Tag Archives: Football

Chelsea Column: what can we expect from the Blues in 2022?

In these articles, I tend to look back on the past month and comment. However, as December was an awful to month to witness as a Chelsea fan, I thought I will skip it and look ahead to what I want to see in 2022.

There is a lot to talk about in terms of where the club is at the moment as well as where it looks like it might be going.

So, with the blinded optimism that the new year brings, let’s look into 2022 and what the new year could bring for Chelsea football club.

We need to talk about Lukaku

The last couple of weeks have been a strange one with the club and most of it refers to an interview Romelu Lukaku’s interview with Sky Italy.

I’m sure you’ll be aware what was said, and in any circumstance, a player speaking out against the manager within 5 months of joining is never a good sign.

It came at a terrible time as well. There has been a lot of pressure on Tuchel over the last couple of the months, but the last thing we needed was a coup in the dressing room.

Lukaku hasn’t been good enough this season and couple that with injuries and Covid, he’s not had much playing time. He can’t blame that on Tuchel and his system, because when I watch Lukaku, he doesn’t get involved enough.

Also, with the injuries and Covid-positive players, Tuchel has been forced to try new things and he is only going to choose those players that have been doing the best out on the pitch and that isn’t Lukaku.

Granted, Lukaku did get a goal on his return to the team against Villa but watching him against Spurs was uninspiring and I don’t think he would have made a difference against Liverpool.

I hope these “clear the air talks” with Tuchel does mean we will see a better Lukaku and that it can be a morale boost to the entire team.

I don’t want to see Tuchel sacked because a player who got too big for his boots decided he was the big dog at Chelsea because he was their most expensive signing and wanted to manager sacked because he wasn’t happy.

It’s January, who’s in and out?

I don’t expect any Chelsea players to leave this January, but there are still a few futures to decide upon over the next month.

Antonio Rudiger, Cesar Azpilicueta and Andreas Christensen are all out of contract at the end of the season and seem to be looking for the door.

Rudiger has already made up his mind and it looks as though he will be going to Real Madrid in the Summer as a free agent. Chelsea have been trying to get him to sign a new contract for months, but it’s clear from both sides that the wage demands will not be met.

As for Azpilicueta, it would appear that Barcelona may be the destination for the Spaniard. I have faith that Chelsea will try more proactively to keep him at the club. He is the club captain and given how versatile he is at the back, we need him.

Finally, Andreas Christensen. Let’s face it, he is a good player, but realistically no club better than Chelsea are going to want him. I feel as though he has seen the Rudiger situation and wanted to cash in on a bigger contract.

This does leave a big defensive problem at Chelsea if these three do decide to leave. It means our only centre backs are an aging Thiago Silva, and a young paring of Trevor Chalobah and Malang Sarr.

This leaves Chelsea with two options. Bend to the wage demands or spend big now or in January to get the likes of Matthias De Ligt and Joules Kounde into the club.

But there is one thing that Chelsea need to do immediately.

We desperately need a left back or left wing-back. Watching Marcos Alonso is like having acid in your eyes. His lack of defensive work-rate is painful to watch.

Lucas Digne has become available from Everton, but I think there may be some better options out there. None come to mind, but I’m sure they’re there.

What can Chelsea achieve this season?

I think it’s pretty clear that the optimism I had a few months ago about Chelsea’s chances of winning the Premier League have now gone.

It’s firmly in City’s hands as it stands, and I don’t think anything Liverpool or Chelsea do will change that.

So now it’s time to see what Chelsea can still achieve and realistically win this season.

Chelsea got a favourable draw against Lille in the Champions League which is winnable for Chelsea. I would love another run in the Champions League and getting through this round will be crucial.

Chelsea are still in both domestic cups (this is written before the Chesterfield game in the FA Cup so hopefully I don’t have to swallow my words here).

After a 2-0 first leg win over Tottenham in the Carabao Cup, Chelsea look in a strong place to get to their first Caraboa Cup since 2019. Once Covid is battled with the Liverpool squad, we will see who Chelsea’s opponent could be between them and Arsenal.

A trophy will be crucial for Tuchel if he wants to be in a job for next season at Chelsea. Unfortunately, winning the Champions League isn’t going to be enough if Chelsea don’t win anything this season.

You only have to look at the likes of Roberto Di Matteo or Antonio Conte as managers who got sacked not long after great success at Chelsea.

All I want is top four and a trophy. It may not sound like much coming from the reigning European Champions, but given that the league is out of reach, I will take what I can get at this point.

Given the strength of this squad, a domestic trophy is well within reach. A good run in the Champions League shouldn’t be difficult with this squad.

Chelsea Column: A slump in form cost blues top spot

From four points clear at the top to two points off City down in third place. November hasn’t been a kind month for Chelsea and possibly the worst run of results we have seen in Tuchel’s first year in charge.

Is there any need to hit the panic button? Maybe. However, things may not be as bleak as things look going into the very busy December schedule.

Let’s have a look at the last month at Chelsea.

Have Chelsea already peaked this season?

It was at this point last season that things started to go wrong for Frank Lampard, and we all know how that ended.

Now, I’m not suggesting that Thomas Tuchel has started down the road to a sacking, but something needs to change in his tactics because Chelsea have looked off the ball all month.

This season was always going to be a tight battle with Man City and Liverpool for the title and dropping seven points in a month is not the form Chelsea require to compete.

Looking back on the fixtures, they weren’t the most difficult run of games that Chelsea have come across this season.

The 1-1 draw to Burnley wasn’t amazing, but Burnley has always been a tough game for Chelsea. A win against Leicester was nice. A draw to United was expected given Chelsea’s record, but the way Chelsea played was poor.

