Tag Archives: FA Cup

Chelsea Column: Champions League final here we come!

April has been a great month for Chelsea. Not only did Chelsea progress into a FA Cup final, but after a brilliant 3-1 win over Real Madrid over two legs, Chelsea have made it through to their third Champions League final.

It’s not just been a good month in cup competitions, either. Since the humiliating defeat to West Brom, Chelsea have yet again gone unbeaten in the league and it looks like they have secured a place in the top four of the Premier League..

How on earth have Chelsea got to the Champions League final?

It’s a question that I have been asking myself since the final whistle blew at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday. It’s not like Chelsea have been terrible in the Champions League this season, we had a pretty easy time of it while Lampard was still in charge.

Credit: The Independent

The group consisted of Stade Rennes, Sevilla, and Krasnodar. A group that, unsurprisingly, Chelsea topped without losing a single game.

Even when Frank was sacked and Tuchel came in, it looked as though the Champions League would be a tough road with Atletico Madrid in the round of 16. However, it was a breeze, Atletico didn’t look up for the fight and were beaten 3-0 on aggregate.

READ MORE: ‘PEPPED UP’ MANCHESTER CITY STORM INTO THEIR MAIDEN EUROPEAN FINAL

In the quarterfinals, Porto put up more of a fight and luckily for Chelsea, the game was over after the first leg, so a 1-0 defeat in the second leg didn’t matter.

The semi-final against Real was always going to be tough. Regardless of Madrid’s form or team, this is a club managed by Zidane, a serial winner. However, Tuchel and Chelsea played them off the park. I never expected that we would’ve dominated over both legs.

The fluidity in Chelsea’s defence and attack was world class and it denied Real Madrid any real chances to take control. Every time Chelsea went forward it looked like it could be a goal. If only Werner, Havertz and Mount could finish more chances, it could have been 4 or 5-1.

READ MORE: MANCHESTER UNITED HIT ROMA FOR SIX

There is no doubt that Chelsea deserve to be in the Champions League final and Manchester City will be a fine opponent. While I don’t want to count my chickens too early, it’s a winnable game, but it’s going to be far from easy.

May 29th is going to be a rough day for me and I’m going to be a nervous wreck from the moment I wake up until the final whistle.

Even if Chelsea don’t win, I don’t think I can be disappointed. I never thought we would get this far in the Champions League for a few years at least, but here we are.

2012 repeat on the horizon?

It’s not just the Champions League final that Chelsea players and fans have to look forward to, but Chelsea will play Leicester City in the FA Cup final on the 15th May.

credit: The independent

Chelsea are continuing the relatively new tradition of getting through to a domestic final in the years they get to the Champions League final. In 2008 ,Chelsea got to the League Cup final but lost to Spurs, of all teams.

In 2012 though, Chelsea got to the FA Cup final against Liverpool. Despite controversy regarding a disallowed goal for Andy Carroll, Chelsea won the game 2-1.

READ MORE: CLINICAL MANCHESTER CITY BASK IN CARABAO CUP GLORY FOR THE FOURTH CONSECUTIVE OCCASION

Roberto di Matteo had been brought in mid-way through the 2011-12 season and won us the FA Cup. This was before marching Chelsea past a Spanish side in the Champions League semi-finals with help from a misfiring striker. Sound familiar?

Winning the FA Cup would be great momentum for Chelsea in their pursuit of the top four as well as for the Champions League final.

Chelsea’s victory against Manchester City in the FA Cup semi-finals has a lot more weight to it now than it did a few weeks ago. On the day Tuchel set up his Chelsea side very well and I think City fans will agree that Pep got it all wrong.

READ MORE: UNINSPIRING LIVERPOOL SQUANDER YET ANOTHER LEAD

City never looked to have much of a chance and Chelsea only needed a single goal, which sealed them their second consecutive FA Cup final.

While people may think that this final means more for Leicester, the FA Cup has always been a special competition for Chelsea.

Chelsea have won the FA Cup six times since 2000, plus a few more final appearances. The FA Cup is always a great trophy to win. For Tuchel, it will be his first shot at a trophy since becoming Chelsea manager, so he will be keen to win it.

Leicester are going to be no slouches and will try their very hardest to win it, and while I think it will be a close game, Chelsea’s ability to kill off games quickly will be tough for Leicester to get past.

