biggest matches in the Premier League come along, we have just not shown we know how to perform at the 'real' Chelsea level.'” So far Chelsea have just one point in total to show from two games apiece against Liverpool and Manchester United and a home match against Arsenal.

7) He put his faith in the wrong players
Scolari bought Deco on the back of a terrible season at Barcelona and persisted with him until recently despite the Portuguese midfielder’s evident struggles to keep up with the pace of the Premier League. He also kept Drogba out of the side in favour of Anelka – who might be the Premier League’s leading scorer but has only netted once in eight weeks… and that against Southend.

8) He’d stopped communicating with the fans
It’s bad enough when a manager stops attending pre- and post-match press conferences – even worse when in his stead he sends out human Valium Wilkins in his stead. Scolari’s struggles with the English language didn’t help him in his struggles to win over an increasingly frustrated Chelsea crowd.

9) He’d turned into an unlucky manager
Major injuries to Michael Essien and Joe Cole and fitness problems for Didier Drogba, John Terry and Ricardo Carvalho – not to mention the farcical gazumping of Robinho by Manchester City after Chelsea had offered fans the chance to buy a shirt with his name on it - conspired to wreck Scolari’s hopes of continuing Chelsea’s flying start to the season. Roman Abramovich's reincarnation as a credit crunch Doug Ellis and subsequent reluctance to perform major surgery on an ageing team didn’t help either. If only Big Phil had endured this kind of misfortune against England in the 2002 and 2006 World Cups and the 2004 European Championship.

10) He wasn’t even as good as Avram Grant
His haul of only 49 points from 25 games is 15 worse than the 64 Jose Mourinho managed in his first season, 17 worse than Mourinho hauled in the following year as the title was won again – and five worse than the seemingly hapless Avram Grant got last year. Grant’s team scored 48 goals in those games – Scolari’s could only manage 44.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Jose says he'll return to Chelsea one day

Jose says he'll return to Chelsea one day

Jose Mourinho believes he will return to Chelsea sometime in the future.

Mourinho: Back to the Bridge?

The London club, have put Russia coach Guus Hiddink in charge until the end of the season after sacking Luiz Felipe Scolari on Monday but the Portugese boss, sacked in September 2007, seemingly believes he has unfinished business at Stamford Bridge.

"If you ask me if one day I think I will return to Chelsea, I will tell you yes I think so, I think so because we were so happy together," Internazionale boss Mourinho told a news conference ahead of Sunday's derby against AC Milan. "But when I say one day, I am not saying to you when."

"I am not there, I am just a supporter from the outside," he continued. "I'm somebody who wishes them good because it's a special club for me, I have special friends there.

"I belong to their story, they belong to my story so I am not enjoying this period where they have had several managers in one year and a few months.

"I hope they find stability and go back to (winning) trophies."

Inter team have a seven-point lead at the top of Serie A, said he was not surprised to see England midfielder David Beckham doing well during his loan spell at AC Milan from Los Angeles Galaxy.

"I knew in advance all the fears people had about him were not fair," said Mourinho. "I knew he was a top professional, he arrived in great condition with great ambition.

"He has adapted very well, he is playing very well. He is giving different kinds of qualities to his team and I hope he stays for the good of the league."

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Luiz Felipe Scolari slams Germany captain "Michael Ballack betrayed me over Chelsea sacking!"

Luiz Felipe Scolari slams Germany captain "Michael Ballack betrayed me over Chelsea sacking!"

Sacked Chelsea coach Luiz Felipe Scolari has sensationally slammed Michael Ballack for betraying him.

Michael Ballack's bust-ups
Michael Ballack verteidigt Kritik an Bundestrainer Jogi Löw

Luiz Felipe Scolari was sacked after just 224 days in charge at Chelsea

Luiz Felipe Scolari was sacked after just 224 days in charge at Chelsea.

Scolari, a World Cup winner while in charge of Brazil, told a friend that the Germany captain – as well as fellow Chelsea stars Didier Drogba and Petr Cech – were responsible for his departure from the Stamford Bridge club.

The Sun’ newspaper in Britain broke the story, and said the former Blues boss had told his friend: Ballack, Cech and Drogba became my enemies. They have a direct line to [Chelsea owner Roman] Abramovich.”

BILD reporters in London have discovered that John Terry and Frank Lampard, along with Cech and former Bayern Munich star Ballack, were all unhappy with Scolari because there was too little training.

He was seemingly right, however, to keep Drogba on the bench.

Scolari was sacked after a poor first half of the season, with Chelsea lying fourth in the Premier League table and only taking eight points from the last six games.

