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Saturday, May 28, 2011

War at Wembley

The final at Wembley is one which has a past courtesy the two teams. Both Barcelona and Manchester United played each other at this very stage 2 years back in Rome and at that time it was the Catalan Giants who shoved away Ferguson's men to win the title. This time around though Manchester United look prepared to take on Barcelona not wanting Barca to be their nemesis once again.

To be gifted is one thing and to actually use that gift is another thing and Barcelona surely are doing that having the most gifted players in the team. Barca under Pep  are as strong as a team can be and are just one step away from being labelled  as one of  "The best teams ever". Their 'taka taka' football has mesmerized everyone even their enemies. They have been despised off the field but on the field you would be left in awe. Manchester United on the other hand have one of the most mediocre teams they could ever have. Having said this I would not take away any credit away from them, for the way they have stepped onto the field this season always brimming with confidence and always hungry for more success. A lot of this could be attributed to Sir Alex's 'winning mentality' which surely is gonna be ManU's 12th man against Barca. If they do manage to win the title it would be sweet revenge for their defeat in 2009 though they wouldn't want to admit it. Also it would enhance their reputation as being one of Europe's best teams a tag which they have always strived to maintain.

The verbal sparring between the respective camps of Manchester United and Barcelona has largely been complimentary but no less illuminating than the sniping that marred the latter's semi-final with Real Madrid. Some of my favorites are here..

Nemanja Vidic - "There should be some respect for us. Barcelona are favourites for this game. We are fine with that. They are a good team and play some good football. But we not a club that has won nothing over the years. We are Manchester United."

Pep Guardiola - " I admire them. Manchester United are a fantastic rival, but they have an advantage because two years ago we beat them. You can't be favourites against Manchester United anyway - they are a great team. They sold Cristaino (Ronaldo) and they are still winning."

Rio Ferdinand - "Revenge is not the right word, but I do have regrets about the 2009 final defeat to Barcelona. I was gutted, devastated by the end of that game. Nobody likes to lose a cup final but it was one of the worst feelings I have ever had in my career. We just didn't perform  as we should have done last time. This time we have to give a better account of ourselves."

Pep Guardiola - " I hope  that they (the players) feel it could be their last Champions League final. In 1992 we thought  that we would never play  a European  Cup final again. I want my players to feel the same. We cannot waste this opputunity."

A comparison I would like to make is between AC Milan vs Liverpool and now Barcelona vs Man United.
2005 - Istanbul - Liverpool came back from 3 goals down to win on penalties.
2007 - Athens - AC Milan win the final 2-1 against Liverpool
2009 - Rome - Barcelona beat Man United 2-0
2011 - Wembley - ?

Is this a sign of a Manchester United victory or will Barcelona reclaim their crown they lost to Inter Milan last year. The whole world is waiting, the whole world is watching.



Carlo Ancelotti..Strike 2..You are Out!!!

West Ham relegated, Avram Grant sacked...Chelsea finished 2nd behind champions Manchester United..Carlo Ancellotti sacked quicker than Grant.
The above statement will scare the hell out of you but yes, this is the harsh reality of teams which demand quick results. Result, 2nd is not good enough.


Ancelotti Out.. Whose Next Roman?

With the sacking of Carlo Ancelotti, Chelsea's present has been put into the dark till they can find a replacement for him. But why was he sacked? Was this really needed when the team came back and finished 2nd after a disastrous mid season during which Chelsea threatened to finish outside the top four. Certainly there are things to ponder about..