What has Tuchel done right that Lampard got so wrong?

Firstly, Tuchel has gotten the players on his side. Lampard lost faith from players like Jorginho and Rudiger. He was playing stupid systems which made Werner obsolete and, let’s face it, Havertz is not a right winger.

Credit : Sports illustrated

Tuchel came in and got those players on his side and we have seen improvement from all of them. While Werner may still need to work on his finishing, he creates so many chances and goals that he is danger to opposition teams.

Havertz has come out of his shell in Tuchel’s false 9 system, and he has been bagging some great goals, especially against Fulham and Crystal Palace.

READ MORE: MANCHESTER CITY ENJOY THE PERFECT NIGHT IN PARIS

Tuchel has sealed up our defence, except for West Brom, of course. However, the three at the back system has been working a treat. It doesn’t matter which players are put in the three, because it’s such a fluid system.

Kante is now back at his best in the holding midfield role alongside Jorginho or Kovacic. Two players that are very much underrated in this Chelsea side.

The new energy in this team is the reason why Chelsea have a three-point buffer to West Ham in the league and why Chelsea are very much on the tail of Leicester, who sit in third.

READ MORE: STALEMATE AT ELLAND ROADS ENDS TUMULTUOUS WEEK FOR MANCHESTER UNITED

This is what you would expect when you bring in someone who is as tactically sound as Tuchel is. While I was wanting Frank to be given more time at Chelsea, Tuchel has shown just how bad of a job Lampard was doing.

This Chelsea side have so much potential. It’s a young team and are still at the beginning of a long journey, but the fact that Tuchel has been able to achieve so much in so little time goes to show how good this Chelsea side are.

Now I don’t expect Chelsea to go on and win the quadruple next year, I don’t even think Chelsea will win the Premier League in the next couple of years.

But what Tuchel has managed to do with this team just goes to show that the future looks bright at Chelsea.

Hopefully.

Inept Manchester United Crash Out Of FA Cup

FA Cup Leicester City v Manchester United

An abject performance from Manchester United has seen them crash out of the FA Cup at the quarter-final stage, losing 3-1 away to a rampant Leicester City side who took full advantage of several calamitous moments from the Red Devils. 

In a week that saw United defeat AC Milan away to book a spot in the Europa League quarter-finals, confidence was high heading to the King Power Stadium. 

Possession Game Fails Again

Not for the first time this season, Manchester United were caught trying to play out from the back, and once again, it would prove costly. 

For reasons only he can explain, £80 million centre-back Harry Maguire played the ball out from the back to Fred, who was being closely marked by Youri Tielemans at the edge of the area. 

Under pressure from Tielemans, Fred inexplicably passed the ball back toward goal, and straight to the feet of Leicester City striker Kelechi Iheanachoi, a mere seven yards out. 

The in-form striker stepped around goalkeeper Dean Henderson, and fired the ball into an empty net to open the scoring. 

Such comical defending wouldn’t be out of place in a pub team, and sadly this isn’t the only instance this year where both Maguire and Fred have seemed better suited to Sunday league football than the upper echelons of life at Manchester United. 

Leicester City Showed More Desire

After the opening goal gut-punch, Manchester United responded well, and had their equaliser 14 minutes later. 

A well-worked pass from Pogba, flicked on by Donny van de Beek, was finished with aplomb by Mason Greenwood, and it was game on. 

Unfortunately for United fans, manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had stuck with Fred, and the midfielder was responsible for the second goal too. 

Iheanachoi, scorer of the first goal, played in Youri Tielemans who was given the freedom of Leicester by United’s midfield, with Fred allowing his opposition number to waltz into the box and fire home unchallenged. 

The rout was complete when in the 78th minute Scott McTominay somehow contrived to not head the ball away, allowing Iheanacho to head home from close range, booking Leicester’s place in a semi-final showdown with Southampton. 

Squad Changes Lead To Instability? 

Manchester United made five changes to the team who beat AC Milan with Paul Pogba back, and a rare start for Donny van de Beek.

Despite having a two-week international break after the FA Cup quarter-final, Solskjaer left his most influential player, Bruno Fernandes on the bench, for the crunch tie. 

“Every team selection has reasons behind it. Bruno has played very, very much football. He broke all his records on Thursday night [at the San Siro] physically statistically, and the boy is not inhuman,” explained Solskjaer.

