Lukaku loan clears way for Eto’o at Chelsea #CFC

Chelsea were on Monday ready to allow Romelu Lukaku to join Everton or West Bromwich Albion on a season-long loan after rejecting advances from a series of clubs for Demba Ba.


With Samuel Eto’o joining Fernando Torres last week as the club’s two senior strikers, manager Jose Mourinho was always happy to allow either Ba or Lukaku to go on loan. There was a firm offer from Arsenal for Ba, as well as interest from Valencia, Napoli and West Ham United.

Chelsea, though, wanted a 3 million pounds loan fee for Ba and eventually decided that he should stay. Lukaku, though, was preparing last night to join West Bromwich or Everton for the rest of the season. Lukaku has hoped to play a major role this season for Chelsea but Mourinho has preferred Torres and has added the option of Eto’o.

Chelsea were always adamant that Torres would stay and Mourinho was determined to keep Juan Mata, despite interest yesterday from Paris St-Germain. As well as Lukaku, Mourinho was intending to loan out -Nathaniel Chalabah for the season. Victor Moses was loaned to Liverpool yesterday while Sam Hutchinson has moved to Vitesse Arnhem. Mourinho has recruited Eto’o, Andre Schurrle, Willian, Marco van Ginkel and Mark Schwarzer this summer at an outlay of almost 70 million pounds.

Like Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur had also completed their incoming transfer business before deadline day although there was late interest in signing Thomas Ince from Blackpool and Hulk from Zenit St Petersburg. It is understood that Spurs did enquire about Hulk, but were quoted a 10 million pounds fee for a season-long loan. It meant -Roberto Soldado, Emmanuel Adebayor and Jermain Defoe would almost certainly remain as the three senior strikers.

Spurs were also preparing to allow some of their squad out on loan and were in talks last night with QPR over Tom Carroll and Benoit Assou-Ekotto. There was also positive news for Spurs yesterday on Etienne Capoue, who bruised an ankle in the 1-0 defeat against Arsenal on Sunday and will be out for four weeks. It had been feared that Capoue had damaged his fibula when he fell awkwardly while challenging for the ball with Santi Cazorla and needed oxygen as he left the pitch on a stretcher.

Capoue is set to miss France’s World Cup qualifiers against Georgia and Belarus this month, and Spurs’ Premier League games against Norwich, Cardiff and Chelsea.

Jose ready to offer £60m bait to tempt Rooney to join him at Chelsea #CFC #MUFC

Chelsea will match Wayne Rooney’s £240,000-a-week wages in a five-year deal worth a staggering £60million, if he can force his way out of Manchester United.

Rooney is Jose Mourinho’s first-choice transfer target and the Chelsea chief has been encouraged that he can still land the striker this summer.

Although Rooney was told by David Moyes last week that he will not be allowed to leave United, there are issues which remain unresolved.


Target: Chelsea are set to launch a bid for Wayne Rooney despite David Moyes saying he is not for sale


New man in charge: David Moyes says he does not want to sell Rooney

Rooney, who has two years left on his Old Trafford deal, is showing no sign of backing down and Chelsea want to take advantage.

He will cost about £30m if United can be persuaded to sell, but that will not be an issue for Chelsea.

Mourinho, who took charge of first-team training yesterday for the first time after the summer break, wants to give Rooney a fresh start at Stamford Bridge.

article-2358527-1AB834DD000005DC-324_634x418Welcome back, Jose: Frank Lampard and John Terry will be pleased to see the return of Mourinho to Chelsea


Will he stay or will he go? Rooney’s future at Manchester United has been debated this summer


Under instruction: The Portuguese speaks to Demba Ba and Gary Cahill while armed with an iPad

Mourinho is also monitoring Luis Suarez’s position at Liverpool and has asked his advisors to be kept informed about his position. Arsenal are also monitoring the Uruguayan, but remain focused on rubber-stamping Gonzalo Higuain’s protracted move from Real Madrid.

Higuain has agreed to join the Gunners in a deal that could be worth up to £150,000 a week to the Argentinian.

But the clubs are still around £2m apart in terms of a transfer fee — with Real demanding £25m.

Neil Ashton and Sami Mokbel

MOURINHO APPOINTED as Chelsea’s First Team Manager & First Interview – #CFC #ChelseaFC

Chelsea Football Club is delighted to announce the appointment of Jose Mourinho as First Team Manager.

Jose with CFC Shirt B

Mourinho has signed a four-year contract and will return to the club where he won two Premier League titles, an FA Cup and two League Cups between 2004 and 2007.