The win against Watford was a dreadful performance and I was shocked that we managed to win that game. Finally, a poor performance and some good luck from West Ham saw them beat Chelsea 3-2.

That loss to West Ham really bugged me. It was the first time that Chelsea have conceded more than 1 goal in a game in all competitions this season. Chelsea aren’t good at scoring goals and watching Chelsea attack at times is like pulling teeth.

Tuchel’s decision to start Ziyech, Hudson-Odoi and Werner against Manchester United was one of the most painful performances I’ve ever seen from a Chelsea attack.

Not one of them could score if their lives depended on it. We relied on a Jorginho penalty to save us (more on him later).

We need to start scoring goals if we wish to get back in this title race.

Is Chelsea’s midfield good enough?

Chelsea have some of the best midfield options in the Premier League, however with Tuchel’s formations and tactics, it seriously impacts Chelsea’s selection.

With Kante out because of injury most of the season, the responsibility falls to Jorginho to fill in that role. Which he can’t.

Kovacic has also been out this month and Chelsea have dearly missed his passing ability and while Ruben Loftus-Cheek has tried his best to fill in that other holding midfielder role, he’s just not who we need right now.

Tuchel has tried to bring Saul Niguez into the team over the last month, but I honestly wish he would get shipped back to Atletico Madrid. He is dire.

The reason why we have seen the full backs take on such a major role at Chelsea this season is because our holding midfield has been so poor that they have to make up for it.

Now that Ben Chilwell is out, we have to play Alonso or Azpilicueta as a wing-back which is not always the best. Azpilicueta is a brilliant defender, but he doesn’t have the legs to play as a wing-back.

He’s a better option than Marcos Alonso whose defensive work rate leaves a lot to be desired.

We need all the player in the holding midfield to step up. There is only so much the likes of Mount or Pulisic can do up front without the help from the holding midfield behind providing some assists.

My hope is that Kante is fit soon, and he can bring some energy back to the midfield.

Is Jorginho the third best player in the world?

No.

He’s not even the third best player at Chelsea.

The Balon D’Or is a load of rubbish. Next.

Is there any positives to take away from Chelsea this month?

The champions League is going very well. Easy pickings against both Malmo and Juventus means that Chelsea are back into the knockout rounds of the competition.

It’s already better than our last Champions League defence.

The 4-0 over Juventus did feel like a real high point of this season. After being beaten in Turin after a sloppy piece of defending, it was great to bring them to London and beat them so convincingly.

While the league may not be going in the right direction, I think Chelsea still remain to be a contender in this year’s Champions League and I hope that we can challenge again.

I’m definitely not saying that we are going to go back-to-back, but I would like to hope that we can get far into the competition. I’d like Chelsea to be more than cannon fodder in the round of 16 like we usually are.

If Chelsea end up not winning the league then Tuchel will need a major trophy if he hopes to keep his job.

The expectations on his shoulders are now so much more than what it was when he joined Chelsea last February. Not to mention just how fickle the Chelsea board are with managers regardless of their Champions League prowess. Just look at Di Matteo.

Chelsea just need to up their game. The league is only going to get tougher. Liverpool look unstoppable, City are on fire. Not only that, United have been given a new lease of life and Arsenal have learnt how to play football again.

Chelsea can still win the league, but not playing how we are at this point in time.

Chelsea Column: Youth and Shrewd signings key to Blues’ success

Another unbeaten month under Thomas Tuchel and Chelsea top the Premier League table. Things may have not been perfect at Stamford Bridge over the last month, but fate keeps swinging their way.

October was a very busy month for Chelsea. They competed in all competitions and then had an international break to add to matters as well, but it was still a great month for the blues.

No Timo? No Romelu? No Problem.

It wasn’t just Lukaku or Werner who were absent from the team for parts of this month, but many players were forced to miss a few games.

Going into the final games of the month, Mount, Kovacic, and Pulisic were all also ruled out of contention. However, this had no impact on Chelsea’s free flowing style of play.

Actually, not having a recognised striker on the pitch wasn’t too dissimilar than having one on the pitch. Lukaku didn’t get a single goal in October, which was not helped by his absence, but still the Chelsea curse may be getting to him as well.

Werner on the other hand was able to bag himself a goal against Southampton. After that though, he hasn’t done too much before his injury.

The great thing about Chelsea this season is that the squad depth is incredible, and we have some of the best goal scorers all over the pitch so playing without a striker is not the end of the world.

Ben Chilwell and Reece James have been on fire as they have been netting goals left, right and centre this month.

Chilwell’s stunning volley was enough to beat a very tricky Brentford side. He didn’t stop there as he got another goal in Chelsea’s 7-0 thrashing of Norwich.

Mason Mount also stepped up out of the fog to get a hat-trick against Norwich.

Chelsea know no bounds on where goals can come from and currently we still don’t know how long Werner and Lukaku are going to be out. But no matter how long they are out, I’m still confident Chelsea will be able to score goals.

Can we talk about the Chelsea youth system?

I may be going out on a bit of a limb here, but I honestly think the Chelsea youth system (despite it’s many and quite overt flaws) is one of the best in world.

Since Lampard came in two years ago, we have really seen this explosion of incredibly talented youth players come to the forefront of Chelsea’s squad.

Trevor Chalobah, Reece James, Mason Mount, Andreas Christiansen, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Ruben Loftus-Cheek.

Everyone of these players is a product of the Chelsea youth development and are all currently playing regular first team football for Chelsea. I don’t think it would be outrageous to say that if they were all to feature in the starting XI, Chelsea fans would not blink an eye.

