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Monday, February 27, 2012

Napoli 3-1 Chelsea: Chelsea's side of the story

The expressions tell you that the scoreline isn't in their favour

As the whistle sounded at the end of 90 + 4 minutes AVB must have been wondering as to how easy it was winning the Europa League and the Portuguese league with Porto 9 months ago. 6 draws and 2 losses in the last 11 premier league games, a replay against Championship side Birmingham in the FA cup, losing your captain for a couple of months, talks of Benitez being linked to Chelsea and AVB to Inter and now a 3-1 1st leg defeat to Napoli added the icing on a cake, a cake of problems for the Portuguese 'magician' whose side would have had to conceede the Champions league for yet another year if not for Mata's early goal at the San Paolo, a goal which could still count for nothing if Chelsea do not fasten their belts and get on the pitch with a winning attitude when Napoli travel to London.

AVB not starting with Lampard or Essien in what is considered one of the most hostile atmospheres in Europe seemed more criminal at the end of the game than at the beginning. Indeed , the cacophonous Napoli fans, swirling wind and driving rain gave the whole occasion an almost apocalyptic feel.

Chelsea's 4-2-3-1 vs Napoli's 3-4-2-1 :

While the club administration ought not to question the manager on his tactics, one can only be flaggerbasted to see Chelsea start the game with a 4-2-3-1. The last time they played with this formation in Europe they were sent packing 2-0 by Bayern Leverkusen. Playing Meireles and Ramires in an unfamiliar holding position with the better established Essien on the bench killed  the very motive of this tactic. While Chelsea have won games previously with a 4-2-3-1 , players like Makelele, Essein , Belletti filled the holding midfileder position at ease. Meireles and Ramires have never played in this system and didn't look comfortable playing the way they were asked to. At the end of the day AVB's choice was totally busted by Napoli as the ball was  put three times past the net while Chelsea could only do it once.

Defensive Lapses:

This game was worth watching  for the defenders who made a mockery of their skills they ply their trade on.

Chelsea  Goal#1: A mistake by Napoli captain and defender Cannavaro allowed Mata to score an easy goal , his 1st away from home.
Napoli Goal #1 : While this can't be classified as a blunder the ease with which Lavezzi struck the ball to put it beyond Cech's reach is worth noting. Meireles was definitely expected to do better there.
Napoli Goal#2 : Cavani put the ball in the back of the net while Ivanovic was left ball watching. You can't expect such sloppiness from a player who has been there at the highest level for some years now.
Napoli Goal #3 : Lavezzi again scored from what was a nothing ball from Inler to Cavani and with Luiz once again failing miserable in clearing the ball it was upto Napoli's strikers to finish the job.

Pointing out mistakes of Chelsea defenders is far more easier as one would remember 3 goals being put past them. However Napoli didn't impress with their defenders either. 3 players of age 30 and above trying their best to keep the Chelsea players at bay should thank their stars for all of Chelsea's missed chances. Everytime the ball went to them it seemed as though they were playing on ice. Chelsea might not bombard balls forward at Stamford Bridge but if Napoli are to stand any chance of even dreaming of winning the Champions League their defensive display has to improve by a big margin.

Can Chelsea see light at the end of the BRIDGE?

While I would seem to be harsh on the Chelsea defenders, the truth is that a 1-1 result would have been much easier to overcome at the Bridge whereas now Chelsea have to score atleast a couple and hope the magical trio of the Italian side lose their touch. Though Chelsea lost this game mainly on individual errors, not converting chances could come back to haunt them in the return leg. The formation( in the image) is what would ideally be the starting 11 for the return leg. The only change that might happen is Torres being replaced by Drogba. With Terry out for a couple of months, Bosingwa with his hamstring problem, there isn't much backup left. Ferreira for all his experience will be unable to cope with the pace of Lavezzi and Hamsik. With a couple of games to be played before the return leg, AVB might be praying that his defenders stay away from injuries. It isn't a ideal situation for the team to come back from a couple of goals down and still keep the opposition which has the likes of Cavani, Lavezzi and Hamsik quiet. Things have to turn if Chelsea have to fulfil amibitions of winning the Champions League. They could look back at their performance in 04/05 when at a similar stage Chelsea beat Barcelona 4-2 at home trailing 2-1 away. Only an inspiring performace like the one 7 years ago can propel Chelsea to the next round.

Finally,

A London club beaten in Italy for a 2nd week in succession, but unlike Arsenal , Chelsea have a better chance of turning around the 1st leg deficit. It's going to be difficult, they would have loved to get the 2nd goal but in the end it never came their way. Napoli were sharp when it mattered, Chelsea had the lead but lost it and eventually lost the tie  Another blot on the AVB record, there is no disguising that and some awkward questions  on the selections for the starting line-up. The true answers will come after the 2nd leg at Stamford leg in a couple of weeks time . 


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