Carlo Ancelotti was brought to Chelsea at a time when the team needed to build after having stop gap managers (or yeah long term managers who were made to look like stop gap ones) the tactics of who were temporary and didn't yield long term results. Roman Abramovich chose Carlo Ancelotti over others for his results in Europe which yielded two trophies at Milan. Roman's obsession with the Champions League was the most important criteria for Ancelotti landing at Stamford Bridge. And it was a dream season for the manager, first time in England winning the the Community Shield and the double(League+FA Cup) thus halting Manchester United's hatrick of league titles. There was no complaints in the first season except that Chelsea couldn't progress beyond the quarters of the Champions league where they lost to eventual champions Inter Milan. A successful first season promised greater glory for Ancelotti and Chelsea. But fate wouldn't let that happen. After a brilliant start to Ancelotti's 2nd season where Chelsea threatened to run away with the title a mid season dip cost them not only the premier league title but also the league cup, the Fa cup and most importantly the Champions League. Chelsea seemed to have been transported back to the dark age and a final day defeat to Everton  was the final nail in the coffin for a man who was destined to resurrect Chelsea's success.

Did he deserve the way he was treated?
The sacking of Ancelotti set new standards of ruthlessness.However if observed this has been the way Chelsea has been going about their business since the takeover by Roman Abramovich and it was no different with Ancelotti. Raneiri, Mourinho, Grant, Scholari, Ancelotti and this list will grow on as long as Abramovich is up there. And the fuel which added to the sacking was Chelsea's dismal season, trophyless for the first time in the "Roman" era. This raises the question once again, does one poor season deserve a sacking. According to Roman, it is a big yes. He must have made his up mind the day Chelsea lost against Manchester United in the Champions League without a fight.. He has equated football success to 'fast food' which if undelivered is gonna drive you out of Stamford Bridge. And this is exactly what Ancelotti got, his marching orders immediately after the game at Goodison park , the result of the game certainly summing it all up.

I have still have not answered if Carlo Ancelotti deserved the way he treatment he was meted out. Popular opinion is against Abramovich's decision and I do agree with that. Failure in not able to add silverware in one season  was not a good enough decision to sack him but the owner thought otherwise. Jose Mourinho would better understand what Carlo Ancelotti might be going through as he too suffered a similar fate back in 2007. Ancelloti was brought to the club to fulfill Abramovich's obsession with the Champions League and 2 years of poor showing is the sure reason for Ancelotti's exit. And without doubt he is not gonna be the last one.

A new man is soon gonna take charge at Stamford Bridge and he surely has to come with the knowing that failure to deliver success is going to point him to the door. There cannot be two ways about it till Chelsea has Abramovich at helm. Will this thought drive away the best managers from taking up a job at Chelsea or will they view this as a challenge which not if enhancing their resume will surely add to their personal satisfaction. It certainly is a cat and mouse game for the new manager. Hopefully he would remember to bring "success" along with him .. ;)


Thursday, May 26, 2011

Udinese in Champions League: Another Sampdoria?

Yes, Udinese managed to cross that final hurdle to reach the preliminary round of Champions League with a nervy draw at home to Milan. Remarkable considering the manner in which this team has picked itself up after 4 consecutive losses that saw them at rock bottom of the serieA table after the first four games of the season. Thoroughly deserved, for the attacking football they had put on show for majority of the campaign. Yet there is a lot of uncertainty, predictably, around the Udinese camp. Even before they managed to get that vital point, everybody in Italy had the same question in their mind: How many of the present squad members will be playing in the same team even if they qualify for next year’s Champions League.

Add to that fact, Udinese has always been a ‘selling’ club, profit from player sales being their major revenue in the last decade. Udinese, the club, always took pride in their business model of spotting talented youngsters from countries lesser known for football in Africa, South America and Europe and then selling them as better players at huge profits, something which European clubs like Porto and Lyon do best. This team, with its 3-5-1-1 formation, is surely going to be entertaining to watch in the Champions League if they can keep hold of these stars this summer:

1.Alexis Sanchez- Who wouldn’t have guessed it! The most ‘talked-about player’ in the league has grown tremendously on footballing terms. The creativity behind Udinese’s attack and also Di Natali’s goals, his skill and vision is what makes him such a hot property in the transfer market. Udinese owner Giampaolo Pozzo was right in saying that it would actually help Sanchez if he stayed at Udinese for another year so that he experiences Champions League with regular starts and lesser pressure. To understand precisely what he meant, ask Torres to know the pressure of playing for a big club especially if the club has paid a lot for your services. Considering his value, it’s highly unlikely Sanchez would be sold anything less than €25m.