Out of all of those players, one is rising to super stardom at the moment and that is Reece James. Despite possibly falling out of favour with Tuchel towards the end of last season, with Azpilicueta favoured on the right, he has come back with a bang.

He scored an audacious chip against Norwich before getting a brace with two thunderous volleys against Newcastle. He was a hero in the EFL cup as he scored the winning penalty against Southampton to send Chelsea to the Quarterfinals.

Not to mention all the clean sheets that Chelsea have kept this month to add to just how good Reece James has been up and down the pitch this month.

But there is one more player I have to give credit to.

From unemployment to hero

Edouard Mendy has been Chelsea’s most important saviour, not just this season, but ever since we signed him at the start of last season.

Mendy has kept nine clean sheets in the 13 games that he has played so far this season and in the other four games, he has conceded only four goals. That’s world class.

In the last month we have seen some particularly great performances from Mendy.

When Chelsea played Brentford, Brentford gave everything they could to try and deny Chelsea three points.

I have to applaud Brentford in that game because they were relentless and were so much fun to watch despite Chelsea being the team they were tearing to shreds at times.

It’s hard to put into words just how good Mendy was that game. He was making incredible saves look easy and when Christian Nordgaard when for an epic overhead kick, Mendy was there to make an equally epic save to deny Brentford in the dying embers.

Before that he made to critical saves to stop Brentford mounting any form of come back. Chelsea owed those three points to Mendy, and no one can argue against it.

Even in games where Chelsea looked to be cruising, occasionally Mendy would be called upon.

During the Norwich game, Rashica was awarded a beautiful opportunity to get a goal back from Norwich, but Mendy was right on it and made a fabulous save to deny what should have been a certain goal.

In games where Chelsea struggle to get goals, it’s going to be these performances from Mendy which could lead Chelsea to the title this season.

10 games played, 3 points clear, but a lot of work still be done

We are only a quarter of the way through the season, and I will admit that I am getting excited at Chelsea’s potential to win the league, but I have to remind myself that this is not going to be easy.

While Chelsea may be three point clear and have already played four of the other five big six teams, there is still potential for Chelsea to slip up.

I was concerned that we did not have a good month in September, and I think I was justified in thinking that.

This month has been better, no doubt, but we have come across opponents that we should be beating comfortably, so the results we have seen over the month should come as no surprise to anyone.

Our position in the league has come from fortunate results in other games. The day Chelsea beat Newcastle, Liverpool drew to Brighton and City lost to Crystal Palace.

Coming up is fairly tough month for Chelsea with Leicester, Burnley, and Manchester united. Teams that may not seem so tough but are always tricky games for Chelsea and can be very unpredictable.

Another international break and a Champions League game against Juventus could make next month difficult for Chelsea.

With the squad depth and the positivity around Chelsea at the moment, I feel as though Chelsea will be prepared for what is to come in November.

Eric Djemba-Djemba: “When you work hard, you can make it”

Former Manchester United player Eric Djemba-Djemba has recently opened up about his time as a professional football player. Speaking to Cal Blankendal and Vernon Springer on their Football Insight Podcast, the now-retired midfielder reflected on 15 years as a pro footballer.

Thankful for everything

Djemba-Djemba has been dubbed by Red Devils fans as the player so good “they named him twice”. While he never managed to live up to that hype at Old Trafford, the Cameroonian international is thankful for the opportunity to play at the top level.

Moving to United fulfilled a boyhood dream for Djemba-Djemba. Image: Shoot

“I enjoyed every moment, every second, every day. It was a dream for me to play for Manchester United, because when I was a kid, I loved to watch them on TV.” Djemba-Djemba told VA Sports.

“After three years in Nantes, I joined United and it was a dream.”

The 40-year-old also explained how he achieved his dream and sealed a £3.5 million move from Nantes in France:

“Some scouts came from England to watch me play. After that, I remember [Sir Alex] Ferguson came to watch me play. I think the decision came from him (Sir Alex) to buy me.”

Djemba-Djemba went on to say that Ferguson was like a father figure to the younger players in the Manchester United dressing room.

Mentality is key

Djemba-Djemba was also asked what players nowadays have to do to succeed and how much things have changed in football since he burst onto the scene 20 years ago:

“If you have a strong education, you will learn very fast. Today’s it’s not like 20 years ago, you can play in the Premier League at 16 years old. At that age, it’s very difficult to move to another country, you have to be strong mentally. You have to train hard and have respect for your teammates.”

Playing with the biggest players in world football was an honour for Djemba-Djemba. Image: Goal.com

One pressure associated with modern football and sport is that related to social media. There has been no-end to the abuse that professional sportspeople face on the internet, so what’s Djemba-Djemba’s advice to them?

“It’s easy to deal with that [online abuse]. Like I said before, it depends how they and your parents educate you and it depends where you want to be in life. So, you can have these social medias, but if you don’t know where you want to get to in life, you can’t deal with that.”

“Sometimes you need to be out of social media, because it can get to be too much and you can lose your concentration.”

Eric also said that he had never personally experienced racism while playing football.

Be sure to check Sportlightpro.com for more excepts from this interview!

This interview was in association with Islands Cup Open Football.

Full podcast

If you want to check out the full interview with Eric Djemba-Djemba, we’ve linked the podcast below.

Chelsea Column: Werner rising as The Blues try not to sink

After another monotonous international break, and with another coming up, it’s time to look back at the last month of action for Chelsea.

For me, it was a very mixed month and one that has been very difficult to put into words. Under Tuchel, Chelsea fans have been able to enjoy very good football regardless of the opponent that they have come across.

This month feels very different, so, let’s get into it!

Unconvincing performances, but we’re still in the race.

Chelsea have been poor in almost every game I have seen over the last month. However, we have only dropped points in one Premier League game and lost one Champions League game.

