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Simeone, Loew or Ancelotti – who should win the 2014 FIFA Coach of the Year?

By Waddah Hassani

FIFA has announced its final shortlist for the 2014 FIFA Coach of the Year award and it was (sort of) what everyone was expecting it to be; it included Champions League winner Carlo Ancelotti, World Cup winner Joachim Loew and La Liga winner Diego Simeone.

Aside of the detailed statistical comparison provided, who deserves the award the most?

FIFA 2014 COTY Comparison

Carlo Ancelotti: Where do we start? The experienced Italian has literally done it all in 2014, from winning titles, matching records, breaking records, winning over the fans and locker room, to re-inventing players.

Lets start with the titles; Ancelotti has won three titles thusfar in 2014 in the shape of the famed La Decima, the Copa del Rey, and the UEFA Super Cup. This list is very likely to see an addition in the form of the Club World Cup, which Real Madrid will contest in late December.

So, with three titles in 2014, Carlo Ancelotti is the coach with the most tiles won between not just the final shortlist, but the entire 10-man list initially released by FIFA.

Carlo Ancelotti

He also ventured into the ‘record breaking’ path as he orchestrated Real Madrid’s longest winning streak ever in all competitions (currently stands at 17 wins), longest winning streak ever in the Copa del Rey (10 wins), most goals scored in one Champions League campaign (41 goals), being the fastest coach in Real Madrid’s history to reach 50 official wins, and if Los Blancos wins the CWC, he will also be the first coach in the club’s history to win four titles in one calendar year.

He also equaled Bob Paisley’s record of three European Cups won and in the process became the first and only coach to win three European Cups with two different clubs.

The former Chelsea chief has guided Real Madrid to the top of the La Liga table with 10 consecutive league wins and secured the first spot in Group B of this season’s Champions League thanks to winning all the team’s matches so far in the competition.

On top of all that, Ancelotti also ‘re-invented’ players like Di Maria, James, and Isco to better suit the dynamics of the team, which in part lead to them being better overall players themselves. Certainly an eventful year this has been for the Italian mastermind.

Joachim Loew: With Ancelotti you see a lot of records and achievements, but some may argue that all of these feats are not equal to what Joachim Loew has won in 2014; the World Cup.

Loew guided Germany to the World Cup title with consistent, entertaining, direct, and brutal football that ruthlessly destroyed Brazil 7-1 in the semi-finals; providing the biggest ever semi-final result in World Cup’s history and the South American nation’s biggest home defeat ever.

Joachim Loew

While many teams showed promise but eventually delivered below par performances, Loew’s Germany dominated with sheer consistency. They were on point throughout the tournament and deservedly won the title to prove it.

The World Cup is without a doubt the biggest title in world football so winning it in style surely can’t hurt your chances in winning the COTY award.

Diego Simeone: Quite possibly the ‘dark horse’ in this year’s COTY award race, Diego Simeone has to go up against a coach that has won more titles and broke more records than anyone else in 2014, and a coach who has won the grandest prize in football in the shape of the World Cup.

And what does he have to go against them? Just a La Liga title and the Supercopa with Atletico Madrid.

Diego Simeone

On the surface it might not seem enough, but once you realize that Simeone achieved this with a Vicente Calderon outfit that was battling relegation when he was first appointed, you will come to know the magnitude of his achievement.

He lifted Atletico to heights that saw them challenging the two Spanish powerhouses in the form of Real Madrid and Barcelona, and he actually beat them to the La Liga title. Something that hasn’t happened in a decade.

With a budget that pales in comparison to the Clasico giants, and with a squad that may lack the flair of traditional world-class players, Simeone relied on sheer hard work and discipline to battle through the opposition.

This eventually led Atletico to the final of the 2013/14 Champions League where he was just a 100 seconds away from winning the title, and a La Liga triumph that will surely go down in Spanish folklore as one of the most surprising upsets in league history.

On any other year, what Simeone has done might have been enough, but in 2014, with a Champions League winner and a World Cup winner; it may not be the safe to bet on the Argentine.

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Carlo Ancelotti among Real Madrid’s all-time greats

By Waddah Hassani

“I hope to remembered here for a long time, hopefully not just for La Decima.” Carlo Ancelotti

When Carlo Ancelotti first arrived at the Santiago Bernabeu, he promised wins and beautiful football, and he has certainly delivered on both fronts.