Ron Gourlay, Chelsea FC Chief Executive, said: ‘I am delighted to welcome Jose back to Chelsea. His continued success, drive and ambition made him the outstanding candidate.

‘It is our aim to keep the club moving forward to achieve greater success in the future and Jose is our number one choice as we believe he is the right manager to do just that.

‘He was and remains a hugely popular figure at the club and everyone here looks forward to working with him again.’

Since leaving Chelsea in 2007, the 50-year-old Portuguese has worked in Italy with Inter and Spain with Real Madrid, lifting three league championships, two domestic cups and the Champions League.

Originally appointed at Stamford Bridge in 2004, immediately after winning Europe’s top competition with Porto, he quickly achieved success securing his first trophy for the club as early as February 2005, when we beat Liverpool 3-2 after extra-time in Cardiff to win the Carling Cup. We went on to win the league that season with a record 95 points and a record low of just 15 goals conceded in 38 games.

The club celebrated consecutive championships in our centenary 2005/06 season, secured with a 3-0 win over Manchester United in late April, and the next campaign we were able to add the Carling Cup with victory over Arsenal in Cardiff, and the FA Cup when United were beaten again in the first senior game at the new Wembley.

Mourinho departed by mutual consent in September 2007, going on to develop his already impressive CV by winning the Serie A twice in two years and the Champions League with Inter, before joining Real Madrid in 2010, where he lifted both La Liga and the Copa Del Rey, ending his stay in Spain yesteday.

He brings three coaching staff with him in Rui Faria, Silvino Louro and Jose Morais. Each carries the title of Assistant First Team Coach and will work alongside current first team staff Steve Holland, Christophe Lollichon and Chris Jones.


The new manager will be officially presented in a press conference at Stamford Bridge on Monday 10 June, further details of which will follow in due course.


Here is the interview in full:

Welcome back, how are you?
I’m very happy. I had to prepare myself not to be too emotional for my arrival at the club but obviously I’m very happy.

How big a decision was it for you? It’s not common for managers to go back.
It was an easy decision. I met the boss, the owner, and I think within five minutes after some short and pragmatic questions we decided straight away. I asked the boss do you want me back, and the boss asked me do you want to come back, and in a couple of minutes the decision was made.

It worked out well in a way for both parties before. While you left and did what you wanted to do, Chelsea have continued to win things and built on what you did.
It was a difficult moment, September 2007, because I love it here and I have a big connection with the club, and also for the club it wasn’t easy. But if you analyse it in a cool way, emotions apart, it was fantastic because my career after that, I had everything I was aiming for in my career. I wanted to win the grand slam, to win in England, Spain and Italy. I did it. I got all the trophies in three countries. I got my second Champions League too.

I enjoy being in different countries, in different football cultures, and I think it’s important for my evolution as a manager and a football coach, and Chelsea Football Club got important trophies after that and had important moments in the history of the club. Now we are back together and we are getting together at a great moment for us both, so I think we are ready to marry again and be happy and successful.

What’s the plan now?
The plan is always the same, evolution and to establish the club at the highest possible level. I left Chelsea in 2007, since then I’ve spoken about the club many times, especially in my privacy. I remember the day we went to the United States in 2004 pre-season. We had open training sessions with only a couple of kids watching the sessions, nobody was following the team. It was the beginning of Roman and his second season I suppose was the beginning of Chelsea. After that Chelsea started winning the Premier League, for the first time and then the second time, and after that when we went back to the United States we found a completely different situation around the club.

I can imagine now especially after the Champions League, that was the highest point of the club’s history, that this is now a bigger club. The social mass around the club is much bigger.

I am the same, physically the same, but every day you have to think about yourself, especially the manager, and about the evolution. I have the same nature but I’m much more mature with a different approach to things, I’m more ready to be in a club and stay for a long time.

Normally you haven’t spent a lot more than about three years with a club so you are saying this is longer-term building?
I hope so. When you look at the profile of the Chelsea squad I think it’s what they need at this time. If you look from my time, there are around four or five boys and these are the older ones – very important for this football club and very important for the balance of the squad, but it’s a young squad with a lot of talent and I think they need stability to reach a high point of their evolution and for their careers. They need stability, stability I hope I can give them and between me, the owner and of course the club, we have no doubts about what we want to do and the approach we want to have. I’m very confident I can help the team and help the boys to develop.

I feel myself not just as the Chelsea manager, because this is the first time in my career that I’ve arrived at a club that I already love. Normally I love the club a couple of years after I am there. Of course I go to a club, I wear the shirt and I feel the shirt with the crest and I give everything I have to do it, but this is the first time where I love it already. To be at the same time a Chelsea fan and a Chelsea manager is a new feeling for me and it’s a fantastic feeling.