2.Gokhan Inler- It’s an open secret as to how much the Napoli owner wants the Swiss captain at the heart of the Azurri midfield. A real classy, yet tough, midfielder who is hugely influential in dictating play has even dropped the biggest of hints when he declined to celebrate his stunning goal against Napoli at San Paolo. Replacing Inler would be a huge task for the coach Francesco Guidolin when you take into account the experience Inler brings to this side.

3.Kwadwo Asamoah- Interest from Milan late in the season has caused further speculation and Allegri has even admitted that Asamoah would fit straight into his system. But compared to the other two, there are lesser chances he would leave.

4.Samir Handanovic- The Bianconeri goal keeper, who had a fine season with a record number of penalty saves in the league, has also been consistently linked with a move away. He has expressed his desire to move to the Premier League.
The main concern, of course, for all the neutrals and Udinese fans is how much this side can offer without these stars. There is also fear in their minds after witnessing what happened to Sampdoria in this crazy season. After finishing 4th last season, they were only seconds away from participating in the Champions League group stages until a late goal broke their hearts in the qualifying round. To make matters worse, they sold their two stars- Cassano and Pazzini, and the season ended, as we all know, with them being relegated. An intriguing story of a team from celebration to despair.
When you mention Sampdoria, it would be improper if you don’t mention Angelo Palombo. After the penultimate game of the season that confirmed their relegation, here’s what their captain Palombo could all do. Invokes the emotional side for football in you when you watch this video.
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Sunday, May 22, 2011

EPL: Survival Sunday

With the premier league title already won, all eyes would be on the fight for 3rd and 5th spot and most importantly the spots in the dropzone. Only one game left, the battle is no doubt hotting up and the teams are feeling the heat and so are their managers.

3rd place is direct entry into Champions league and Manchester City are the news boys in this game. Arsenal with already a barren run wouldn't want to miss out on this consolation prize. However City at the Reebok Stadium would try to strengthen their chances by winning against Bolton which would add to their FA cup title.

Tottenham would have wanted to reclaim 4th spot and once again prove that they aren't one timers in Europe. However a defeat to Manchester City washed away those dreams. 5th place would have been guaranteed if not for Liverpool's resurgence under Kenny Dalglish. A home game for Spurs is a boon and 5th spot is in their hands except if they wish to gift it to Pool for their outstanding comeback this season.
5 Teams..Only 3 Survive..
A spot in the relegation zone is always dreaded and there are not less than 5 teams who are trying to avoid ending up there. Blackburn, Blackpool, Wolves, Birmingham City and Wigan will try to give their all for an extended stay in the Premier League. Staying up is important not only in terms of playing against better teams and a chance to fight to be the best in England but also what comes along, which include a bunch of incentives like sponsorship and income from television rights. Better placed the team is at the end of the season better are the chances of increasing the income is what drives clubs to fight for a place in the Premier league. Lets see which team has a better chance of surviving tomorrow.

Blackburn Rovers:
v Wolves (A).. Since winning the title in 1995 Blackburn's fortunes have been on the decline. They have been relegated once in 1999 and tomorrow they face Wolves who themselves are fighting relegation. Against a team which has the motive of staying up and also has had a decent last 6 games scoring 8 of the available 18 points,  it's gonna be a tough one. Steve Kean has a big job at hand and only a win will keep his head from rolling..
My prediction: Blackburn 2 -1 Wolves

Wolverhampton Wanderers:
v Blackburn (H).. A home game is an advantage, but 8 points in their last 6 against Blackburn's 6 points in the same number of games will surely add as an added boost.  However even with 2 points more than their previous campaign they find themselves still with a chance of going down. Mick McCarthy will consider himself unlucky if  that does happen and a sack will be awaiting him.
My prediction: Wolves 1 - 2  Blackburn