Since he was appointed, Real Madrid have played 82 matches in all competitions, winning 64, making him the manager with the highest win percentage in the history of the club (78%).

Los Blancos have also scored 227 goals in those 82 matches at a rate of 2.77 goals per match, again the highest rate in the history of the club (of all managers with 30+ games).

And if that wasn’t enough, the Spanish capital city side have only conceded 66 goals in the Italian’s tenure at a rate of 0.80 goals conceded per game, yet again the best rate in the club’s history.

So with all of these stats,  it enough to call Ancelotti one of the all-time greatest Real Madrid managers?

Probably, because these are not the only things he has accomplished in his short time with Madrid.

On top of all the records mentioned, he was also the manager that ended Real Madrid’s wait for the coveted and long sought-after La Decima.

Florentino Perez spent over a billion euros in a dozen years as he longed for his dream of seeing the tenth European Cup in the Bernabeu, yet the former Chelsea boss ended his wait in his first season with the club.

Ancelotti didn’t just win La Decima, he did it in style.

Carlo Ancelotti

In arguably one of the most dominant campaigns in the competition’s history, Real Madrid steamrolled teams in last season’s Champions League and scored 41 goals in the process. Those 41 goals were an all-time record; breaking the previous tally of 35 goals by Barcelona.

Real Madrid also equaled the group stage record for most goals with 20, and the record for most goals scored in a UCL final with four.

All of these show that Real Madrid probably did have the most complete campaigns in Champions League history.

Adding on to it was the Copa del Rey triumph, beating Barcelona in the final. Ancelotti brought the first Copa del Rey trophy to the Bernabeu since 2011; it was also the first time that Real Madrid won more than one title in a single season since 2002/03.

Needless to say, starting this season with big hopes was not an uncommon thing, and Ancelotti did not disappoint with a UEFA Super Cup win in August.

Real Madrid currently boast the strongest attack in Europe and lead the La Liga table on top of being the only team to have won all five matches in Europe’s top tournament this season.

They currently need two wins to equal the longest winning streak in the Champions League, two home wins to equal the longest home winning streak in the European competition, and finally two away wins to equal the longest away winning streak in the Champions League.

All of these ‘near-records’ show how close Ancelotti is from breaking several long standing records with a Real Madrid team that is currently ranked as the best in the world and probably the best Madrid side in recent memory.

If all of that wasn’t enough, Ancelotti became the first manager in the club’s history to win 16 consecutive matches in all competitions. He has passed the 15-match winning run accomplished by Jose Mourinho and Miguel Munez, and needs just two more wins to equal the all-time record for most consecutive wins in Spain’s top-flight history (18, set by Barcelona).

Ancelotti also stands on the cusps of another feat, which is to be the quickest coach to get to 100 wins, currently held by Mourinho, who needed 133 games to achieve that record.

However, with Ancelotti at 64 wins from 82 matches already, it’s very hard not to see him take that record away from Mourinho as well.

So all of these stats, records, and accomplishments make Carlo Ancelotti without a doubt, one of the best Real Madrid managers in recent memory, but is he an ‘all-time’ great?

That might be more arguable, but with his and the club’s willingness in extending his contract to 2017 or 2018, it is extremely difficult not to see him as one of, if not the best, managers in the club’s history once his tenure ends at Real Madrid.

Paris Saint Germain: Are they a threat to Manchester United, Barcelona and the big boys in the Champions League?

Paris Saint Germain have given themselves a golden opportunity to reach the Champions League quarter-finals with a hard-fought 2-1 win over Valencia in Spain. The Ligue 1 side were good value for their win against Los Che, and will now eye another strong performance at the Parc des Princes to consolidate their progression.

Admittedly, Valencia are not the same beast that made the Mestalla a cauldron in the 2000’s. However they did recently hold Barcelona to a 1-1 draw at home, and as such PSG’s achievement of an away victory must be applauded.

Ezequiel Lavezzi scored against Valencia for PSG

With the backing of the Qatari Investment Authority, Carlo Ancelotti as head coach and a host of top-notch players at the club already, the sky is the limit for the French capital-city side. No doubt further investment and more new faces will arrive in the summer, but what can PSG achieve this season?