You have a head start with the fans as you are already popular.
I know I am and I know at this football club there is a culture for the fans to be loyal to somebody who gave. When I watch a Chelsea match on TV and I see, for example, a banner which says Didier Drogba, that’s fantastic, and it makes Chelsea a special club.

I know they have a special feeling for me. I played against Chelsea with Inter and it was difficult because I was feeling it wasn’t a normal situation for me, and I think the people in the stands felt the same as me, so I belong to them and they belong to me.

I think they know my nature, and they know I’m not coming here to sleep on what I did in the past and be comfortable just because we have a great feeling and we have a great relationship. Probably the first day I put my foot in Stamford Bridge again they will sing my name, but I’m not that kind of person and professional. I’m very demanding of myself. I need of course their support but I want to start from ground zero, I need to work hard again and build a different team from the team I built in the past. I want to give everything I can to the club, to the owner and to the fans, forgetting a little bit that I was a champion here. I want to have that pressure on myself like it is the first time I am here and I have to work hard to make sure they have a reason to be happy with me.

Mourinho Chelsea

In the past six years you won the treble with Inter and had one incredible season in the league with Real Madrid. You say you are more mature now, how do you assess your development since you’ve been away from us?
Italy was something I wanted very, very much to do. Italian football is for sure the most tactical one, very difficult, especially if you are a team that wants to win, competing against teams that don’t want to lose. It was a big challenge for me.

I arrived in a club where there was an atmosphere of frustration because they couldn’t succeed in the Champions League and we got that trophy and for the first time in Italian football the treble. It helps me a lot to be more cultural. After Portugal and England I went to football with a different perspective. It was a big challenge for me, I had to challenge myself a lot and to study a lot. I think I became a better manager living in Inter.

I went to Madrid because I wanted to try to do the grand slam, the three most important championships in the world, and also because twice I had the chance to go to Real before, and I never did it because I decided to stay at Chelsea. The last one was the day after we won the FA Cup final at Wembley, and I thought “no way, I am going to stay”. The third time I wanted to go, I wanted another culture and another club with a worldwide dimension in terms of social approach and it was a fantastic experience for me. I think it was really important to get it in this period I call the last step of my formation as a manager. I’ve just turned 50 now and just finished my lap around European football. This experience in Madrid was fantastic because culturally it was hard, it was difficult. Portuguese and Spanish, and Spanish and Portuguese, and Real Madrid, a special club in a season where they have elections for the presidency, lots of politics around.

Last year we beat the record and got 100 points and 121 goals. This season everybody was focused on the Champions League. We reached the semi-finals and we all know, especially in this club, that semi-finals are a critical moment where you need that click to do it.

In our club there’s the semi-final we lost on penalties against Liverpool; the semi-final we lost with Guus Hiddink against Barcelona. You have the semi-final that took us to the final when we won with Roberto [Di Matteo], and we know in the Champions League semi-final you need that click. We [Real Madrid] didn’t have that click and couldn’t get the 10th European Cup that was an ambition for the club, but it was a fantastic experience for me and I think I arrived in my club, in my Chelsea, in the best moment of my career – of my stability as a manager, my stability as a person – always with my incredible family supporting me. I think I arrived in my best moment ready to give everything I have to try to make the club happy.

It seemed towards the end you lost your smile a little but in Madrid, but you’re happier now?
I’m not happy, I am very happy. As I was saying I was preparing myself in the last couple of days to control emotions, to come here in a cool way but I’m really emotional. I try to hide it a little bit but I am so happy and so proud because I think when you return to a place it is for some reason, not just because you have good results in the past or because the fans like you very much, it’s also because as a human point of view you left something here. People know the person I am, I kept a fantastic relationship with the owner and the club, and it’s something that makes me proud to be back. Not just because of the professional I am, I believe also because of the person I am.

The top three clubs in England will all be under new management next season. It is a very exciting time.
I think the Premier League is the Premier League. This season in terms of the Champions League, which is normally a thermometer of world football, I think English football was too early outside the competition. People were speaking about the level of the Premier League moving down comparing it with other countries, but I don’t believe so much on that. Sometimes things happen and there are no really firm reasons. I still think the Premier League is a fantastic competition and I don’t know but I believe there will be five or six teams very strong. In my time here in 2004 it was more about us, Man United and Arsenal, and after that a gap to the other teams. In this moment I think you can put five or six teams in the same plan, aiming at the start to reach the Champions League spots which is very difficult, and with more ambition to win the Premier League, and so the competition will be fantastic. I hope I can beat the competition.