Blackpool:
v Manchester United (A).. Do I need to mention that Blackpool will be playing their last game against the Champions of this season. Blackpool would be happy that Manchester United have already secured the title, else it would have been only destination for them, back to the championship. With a relaxed oppostion Blackpool should try to get their points, however even after resting a lot of players Manchester United will be far too strong for them. I see them going only one way, going down.
My prediction: Manchester United 3 - 1 Blackpool

Birmingham City:
v Tottenham Hotspur (A).. Birmingham's last few games have been disastrous with one draw and 4 losses in their last  5 and Tottenham would be in no mood to do them any favours tomorrow after having lost their Champions League spot and now with Europa league qualification spot on the line. However Spurs have been scratchy lately and this cannot have come at a better time for Birmingham who had a good campaign last year just like Blackburn but now are trying to save their skins. Relegation is not new to them but hopefully for them they can scrape through tomorrow.
My prediction: Tottenham 2 - 2 Birmingham

Wigan Athletic:
v Stoke City (A).. Wigan were tipped to be relegated even before West Ham but a few games with character has given them a chance of staying up.. For Wigan survival sunday began on 15th May when they faced West Ham who went up 2-0 in the first half. But just like Wigan of the recent, a show of courage got them back not only in the game but also in the survival race sending West Ham to the championship. On 22nd May it's gonna be a full circle for them if manage to survive at Stoke. Of late they have managed to hold on and I don't see any reason why they can't do it tomorrow.
My Prediction: Stoke City 0 - 1 Wigan

Final day always has it's share of drama and I don't expect that to lessen one bit tomorrow. The excitement is building up and for a few teams the whole season is down to tomorrow, down to one final game. It's make or break time. Special mention about Martin Skrtel(Liverpool) and Leighton Baines(Everton) who have played every minute of this Premier league season and are expected to play the full 90min on Sunday. Speaks volume of their strength, both physical and mental.

38 games, 9 months, 1 Premier League title ends on Sunday. It's time to say Adios to this season with the wait for next already having begun...


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

BREAKING DAWN

It’s been a poor season for Chelsea. The lowest return on points since Abramovich bought the club in 2003. No trophy has been added to the cabinet. A season that began on such a positive note in rampaging form finished as a damp squib, they flattered to deceive in the final two months when they were said to be in rampant form with a return of 22 pts out of 24, which provided a mere smokescreen to the fact that they never played a competitive team away from home in that run at all, and when they were pitted against one like Stoke at the Britannia they could only draw or when faced a Tottenham at home, they needed the help of a linesman to beat them. Trounced at home to a spirited Everton side in the FA cup, embarrassing defeats at their Stamford Bridge fortress at the hands of Sunderland, Liverpool, Man United, which was once their pride has done a lot of damage to the ego of the squad who quite frankly used to beat teams at home in the tunnel before the game itself, such was the buccaneering reputation of the team at home that sides never stood a chance even to win a point there let alone three. Champions league ended in disappointment yet again, even the 50mn pound addition of Fernando Torres could not salvage a team that got outplayed, outthought and outfought by a superior Man United side over the two legs in the quarter finals. This is in a nut shell the Chelsea season, a disastrous one which brings us onto the most intriguing topic of all, the performance and fate of manager Carlo Ancelotti.

Failure to land a trophy at the bridge has cost every manager his job in the Abramovich era and it is widely being tipped that Ancelotti could be shown the door come the end of May when he is to meet the club officials for a review of the season. A thorough gentleman and universally adored by his peers, fans and the media alike, he deserves all our sympathies for the problems that he has had to contend with this season. A meddling owner who in trying to make a statement that he is the big daddy of them all, as he sacked his assistant manager the highly influential Ray Wilkins, for reasons best known to him. A decision that quite possibly exposed Ancelotti’s lack of although blossoming, knowledge of the British game. Come the second problem, the signing of Fernando Torres, a brilliant striker who is in the worst form of his life at the moment, his signing in February shook the entire setup of a team who had just started picking up the shambles of their disgraceful run and getting their act together again. The highly expensive prize Ancelotti paid in making his players play a formation so alien to them in order to integrate a 50 mn pound present journeyman albeit great striker cost the club their champions league dream, his decision to start with Torres in the quarter final at Old Trafford was widely criticized. Ancelotti learnt it the hard way that the team could only play in their characteristic 4-3-3 that brought the side their best run of from in the season, a run that made Man United nervous and made everyone feel that there was a danger that the Blues could catch up but it was all but a false dawn.