Domestically PSG are sitting six points clear at the top of Ligue 1, and the realistic aim for the club’s owners, and their priority, must be to win the title. Given the fact that they have not been crowned French champions since 1994, this is well overdue.

In the Champions League a solid home performance against Valencia should get them through to the last eight, and from there the competition becomes unpredictable. The likes of Barcelona, Juventus, Mancehster United or Real Madrid would certainly be favourites over two legs against the French side, but none of this side would necessary relish being drawn against PSG.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s foolish dismissal late in the game put a dampener on PSG’s performance, as did the conceding of a late goal, but come quarter-final time the French side may well pose a tricky customer for some of the traditionally bigger teams given the quality in their ranks.

The Loan Debate: Is it good for the parent club?

With Fifa Financial Fair Play coming into effect and extortionate transfer fees blighting some clubs’ efforts to reinforce, the tried-and-tested loan system is an option can make or break a team’s season. One only has to look at the track record of young players evolving into top-class athletes whilst on loan deals, or a club being boosted by a temporary signing. It’s seemingly good for the player and parent club, as first-team football leads to development, and the smaller team gets the benefit of having a player they most likely couldn’t buy outright.

However, the loan system is not perfect, seems only to work when there is a match between the player and both his clubs and has a number of negative countering factors.

Pros

There is no doubt that loaning a player can make his career, as he returns to the parent club revitalised and improved after a run of regular football. The list of players to have undergone this process is startling, with three recent cases catching the eye:

  • Jack Wilshere – A promising youngster when he left the Emirates Stadium to join Bolton in 2009-10, he returned to the north London club ready to play an important role for club and country. Would he be the player he is now without the six-month spell of regular Premier League football at the Reebok Stadium?
  • Kyle Walker – Bought by Tottenham back in 2009, the young full back was not immediately considered by Harry Redknapp, and spent short spells at QPR and Aston Villa before becoming an ever-present at White Hart Lane this season.
  • Daniel Sturridge – Signed by Chelsea from Manchester City, youthful Sturridge could not get a game under Carlo Ancelotti and was loaned, again to Bolton. Eight goals in twelve games showed that the attacker was ready for regular Premier League inclusion, and he is now a key player at Stamford Bridge.

The list continues; Danny Welbeck and Jonny Evans at Manchester United, Jermian Defoe at West Ham, Aaron Ramsey at Arsenal, Joe Hart at Manchester City – plenty of young players have cut their teeth elsewhere and gone on to become international players.

In fact, looking at the England squad for the international fixture against Sweden in November 2011, 16 of the 25-man squad have been subject to loan deals. This spans back years and decades, with David Beckham’s successful stint at Preston North End in 1995 proving this is no recent phenomenon. The case of Emmanuel Adebayor at Tottenham shows that bringing in an experienced head on loan also works. Robbie Keane has looked sharper than ever since joining Aston Villa and inspired Celtic fans by scoring 12 goals in 16 games back in 2010.

The player’s wages are generally taken on fully or partly by the loaning club, so everyone’s happy. Right?

Cons

Despite the advantages of the loan system, sometimes for one reason or another it just doesn’t work. There are also a number of negative factors that must be considered when sending/taking a player on a temporary basis.

Arsene Wenger has strong opinions on the loan system, and despite taking advantage of it in the cases of Ramsey and Wilshere, he has seen the other side of the coin with a number of other players. Brazilian youngster Pedro Botelho was bought by The Gunners in 2007, but since has been loaned out to five different Spanish teams with little or no benefit to Arsenal. Samuel Galindo is a Bolivian defender signed by Arsenal, but was not granted a work permit. He is in his second loan spell in Spain, and struggles to get any regular football, the same is the case with Wellington Silva, who is now at Alcoyano.

It’s not all roses for the club getting the player on loan either.