Will the Premier League be the priority?
We have to improve the team, and when I say improve the team people are already thinking about how many millions Chelsea are going to spend, and when I say improve the team I am saying improving by work. My work has to improve players and improve the team. If I don’t do that I am not happy with myself. If after that we can improve the team by buying a couple of players it is fantastic but I have to improve the team and the players with my work. That’s a priority, improve.

In the last two years you were struggling in the Premier League. If you didn’t win the Champions League you would be out of the Champions League this year. This year you had to fight until the last match to qualify. We have to try of course to improve, but the priority in a club that reached the level is exactly that – improve individually, improve collectively and improve the structure of the club around the football team, and try to win the next match. Which one is the next match? The Premier League? Let’s go for the Premier League. If the next match is the FA Cup, let’s go for the FA Cup. It is difficult for me to say something is the priority. The priority is to work hard, work professionally and make the team better.

There is a lot of new talent for you to work with, exciting, flair players. How are you thinking about the style of the side right now?
First of all I need to work with them. I like the profile. I like the fact we have three, four or five players from the beginning of the winning Chelsea, and I think they have to be always a part of the Chelsea soul, so I’m so happy we kept some of these boys.

But the profile of the younger players with long-term space for improvement and development, I like very much that kind of profile. I’ve come with a four-year contract so with the age of Eden Hazard, Oscar, David Luiz and these boys, I think it will be good for me to work with them and good for them to work with me. Together we can improve and make a better team than we have now.

Can you tell us what the staff you are bring with you are going to do?

Rui Faria (pictured below left) as you know is my methodology right arm, the guy that understands best my information and the way I work. He’s been with me since the beginning, the same as Silvino. [Jose] Morais started working with me at Inter, at the time Andre [Villas-Boas] went to coach in Portugal. Morais does the same work Andre was doing – scouting and analysing, working hand in hand with [ Chelsea match analyst] James Melbourne. He’s been a friend for a long time and has been coaching in many countries, in Saudi Arabia, Dubai, Tunisia, Sweden, Morocco. He’s a guy with fantastic experience and he’s working in that area.

Faria and Mourinho

From the previous staff I get Christophe Lollichon, Steve Holland and Chris Jones. They are people who have been here a long time and are very much trusted internally, and I’m happy to have them in my staff. From this moment they become only one staff, which is Chelsea staff, and we are going to work together and work hard to try to give what everybody is waiting for.

Presumably you need a holiday?

I am sorry we don’t start training tomorrow. I say to the players during the season when sometimes they look tired, victories make miracles. When you win, win, win, you are never tired. In my case, it’s not about winning, it’s about moving, moving to a place I love and happiness. I’m so happy to be back. The players need a holiday, I don’t. I’m waiting for them and when we start they will find somebody with great motivation, in spite of my white hair, which I didn’t have in 2004.

We go to Asia, then America and then play the Super Cup. You against Pep Guardiola, that’s a good start.
It’s not Mourinho and Pep Guardiola, it’s Chelsea and Bayern Munich. Mourinho did nothing to play this match, and Guardiola did nothing to play this match. The players did it, and the previous managers did it, so I will be in that match just by trying to help my club and my players win the trophy, nothing else. It’s not going to be crucial to our work or our season. We have to go to pre-season, work hard in pre-season. We have club commitments, that’s also important, and socially it’s important to go to areas such as Asia and the States, and give what the club need us to give, but we have to work hard.

Nine years ago in the Chelsea TV studio you looked in the camera and you said I can promise you quality, work and love and passion to bring success to the club. Would that be the same message you give today?
It is exactly the same message but now I can say I am one of you and that makes a little bit of a difference, I have never had that in football. I had in my career two great passions, Inter and Chelsea, and Chelsea is more than important for me. It was very, very hard to play against Chelsea and I did it only twice which was not so bad so now I promise exactly the same things I promised in 2004, with this difference which is I’m one of you.


David Luiz Belter Seals Europa League Semifinal Win for Chelsea

Chelsea scored three times in nine minutes to overturn a 1-0 deficit and seal their progression to this season’s Europa League final, where they’ll face Benfica in Amsterdam.


The goals, which came from Fernando Torres, Victor Moses and David Luiz, represented the quickest treble in European club competition this season and helped Chelsea to a 5-2 aggregate win over Swiss champions Basel.