The goalless draw at home to newly-promoted Hull City on Saturday proved to be the last straw.

Chelsea have already started the search for his replacement, with veteran Dutchman Guus Hiddink – currently coach of Russia and friend of Abramovich – favourite to take the job until the end of the season.

Also in the frame for the Stamford Bridge post are Frank Riijkard, who won two league titles and a Champions League while in charge at Barcelona, and former Inter boss Roberto Mancini.

EXCLUSIVE: The Chelsea part-timer - Hiddink set to double up with Russia and Kenyon may be next to go

Last updated at 6:01 AM on 11th February 2009

Roman Abramovich completed one of the most astonishing deals in English football history last night when he replaced his World Cup-winning manager with a coach he will share with Russia.

In a move revealed exclusively by Sportsmail and which has cast serious doubts over the future of Chelsea chief executive Peter Kenyon, Guus Hiddink will take over from the sacked Luiz Felipe Scolari until the end of the season while also continuing to guide the Russians to the next World Cup.

The situation is simplified by the fact that Abramovich is already helping the cash-strapped Russian Football Union pay Hiddink's 7million euro (£6.14m) salary.

Guus Hiddink

At the double: Guus Hiddink will take over at Chelsea until the end of the
season while also continuing to guide the Russians to the next World Cup

But it remains no less amazing when Chelsea's Russian owner is acting against the judgment of a football administrator as experienced as Kenyon, who considered it more prudent to give Scolari the chance to revive his stuttering side.

Abramovich arrived in London on Monday with the specific intention of sacking Scolari in a secluded part of the club's Surrey training complex and spent yesterday at Stamford Bridge once again directing operations.

By lunchtime he had received permission from the Russian Football Union to speak to Hiddink and by last night the details of the deal were all but in place.

Chelsea officials remain unsure if Saturday's FA Cup tie against Watford would be Hiddink's first game in charge or the hugely important Barclays Premier League encounter at Aston Villa a week later.

Roman Abramovich

Good friends: Chelsea's billionaire owner Roman Abramovich with Hiddink (right)

This week's events will be of considerable concern to Kenyon, who has been a largely isolated figure over the last few days. Abramovich did not even wait for him to return from a holiday in Barbados before sacking Scolari, greatly contrasting with Kenyon's role as executioner in the axing of the three previous managers.

Kenyon arrived back in London early yesterday - two days earlier than expected - to find his position as the highest-paid executive in English football a matter of huge speculation.

In his favour, however, is his strong relationship with agent Pini Zahavi, who once again has emerged as Abramovich's favoured middle-man in the Hiddink deal.

Earlier yesterday Hiddink, who is under contract with Russia until after the 2010 World Cup, explained why he could not resist Chelsea's advances.

'I have to admit it's a complicated situation involving the Russian national team and Chelsea,' he said while with his squad at a training camp in Turkey.

'This is an exceptional situation. If it was any club other than Chelsea my answer would be a straight "No".

F Luiz Felipe Scolari

Pay off: Sacked Chelsea boss Luiz Felipe Scolari will walk away with around £6m

But Chelsea is different because I have good relations with the owner. 'It would be a full managerial role, a day-to-day job.

But this would only be for the next two or three months until the end of the season. 'I will not leave my job with the Russian national team.

When I took the Russia job it was a long-term project and I don't like to leave it unfinished. But we'll meet in the next few days and will talk about the whole thing.'

Chelsea have agreed compensation for Scolari - thought to be around £6m - and his assistants Flavio Teixeira, Darlan Schneider and Carlos Pracidelli.


12th February 2009

By Steve Goodman

MICHAEL BALLACK has delivered his own damning verdict on Big Phil Scolari’s Chelsea reign by admitting the Brazilian was the club’s weakest link.

Scolari was sacked on Monday after the Blues dropped to fourth in the league, seven points behind leaders Manchester United.

Several senior stars are believed to have put the boot into Scolari when Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich sought opinions before axing him and replacing the World Cup winner with Guus Hiddink.

But even though the German midfielder accepts he and his team-mates should shoulder part of the blame for Chelsea’s dip, he believes Scolari left himself wide open to criticism.

Ballack said: “Every coach has his own training methods – and Scolari has been very successful with his way of doing things in the past.

“He has proved that he is a great coach but most recently there has been a lack of success at Chelsea. When that happens the blame comes down on to the weakest link in the chain – the manager.

“The players are also responsible for the fact that things have not gone so well recently.

“I was surprised about Scolari being sacked. I had not expected it and I had a good relationship with him.”