  • Overdependence – An overdependence on temporary players is seemingly occurring in the lower leagues, as a team can bring in up to five loan players at any one time, almost half a team. Add to that the fact that the parent club can generally recall the player at any point, and it makes for a shaky alliance.
  • Is he ‘our player’? – The fans at times struggle to feel any real loyalty or bond with players who will be leaving in six months, and depart the club after showing any semblance of form or ability. The loanee’s motivations will always be questioned also, as he naturally will be more interested in putting himself in the shop window and progressing with the parent club than aiding his temporary team’s plight.
  • Youth systems – A loan deal may well benefit the parent club’s youth system, but what of the lesser of the two clubs? Wilshere’s loan to Bolton or Walker’s to Aston Villa, although successful for the duo, is stopping another home-grown young prospect from progressing at the Reebok Stadium or Villa Park.
  • Knock on effect – With the sheer number of players on loan, it is only natural that a team’s season can be decided by the actions of a temporary player. This also applies not only to the team the player goes from or to, but others in the division.

Arsene Wenger’s main gripe with the loan system is typified by the example of Adebayor, who helped Spurs challenge for the Champions League spots, but wasn’t available to potentially derail Manchester City’s title charge.

Published – Soccerlens

Chelsea to look to McEachran in the absence of the injured Michael Essien?

Chelsea received a setback recently with the news that Michael Essien is likely to face up to six months on the sidelines with another knee injury, with rehabilitation from an operation in full swing. With the latest ailment the third of it’s kind during the Ghanian’s tenure at Stamford Bridge, it may well be wise for Andre Villas Boas to formulate a long-term midfield plan without the 28-year-old in his thoughts.

No doubt, when Essien is fit and raring to go he is one of the most dynamic and explosive players in his position in the country. Despite this, long layoffs and a drop in confidence and form mean that the ex-Lyon midfielder has a lot of work to do to rediscover his former self.

The Portuguese manager has stated that The Blues will play 4-3-3 in 2011-12, with a trio of Frank Lampard, Ramires and Essien most likely in mind. With the African not available, Jon Obi Mikel may step in and play in the middle, but what are the other  options without Essien in the team?

Much has been made of the lack of activity in the transfer window to date, but it is likely that the Chelsea faithful will see arrivals to the club before August 31st. The high profile pursuit of Luka Modric has yet to reach a conclusion, whilst AVB is thought to be keen to add Porto’s Joao Moutinho to the squad. Both, as good players as they are, are more attacking minded and would complement a midfield with Lampard and Essien, with the new man being the playmaker. Without the Accra born man, a box-to-box player is needed; someone who can win the ball as well as distribute it.

Enter Josh McEachran. The 18-year-old impressed in his fleeting first team appearances in 2010-11, and the Young Player of the Year is likely to feature in more than the nine games he appeared in last term. The England under-21 international has great vision and passing abilities, maybe not yet up to the standard of Modric or Moutinho, but the promise is there.

Ideally the Oxford born man would prefer to play in a more attacking role, looking to supply the forwards and get into the opposition box. However Carlo Ancelotti seemed to use the youngster as a replacement for Essien or Mikel last season, and he looked more than comfortable in a deeper role. With enthusiasm and energy to burn, McEacran will not be scared to go toe-to-toe with opponents on a weekly basis, and although still maturing, can read the game well, allowing him to break up opposition play.

Chelsea do need another established central midfielder at the club, and it is likely that Roman Abramovich’s money will be spent to achieve this. However expect to see Josh McEachran playing a more important role in the team in 2011-12, as his talents continue to blossom at the Cobham training grounds.

Published – http://thechelseablog.org/2011/08/01/chelsea-to-look-to-mceachran-in-the-absence-of-the-injured-michael-essien/

2010/2011 Champions League in Quotes

This season’s Champions League has given us some memorable games, exciting and free flowing football and a mouth watering final between Manchester United and Barcelona to look forward to on May 28th. Inspired by the Barcelona vs Real Madrid semi-final sparking a war of words between the side’s coaches, here is a look back at the best soundbites from this season’s competition.

Barcelona vs Real Madrid

“Next year they might as well give the cup directly to Barcelona. The team is sad, but we knew it was an uphill battle. The name of the match is Mission Impossible IV. Once again it was the referee that didn’t allow us to dictate the outcome. We knew we could beat Barca, but the referee didn’t let us.” – Cristiano Ronaldo after the second leg defeat

“Why does this happen? Barcelona are a fantastic team. I don’t understand why Pepe was sent off. It paved the way for Barcelona to finish the tie. I said nothing to the referee. I just laughed and applauded his decision without saying anything. I’d rather say no more because if I tell him and UEFA what I really think my career would end here and now.” – Jose Mourinho after the first leg defeat to Barca.