Thiago Silva opened Chelsea’s account in their 3-0 win over Spurs

How has this happened?

Against Aston Villa at the start of September, we were being comfortably outplayed for much of the game, but Chelsea won 3-0. Against Spurs, we had no control of the ball in the first half, but Chelsea won 3-0.

Two games that the scoreline did not reflect the story of the game, but despite that, six goals, six points; and Chelsea are still in the top four despite a loss to Man City.

This Chelsea are not playing at their best. Far from it. Lukaku struggles to get into games and Werner is not the player that you usually want to turn to for goals.

The game against Spurs was a perfect example of what Chelsea have been like over the last month. All three goals came from defensive players: Thiago Silva, N’golo Kante and Antonio Rudiger. Those three players were probably a better front three than Mount, Havertz and Lukaku in that game.

Lukaku is a game-changing and in games where he hasn’t been able to get involved, it’s been very difficult for Chelsea to get a good result. Despite not getting a goal against Southampton, he was still able to make an impact which saw Chelsea win comfortably.

We are still in the early days of Lukaku and Werner up front and it’s had it’s ups and downs, but Chelsea need to make it work better.

The week from hell

Not winning in three games is a tough pill for Chelsea fans to swallow, especially when it happens in three separate competitions.

Chelsea fans were left worried after defeat to Juventus in the Champions League

It started with a Carabao Cup match against Aston Villa. Werner opened up the scoring, but it was cancelled out in a matter of minutes as Archer’s goal sent the game to a penalty shoot-out. Fortune favoured Chelsea as they won 4-3. Lucky escape.

Chelsea would not be so lucky when City rolled past Chelsea to get revenge for the Champions League final back in May.

Tuchel tried to play two up top with Werner and Lukaku, but behind was very defensive. Chelsea failed to register a single shot on target. When Tuchel finally reverted to the old system, it was too late as City were already a goal up. Pep was not going to give up this lead and he didn’t.

It was now time to end the way of misery with an away trip to Juventus in the Champions League.

This was going to be a tough test. After the disappointment against City, this game provided the perfect scenario for a bounce back. It never came as Chelsea suffered another 1-0 defeat.

Juventus had experience against Lukaku and kept him quiet. From there they resisted everything Chelsea tried to throw at them and struck hard when the opportunity came about.

That opportunity came 11 seconds into the second half. A long ball and a header was enough to break Chelsea’s defence and Chiesa thundered the ball past Mendy.

Questions were rightfully raised, and some were answered a few days later.

A Werner renaissance? Or a Loftus-Cheek masterclass?

Against Southampton, we started to see more of the Werner of old. He scored twice and I am very firm on the view that his first should have counted.

Timo Werner gets his first league goal of the season with an impressive display against Southampton

It was the softest of touches by Azpilicueta as Walker-Peters threw himself to the ground in a performance that was Oscar-worthy. But Timo did not give up. He had another chance, but it was excellently saved by McCarthy.

Southampton had levelled the game when James Ward-Prowse equalised through a penalty. But with six minutes to go the mighty German stepped up and scored the winner. This was further cemented through a third goal, this one scored by Ben Chilwell.

Werner played further up top than Lukaku in this game as Lukaku was paired up with Hudson-Odoi in attacking midfield.

Lukaku used his strength and speed to create great opportunities for Werner and we finally to got to see Werner play some great football.

But other than Werner, we saw the return of Ruben Loftus-Cheek to the Chelsea starting XI. What an impact he made.

Loftus-Cheek has been a forgotten man at Chelsea since his injury a few seasons ago. He went on loan to Palace and Fulham and never made much of an impact.

In this game, he was quick. His work rate in both halves of the pitch was like his was a much taller N’golo Kante. He looked phenomenal and it was great to see.

I have often worried about his career and wondered if he needed to leave Chelsea permanently to forge a meaningful career. The fact that Tuchel has been willing to give him a chance in this team, must be a great showing of faith in what he can do, especially with Kante out with Covid.

Does anything need to change?

At the moment, I think that Tuchel is just trying new things, because performances haven’t been the best lately and something did need to change.

Gabriel Jesus scores the winning goal in Chelsea’s first league defeat this season

I think it was down to some players not being at their best yet rather than the system. Mason Mount is a player that I could point to and say that he has not been at his best. The same could be said for Havertz or Ziyech.

By introducing Loftus-Cheek, Hudson-Odoi and Barkley back into the team, we are seeing almost new life being put into the squad. These are players who are looking to make an impact to secure a place in the squad and the team.

The players have another international break to stop and go again in two weeks. October should be a very straight forward month for Chelsea with games against Brentford, Norwich and Newcastle in the Premier League.

If Chelsea hope to continue their title push, these games have to be wins. We shall see.

Baptised in Brilliance, The Legend of CR7 Scales a New Peak

Last night, a few thousand supporters at the Estádio Algarve witnessed a miracle, possibly the greatest thing to ever happen to the beautiful country of Portugal.

The enigma called Cristiano Ronaldo, the G.O.A.T of world football surpassed Iran’s Ali Daei to become the highest goal scorer in the international game with his 110th strike against the Republic of Ireland

You read that right 110 goals, a figure which most international footballers don’t reach in appearances let alone goals.

Well, if this wasn’t reason enough to cheer, in a matter of moments as the clock struck the last minute of injury time, CR7 netted in a second to reach 111 and hand Portugal a well deserved 2-1 victory in this European Qualifier for Qatar 2022.

Surely, the Portuguese captain is like the best wine going around, getting better and hotter albeit in looks and performance with each passing year.