Ballack added: “Something like this is always unpleasant. It is a shame as he was not with us for long.

“Of course, there was criticism and we did not achieve the results we wanted.”

Hiddink will be Ballack’s fourth manager since Jose Mourinho signed him in 2006. But despite the upheavals, Ballack believes he can still achieve his ambitions at Stamford Bridge.

“I want to win the Champions League and play internationals – and I can do these at Chelsea,” he said.

“We were level with Manchester United until the end of last season and unlucky to lose the Champions League final on penalties.

“Mourinho was decisive in my moving to Chelsea but we have still been a top European club since his departure. “We proved it in making the Champions League final last year.”

Shocked Terry blames his Chelsea team-mates for getting Scolari the sack

John Terry last night pointed the finger at his Chelsea team-mates for getting Luiz Felipe Scolari the sack and admitted only 'two or three players' supported the Brazilian coach.

In a remarkable admission, the England captain revealed that he is preparing to lift the lid on Scolari's turbulent seven-month spell at Stamford Bridge after tonight's friendly here against Euro 2008 champions Spain.

Hours after it became clear that owner Roman Abramovich was bringing in Russia coach Guus Hiddink to replace Scolari, Terry said: 'I've got sympathy for Scolari and I'm very shocked by what's happened. He had my support, that's for sure. Two or three other players will say exactly the same thing.


On the attack: John Terry (left) turns his attention back to England last night

England's John Terry (left) chats with Guus Hiddink before an England v Russia international

Welcome boss: England's John Terry (left) chats with Guus Hiddink before an England v Russia international

'We will go into all the details after the (Spain) game. Scolari's a great man and unfortunately when the team aren't playing well, it falls on his head.

'Maybe they (the owner) should look at some of us. We did under-achieve. The overall picture needs to be looked at by the powers that be at the club.'

Sportsmail understands that Roman Abramovich flew to London last Thursday and held a series of meetings with senior players, including Michael Ballack, Petr Cech and Didier Drogba.

Terry and his England team-mate Frank Lampard are believed to be the two players who remained behind Scolari until the bitter end.

Manager C

Sympathy: Terry says the players should take the blame for axing of Scolari

The England skipper added: 'I'm not affected by it. We have not been performing well individually and collectively as a squad and that falls on the manager's head. That's unfair because a few of us could have done better in our time with the manager.

'We started off very well, but form and results dipped. At the start, I was playing well for the first five or 10 games. Since then I could have been better.

'I'm my own worst critic and I know I need to improve my fitness and my game. That coincided with Chelsea's poor run of form and I could have done better. I hold my hands up to that.

Guus Hiddink

Astute: Guus Hiddink would stabilise the club if he was made boss, says Terry

'With everything that's going on, to be away from England and concentrate on my own game is a relief given what's happening back home.'

Terry said Hiddink would stabilise the club. 'He's very astute,' said the defender.

'His teams play, they get the ball out from the back. I don't know too much more about him but we will have to wait to see.'

Performing seals are great at Abramovich's Chelsea - just so long as they win

By MARTIN SAMUEL Chief Sports Writer
Last updated at 12:20 AM on 10th February 2009

So much for sexy football. It turns out that there is nothing more tedious than not winning and Roman Abramovich is learning this rather obvious lesson the hard way.

In Jose Mourinho, Abramovich had a manager who knew how to win, but his victories were not always pretty to watch. This was not good enough, apparently. Roman, we
were told, was not amused.

So, after a bizarre interlude, he got in the man who spliced Ronaldo, Ronaldinho and
Rivaldo to win a World Cup for Brazil, and sat back to watch the firework display.

One disappointing bang and a misfiring Catherine wheel of early-season form later, one imagines Abramovich and his Chelsea board would now crawl across broken glass to secure a manager capable of grinding his way to the top of the table, while everybody in the main stand falls asleep.

Looking at what has unfolded at Chelsea, the requirement would seem to be to win the League, while balancing a ball on one’s nose like a performing seal. Mourinho was too boring, Scolari too beatable.

No Plan B: Once teams worked out Scolari's game-plan, Chelsea faltered

No Plan B: Once teams worked out Scolari's game-plan, Chelsea faltered

Even by the standard of new Premier League ownership, this is a directionless farce, and it is one entirely of the owner’s making because he has to trust his fortune to a manager with vision if he is to succeed. He had that man in Mourinho, but he grew to fear his strength.

Beware the boss who wants to have fun. Beware the guy who says working for him is going to be a blast. Abramovich is said to be that sort of owner. He wants to be entertained, he wants the spectacle, he wants to see his investment out on the field doing tricks.