The season has highlighted many a glaring errors that Ancelotti and the club made right from the time in July when he boldly proclaimed that his side was fit and competitive enough to reclaim the title they so emphatically won. His failure to find a replacement for the dynamo called Ballack or the artistic Deco proved his undoing as his side cried for creativity in their mid season loss of form when Lampard went missing in early winter. A vulnerable back four was the last thing he needed as he first sold Carvalho and then Alex went missing through injury, Bosingwa’s defensive frailties were brutally exposed. His faith in the youngsters faltered as he could not trust them enough to revive a team that was in its worst run of form from mid October until Christmas, a point where the serious lack of depth in his squad was brutally highlighted.

The core of the team is now in their thirties, have been carrying along a few journeymen with them. Drogba’s best days are behind him and the idea of expecting him to score 30+ again would be foolhardy and that’s why the inquisition of currently out of sorts though incredible Torres makes sense. David Luiz looks a great signing but is defensively raw and will need a good pre-season under his belt which looks unlikely with the Copa America looming on the horizon. Ramires has started finding his feet in the team, McEachran in two years time could be worthy of the no.8 shirt. But the squad needs a serious rebuild. A team has to be built around Torres, a team that would cater to his needs, a team that would enable him to reach the heights that we all know he can, similar to a team that Mourinho built around Drogba during his tenure at the Bridge.

The big question though remains whether the hierarchy at Stamford Bridge still trusts in Ancelotti to allow him to build his team, a team that they believe would dominate the next decade, similar to these current core of players who have dominated the scene since 2004, remains to be answered. A big decision awaits Abramovich in the summer, a decision that could well shape the direction the club will take into the next decade of this century. Ancelotti already knows his fate and if the media is to believed then he is set to be sacked come the end of May. But the prospective list of candidates that could take over from him just doesn’t match the pedigree that Ancelotti boasts of. Homecoming approaches as the dream of coaching Roma looms on the horizon. He has a decision to make.

But the big decision has to be made by Abramovich. Accept that the club needs stability and show patience and keep Ancelotti could be a upturn from the ruthless Roman we know, the one who fires managers who fail to add silverware to the trophy cabinet. Wisdom says Roman needs to act sensibly, show patience and persist with his man but whether he chooses to do so remains the most intriguing bit of announcement that will come out of Stamford Bridge this month end.


Sunday, May 8, 2011

AC Milan crowned Italian champions

"I still cant believe it! I made a pledge with Adriano Galliani that if we won the Scudetto, we'd walk up to the church in Versilia on foot. It'll be quite a hike!" was Massimiliano Allegri's reaction after his team AC Milan clinched their 18th Scudetto at the Stadio Olympico with a 0-0 draw against AS Roma. The former Cagliari tactician had never won silverware before and he managed it in his first year at Milan, only his third year in serieA. " Allegri was excellent this season and he will continue our tradition of producing great managers" remarked Galliani referring to the former Milan tacticians such as Sacchi and Capello.

True, the way Allegri has handled this team deserves credit. It isn't easy managing a team owned by Silvio Berlusconi. Although he splashes cash in the transfer market to build a good team, he constantly makes his voice heard on the tactical aspects of his team's game. Ancelotti has experienced this himself during his long stay and as recently as last year Leonardo quit this club citing lack of understanding between him and Silvio. Leaving the off field issues aside, it would be fitting to highlight on how Allegri has managed the best out of this Milan team.