At 36, he gives a run for their money to every young footballer with his sheer brilliance in dribbling, mounting those magnificent runs and to top it all, putting the ball in the back of the opposition net with much ease.

Simply brilliant!

World’s Envy, Portugal’s Pride.

A five-time Ballon d’Or award winner and four-time European Golden Shoes conqueror, the most for any European player, this enigma par excellence was instrumental for Portugal winning the 2016 Euros in France.

While he sustained an injury in the 25th minute of the historic Euro 2016 final against hosts France, his sheer determination to get Portugal to the finals and his team winning the tournament to honour this bastion of the game was worthy of every praise.

Well if this wasn’t reason enough to celebrate this icon, one need not look further than the inaugural UEFA Nations League, which too was conquered by Portugal beating Netherlands in the final under his captaincy.

Add to this, his thirty title victories in Club Football including five Champions League hurrahs, does it get better for any footballer. Ever?

Surely not!

For me the greatest strength that this legend exuberates is despite being a number 7 in football which essentially is a winger and second striker role, he can put most number 9s, the main strikers to shame with his sheer ability to mount goal after goal.

The number 7 jersey in football received cult status when this man of God like ability put a new sheen on it, after legends of the past in Robert Pires, Luis Figo and Sir Kenny Dalglish had done their bit to honour this jersey.

Throughout his historic 18-year international career he has been the king pin of Portuguese football around whom multiple stars have revolved.

To be relevant for 18 long years is testament to the fitness of this man who till date can put models with the best chiseled physiques to shame.

Well, The Rock of Gibraltar in footballing terms would seem tiny in front of the Rock of Portugal.

A boon for Manchester United

Life comes a full circle, doesn’t it?

It was at Manchester United that Cristiano Ronaldo first wore the number 7 jersey under possibly the greatest manager that club football has ever seen in Sir Alex Ferguson.

Wearing the number 7 jersey became an extra source of motivation for Ronaldo to honour legends like David Beckham, George Best and Eric Cantona who had previously donned this number for the Red Devils.

And now the great man is back, having signed a new contract at Old Trafford and will again don the number 7 for Manchester United. Certainly, a boon if you’re a United supporter and more misery for fans like me who worship their fiercest rival, Liverpool.

The Premier League will surely be ready to get Ronaldoed again as goals will flow like wine from this legend.

And why not, to make the impossible possible is to be Cristiano Ronaldo!

Chelsea Column: Could this be the start of a Title winning season?

Football is back. The Premier League is back, which means that my monthly Chelsea columns are back.

Chelsea are the reigning European champions which means that expectations have never been higher and there will be a lot more pressure of Tuchel this season.

The Premier League seems to be the target set by the fans, and given how Chelsea have strengthened over the summer, it looks like it could be in reach.

While I have been cynical on Chelsea’s chance, the last month has given me an insight on what could be a great season for Chelsea.

Have Chelsea already proven themselves championship worthy?

Chelsea have taken seven points from their first three games, breezing past Arsenal, and getting a crucial draw at Liverpool.

Kai Havertz got his first goal of the season against Liverpool. Credit: NBC

After going down to 10 men and conceding a penalty away to Liverpool, it did look as though Liverpool would run away with the game in the second half. However, Chelsea dug deep and held on.

Liverpool threw everything they had at Chelsea and a defiant defence stopped Liverpool getting a winner. Despite being a man down, it didn’t stop Chelsea getting forward and almost winning it themselves.

That result shows how far Tuchel has brought this Chelsea in the 8 months that he has been in charge. The Chelsea of old would have failed to keep Liverpool at bay, but the discipline in the defence is going to make it incredibly difficult for any team to score against Chelsea.

This goes to show that the result against Liverpool could be the result that defines them as Championship contenders this season, more so than the cruising victory over Arsenal.

Lukaku showed in that Arsenal game just how much of a difference he is going to make. Watching Werner linger offside and miss sitters was very painful last season. Lukaku kept himself onside and bullied the defence.

He did the same against Liverpool and if it wasn’t for some poor decisions in the final third, he could have scored a couple.

Chelsea have all the ingredients to do it, but there are still 35 games remaining and anything could happen.

Another fortunate Champions League draw

Next month, Chelsea will start their defence of their Champions League title. Considering the last time they failed to get out of the group stages, I’ll be hoping for better this time around.

Trevor Chalobah has burst into the Chelsea squad with two impressive games. Credit: Getty Images

Chelsea have been drawn against Juventus, just like in 2012, as well as Malmo FF and Zenit St. Petersburg. On paper, this should be a pretty simple group, and one that Chelsea will be expected to win.

Of course, PSG will be the favourite for the Champions League, but I wouldn’t rule out Chelsea going far in the competition again. Chelsea still have a very strong side and they are capable of beating each team in the competition.

I’m not expecting Chelsea to win the Champions League, far from it. I’ll be happy with the Quarterfinals and anything beyond that will be a bonus.

My expectation of Chelsea is just to compete in cup competitions and as long as we can do ourselves proud then I’ll be happy.

I am really looing forward to playing Juventus. It has been a long time since Chelsea have played Juve in a competitive game. With the Old Lady no longer having Ronaldo, I do believe that Chelsea have a better chance of topping the group.

I expect a big step up from English teams in the Champions League this season and I think it’s going to be very competitive, so if Chelsea can get into the quarterfinals then that will be an achievement.

What should be Chelsea’s goals for this season?

In terms of the Premier League, Chelsea have to compete for the title. People seem to think that Chelsea have to win it after the Champions League victory, but I don’t think that is the case.

Marcos Alonso kicked off Chelsea’s season with a fantastic goal against Crystal Palace. Credit: Getty.