But it was the guests who attacked with conviction from the opening whistle, as Marco Streller’s daisy-cutter narrowly missed Petr Cech’s left-hand post after barely a minute. And while Frank Lampard hit the post in the ninth minute with a shot from distance, Streller came close again in the 26th with a superbly taken volley from Markus Steinhofer’s cross that, again, came close to finding its way inside the far post.

Then, with just a minute of normal time remaining in the first half, Mohamed Salah bagged a deserved opener for Basel.

Just four minutes earlier, the Egyptian international had been denied by a superb Cech stop (and Valentin Stocker might have even been awarded a penalty on a subsequent drive that looked to have hit Ryan Bertrand’s arm). Salah made no mistake on this occasion, though, accelerating past the offside trap to receive Stocker’s ball before finishing calmly past the Chelsea goalkeeper.234304hp2

It was a different Blues side Basel had to contend with after the restart, however, and Torres began the onslaught after restoring level terms in the 50th minute with a tap-in following Yann Sommer’s initial save on Frank Lampard.

Two minutes later, Chelsea had turned a one-goal deficit into a one-goal advantage on the night and a 4-2 lead on aggregate. Then Victor Moses, pouncing on another rebound inside the area, beat Sommer from in close with his second effort after Gaston Sauro had blocked his first.

And to complete the triple salvo, David Luiz made it 3-1 to the hosts with an absolutely stunning goal just shy of the hour mark.

For a moment—as the midfielder dribbled the ball along the 18-yard box—it looked as though Frank Lampard was going to take a shot. But after seeing David Luiz flying into space, he left the ball for his teammate—jumped out of the way, actually—as the Brazilian unleashed a left-footed belter that arched magnificently inside the top corner of the Basel goal.


From there it was only a matter of holding on to what they already had, and while Torres had a trio of chances to build on the lead, Chelsea were able to cruise to the final whistle with relative comfort.

The Basel fans, who created an impressive match atmosphere throughout the 90 minutes, lit flares and a massive flag on fire during the final minutes, but there were to be no more fireworks on the pitch as Chelsea claimed the 3-1 win.

The London outfit now have a chance to become the first club to win the Champions League and Europa League in successive seasons (in that order) when they face Benfica in the May 15 final at Amsterdam Arena.

Andre Schurrle worrying about Chelsea move? #CFC #ChelseaFC

Bayer Leverkusen attacker Andre Schurrle has reportedly grown concerned that his proposed transfer to Chelsea may not materialise.


The German international is believed to have agreed terms on a five-year contract at Stamford Bridge following talks between the Premier League club and his agent.

However, the Blues have still been unable to agree a fee with Leverkusen, who want Kevin de Bruyne as well as £20m for their player, according to the London Evening Standard.

Chelsea are thought to only want to loan out De Bruyne, though, after he impressed during a stint in the Bundesliga with Werder Bremen this season.

As a result, 22-year-old Schurrle is said to have started to doubt that a move will now happen.

By Liam Apicella


#ChelseaFC on brink of capturing Andre Schurrle signing, says agent.. #CFC

#ChelseaFC on brink of capturing Andre Schurrle signing, says agent.. #CFC

The 22-year-old Bayer Leverkusen forward has impressed in the Bundesliga this season, and his representative Ingo Haspel is expecting ‘positive news’ over the player’s future


Chelsea are on the brink of signing Bayer Leverkusen forward Andre Schurrle, according to the player’s agent – and he could join the club within the next few days.

Talks have been ongoing between the Premier League club and the German side over a potential €22 million player-swap deal which would see Kevin De Bruyne move in the other direction.

With a disappointing domestic campaign (by their standards) coming to a close, Chelsea are already looking ahead to next season and Ingo Haspel, Schurrle’s agent, has claimed the 22-year-old could be a Blues player very soon.

“I am waiting for information from either Leverkusen or Chelsea, but there could be some positive news by the end of this weekend,” he told reporters.

“It is an indication of how much Chelsea want the player that they are continuing to negotiate.”

Schurrle has 11 goals in 30 Bundesliga appearances for the Werkself and has attracted the attention of a number of European clubs this season, with Chelsea looking to bolster their attacking options next season.

A potential spanner in the works for the Blues, however, is that they appear reluctant to part with De Bruyne just a year after selling him, while the likes of Borussia Dortmund and Schalke are also keen on the Belgium international.

Manchester United can seal title if City lose to Spurs #MUFC

City go to White Hart Lane 13 points behind United


Manchester United’s striker Robin van Persie celebrates scoring his goal during the English Premier League match against West Ham United at the Boleyn Ground, Upton Park, in east London, on April 17, 2013. (AFP)

Manchester City’s grip on the Premier League trophy could be prised away once and for all this weekend as Roberto Mancini’s side face Tottenham Hotspur knowing defeat would allow Manchester United the chance to be crowned champions on Monday.

