Transfer latest: Rooney at Chelsea gets Man Utd Real for Ronaldo #CFC #MUFC #AFC


Wayne Rooney and David Moyes will have a meeting this week that will probably be one of the most important in world football.

Where Rooney plays his club football next season will not just affect his career – but affect the careers of managers and players in three countries.

United begin their pre-season training on July 3 and new United manager will want the issue settled well before then.

The British is agog with speculation about where Rooney will end up.

Waiting in the wings are Jose Mourinho and Chelsea, Arsene Wenger and Arsenal, Carlo Ancelotti and Real Madrid and even Paris Saint-Germain – and whoever their new manager is (latest media reports suggest Laurent Blanc).

Should United and Rooney fail to strike a deal, surely Moyes would rather see the England striker move out of the Premier League than have to face him in the Premier League.

Especially given that the Reds have a first-five games’ fixture list that includes Liverpool and Chelsea and could define their season.

This is why the suggestion that Rooney could be used as a bargaining chip to prise Cristiano Ronaldo away from Real. United could offer Ancelotti Rooney and cash for Ronaldo.

Though Arsenal’s very public courting of Rooney has not suggested any reciprocation, the UK media have speculated that should Wayne decide to stay in England, but not at Old Trafford, he is leaning towards Stamford Bridge.

The fee in question for Rooney is at about £30million – with £250,000 per week in wages.

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.

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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.

CHELSEA TV EXCLUSIVE: MOURINHO – THE FIRST INTERVIEW

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.

ChelseaTV

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.

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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

Related

#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

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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.

Van Persie magic seals 20th Premier League title for Man United. #MUFC


United have taken an unassailable 16-point lead over City

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Manchester United reclaimed their Premier League crown in style on Monday as Robin van Persie‘s hat-trick inspired a 3-0 win over Aston Villa that gave them an unassailable 16-point lead over Manchester City and erased the pain of last season.

Van Persie’s goals after two, 13 and 33 minutes – the second among the best ever scored at Old Trafford – propelled Alex Ferguson’s side to a record-extending 20th league title in front of a jubilant home crowd.

After the hurt of having their crown snatched away by Manchester City on goal difference in stoppage time on the final day of the 2011-12 season, United were determined to make sure of the title with four games to spare.

“When you lose the title it’s hard to take it, the way we did (last year) it was not a nice feeling,” forward Wayne Rooney, who set up two of the goals in a performance that went some way to answering his recent critics, told Sky Sports.

“So we’ve all dug in deep, we’ve all worked together and done fantastic to get ourselves into this position and tonight we finished the job off.”

With the championship guaranteed, United still have much to play for as they aim for 96 points to beat the record points total of 95 set by Chelsea in 2004-05.

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With United’s tally currently on 84 points, Ferguson’s side remain on target to overhaul Chelsea’s record provided they win their four remaining games.

Monday’s win earned the club and Ferguson, who has now won 49 club trophies in his managerial career, a 13th Premier League title.

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“I’m so proud of everything I’ve achieved. I don’t get carried away, I don’t look back, only look forward,” he told MUTV.

“There is no reason why we can’t go on and improve for next year.”

STRANGE PLACES

Ferguson, who has secured some of his 13 championships in strange places over the years including at the gym, on the golf course and while watching snooker, would agree nothing beats doing it at Old Trafford with “champions” ringing out.

Fans had already stocked up on T-shirts, scarves and flags emblazoned with “20” before the game knowing they were unlikely to need a refund and their faith was justified with less than 90 seconds on the clock.

Rooney’s diagonal ball from his own half found Antonio Valencia on the right wing and the Ecuadorian passed to Rafael who crossed to Ryan Giggs with the 39-year-old pulling the ball back for Van Persie to tap in with ease.

The Dutchman could have scored a second a minute later when he volleyed just over, while Rafael hit the post before Van Persie produced a candidate for goal of the season to double their lead in the 13th minute.

Another superb pass from Rooney from just inside his own half set up Van Persie for an exquisite left-foot volley from just outside the box that flew past helpless Villa keeper Brad Guzan and into the net.

His third, on 33 minutes, again involved Giggs who was fed by Shinji Kagawa before finding Van Persie in the box. The Dutchman had time to shift the ball on to his left foot before sending it in off the post for his 24th league goal of the season making him the league’s top scorer.

“The important thing was to win the game and we won the game. It was great to score so early,” Van Persie told Sky Sports.

“I feel very happy, but it’s weird you know, I have waited so long for my first title – but it’s a great feeling.”

FULL SWING

Villa, desperate for damage limitation in their relegation battle, did a better job of containing United in the second half and Van Persie was called on to demonstrate his worth at the other end of the field with a headed clearance off the line.

Kagawa missed a chance to give United a fourth, inexplicably firing high and wide, but that will be forgotten as the party gets into full swing.