City, United and Liverpool are all going to be very competitive this season. The battle for the league could be one of the closest amongst the top four that we have seen in a long time.

Chelsea are going to have to work hard if they want to come out on top spot, but whether or not it’s possible is still yet to be seen.

September is going to be a very tough test for Chelsea and their title hopes. First up after the international break is Aston Villa, followed by Manchester City and then Spurs. If Chelsea can go through that undefeated then their stamp on the title race will have been made.

As for domestic trophies, Tuchel will want to make up for the loss against Leicester in the FA Cup final last season. It feels like it’s been forever since Chelsea won a domestic trophy, despite being in a domestic final for the last seven seasons running.

It’s about time that someone ended City’s dominance in the EFL Cup, so that would be nice for Tuchel to get another one up on Pep.

With how good the top four in England are at the moment, it’s going to be very difficult to get any kind of double, so getting a domestic trophy will be a good season. However, I do expect Chelsea to go on a good cup run in both domestic competitions.

For Chelsea, competing for trophies has been the minimum requirement. Now that Tuchel has won the Champions League in his first season, though, winning trophies now have to become the minimum requirement

In a game where offside decisions rule out goals, Liverpool still reign supreme!

As a new season entered the red walls of Anfield, more than 50,000 Kopites made the Mecca of Reds football their own after 528 days of gloom to witness Liverpool record their second successive hurrah.

The team at the receiving end was a spirited Burnley who more than put up a fight to give The Merseyside Maulers a run for their money in a score line which finally skewed towards The Reds by a margin of two goals.

Make no mistake, such was the determination, The Clarets demonstrated when they almost had one back had the referee not adjudged Ashley Barnes offside in the beginning of the second half.

Speaking about offside decisions, Liverpool themselves were at the receiving end of one when Salah thought he had got Liverpool a second in the first-half albeit VAR ruled otherwise.

Surely a game that would have seen a score line of 3-1 in Liverpool’s favour had offside decisions not ruled out two goals. Well such is football and rules are rules!

On a brighter side this was the seventh consecutive victory for Liverpool in the Premier League including the last season. To put things into perspective before these seven successive wins, in their 20 previous games, The Reds only managed to win 7, draw 5 and lose 8.

These seven successive hurrahs also served as their longest winning run since February 2020, when they won 18 in a row.

Certainly, The Reds are on the rise. Again!

So, without further ado lets dissect this intriguing fixture that saw Liverpool come on top though not as convincingly as their first outing:

Diogo Jota shows his value on a second successive occasion

Burnley started the contest as the more assertive of the two teams with almost going into the lead in the 4th minute courtesy McNeil whose effort was barely kept out by Trent Alexander Arnold on the goal line as keeper Alisson had already committed himself to keep striker Wood at bay.

Post the move, the referee raised the flag to adjudge Wood offside, the first in the game that would see two more goals denied courtesy the flag.

Liverpool were lucky to survive the initial scare!

As they say it’s the survival of the fittest and The Reds more than showed why with a fitting header by Diogo Jota that put the home side in front in the 18th minute after the Portuguese did well to latch on to a Tsimikas cross much to the delight of a lively Kop and an energetic Anfield.

Credit – Reuters

Minutes later Burnley managed another strike on goal only to be denied by Alisson. The Clarets were certainly up for the contest despite Liverpool drawing first blood.

Well, the home team in a matter of moments had a second albeit this would be the first goal to be denied by the flag. The perpetrator was Mohamed Salah by just barely having a foot over the line after he was brilliantly served by young Reds midfielder, Harvey Elliot.

Credit – Reuters

With no further drama the first half came to a finish as the score read Liverpool 1 – 0 Burnley.

Sadio Mane comes to the party

The second half much like the first saw Burnley assert their dominance as Ashley Barnes scored in the first minute to put the visitors’ level or at least he thought he did before the flag went up again. The second insistence where the flag was raised and the goal was denied.

The Clarets surely felt unlucky and Liverpool relieved!

A second was the need of the hour for the home team to put the game beyond the visitors as the eleven players in Red and the 50,000 + supporters all but seemed to tilt towards a certain sense of edginess.

The person to calm the nerves had to be one from Liverpool’s Big 3 and thankfully this time it was the Senegalese superstar, Sadio Mane who got his first of the season to join his compatriots Salah and Firmino on the goal scoring list.

Credit – Official Liverpool FC Twitter Handle

The Senegalese after being kept out by the Pope of Burnley on two previous attempts finally beat the keeper with a hammer of a shot as he capitalized on an opportunity created through a brilliant interplay between Elliot and Alexander-Arnold.

Liverpool had sealed the deal with this strike.

The final score read Liverpool 2 – 0 Burnley as the home team recorded a perfect 6 points from their first two outings much to the delight of an ecstatic Anfield.

An enthralling contest with Chelsea awaits

While wins over Norwich City and Burnley are as important as they come to open the season on a high, truth be told the game of gigantic proportions which surely will test the metal of the team in red is the one next.

Chelsea, the champions of Europe under Thomas Tuchel seem a much-rejuvenated side and will be more than eager to bring the mother of all fights to Anfield.

Having said this, make no mistake, Liverpool will be ready as The Blues will not only face the eleven men on the field but also the 50,000 strong army cheering from the stands. And yes the millions supporting from all corners of the globe too.

A clash of two German geniuses in the offering. I surely hope the one with The Reds prevails!

‘Unity is strength – Let’s Go Reds – You’ll Never Walk Alone!’

EURO 2020: La Roja Spared Blushes By Impressive Comeback in Eight Goal Thriller

Despite both Spain and Croatia being lacklustre in their respective groups, both sides advanced to the knockouts of Euro 2020. Spain in particular will have been buoyed by their 5-0 thumping of Slovakia in their final match, while Croatia showed their class to beat Scotland 3-1 in Glasgow.