A sense of inevitability has hung over the title race for several weeks but below it, the season is reaching a nerve-jangling climax both in the battle to qualify for next year’s Champions League and to stay in the top flight.

City go to White Hart Lane 13 points behind United, who play Aston Villa at Old Trafford on Monday when the title race could be decided.

City would like nothing more than to prolong the title fight for another week, but that could be scuppered with Tottenham embroiled in a scrap with Chelsea, Arsenal and Everton for third and fourth places.

While City’s pride is at stake, the repercussions of Sunday’s match are likely to be far more serious for Spurs whose hopes of a top-four finish are under threat from their London rivals.

United top the table with 81 points, followed by City on 68, Chelsea 61, Arsenal 60, Spurs 58 and Everton 56. City, Spurs and Chelsea have played 32 games, all the rest 33.

Andre Villas-Boas‘s side were in pole position for third place a few weeks ago before defeats by Liverpool and Fulham and a home draw with Everton handed the initiative back to Arsenal and Chelsea.

Chelsea moved into third spot with a 3-0 win at Fulham on Wednesday to climb a point ahead of Arsenal, held to a 0-0 home draw by Everton on Tuesday.

Arsenal’s Saturday kickoff at Fulham means they can apply more pressure before Chelsea go to Liverpool and Spurs play City.

Tottenham’s players have had a breather since losing to Basel on penalties in the Europa League, although the break may not have been long enough for Welsh winger Gareth Bale to recover from the ankle injury he sustained in the first leg of the tie.

Without him and the injured Aaron Lennon and Jermain Defoe, Tottenham are a far less dangerous side and concern is mounting in north London that the club will suffer a near-miss for the second season in a row.

They finished fourth last year but were denied a Champions League spot by Chelsea who finished sixth but won the European Cup to take their place.

Arsenal’s draw with Everton offered encouragement for Spurs who, according to midfielder Lewis Holtby, face “six cup finals” between now and the end of the season.

“It will be a tremendous game on Sunday,” he told Tottenham’s website. “City have just reached the final of the FA Cup and these six games are our cup finals.

“They are a side full of quality players but we’re determined to get three points, especially at home. It would be a massive win for us.”

Everton (56) can move ahead of Tottenham, albeit having played two more games, with victory over Sunderland on Saturday – a match with ramifications at the top and bottom.

Sunderland moved three points clear of the relegation zone with a 3-0 win at Newcastle United last weekend – a match memorable for new manager Paolo Di Canio‘s celebratory knee slide at St James’s Park.

The emotional Di Canio coming face to face with Everton’s intense manager David Moyes is an intriguing prospect as is Queens Park Rangers manager Harry Redknapp taking on close friend Tony Pulis’s Stoke City in a match that Rangers must win to keep their slim hopes of survival alive.

Along with bottom club Reading, who play Norwich City, QPR are 10 points adrift of 17th-placed Aston Villa.

Stoke, who have lost six of their last seven league games, are nose-diving towards the drop and defeat by QPR would increase the pressure on Pulis whose side begin the weekend just three points above 18th-placed Wigan Athletic who have played a game less than their fellow strugglers.

Wigan, whose annual fight against the drop has this season been interrupted by a run to the FA Cup final, face West Ham on Saturday and will be hoping to bounce back from their 1-0 defeat  by City.

Manchester United vs. Chelsea: Score, Grades and Post-Match Reaction


It was the best of times, it was the worst of times at Old Trafford on Sunday. For both Manchester United and Chelsea, that’s how they’ll feel about their FA Cup clash.

The Red Devils completely dominated in the first half and took a 2-0 lead early on. Chelsea played like a team possessed in the second half, however, and roared back to tie the game (and nearly won it).

In the end, the game ended 2-2 in an exhilarating match that lived up to the hype generated by these two superpowers.

Manchester United struck first in this game, as Javier Hernandez headed home the game’s first goal in the fifth minute. It came off a brilliant pass from Michael Carrick, whose lob into the box was perfectly played over keeper Petr Cech by El Chicharito.

The Red Devils wouldn’t wait long to double their lead.

After Victor Moses fouled Nani on the United counter-attack, Wayne Rooney stepped up to take a free kick from just outside and to the left of the Chelsea box. His curling effort to the far post didn’t find the head of a teammate, but it continued into the net, as Cech anticipated a header.

Just 12 minutes into the game, United had a 2-0 lead.