United’s players will not get their hands on the trophy for another three weeks as it will not be presented until their final home match of the season against Swansea City on May 12.

United, who have 84 points to City’s 68 with their neighbours having played one game fewer, head to Arsenal in their next match on Sunday where they can continue the party in front of Van Persie’s former team mates.

ENJOY TONIGHT

Asked what he thought about going back to the Emirates as a champion with United, Van Persie replied: “Let us enjoy tonight first.”

It was fitting that the goals came from the man whose hot form has driven United’s season.

His arrival in the close season from Arsenal was a signal that Ferguson would be true to his vow that his side would never again miss out because they had not scored enough goals.

Van Persie’s treble against a young Aston Villa team, who remain a perilous three points above the relegation zone with some damage to their goal difference, took him above Liverpool’s Luis Suarez on top of the scoring charts.

The debate will rage over where this United team fits in among Ferguson’s great sides of the past, with this crop sometimes criticised for not living up to the likes of the 1994 double-winners or 1999 treble winners.

There will be few, however, that would argue about Van Persie’s place among the Old Trafford greats.

MATCH STATS

Manchester United 3 Aston Villa 0

Robin Van Persie 2″
Robin Van Persie 13″
Robin Van Persie 33″

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


City go to White Hart Lane 13 points behind United

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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.
 
MORE PRESSURE

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.
 
CLOSE FRIEND

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.

Liverpool Edge Tottenham in Thriller as Luis Suarez, Gareth Bale Prove Worth


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Stop Gareth Bale, and Liverpool will stop Spurs, or so the headlines from the tabloids proclaimed. As pre-match pep talk, it settled neatly on a problem that has befuddled many a defense in recent months. But it also overlooked a couple vital points, both of which proved pivotal Sunday afternoon at Anfield.

First, does it qualify as stopping Bale when the Welshman doesn’t score but “only” sets up two goals? And second, who said Bale was the only important player in the match?

With all the attention focused lately on Bale’s rise to stardom, it was almost possible to forget about Luis Suarez of Liverpool. But the Premier League’s leading scorer scored another Sunday, his 22nd of the season and seventh in four outings in all competitions. Thanks in large part to his contributions, Liverpool won the match.

Suarez also won the penalty that decided the result in a thrilling if sloppy match that saw the Reds succeed where so many have failed in recent weeks. Liverpool led, then trailed, then came from behind to hand Tottenham a 3-2 loss, ending Spurs’ run of just one defeat in all competitions since Dec. 9.

In victory, Liverpool moved onto 45 points, level with Everton but ahead of their Merseyside rivals on goal difference. A top-four place and Champions League football remain seven points distant, but Brendan Rodgers now has his first three-match winning streak in his first season at Anfield.

Considering Spurs’ recent form, much from Sunday’s result might surprise. Most unexpected of all, however, is this: While Tottenham lost, they did so with Bale playing well. In other words, Liverpool stopped Spurs but not because they could stop Bale.

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Michael Regan/Getty Images

The 23-year-old midfielder had been in astonishing goal-scoring form of late, with 10 goals in his last eight appearances in all competitions. He didn’t score Sunday, and he’ll be credited with only one assist, but Bale was heavily involved in both of Tottenham’s goals.

The first, which canceled out Suarez’s stylish opener, came from Bale’s cross from the right flank. His curling, left-footed pass found Jan Vertonghen, who headed Spurs level on the stroke of halftime.

Bale then helped put Spurs ahead early in the second half. This time a free kick, again from the right, troubled Liverpool’s defense along with Michael Dawson’s harrying presence. The ball landed for Vertonghen, who paused with a striker’s instinct and waited for the right moment to slam home a left-footed drive.

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Gareth Bale’s performance levels against Liverpool. Notice the upswing on either side of halftime, when Spurs overturned a 1-0 deficit. Image and stats via Squawka.com.

So while Bale went scoreless in the match, one could wonder whether Bale now needs to score in order to hurt his opponents. In his new advanced, free role in the Tottenham attack, his influence reaches throughout this Spurs side and alters the entire team’s performance. Near the end of the first half, when his team trailed by a goal, Bale wielded his powers more effectively than any other player on the pitch.

But for all of Bale’s influence, Suarez was at times perhaps just as important for Liverpool.

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Luis Suarez’s performance data against Tottenham. Notice the sharp rise near his goal (21′) and the slight uptick around the penalty decision (82′). Stats and image via Squawka.com.

The mercurial Uruguayan put the Reds ahead with a typically expert near-post finish in the 21st minute and nearly set up another six minutes later. After falling behind to Vertonghen’s second, Liverpool equalized through Stewart Downing after a fortuitously poor back-pass and then grabbed the winner through captain Steven Gerrard’s powerful penalty.