However, the Blazers won’t have been helped by Ivan Perisic’s recent positive test for COVID-19. The Inter Milan forward is one of Croatia’s most experienced and talented players. With this match taking place at Denmark’s Parken Stadium, this was a truly neutral venue.

What followed was one of the best games in European championship history. But who would book their place to face either France or Switzerland in the quarterfinals? Here are all the highlights!

Spain score at both ends

The opening exchanges were largely cagey, but Spain were the side that had the lion’s share of possession. As has so often been the case for La Roja though, fashioning clear-cut chances was proving difficult.

In the thirteenth minute, Pablo Sarabia had Spain’s first shot in anger. The PSG midfielder’s effort though, only troubled the side netting and not Dominik Livakovic.

Sarabia was causing Croatia a lot of problems down the left. Image: Sport360

The first key chance was a few minutes later, and it came down the left again. A perfectly weighted through ball from Pedri found Koke in the centre of the penalty area, but the Atletico Madrid midfielder couldn’t best Livakovic with his shot.

An even better chance came in the nineteenth minute. Ferran Torres found the time and space on the right to float a perfect cross to Alvaro Morata’s head. However, the Juventus striker failed to get proper contact on the ball and headed it firmly into the ground before Livakovic caught with ease.

READ MORE EURO 2020: THORGAN’S STRIKE CREATES ‘HAZARD’ FOR PORTUGAL AS BELGIUM MARCH ON

If that was bad, what followed next was unbelievable. Spain were producing all of the chances, but found themselves behind in the most bizarre circumstances. Pedri had no pressure on him and passed back to his goalkeeper Unai Simon. The Barcelona midfielder overdid it though, and Simon failed to control the ball, he could only watch it fly into the back of his net. Croatia led 1-0 and had hardly ventured out of their own half.

Croatia were spurred on by their unexpected lead, Nikola Vlasic powering through on the right wing, but couldn’t find the net with his effort. Mateo Kovacic too, had a good effort just go over the net in the 26th minute.

READ MORE EURO 2020: PURPOSEFUL DENMARK CONQUER WALES TO REACH EURO 2020 QUARTER-FINALS

Spain were growing back into the game, and with eight minutes to go before half-time, they deservedly equalised. Another fine move down the left resulted in a scramble in the box. Jose Gaya got a shot off, and despite Livakovic parrying the powerful effort, Sarabia followed up to level the game 1-1.

Both sides would’ve been happy to head into the break level, but for different reasons. The final chance of note was a long shot by Koke, which flew a yard or two wide of Livakovic’s left-hand post.

Croatia capitalise on Spain sitting back

The first substitution of the game was carried out by Croatia at half-time. Bruno Petkovic, who was anonymous in the first 45, was replaced by Andrej Kramaric.

Spain were again the side on top, but were again largely failing to create clear chances. That changed in the 27th minute though, as an overload on the left side of the pitch resulted in Torres crossing to Cesar Azpilicueta, of all people to powerfully head into the goal.

Azpilicueta rose highest to put his side into the lead for the first time this evening. Image: Sportsbet.io

Livakovic was powerless to stop the full-back’s purposeful header as the Spaniard rose above the defender to see Spain lead 2-1.

Simon preserved this lead in the 67th minute thanks to a superb strong save low to his right. Vlasic cut the ball back for Josko Gvardiol and the latter shot at goal from a few yards out, but Simon redeemed himself for the OG earlier on. Kramaric would go through on goal a couple of minutes later, but the offside flag was raised, although Simon didn’t know that and produced another good save.

READ MORE EURO 2020: GERMAN SUB SINKS HUNGARY, BOOKS ENGLAND SHOWDOWN

In the 72nd minute, the ball was in the back of the Croatia net again. A free-kick resulted in chaos in the Croatian box and Torres once more perfectly found Morata. Morata tapped in from little more than a yard out, but it was always going to be called back for offside.

Straight after this, Croatia went down the other end and were calling for a penalty. The referee said no, despite Azpilicueta kicking the ball into Koke’s hands and waved away the protests with a yellow card for Marcelo Brozovic.

After a brief stoppage for an injury, Spain doubled their lead. Ferran Torres latched onto a brilliant pass from the restart from Pau Torres. F. Torres cut inside onto his left foot and slotted calmly into the net, 3-1, a fine goal. Croatia were kicking themselves though, that was schoolboy stuff to switch off like that.

READ MORE EURO 2020: SUPER STERLING POWERS ENGLAND INTO THE ROUND OF 16

Spain consolidated their position with substitutions, while Croatia were making changes to attempt to inject energy and zest into their eleven. In the 84th minute, it was almost deja vu for Croatia as they again switched off from a free-kick. Dani Olmo attempted to float the ball into the net, but Livakovic was there to save.

Croatia then got themselves back into the game in the 85th minute. No sooner had Spain almost gone 4-1 up, they found themselves only 3-2 ahead. Luka Mordric’s skill finally came in use, as Captain Croatia cut back the ball for Ante Budimir to strike at goal. The shot was saved, but another scramble in the box ensued before Mislav Orsic slammed the ball past the line.

Goal-line technology confirmed the goal and despite a VAR check for a potential handball, the goal stood and Croatia were only 2-3 down with five minutes remaining. A nervy five minutes followed, which only got worse for Spain when six minutes of added time was confirmed.

Croatia were rolling the dice and they came up with sixes. Croatia moved down the left with Orsic firing a perfect and dangerous cross into the middle. Mario Pasalic met it perfectly and the ball was in the net, 3-3 and we were heading for extra-time. This surely must be one of the games of the tournament!