United continued to push in the first half. Nani’s brilliant cross into the box would be chipped just over the bar by Hernandez, and Rooney later sent another cross directly at Cech, who then made a second brilliant save after defender David Luiz inexplicably headed the ball back toward goal.

United had Chelsea on the ropes, and only 25 minutes had passed in the contest. Chelsea created a few opportunities throughout the half but lacked the final touch needed to score. 

The second half continued in the same vein as the end of the first half, with Chelsea ratcheting up the pressure but unable to find that last pass or shot to beat United—at least until Eden Hazard entered the game.

The star winger cut the lead in half on an absolutely brilliant shot from outside the box that curled and dipped above keeper David de Gea, who never had a chance. Suddenly, Chelsea had hope.

And Chelsea wasn’t done.

In the 68th minute, Demba Ba held up the ball on the counter and found Oscar streaking down the middle of the field. The young Brazilian then found Ramires tearing down the right side, and Ramires slotted home the game-tying shot after taking a deft touch to put the ball on his left foot.

Just like that, a game completely dominated by Manchester United early on was all tied up.

Both teams pressured the opposing goal down the stretch, and de Gea saved the game for Manchester United in the 90th minute. Juan Mata deftly controlled a long pass at the edge of the box, turned in past the defense and ripped a shot at goal, which de Gea just deflected wide. 

The game justifiably ended in a 2-2 tie, with both teams feeling as though they should have won but likely relieved that they didn’t lose. The replay will now head back to Stamford Bridge



Nani, Manchester United: A-

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Nani was excellent in this game, regularly pressuring the Chelsea defense down the wing and peppering the box with solid crosses. His run at Moses set up the Rooney goal, and he was active throughout. The man thought to be a goner after the year played very well in this one.


Eden Hazard, Chelsea: A

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Hazard’s brilliant goal saved this game for a Chelsea side that looked overmatched for much of the first half. You could make the argument that Hazard should have started the game over Oscar, but his substitution in the second half was timely, and his impact was almost immediately felt.


Rio Ferdinand, Manchester United: A

Demba Ba will have nightmares about Ferdinand after this game. The wily defender totally won his battle with the Chelsea striker, winning back contested balls and keeping Ba from scoring chances throughout this match. United wasn’t nearly as solid in the second half, but Ferdinand played a very solid match.


Frank Lampard, Chelsea: C

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Lampard just wasn’t the right man for the job today. He left the Blues defense vulnerable, he wasn’t able to facilitate scoring opportunities and Chelsea simply looked a far better side after he was subbed out in the second half. Chelsea remains a team without a top starting 11—and Lampard has played very well this year—but on Sunday he was more hindrance than help for the Blues.


Javier Hernandez, Manchester United: A-

Alex Livesey/Getty Images

He didn’t last the whole game, but there wasn’t a more dangerous player in the first half than El Chicharito. His runs were piercing, his finish on the goal was pure brilliance and the Chelsea back line didn’t have an answer for him in the first half.    By Timothy Rapp

Should Rafa Benitez Keep His Job If Chelsea Win the Europa League?

Imagine you’re a journalist in Munich back in May 2012. You’re absolutely desperate to catch a fan who is dying to spill their emotions outside the Allianz Arena after Chelsea‘s stunning penalty shootout victory over Bayern Munich and eventually find yourself swamped with excited Blues fans.


Now, fast forward a year to the Amsterdam Arena, where Chelsea have just won the Europa League after beating Anzhi Makhachkala 2-1 in the final, with goals from Frank Lampard and Fernando Torres handing Rafa Benitez his first trophy as Chelsea manager.

The team played well, the players looked delighted and Benitez looked his usual cautious self. But if you’re expecting the fans to be happy, you’re either a fool or Ron Gourlay—or both.

Perhaps what Roman Abramovich didn’t understand about appointing Benitez was that, in the Spaniard’s case, winning every trophy could not make the fans like him.

That’s probably correct when you consider that despite calls to explain his decisions and criticisms of his handling of the club, Abramovich still believes his wealth can attract the big stars to the club.

However, money cannot buy success, love or happiness. At times, it can buy popularity but not Benitez; that ship sailed when he criticized Chelsea while in charge of Liverpool.

Slightly naive from a coach as intelligent as Benitez, especially when you can never really say never in football, but maybe now it could have been time for them to give the former Valencia coach a fresh start.

The impact he has had on the Spaniards at the club is one that would not surprise many; Torres has scored a total of 15 goals so far this season, Juan Mata is in scintillating form and Cesar Azpilicueta picked up his first senior cap for his country.