ALLEGRI'S MASTERSTROKES
  • Formation: Initially Allegri stuck with the 4-3-3 formation left behind by Leonardo but soon realized that this allowed the opposition teams to dictate the game in midfield as players like Ronaldinho or Pato rarely track back. His change of formation to 4-3-1-2 was crucial. This was a formation (or slightly altered 4-3-2-1 under Ancelotti) which had brought Milan a lot of success in the past and was better suited for older players like Seedorf, Pirlo and Gattuso. It was only after he changed the formation, it became so evident how poor 4-3-3 looked with the lack of good full backs for the Rossoneri.
  • Boateng as Trequarista: I would hail this as Allegri's best decison yet on the Milan bench. Kevin Prince Boateng's strong points are his pace, his movement off the ball and his ability to get along into the passing triangle with the strikers. He has such a lively presence in midfield and his work rate is phenomenal. With him as the trequarista (the attacking midfielder behind the two strikers), Milan could become more efficient in recovering the possession and converting it into attack. Boateng offers more flexibilty in this role that he gets into different positions unlike traditional trequaristas.
  • Workhorse Midfield: This has been a major feature of Allegri's Milan this season. Tough tackling midfielders capable of breaking up the play would be employed as the midfield trio making it much more difficult for the serieA teams to build up play in midfield. There were games this season when Milan midfield consisted of Van Bommel, Gattuso, Flamini and Boateng! This was another reason this side managed to have the best defensive record in serieA this term.
  • Shifting Pirlo and Seedorf to the Left: For years, Pirlo was known as the deep lying playmaker. However, what Allegri did was that he shifted Pirlo to the left of the midfield in a more advanced role, a move that made effective use of Pirlo's vison and passing abilities into the attacking play than spraying passes from the centre, deep in Milan's half. Unfortunately, Pirlo remained injured after that for majority of the season.Interestingly, Allegri repeated the same trick with Seedorf too until the last game.
  • Work Rate: This has been the main reason Ronaldinho left in January. Allegri confined him to the bench for the lack of work rate. This had a positive influence on Robinho. He had to step up his game in order to be in the starting eleven. The Result -We saw a complete different Robinho from the troublesome one who played for Manchester City. He might have missed some sitters this season, but it was his work rate and defensive work that received the most of the appreciation.
  • Development of Ignazio Abate: Leonardo might have been the first one who made Abate play at right back but it was Allegri who helped, or developed, him to a complete full back. He has been outstanding all season and rightly been mentioned in the media to be part of Prandelli's Italy soon.


Saturday, May 7, 2011

Arsenal score against ManU keeping Chelsea's title hopes alive..

If there was one match most watched last weekend in the English Premier League it was Arsenal vs Manchester United ,not only for the old rivalry but also because this game would have decided if the title would go to Old Trafford for the 19th time or would it go down the wire possibly giving Chelsea a chance to fight for it and probably Arsenal to end their silverware drought. And it surely didn't disappoint fans of ManU's foes as Arsenal scored a lone goal to keep everyone's hopes alive.



Before the game ManU were brimming with confidence of an away win at Schalke in the Champions League and a win at the Emirates would have made their life easy for the rest of the season. However Arsene Wenger did have other plans. Despite Fabregas missing out due to injury Arsenal had a very good half despite not having anything to show on the scoresheet. A clear case of handball by Vidic in the box was missed by the referee which otherwise would have been a penalty and a big chance to mount pressure on the Red Devils. And they didn't have to wait for long in the 2nd half as an edge of the box finish from Aaron Ramsey ensured that Arsenal were up front and it stayed so thus ensuring that ManU wouldn't run away with the title. However close to the end a penalty appeal was turned down by referee Chris Foy as Owen went down after slight contact from Clichy. The ref would have surely not given this one to make up for the one he missed in the first half. A penalty at this stage to Manchester United would have caused a furore and further repurcussions were avoided except for the blabbering SAF who always will take on referees when results go against his side.