Extra-time

The thirty minutes of extra time got underway as the sun began to set in the Danish capital.

The momentum and mentality of the sides had completely flipped. Croatia were now in the ascendancy and Spain were terrified of the counterattack. Not without reason after, as in the sixth minute of ET, Croatia should’ve been ahead again.

Orsic down the left once more and crossed to Kramaric, who let fly from six yards out. Simon again bailed his team out, a combination of hand and knee prevented Croatia from taking the lead. Spain would have a chance of their own straight after, Dani Olmo only being stopped by Duje Caleta-Car.

Spain would go ahead as the clock struck 100 minutes. Olmo was in acres of space on the right and he floated a perfect ball into Morata, who fired an unstoppable shot into the top-right of the goal, Spain lead 4-3!

Alvaro Morata silenced his critics with his second Euro 2020 goal today

Kramaric had a half-chance at the other end, but Spain finally, surely, put the tie to bed in the 104th minute. Another defence-splitting ball from Olmo saw Mikel Oyarzabal free and the Real Sociedad slotted in via a deflection from Livakovic to make it 5-3.

Morata would have another chance before half-time, but Spain looked like they had an insurmountable lead at last.

ET: Second half

Croatia didn’t get the memo again though, as Ante Budimir was inches wide following a move from the kick-off.

Spain then slowed the game down as Croatia began to really physically struggle. Modric departed the pitch with seven minutes remaining in what will likely be his last appearance in a Euro game.

Morata almost doubled his tally for the day with five minutes remaining. The Juve striker was through on goal, but a good save from Livakovic prevented Croatia from being hit for six. Olmo also almost made it 6-3, but the post denied him.

The Croats had given their all, but the 2018 World Cup runners-up fell at the first knockout hurdle again, 5-3 the final score.

Croatia’s dismal run of never winning a Euros knockout game continues, while Spain will face either Switzerland or France in the quarterfinals.

Thorgan’s strike creates ‘Hazard’ for Portugal as Belgium march on

For many last night’s fixture between Belgium and Portugal, the two powerhouses of World Football let alone Europe was the match to look out for in the pre-quarters.

Some would debate this, with the Germany-England showdown yet to come albeit when the number one team in the world battles another team in the top 5, eyeballs in abundance definitely merits the occasion.

And eyeballs are what we got as The Red Devils Fans and The Maroon Brigade stormed the Estadio La Cartuja in Sevilla, Spain amid millions more glued to their television sets as we witnessed Belgium get the better of Portugal albeit only by a solitary goal.

The solitary goal which put Portugal in complete ‘hazard’ as their Euro campaign came to an unexpected end courtesy the younger Hazard, Thorgan.

The 1-0 win also gave Belgium their first hurrah over Portugal since September 1989 when they beat the Southern European Nation 3-0. More than three decades of misery finally ending for The Red Devils amid five matches contested with three losses and two draws.

So, as the tournament for the megastar of Portugal and World Football in CR7, came to a rather disconsolate conclusion last night, lets dissect this small but decisive win for Belgium:

Thorgan Hazard the difference maker in the first 45

Portugal started this contest with much intent as only in the 6th minute, their Liverpool forward Diogo Jotta had a chance albeit dragging it wide as he was fed with a sumptuous offload from Sanches.

About 20 minutes later, Cristiano Ronaldo created their second opportunity through a free kicking drilling the ball into the bottom left corner as keeper Courtois made a crucial intervention to keep the megastar at bay.

Credit – Reuters

Belgium slowly started gaining confidence as Munier had a strike albeit off-target in the 37th minute only for Thorgan Hazard minutes later to capitalize on this confidence with a devastating right foot strike giving keeper Rui Patricio absolutely no chance as the ball swirled in the bottom right corner of the net.

Credit – Reuters

As the Red Devils went 1-0 up, at that point I believed Portugal with their might would definitely mount a comeback and this surely wasn’t the only goal we would see in the full 90.

Well, I was so wrong!

Portugal desperately try for the equaliser albeit no luck

The European Champions began the second half creating opportunities galore as Jotta again fired a shot off-target.

In the 61st minute, Portugal would find their range with a João Félix header from a Sanches corner which was comfortably grasped by Courtois.

As time went on, so did the desperation for the Champions of Europe. An equaliser surely had to come from somewhere.

Credit – Reuters

Well, an opportunity presented itself in the 82nd minute as Rúben Dias swung in a header from a Fernandes cross which was again averted by Courtois as he hit the ball away.

Portugal were denied yet again as The Belgian keeper was doing all he could to keep their lead intact.

A minute later Portugal mounted yet another attack as Guerreiro hit the post. It seemed, luck had befriended Belgium!

Minutes later Courtois again showed his class as he smothered the ball just outside his goal to deny the looming André Silva.

As the referee called time, Belgium amid some luck and much of Courtois’ brilliance had done fantastically well to keep Portugal at bay.

In truth seeing Ronaldo after the match with disappointment all over his face made me shed a tear as the fan in me was rather more animated with one of his favourite footballers coming up second best.

The Azzurri challenge will be as tough as they come

Up next Belgium would be pitted against a confident and rather devastating Italian side who are yet to lose a single contest in this tournament.

They have scored goals aplenty and their attacking threat in Immobile, Insigne and others is surely second to none. In truth haven’t seen an Azzurri side with so much flair in a long time.

This contest will again be one for the ages much like Belgium’s last excursion against Portugal albeit The Red Devils would have to be more decisive and lethal with their performance to get the better of the Azzurris’ enroute to sealing a semi-final berth.

After all, only luck can’t win you all battles, dear numero uno team!

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