Oscar is starting to show his true form again, with a late goal against Sparta Prague, while Frank Lampard is arguably in the form of his life, scoring 10 goals in his last 13 Premier League games.

Still, this is a far cry from the Chelsea side who won back-to-back titles under Jose Mourinho seven years ago; Benitez’s negative style of play frustrates the fans, and even when Roberto Di Matteo opted for a similar playing stance, the fans approved because he was popular and it worked.

Unfortunately for Benitez, it has not quite worked for him so far.

He’s currently on a rolling contract which expires at the end of the season and has hinted about staying at Stamford Bridge, while speculation has linked him to the Real Madrid hot seat, if Jose Mourinho leaves this summer.

Even with the club currently sitting in third position in the Premier League, the club’s fans are becoming disillusioned at the chop-and-change mentality at Chelsea. With players and managers coming and going, should Abramovich settle for Benitez if they win the Europa League?

Definitely not.

The reason he was brought in was to save them from Champions League humiliation, but they went out anyway. That wasn’t Benitez’s fault; Chelsea smashed Nordsjaelland 6-1 but the result was irrelevant as Shakhtar Donetsk were beaten, 1-0, by Juventus, who went through at Chelsea’s expense.

The Club World Cup saw the West London club reach the final only to be beaten, 1-0, by a strong Corinthians side. They were then beaten, 2-0, by Swansea and could only draw, 0-0, in the return leg as the Welsh side took a place in the final.

They were almost knocked out of the FA Cup by League One minnows Brentford, who led Chelsea 2-1 although a late Torres leveller forced a replay, before brushing them aside at Stamford Bridge with a 4-0 win.

And the Premier League challenge? The club were only four points behind leaders Manchester United when Di Matteo left; they are now a massive 16 points behind with 12 games remaining.

Either way, the fans and pundits will be disappointed to see Chelsea’s season almost over with a third of the way to go. With just the FA Cup and Europa League to really focus on, what is there to be happy about as a Blues fan? What can Benitez do to make Chelsea fans like him?

Nothing—not even a Europa League triumph can save him now. And when he goes, I’ll be the first one booking him a one-way ticket to Madrid.

Substitute Oscar scored the only goal in an uninspiring match as #Chelsea started their Europa League campaign with victory against Sparta Prague. #CFC

Substitute Oscar scored the only goal in an uninspiring match as Chelsea started their Europa League campaign with victory against Sparta Prague.

Oscar, combining nicely with Eden Hazard, found the bottom corner within 45 seconds of coming off the bench.

The visitors created little but, with the second leg at Stamford Bridge, are in prime position to progress.

The best chances fell to Sparta’s David Lafata, but the striker shot high and wide on both occasions.

A workman-like performance in the Czech capital ensures the Blues remain on track to become the fifth club (following Bayern Munich, Ajax, Juventus and Barcelona) to complete the sweep of Europe’s main trophies.

Chelsea had already created history by becoming the first defending champions to tumble out of the group stages of the Champions League, but goalkeeper Petr Cech called on his team-mates to again ensure the club made an imprint in the annals of European football.

But the visitors did not give the impression of a team which had been galvanized by their goalkeeper’s talk of history making.

Hazard and Marko Marin posed problems down either flank in a low-key opening, but Chelsea lacked bite in the final third and the longer the first half progressed the more content the Londoners were to concede possession to the home team.

It was a dangerous ploy and one which would perhaps have caused the fit again John Terry to shuffle uneasily on the substitutes’ bench.

Sparta, playing their first competitive match since December because of a winter break, blew off the cobwebs when Ladislav Krejci‘s cross found Lafata. The stretching striker should have put his team ahead but sent his effort off target.

The January signing had a chance to make amends when a ricochet inside the box confused the visitors and bobbled his way – but the Czech’s radar once again faltered as he dragged his effort wide from six yards.

Two long-distance strikes from captain Frank Lampard and a toe-poke from Fernando Torres posed the biggest tests to Tomas Vaclik in the first half. The goalkeeper had even fewer causes for concern after the break.

A lacklustre Chelsea, top scorers in the group stages of the Champions League, were sloppy in possession, with routine passes regularly finding a maroon-shirted player.

Other than a half chance for Fernando Torres, which the Spaniard side-footed wide, and a tame Lampard header, Chelsea had little to show for nearly 80 minutes of toil.

Until Rafael Benitez chose to replace Juan Mata with Oscar it seemed the match would end goalless.

But the lively Brazilian played a cute one-two with Hazard on the edge of the box and placed the ball low in the bottom corner to give Chelsea a 1-0 lead before next Thursday’s second leg at Stamford Bridge.

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