” He is the f—— chief, the f—— boss of the press room” – Pep Guardiola (on Jose Mourinho) ahead of the tie.

Arsenal vs Barcelona

“I could understand the referee’s decision if there was four, five, six seconds in between and you make a chip or something, but one second from his whistle to my shot is a joke. But he’s been bad all evening, he’s been a joke all evening, whistling against us, I don’t know why he’s here tonight, I think he’s a joke.” – Robin van Persie (after being sent off for kicking the ball away)

“I am still convinced that in the second half they weakened a lot and that at 1-1 if it had stayed at 11-11 we would have won this tie tonight.” – Arsene Wenger after defeat to Barcelona.

Inter vs Tottenham

”Everyone is so scared of Bale. Maicon is the best right-back in the world. But Gareth killed him.” – Rafael van der Vaart after the 3-1 Spurs win at White Hart Lane

”Gareth was brilliant but the whole team was brilliant – all of them. We outplayed Inter. We were much the better team from start to finish. It was an outstanding performance, one of the greatest nights the fans have seen at White Hart Lane.” – Harry Redknapp after 3-1 home win over Inter

“Me going to Barcelona? Yes, I really hope that, but only as a Tottenham player in the next round of the Champions League.” Gareth Bale after the Inter win.

Inter vs Schalke

“The chat I had with Leonardo in the dressing room confirmed that he is a serious person; I’m glad we had it and I think he is too. “My estimation of Leonardo hasn’t changed. For me nothing has changed because I know how cruel football can be and you have to keep going without losing heart.” – Inter president Massimo Moratti following Inter’s 5-2 defeat against Schalke

There is bitterness and it is hard to digest. We got into difficulty in the vital moments. I really believed in it for sure because we played well in the first half, but we did not have any chances to score goals.” – Leonardo after Inter’s elimination.

Chelsea vs Manchester United

“The Ramires one was clear.  I didn‘t see the other one. I said to him [the referee] it should have been a penalty.” – Carlo Ancelotti after Chelsea were denied a penalty in the first leg against Man Utd.

“I put Fernando in the team because his skills and ability could be good for us. I thought for a lot of time to take this decision whether to start with Fernando for this kind of game.” – Carlo Ancelotti defends starting with Fernando Torres over Didier Drogba in the second leg.

“I think we played very, very well against a very, very good team. Chelsea played a big part in that game today and there were moments after they had gone down to ten men in the second half and still had a go so credit to them, but I thought we were the better team on the night.” – Sir Alex Ferguson after the second leg win over Chelsea.

Milan vs Tottenham

“Over two legs Tottenham had one shot on goal and scored. The best team doesn’t always win.” Zlatan Ibrahomovic after defeat to Spurs.

“I enjoyed the occasion, but no, I couldn’t say I enjoyed the 90 minutes. You’re looking at that clock and you want it to go and that 90 minutes to be up. It’s a great achievement for this club being in the last eight of the Champions League, it’s amazing what the players have done and if people can’t appreciate and enjoy this tonight then they shouldn’t be involved in football, it’s fantastic for everybody.” Harry Redknapp after the second leg against AC Milan.

And finally….

“Have you seen the last six World Cups? It is better going to the dentist I suppose… The important thing is the Champions League has proved itself since its inception. It is better than the World Cup. It is unbelievable. There are some fantastic games. Yes, you have to get through the group stages before you get to the really exciting stage but it is a fantastic tournament.” – Sir Alex Ferguson is a big fan of the Champions League

Published – http://www.dangerhere.com/20102011-champions-league-in-quotes/

Three big name strikers, Two starting places?

Chelsea have looked to reignite their faltering season with the January acquisition of Spanish striker Fernando Torres for a cool £50 million from Premier League rivals Liverpool, and on paper have a fantasy football-esq forward line with the new addition complementing accomplished hitmen Drogba and Anelka. But can the three play together, and if not which one takes a dent to his ego and watches from the sidelines?

