Andre Villas Boas: A new dawn and second chance at Chelsea for a number of fringe players

New Chelsea manager Andre Villas Boas has promised to evaluate his current squad before going out the the market and spending irrationally. The 33-year-old technician has been linked with a move for some of the Porto stars that shot him to fame, but so far it has been a quiet transfer window at Stamford Bridge. The end of the Carlo Ancelotti era will sadden some of the squad, who had a close affiliation with the Italian, however other players will be eager to have the slate wiped clean and start anew at the club.

Daniel Sturridge will surely be one of those who will hope to get more first team football under the new man in charge. Having found himself well and truly down the pecking order after signing for The Blues from Manchester City in July 2009, he will hope to be on a level par with Didier Drogba, Fernando Torres and Nicolas Anelka in 2011-12, with selection based on performance and form.

With only four goals to his name in his time at Chelsea, the 21-year-old will have been boosted by his loan spell at Bolton last season, where he impressed and found his scoring form. Eight goals in 12 games is a record that speaks for itself, and the Birmingham born attacker looks reinvigorated from gaining playing time in the top flight.

By no means a certainty to get games, Sturridge will be happy to hear that AVB intends to play a 4-3-3 system, which will give him an extra starting spot to contend. Versatile, skilful and with an eye for goal, 2011-12 is a big year for the England under-21 star.

Yuri Zhirkov signed for the London club after an impressive Euro 2008 campaign with Russia, but has failed to live up to the hype of his £18 million transfer fee. With injuries and a drop in form resulting in only 29 appearances in two seasons, predominantly as a substitute, it is make or break time for the former CSKA Moscow man.

The 27-year-old is one of only a handful of left footed wide players in The Blues’ squad, and his versatility of playing at either full back or on the wing will be useful to Villas Boas. The most expensive player in Russian football history has show at times that he can be a real danger to opposition, but needs to be included on a more regular basis to fully meet his potential.

There are a number of other fringe players that will have welcomed a new man at the helm. Paulo Ferreria has seen his career in England fade over the last two seasons, as a starting spot is no longer guaranteed. Yossi Benayoun showed fantastic craft and vision whilst at Liverpool, but has had an injury plagued time in London, whilst centre half Alex slipped out of Ancelotti’s preferences and will hope for more opportunities under AVB.

With potentially more new players to arrive it will be interesting to see the Portuguese coach’s starting XI and matchday squad on August 13th, with all available players given a fair crack at the whip to be included.

Brazil’s strength in depth – the players that didn’t make the Copa America cut

The 2011 Copa America in Argentina kicks off in early July, with the hosts the favourites amongst most bookmakers. Despite this, eight time tournament winners and current holders Brazil, as always, have a star studded squad capable of beating anyone on their day. Coach Mano Menezes has named a mightily impressive squad, that includes the mercurial attacking talents of Neymar, Robinho and Alexandre Pato, and the Selecao fans must be confident of their sides chances in the competition. The nation’s true football calibre can be showcased not by the 28 players the former Corinthians boss has selected however, but by the names missing. The following is a potential Brazil international side that will be watching their countrymen compete from the comfort of their armchairs.

GK : Heurelho Gomes, Tottenham Hotspur (11 caps) – Brazil’s number one is Inter’s Julio Cesar, who has made the starting spot his own, and rightfully so as he is the best goalkeeper at Menezes’ deposal. Tottenham’s Heurelho Gomes missed out after one blunder too many may have blotted the copybook beyond salvation. The former PSV stopper’s club future is unclear also, with mistakes in high profile matches, such as against Real Madrid in the Champions League quarter finals still fresh in the memory. Undoubtedly has the potential to pull off a match winning save at a second’s notice, but Brazil won’t miss Gomes in Argentina.

LB : Marcelo, Real Madrid (6 caps)– The national coach chose to omit the 23-year-old from his 28 largely due to indiscipline, with the former Fluminense full-back reportedly feigning injury to avoid an international friendly against Scotland and stay in Spain to focus on pressing affairs at the Santiago Bernabeu. Despite his small number of caps, Marcelo has progressed this season with excellent performances for Jose Mourinho’s side both domestically and in Europe and is a player of quality despite his off the field problems.