Almost inevitably, Suarez was the man responsible for the latter. Seizing on another defensive miscue—this time a poor clearance by Jermain Defoe—Suarez took control of the ball in the box and put himself in position to win a penalty with Benoit Assou-Ekotto‘s clumsy challenge.

As both the stats (see the graphs above) and the storylines will show, both Suarez and Bale raised their level of play when their teams had their separate moments of ascendancy. Such a coincidence is hardly accidental, but rather the hallmarks of influential and important players.

Bale hit perhaps greater heights, but if anything, Suarez saved the most crucial contributions for the most important times.

When the end-of-season individual awards go out at the end of the season, both Suarez and Bale will rank among the favorites for hardware. Sunday’s match might not have settled any scores in the race for personal accolades, but it should serve as a powerful reminder that Suarez and Bale are among the best the Premier League has to offer at the moment.

By

Michael Cummings(World Football Lead Writer)

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.

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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.

#Chelsea: 5 Easy Steps to Get the Blues Back to Challenging for Trophies


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Chelsea won a domestic and European double last season but look unlikely to repeat that feat in 2012/13.
Andy Marlin/Getty Images

Having won the trophy that Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich has been chasing for the last 10 years in the 2011/12 season, the Blues are having a far less successful campaign this time around. They were sitting pretty at the top of the Premier League until November following some impressive wins at the start of the season, but a dip in form saw Roberto Di Matteo sacked and things began to spiral out of control.

By the time of Rafa Benitez‘s appointment as interim manager, Chelsea had already missed out on two

trophies, having lost in the Community Shield against Manchester City and a humiliating 4-1 defeat to Atletico Madrid in the UEFA Super Cup. Since taking over, Benitez has led the Blues to defeat in the Capital One Cup and the FIFA Club World Cup.

Things need to change fast, as the Blues are still hanging on in the FA Cup and are set to play their first Europa League match in February, and despite the long odds on silverware arriving at Stamford Bridge this season, both Benitez and Abramovich could do worse than change the following five things to avoid disaster for Chelsea.

Tighten Up Defensively

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Clive Mason/Getty Images

Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich has sought Barcelona style attacking football since he bought the club 10 years ago. This footballing philosophy has been implemented by most of Chelsea’s recent managers and produced a number of huge winning margins.

However, the results that have mattered most have come from a more defensive style of play. When Chelsea beat Barcelona in the 2012 Champions League semifinal they had 11 shots on goal to the Catalan side’s 47 over the two legs. They won 3-2 on aggregate because they were organised defensively and able to absorb pressure throughout the game as well as on the counter.

When Chelsea won the Premier League title in 2004/05 under Jose Mourinho they conceded 15 goals in 38 games. In 25 games so far in the 2012/13 season they have conceded 27 goals.

This season has seen Branislav Ivanovic and Gary Cahill score six goals each despite playing as centre-backs. Their forward forays have left Chelsea exposed and, when combined with a team ethic that revolves around all out attack, it has led to wins becoming draws and, all too often, losses.

Get the Strikers Scoring

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Scott Heavey/Getty Images

Chelsea’s top Premier League goal scorers for 2012/13 are Frank Lampard and Juan Mata, having both scored 10 goals. With midfielders seemingly obsessed with shooting from well outside the box, Chelsea have often seemed content to roll the ball around rather than looking for a penetrative pass into the box.

When Fernando Torres is playing as the lone front man you can understand the reluctance to get him involved. He is seemingly terrified of shooting and his first touch has let him down more often than not. However, he is not the only striking option that Chelsea have available.

Demba Ba left the game against Newcastle United with a broken nose, but the fact that he got himself into the position of getting kicked in the face is testament to his desire to score. Having already bagged three goals for the Blues since signing in January, Chelsea will be hoping that he makes a speedy recovery and is able to help them kick on for the rest of the season.

Change Their Tactical Approach

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 16:  Coach Rafa Benitez of Chelsea writes down some notes during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Southampton at Stamford Bridge on January 16, 2013 in London, England.  (Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images
Christopher Lee/Getty Images

When Roberto Di Matteo took over as interim manager in March 2012, he adapted to the squad he had available and deployed a 4-2-3-1 formation with great success. He continued this approach at the beginning of the 2012/13 season and, again, enjoyed success at the start.

However, with Torres now the lone striker instead of Didier Drogba, the weakness of that formation was exposed. Chelsea’s goals were coming mostly from the three behind Torres and when they were marked out of games the European champions lost their cutting edge.

When you factor in suspensions and injuries in the holding midfield and central defensive roles, the formation which won the Champions League became redundant and in need of an overhaul.

Rafa Benitez has been lauded as a great tactician, but his stubbornness in sticking with the 4-2-3-1 has cost Chelsea two trophies since his tenure began. To avoid the club being further humiliated by an early FA Cup exit and a slide down the Premier League table, he will need to explore his options.