Besides Arsenal and ManU why was this game so important to Chelsea? What did they expect from Arsenal? Well, Chelsea after enduring a disastrous mid season found their way back claiming 25 points from the last 27, the most by any premier league team and for them to be in the title hunt it was important that Arsenal beat Manchester United so as to reach the peak of a mountain they had created for themselves. Arsenal did the job for them and tomorrow they need to continue the good work they have been doing since beating ManU on March 1st. It's not gonna be easy as ManU come off a wonderful mid week win over Schalke in the Champions League and also importantly having most of their players rested for that game. Though the game should be decided by the nature of play by 22 players on the pitch recently there have been accusations of games being decided due to desicions made by referees which certainly shouldn't be how a season should be remembered. Chelsea had their share of luck in the game against Tottenham where thier goals have been credited to errors by referees prompting Sir Alex to say that Chelsea title hopes are rested To negate all these the FA has appointed 39 yr old Howard Webb who officaiated the final of the world cup who is considered the best among english refs. He does have his share of controversies though which include not sending off Nigel de Jong for a Karate style tackle on Xabi Alonso in the final of the world cup and also a controversial penalty awarded to ManU against Liverpool in the 3rd round of the FA cup which ultimately was the only goal of the game. Irrespective of all this hoping to witness a cracker of a game and personally praying for a chelsea win. The wait does seem long, doesn't it... ;)


Thursday, May 5, 2011

SQUEAKY BLUE TIME

Chelsea visit Old Trafford this Sunday and will provide a much sterner test than the one posed by Schalke last night, who were quite frankly made to look every bit the 10th best team in Bundesliga by a rampaging Man Utd side, who have been nothing short of sensational in Europe this season.
Promised land beckons for the team that emerges victorious this weekend at Old Trafford with a draw doing no good to Chelsea's renewed title credentials. Its Chelsea's stunning form of late since last March, when they turned a 1-0 deficit at half time against United into a 2-1 win by the final whistle that has rather made what would have been a casual stroll to the title into a nervy one. A run of results that have made the Red Devils look nervously over their shoulders since the last few weeks. The relentless march of the Blues went largely unnoticed as very few considered them a serious threat to United, as they had been swept aside with consummate ease over the two legs in the CL quarters over a month ago. But that tells only half the story as Chelsea who have been raking up wins, United on the other hand kept on drawing or loosing games at crucial stages to leave the door open, annihilation at Anfield, failure to score at St.James Park, allowed Chelsea to creep back into the reckoning, and not to mention the spiritless performance at Emirates last weekend when United sprang into life only in the final ten minutes by the time it was too late.
The outcome of the game will go a long way in deciding whether the title heads north to Old Trafford or stays in West London for another year. An unbeaten streak is at stake , a run that began 13 months ago when this very same Chelsea side took the title to London by the virtue of an offside Drogba winner. Chelsea will be much better equipped to damage United with David Luiz back into the line-up, a noticeable absentee the last time these two sides met.
A fitting titanic battle to decide who wears the premiership crown between the two best teams in England. Dont go expecting for some playacting, petty fouls, dives and bust-ups on the field and the chances are you will come back entertained.
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AND WHILE WE ARE AT IT,

Gooners might be a happy lot this week, a change in ownership has not bought about a change in working of the club which was the very thing they had been dreading when Stan Kroenke bought the Club last month. Wenger still thinks he has a title winning squad at his disposal and is ready to sign new kids this summer and yes like always to beat the competition from fellow rivals Arsenal have decided to hike ticket prices again to make them the most expensive team to watch in the entire Britain.
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What a job King Kenny has been doing at Anfield since January. He has breathed new life into the players, Dirk Kuyt has started scoring again rather than whipping crosses from outside the box, Lucas has started to look a cross of Xabi Alonso and Javier Mascherano and has been the engine of the team. Suarez has been one of the signings of the season, Carragher inspirational and he should be the next in line to take over the reigns when Kenny leaves the dugout, but that discussion is for a different age altogether. The Reds have started playing beautiful football again which was not seen for the best part of the last decade. All hail King Kenny for making Anfield a happy place to be, two to three astute signings and they could be challenging for the title rightly so next season, a summer of optimism awaits. Good Times ahead.
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Roman Abramovich would be a fool to sack Ancelotti in the summer after this brilliant run of form. It clearly shows that the team is united, right behind their manager and ready to work their socks off for him. Enough of meddling Roman, be patient and you could well be buying a ticket for the showdown in Munich this time next May, Don't forget to sign some cheques this summer though.
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Sunday, May 1, 2011

Chelsea vs Tottenham - Luck favours the brave..