CB : Alex, Chelsea (17 caps) – The former Santos defender has been replaced both at club and international level by the emerging talents of David Luiz, and has not made the final cut. A solid centre half with a venomous left foot, he will be missed more for the thunderbolt free-kicks than his defensive prowess, with Brazil most likely electing Thiago Silva and Lucio in the starting XI in his absence

CB : Juan, Roma (79 caps) – The 32 year old is maybe past his best but brings a wealth of experience to his current club employers Roma. He formed an effective club and country partnership with Lucio whilst the pair were at Bayer Leverkusen, but a potential move back to the Brasiliero will be the Rio born veteran’s only reason to return to South America this summer.

RB : Fabio and/or Rafael, Manchester United (0 caps) – English football fans will have recognised the progression of the 20 year old brothers this season, who competed with each other for a starting spot in Sir Alex Ferguson’s side. Both have flair going forward but need to work on their positioning at the back, and were understandably overlooked in favour of Dani Alves and Maicon. New Bayern Munich signing Rafinha is another right back who will not feature in the tournament.

MF: Anderson, Manchester United (8 caps) – Another Manchester United first-teamer not to make the cut, Anderson has become an increasingly important player at Old Trafford. The former Porto player has an energy and work-rate that would be beneficial to Menezes, but has been overlooked in favour of Premier League compatriots Lucas Leiva and Sandro. A lack of goalscoring has blighted the 23-year-old.

MF : Douglas Costa, Shakhtar Donetsk (0 caps) – The 20-year-old was a key figure in the Shakhtar Donetsk side that made it to the Champions League quarter finals, with two riveting displays to eliminate Roma stuck in the memory. The ex-Gremio man is being linked with a move to a bigger club, and unfortunately for him, despite his talents and a good season, the tournament has come too early for the future international.

MF : Hernanes, Lazio (3 caps) – Has had a very impressive first season in Europe with Lazio, becoming their go-to man in the centre of the park. The 26-year-old former Sao Paulo midfielder has a good range of passing, is excellent in possession, and proved his eye for goal by hitting the back of the net 11 times in 2010/11 for the Biancocelesti. A very good player, unlucky to miss out.

AM : Kaka, Real Madrid (82 caps) – The former Ballon d’Or and World Player of the Year winner has struggled to emulate his scintillating Milan form in Spain, and has had an injury-prone and frustrating two years at the Bernabeu. Recovering from injury in time was one thing; the 29-year-old simply didn’t get enough game-time in 2010/11, finding himself in Cristiano Ronaldo’s shadow. There is no doubt the talismanic playmaker will don the yellow of his country again in the future, but he needs to get back to his best to oust the likes of Sao Paulo wonderkid Lucas and Santos’ Ganso.

FW : Hulk, Porto (3 caps) – The fact that Hulk is not in the 28 is a testament to the strength of Menezes’ squad, given the excellent season the 24-year-old has just had. Strong on the ball, wonderfully talented and a ruthless finisher, the former Tokyo Verdy frontman was one of the standout performers in Porto’s vast domestic and European success in 2010/11, scoring 31 goals in the process.

FW : Ronaldinho, Flamengo (88 caps) – Another Ballon d’Or past winner to miss out, at 31 the now Flamengo attacker still has gas left in the tank. An unmatchable talent on his day, the former Barcelona hero never settled at AC Milan but still has a lot to offer. 32 international goals to his name and a mesmeric career behind him, Ronny’s bucktooth smile will be missed in Argentina

Other unlucky players to have missed the cut are Internacional’s Leandro Damaio, who is a £15 million target for Arsenal and Spurs, and Villarreal’s Nilmar who continues to impress at El Madrigal.

An unwanted team capable of potentially winning the tournament shows the Selecao’s strength in depth and continual production of top class, world beating players. Mano Menezes’ side start their campaign on July 3rd against Venezuela, and will no doubt prove to be real contenders to retain their crown come the final on July 25th.

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