“He’s also a human being, he’s played a game every three or four days really. It was a chance to start to both Donny [van de Beek] and Paul [Pogba]. The accumulation of games maybe caught up with us.”

“I know Bruno wants to play but sometimes you make decisions for the benefit of both the team and him.”

Although Fernandes was introduced in the 64th minute, along with McTominay, Luke Shaw, and Edinson Cavani, it wasn’t enough to pull United level. 

Manager Left Disappointed

For all the talk of progress made over the past twelve months, United have once again been found wanting as the season reaches the pointy end. 

Having made the semi-finals of the FA Cup last season, this is a step back for Solkjaer’s men, as the squad shows signs of fatigue from their high-octane running game. 

“Of course, we’re disappointed we’re out but probably it’s just the sum of all the factors and all the games we’ve played lately, all the injuries. I don’t want to make excuses but I try to find an explanation and an explanation is we had a few players coming back who have not really trained a lot. They’ve not played for a while and there are others who have played a lot but lacked a little zip and energy that we normally see. We conceded easy goals we don’t normally concede and it’s difficult against a good team like Leicester.”

“That’s, as I say, all the games we’ve got. Normally we don’t get one-two’d. We get back and get a tackle in normally but we don’t have that zip. Without making excuses for the boys, that’s the explanation. We found our levels, not our sharpness tonight. Sometimes the Thursday nights in Europe, they catch up with you.”

“We picked a team that we felt would win the game or give us a foundation to win the game. We knew players like Donny and Paul wouldn’t last more than an hour-ish and we knew we had subs who could come on and make a difference if we needed them to. That was the hope when we made the subs – that they could come on and give us that extra energy and brightness. We weren’t really as sharp as we have been lately. The accumulation of games, as I said, is a factor maybe and the freshness of Leicester, of course, has made them sharper than us today.”

Injuries Catching Up With United

With games every three days in recent months, injuries have caught up with Manchester United, and the squad is starting to look thin in quality. 

It is a situation that will need to be rectified in the coming transfer window if United are to challenge the likes of Manchester City for top honours next season. 

“I think we’re building a squad that can cope with it, but we’ve had six or seven injuries at the same point, in the same positions to be fair, and that’s made some players play a lot. That’s something we have to get used to. If and when we are to be successful, we have to handle this and of course hit a higher level than what we did today. That’s what we’re striving towards. I’ve been impressed, under these circumstances, which are unprecedented. I don’t think anyone in the world, or in England, has experienced these times before and I’ve been impressed by my boys. They’ve been excellent and the run we’ve been on has been excellent. Unfortunately, we just couldn’t find our normal selves tonight and sometimes that happens,” added Solskjaer.

International Break Is Much Needed

With the international break now here, several of United’s players can get some much-needed rest. 

Unfortunately for United, Bruno Fernandes has been called up by Portugal, who face Azerbaijan on Wednesday, Serbia on Saturday and Luxembourg next Tuesday.

“A change of scenery. Some go away with the national team-mates and some stay here and train. They’ve been at Carrington every single day, working together and training together every single day. So a change of scenery will do some of them good. They’ll come back for Easter Sunday [at home to Brighton & Hove Albion] and be ready to go again,” concluded Solskjaer. 

After the international break United take on relegation-threatened Brighton & Hove Albion where they will look to consolidate their grip on second place in the Premier League, before turning attention to their last chance of silverware this season – their Europa League quarter-final with Granada. 

Scott McTominay Fires Manchester United Into FA Cup Quarter Finals

Scott McTominay has come off the bench to fire Manchester United past West Ham and into the quarter finals of the FA Cup with a superbly struck goal, settling a drab encounter at Old Trafford.

The Scott’s goal was the only highlight of an otherwise forgettable match up, one that saw Moyes men appear to be playing for penalties from the opening kick off, as nine or ten men were regularly seen behind the ball.

McTominay is having his best season in a red shirt, having scored seven goals already, with three coming in the past seven days alone.

Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is thrilled with the defensive midfielders output, and is ready to push him further forward.

“Scott’s a clinical striker of the ball. He used to play as a striker, we know that, and he finishes with authority.

“Like, ‘bang’, finish. No messing about. No safety. That’s something we’ve got to learn from.

