For the first time ever, the Chelsea Blues are the best team in Europe. Thanks in part to nearly a $2.5 billion – six year effort by Russian owner, Roman Abramovich, the London football club has at last won the Champions League. What makes this feat so shocking is that the Blues started the season to such a poor start. Somehow and someway, Chelsea battled all season long to come out on top, winning the FA Cup and the UEFA Champions League Cup.
Today was a perfect example of how Chelsea managed to squeak out another victory. At Alliance Arena in Munich, the host and home-town team Bayern Munich were confident they had this game in the bag. » Read more..
The past two days have seen the two remaining Spanish clubs, Real Madrid and Barcelona, lose in the first leg of the UEFA Champions League semi-finals. Who would’ve thought? With the German club manhandling Cristiano Ronaldo’s Real Madrid, it was pretty evident that Bayern Munich would come away with a victory. However, as the game progressed, the 1-1 draw almost seemed certain. That is until the 90th minute when Philipp Lahm burned Fabio Coentrão on a nice move and followed up with a low cross into the 6 yard box to find a perfect Mario Gomez strike past the Barca goaltender Victor Valdez. I could not believe it. Did Madrid really just lose? This is the first time they have lost a match in this year’s UEFA Champions League. Respect goes out to Bayern Munich though. They played aggressive, smart, and strategic against arguably the best or second best football club in the world. Let’s not forget that Bayern Munich won the UEFA Champions League title in 2010. With the way Mario Gomez and Franc Ribery are playing, I guess it’s not too far off to believe they may oust Real Madrid.
The other matchup in the UEFA Champions League semi-finals is between the Spanish club Barcelona and English club Chelsea. These two clubs are perhaps my favorite in the world. With my support for both clubs, it was hard to root against Barcelona but I had to go with the underdog, Chelsea. To everyone’s amazement, Barcelona somehow lost 1-0 at the Stamford Bridge. From start to finish it was all Barcelona. They simply dominated the possession of that game. As I sat and watched this game carry on, I thought the score would be 4 goals in favor or Barcelona by half time. But no. The Chelsea Blues seemed confident and never lost focus under Roberto Di Matteo’s command.
Cesca Fabregas and Alexis Sanchez are just two of the Barca players that couldn’t score goals yesterday in spite of having perfect chances. I guess luck was just on the side of Chelsea this match. Even more, Chelsea did an incredible job of containing Leo Messi. Any time Messi had the ball, 3 or 4 defenders would collapse on him. It reminded me of watching the 2010 World Cup as Messi was basically shutdown that tournament due to oppressive defense targeted at him. And I cannot forget about Didier Drogba; the man, the monster, the one Chelsea player who simply manhandled the significantly smaller and weaker Spanish. Thanks in part to a Messi turnover, Chelsea counterattacked with a perfect long cross to Ramires who in turn low crossed it to Drogba where he then scored yet another Champions League goal. The dude is just a beast.
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Roberto Di Matteo is now 13-1 since taking over as interim manager. Has he proved himself worthy of the full-time gig? I certainly think so. He has basically flipped Chelsea from an inconsistent group of athletes into an unstoppable and momentous English football club that can compete on any level. Next week, Madrid and Cataluña will see some intense football as we witness two rematches in the final matches of the semi-finals. We will see Real Madrid host Bayern Munich with a 2-1 aggregate in favor of Bayern Munich. Barcelona, probably the best team ever to play at its home-field will host the Chelsea Blues.
Where is Fernando Torres? The Spanish striker has not scored a goal in twenty games. The 78 million dollar man clearly isn’t cutting it for Chelsea FC. Yesterday, Torres didn’t even play in yesterday’s loss against Napoli in the Champions League. Sadly, Fernando “El Niño” Torres is in a serious slump while Chelsea remains in 5th place in the English Premier League and in an unfavorable position in the Champions League.
Didier Drogba has returned to Chelsea from his stint at the African Cup of Nations but this didn’t seem to matter much yesterday. The 3-1 loss against Napoli was tough to watch as a Chelsea FC fan, especially when Chelsea allowed 3 unanswered goals. More so, the kid was benched. I’m sure this run of bad luck will end and Fernando will come up on top once gain. As for now, the 2010 Spanish World Cup winner is down and out and showing little to no confidence. At 27, Chelsea acquired Torres from Liverpool for $78 million with the hope of having him fill the footsteps of the aging Didier Drogba. Unfortunately, the reality is quite the opposite. “El Niño,” Spanish for “the kid,” Torres has not lived up to the expectations and is now being benched because he simply cannot find a way to score.
What will happen to Chelsea seems to be the definitive question. Will Torres kick his slump and start scoring goals? Or what about this: will Didier Drogba end up in Madrid? Current Real Madrid manager and former Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho has made it apparent that he would like to reunite with the Chelsea striker. Mourinho is convinced that Drogba, who turns 34 next month, will be a huge success for Real Madrid despite his age. If he does go to Madrid, I can’t imagine his tenure there being longer than a season or two. Drogba is one tough player to say the least. He is also in impeccable shape and is one of the strongest football players around, but it’s no secret that he’s nearing retirement. Just imagine Drogba and Ronaldo on the same squad.
As for the foreseeable future, Chelsea definitely has their hands full. Chelsea’s next EPL match is at home against Bolton and will have a rematch against Napoli at Stamford Bridge on March 14. Let’s hope things get better for Chelsea and “the kid.”
Fabio Capello quits as the manager of England’s National Football squad. The shocking resignation comes days after defenseman John Terry was stripped of his captaincy from the national squad. Capello, who disagreed with the stripping of Terry’s captaincy, was the most successful English manager in terms of winning percentage in the national team’s history. This now leaves the Three Lions with no veteran captain and no manger with only 4 months until the Euro 2012. England, arguably a favorite, was drawn into Group D along with France, host country Ukraine, and Sweden. Many soccer fans and English enthusiasts believe Steven Gerrard to become the next captain and current Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp to become the next manager. There is much anticipation on team news and updates before England’s next international match on February 29 against Holland.
England's former head coach Fabio Capello
In other English football news, on Super Bowl Sunday, the Premier League witnessed a thrilling match between Manchester United and Chelsea that actually premiered in the United States on channel Fox. The lopsided match ultimately ended in a draw, with Man U coming back from a 3-0 deficit. Despite not having veterans John Terry and Didier Drogba, Chelsea seemed to have the game in the bag when they went up 3 nil. Thanks to the sensitive officiating, Man U’s Wayne Rooney scored two penalty goals that were complemented by a Javier Hernandez header. Chelsea fans must have been in shock. Man U is now ranked 2nd in the Premier League while Chelsea remains in 4th, both teams are still strong contenders as the season winds down; that is, if Chelsea’s Fernando Torres can score a goal. Check out the games highlights here.