Tough man to please: Scolari was given the elbow after failing to entertain the ruthless Abramovich

Tough man to please: Scolari was given the elbow after failing to entertain the ruthless Abramovich

Scolari’s reign has exposed that as a myth. It transpires Abramovich wants the same as any director or supporter. He wants his team to win; and when they do not, he wants to nail the guy responsible.

Scolari did not do a good job at Chelsea. His team set off at a sprint, but quickly tired and his methods were one-dimensional. Once Chelsea’s rivals had worked out the game-plan, they were easy to stop, and Scolari did not seem able to provide an alternative.

So there is mitigation for this decision, yes; or there would be if Chelsea did not seem to be a club that has completely lost its bearings. That is what Mourinho gave them: a man who knew where he was going. Abramovich’s wealth was a hugely important part of the process but, as has been found since, financial investment alone provides no guarantee if the ship is rudderless.

The ludicrous employment of Avram Grant, a man with no credentials for the job other
than a cultural bond with Abramovich, started the drift away from sanity, and if Scolari’s appointment seemed a sound move, his failure to return Chelsea to the efficient unit created by Mourinho may yet prove catastrophic, if the club slips out of the top four.

Ludicrous: Grant eyes the Champions League trophy after suffering defeat in Moscow

Ludicrous: Grant eyes the Champions League trophy after suffering defeat in Moscow

Scolari’s c.v. was stellar, but it was still a risk to give him his first club position in Europe. An international manager for close to a decade, he would have been used to expanses of thinking time between matches to put right weaknesses and miscalculations.

In the Premier League, matches, not to mention body blows, come thick and fast and
Scolari never seemed able to recover from them.

His Brazilian heritage may have appealed to Abramovich and at the start of the season
Chelsea were splendid to watch but, by the time of Saturday’s goalless draw with Hull City, this was a team satisfying none of Abramovich’s criteria. Winning? No. Entertaining? No. This season, Chelsea have failed to win in nine of 19 games at
Stamford Bridge.

The Special One that got away: Mourinho

The Special One that got away: Mourinho

In conversation a week ago, Frank Lampard, a consistent influence in midfield under a
succession of managers, said that Chelsea players used to stand in the tunnel at home games, feeling invincible, never considering defeat.

Recently, he said, there has been uncertainty. Would they win? Would they score?
Scolari’s failing is that he has not been able to make any impact on that mindset.

‘The years we won the League,’ Lampard recalled, ‘we would win games 1-0, not playing well. Rio Ferdinand said to me that the Manchester United players would watch our games, hoping we’d get beat, and we might play poorly enough to get
beat, but then we’d nick it, and it was the most frustrating thing for them.

Invincibles: Lampard (left) and Terry (right) celebrate Premier League glory in 2005

Invincibles: Lampard (left) and Terry (right) celebrate Premier League glory in 2005 under Mourinho's tutelage

‘Manchester United have been best at doing that this season and that is why they are top. We need to get into that mode. We have to take responsibility.’

Indeed, Manchester United’s recent run of 1,212 minutes without conceding a League
goal has included a run of eight 1-0 wins in 13 matches. That is Mourinho form. That is what Chelsea had, but it was not pretty enough for some people in the owner’s box.

They wanted excitement: and now they have got it.

Drogba happy with Hiddink

didier drogba

Blues striker believes that Russia coach will be good for the club

Chelsea striker Didier Drogba believes that the appointment of Guus Hiddink as manager until the end of the season is 'good for the club'.

The 30-year-old was in action for the Ivory Coast on Wednesday against Turkey and grabbed an equaliser in the last minute to make the score 1-1.

The former Marseille ace didn't feature regularly under ex-boss Luiz Felipe Scolari due in part to injury and suspension but since regaining full fitness Drogba has failed to live up to the reputation of past seasons.

Despite this the striker was disappointed to see the Brazilian coach get the sack but declared himself pleased with the appointment of Hiddink.

"It's good for the club, I think," he told Sky Sports News.

"We are going to work very hard to qualify for the next round of the Champions League and improve our points in the league."

Essien edging closer to comeback

by Robin Hackett , 11 February 2009

Michael Essien has taken part in his first group training session for Chelsea since September.

The Ghana midfielder has had a long spell on the sidelines after rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament on international duty, but he has now taken a significant step towards recovery.

Essien is yet to return to full training – he was only involved in non-contact activities – but he appears to be on course to do so by the end of the month.

The 26-year-old is scheduled to return to first-team action in mid-March.