“For a defensive midfielder, we’ll have to unleash him and release him forward because he’s a goal threat in the box and he’s got a good strike on him,” said Solskjaer.

While it was by no means a pulsating encounter, the manager was satisfied with a clean sheet and his teams name in the hat for the next round.

“It doesn’t really matter, it’s by hook or by crook maybe, and that’s the main thing in the cup. We’re in the hat and we bounce back after the disappointment against Everton. That last goal [by Dominic Calvert-Lewin at the weekend] could be a mental kick in the face and we’ve refocused and reset the heads and done really well.

“We’ve had clean sheets. If we look at our record, we’ve had quite a few clean sheets. In big games we’ve had lots of clean sheets and defended well. Yes, we conceded 11 goals in the first three games and that is going to be a bad on the conceded goals when you look at the table, so those 11 goals… well, we weren’t ready. We know that we weren’t ready. If we take them away, we’re not too bad,” added the manager.

West Ham only managed one shot on target all evening, which left Solskjaer to lament the fact the game went into extra time, as his side couldn’t capitalise on their dominance.

“I think we got about 15 to 17 shots in the end but we need to be more clinical. We should’ve finished the game off earlier and finished in 90 minutes but sometimes it doesn’t happen. Especially in the second half, I thought we struggled. First half, we have two or three big moments. Mason [Greenwood] had one when Anthony [Martial] laid it off, Victor Lindelof’s header that deflected, good save by the keeper. Alex [Telles] put a ball in for Donny [van de Beek] who couldn’t get a clean strike. So, first half, I think we dominated and controlled. Second half, not so happy with that one. After we scored, we should have scored two or three more, we’re too wasteful and we should have controlled the game more.”

With games being played every three days in the current climate, a home quarter final draw would suit Solskjaer, who hasn’t had much luck in cup competition draws in his time in the Old Trafford hot seat.

“It doesn’t matter at the moment with the fans. With the travelling, of course, it’s easier to be here at Old Trafford so yes please. Of course you want to win every game. We want to challenge and we want to go to the final. That’s what we’re here at Manchester United for. Sometimes you’re lucky with draws in the cup – we haven’t been that lucky – but obviously we move another step closer to the final. We got a few days to prepare. We don’t play until Sunday. Those 120 minutes will stand us in good stead, ready for Sunday,” concluded Solskjaer.

If Manchester United go on to lift the trophy at Wembley, nobody will remember tonight’s lacklustre affair against West Ham – a game that will not live long in the memory.

Scott McTominay Header Fires United Into FA Cup Fourth Round

Manchester-United-v-Watford---FA-Cup-Third-Round

A Scott McTominay header in the 5th minute won a drab encounter with Watford, and fired Manchester United into the fourth round of the FA Cup.

Captaining United for the first time, McTominay was strong throughout the match, but it was his headed goal that proved the difference on the night.

Connecting wit a corner from Alex Telles, McTominay’s header lacked power, but the downward trajectory meant it bounced up and over the outstretched hand of Watford keeper Daniel Bachmann.

“We started really well and then for the first half an hour we were really good, moved the ball really well and there was some good combination play.”

“When the manager told me it was a surreal moment. I’ve been here since I had just turned five, so that’s 18 or 19 years associated with the club and it is a huge honour.”

“I love this club and it has been my whole life,” said McTominay.

Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer made nine changes to the side that lost the Carabao Cup semi final to Manchester City this week, which meant a start for £40 million pound signing Donny Van de Beek.

The manager had stated before the match that the Dutchman would get more game time, and needed to take his chance when he did.

Although he didn’t register a goal or assist, the midfielders link up play was exquisite at times, and shows the new signing could be an important cog in United’s midfield machine as the season progresses.

“I think Donny showed again his qualities,” said Solskjaer afterwards. “He’s very technically clean and he makes good decisions like the flick to play Juan through. He’s got that quality to open up tight games and he’ll benefit from this game.”

United will now turn their attention to arguably their most important week since Sir Alex Ferguson retired.

First they go to Turf Moor to play Burnley with the opportunity to go top of the league before a summit showdown at Anfield.

“We’re very happy to get through,” said Solskjaer. “We started really brightly. I expected it to be the other way round, to find our rhythm later on, but after a very good start, we lost our shape and lost too many balls. We’re through, that’s the main thing.”