Did the ball completely cross over the line or not? It did not..
At the end of 90 minutes at Stamford Bridge Harry Redknapp's statement that he was "amazed" by the lack of technology surely wouldn't come as surprise as Tottenham lost to Chelsea by 2 controversial goals after going one up in the earlier part of the game , courtesy a stunning strike by Sandro. Full time 2-1 and a happy ending for Terry on his 500th game for Chelsea.

Chelsea and Tottenham both came into this game knowing that only a win would fulfill their ambition of being in the title race and the Champions league 4th spot respectively. But it was Chelsea who started brightly with more shots on target than Spurs. Drogba's freekick rattled the crossbar which did make Harry Redknapp's men nervous but they eased their nerves with a unstoppable strike from Sandro into the top left of Chelsea's net. What a moment it was for this young man who scored his first goal and what great timing, when his team needed it the most. Carlo Ancelloti needed his men to fire all cylinders post this goal and Chelsea kept attacking although Drogba did look out of place playing wide on the flanks. And indeed they got one just before half time, although controversial when Frank Lampard had a crack from a range which went to Gomes but as it is with him, he spilled it right between his legs, but seemed to have done enough by clawing it away from the line, and the referee Andre Marriner rightly didn't give the goal the first time but the linesman Mike Cairns "guessed" it was a goal when he was in no position to even see it and the referee was left with no choice but to give it to Chelsea. There were protests from the Spurs players but the goal stood and Chelsea would have taken it however it came.

Second half was as interesting as the first one. Chelsea had their chances as did Spurs with Redknapp and Ancelloti making changes but the ball did not seem to find the net. There was a penalty shout for Chelsea when Kaboul seemd to take down Malouda but the referee might have wanted to level things for the mistake in the 1st half. And the scoreline stood at 1-1 till it was 2 minutes of regular play as Lampard spun the ball to Drogba whose shot was completely off target. Luckily for Chelsea Kalou was in the right postion to put the ball in the back of the net and also go into double digit league goals in a season for Chelsea for the first time.  For all the excitement , super-sub Kalou was shade offside and it did add up to the controversy at fulltime compounding Tottenham's misery which might cost them a place in the Champions league next season.

Time and again the use of 'goal-line technology' has been debated and the man whose strike once again brought up this topic would have have felt a sense of relief to be on the happier side of the controversy. Frank Lampard was denied a goal when his wonder-strike went miles over the line in the game between England vs Germany at the pre quarters stage at World Cup 2010 in South Africa, This time though the goal was credited to him and did help Chelsea's cause in being on Manchester United's tail for the premier league title. The highly contentious goal wouldn't have arised if not from a howler from Gomes who has done this time and again, most recently against Real Madrid in the 2nd leg of the Champions League Quarters. For all the good work he does , he is recognised for the mistakes he commits and Tottenham surely would need to get rid of Gomes' mistakes or Gomes' himself if they have to compete for the top spot. A howler by Gomes and total blunder by the linesman Mike Cairns helped Chelsea equalize and another mistake by linesman Martin Yerby helped Chelsea earn 3 points from a game which they largely dominated. A bad day for the referee the credit of which should go to both his assistants.

Ancelloti admitted that his side enjoyed two huge strokes of good fortune and has said "Title is our destiny". And with Arsenal doing Chelsea a huge favour by beating Manchester United, it's upto Chelsea to do themselves some good when they travel to Old Trafford next week. It would surely be the most awaited game as 3 points to Chelsea would pip them to the top , a scene unimaginable 2 months ago and 3 points to ManU would seal a record 19th premier league title for them. May 8th is when most of the questions would be answered. Till then it's a long wait!!!