Whether it is employing a 4-3-3 to add more defensive cover, or a staggered 4-4-2 with two out-and-out strikers to provide more goals, or something completely different, Benitez will need to act fast if he wants to be considered as a candidate for a permanent managerial position at Stamford Bridge.

Find Some Stability

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Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

Rafa Benitez is the tenth manager to take charge of Chelsea in 10 years. With each coach bringing different tactics and playing philosophies there has been no opportunity to establish a stable foundation for the club.

Players who were regular first team starters under one manager find themselves cast aside by the next, while stalwarts John Terry, Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole and Petr Cech have been forced to adapt, often halfway through a season. This has given rise to what has been dubbed “player power” by the press.

Departing managers have spoken of the influence that the likes of Terry have in the dressing room and how they were undermined by the captain. However, when his presence has been the only consistent factor in a tumultuous time, it is not hard to see why he has an authority that some managers have lacked.

The only way to stabilise the club in the long term is to stop the managerial merry-go-round and give a coach time to build a squad and implement a philosophy. It would save a significant amount of money and allow the players and fans to look forward to the future, and would ultimately bring success.

 

Develop the Strength and Depth of the Squad

Ryan Bertrand needs more time to acclimatise to first-team football at Chelsea.
Ryan Bertrand needs more time to acclimatise to first-team football at Chelsea.
Scott Heavey/Getty Images

Chelsea are currently suffering something of a crisis within their squad. As players begin to feel the fatigue which comes with a fixture list as congested as the Blues’ they become more injury prone. When suspensions and international duties are factored in, a squad with at least 18 players who would be part of the starting 11 at the top clubs in the league is needed to keep a competitive edge.

A squad that can be rotated without losing any quality allows the manager to choose his lineup with the opponents in mind rather than forcing him to make the best of what he has available. Chelsea simply do not have adequate cover across the park for them to maintain the momentum that they gained at the start of the season.

With young talent such as Romelu Lukaku out on loan and fringe players failing to make an impact, Chelsea will need to make some savvy deals in the summer to strengthen the depth of their squad and avoid the same issues plaguing them next year.

Chelsea Advance to FIFA Club World Cup Final While ‘Enjoying Their Footbal


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Lintao Zhang/Getty Images

While you were sleeping, Chelsea moved one step closer to a world title.

Even as the Blues approach history, Rafa Benitez continues to face resistance. But as Chelsea soak up the benefits of a decidedly welcomed side quest, the club’s outlook might be turning.

Chelsea, the reigning European champions, eased to a 3-1 victory over Mexican power Monterrey on Thursday in the FIFA Club World Cup semifinals in Japan (via FIFA.com). Juan Mata, Fernando Torres and a Darvin Chavez own goal gave the Blues a 3-0 lead within 48 minutes, and Jesus de Nigris pulled one back for Monterrey in the final minute.

With the victory, Chelsea advanced to Sunday’s final to play Corinthians of Brazil. With another victory, the Blues would earn the club’s first FIFA Club World Cup title.

Chelsea won comfortably on Thursday and showed further signs of turning around a recent slump that saw former manager Roberto Di Matteo sacked and the Blues deposed from the top of the Premier League. That being said, new manager Rafa Benitez still has yet to win over the fans, as Goal.com’s Liam Twomey reports:

Even six thousand miles from Stamford Bridge, Rafa Benitez could not escape the boos, nor the pointed chants of ‘There’s only one Di Matteo’. Yet in spite of it all there were signs of progress, and the possibility that in this chapter of remarkable success in the Chelsea story, there may be another page of success to write on Sunday.

Success on Sunday would not be unexpected, nor would it rank among the most prestigious titles in the club’s history. Yet it would represent progress for Benitez and could signal a return to contention for Chelsea after a rough stretch both domestically and in Europe.

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Lintao Zhang/Getty Images

Now 10 points off the pace in the Premier League, Chelsea won’t have another chance to make up ground until Dec. 23. But a world title—even if it would be largely ceremonial without all the heavy hitters involved—would serve as a potential relaunching point in the league.

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Lintao Zhang/Getty Images

Standing in the way will be Corinthians, a club that has invaded Japan with thousands of fans (via FIFA.com). But even with all that support, the Brazilians should be no match for Chelsea.

With artisans like Mata, Eden Hazard and Oscar influencing matters in the middle of the park, Chelsea have more quality than any other team competing in Japan this week. That should translate to success on Sunday—and in turn a new sense of goodwill around the club.

“Now the team knows what we want to do,” Benitez told FIFA.com after Thursday’s match. “They have more confidence and are enjoying their football a bit. We still need more time to keep improving.”

Despite the smattering of boos, Chelsea’s trip to the Far East seems to have served as a welcome distraction. Now, though, it’s time to take care of business.

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