Roman Abramovich has forked out £50 million of his vast wealth to capture Torres, and given this investment and the pacey striker’s reputation, track record and undoubted class, one would imagine Torres will start if fit. However the new Chelsea frontman has looked decidedly off the boil in his first two appearances for his new club – against old team Liverpool and away to Fulham. The occasion may have gotten the better of Torres against The Reds, and he was largely ineffective, as were his new team, in a disappointing 1-0 home defeat. Against Fulham Torres had chances to make amends but uncharacteristically lacked composure in front of goal, and another lacklustre showing was ended around the hour mark as he was substituted.

In any transfer it takes time for the new man to adapt to and gel with his new team-mates; Torres will hope this process starts sooner rather than later. Chelsea fans will recollect the major signing of Andriy Shevchenko in 2006, at the time arguably the most feared striker in the world game and a purchase that promised to herald domestic and European success, but the Ukrainian struggled to adapt to life away from the San Siro and was largely relegated to fleeting appearances from the bench – a fate Torres will look to avoid. Make no mistake however, despite a slow start to his time at Chelsea, Torres remains one of the most prolific and explosive strikers in world football and more than likely will come good and start scoring goals at Stamford Bridge.

For a quick adjustment for Torres he will need a regular strike partner(s) who he can learn to play alongside. If Chelsea do go for two upfront the logical partner would be Didier Drogba, who at 32 years old isn’t showing signs of any diminishing physicality or quality, but has not returned as many goals as previous seasons. Drogba offers the best hold up play of the three and can drop short to receive the ball in to feet or run behind defences. Drogba also likes to pull wide, attack full backs and cut inside – a tactic that Torres has also utilised, so if the two are to play together positioning issues will need to be clarified.

Drogba started on the bench in Chelsea’s last game against Fulham and immediately there were media rumblings of Ivorian discontent, with a potential move away from Stamford Bridge reported. Drogba is a proud man and enjoys being the Chelsea figurehead; there will only be so long the African striker will put up with not being regularly included in the starting XI.

But then what of Nicholas Anelka? The Frenchman has steadily and confidently taken chances and scored important goals for The Blues, and most Premiership managers would give an arm and a leg to have a player of such pace and quality at their disposal. Anelka’s record speaks for itself and he has returned on investment at Chelsea and at previous clubs. Anelka has somewhat matured from the petulant and arrogant youngster witnessed in his Arsenal and Real Madrid days, but that said the striker is not short of opinions and still can lack temperament (ask Raymond Domenech), and similar to Drogba will not be content to spend extended time not playing.

Can all three play together? This remains to be seen, but the trio did not fire against Liverpool, with Anelka and Torres popping up more in wide positions than through the middle as they are used to and would prefer. Ancelotti will be tempted to try to get all three on the pitch, especially at home, but this may compromise the team’s shape. One of Chelsea’s main problems this season has been a lack of width, and if Ancelotti plays all three strikers, Florent Malouda, the club’s only real winger will be sacrificed.

In conclusion, Carlo Ancelotti is very lucky to have three world class strikers at his disposal and certainly has the firepower to make the top four. For new signing Torres to settle he will need consistency, and this may mean sacrificing one of the other two to the bench, and maybe to the transfer market come the summer. One thing is for sure; the Italian will need to find a formula that works quickly, otherwise Chelsea are under threat of missing out on the top four and Ancelotti will be looking for a new job.

Published – http://www.caughtoffside.com/2011/02/18/chelsea-dilemma-three-big-name-strikers-two-starting-spots/

Chelsea’s stellar strike force out to wreck Fulham’s proud home record

Chelsea travel to Craven Cottage to take on Fulham on Valentine’s day but dont expect too much love between these London rivals as there are high stakes for both teams.

Chelsea find themselves in fifth place after Spurs won at Sunderland on Saturday, whilst Fulham are only three points above the relegation zone and will look to push towards the 40 point mark and Premiership safety.
 
Champions Chelsea have fallen from grace this season and are in a real battle to even finish in the top four and secure Champions League football for next season. The Blues are three points behind Spurs, and will look to bounce back after a 1-0 home defeat at the hands of Liverpool last Sunday.

The visitors main injury concerns are to defenders Alex and Jose Bosingwa, who are both ruled out of the fixture. Carlo Ancelotti faces a dilemma up front, as he has three world class strikers in Didier Drogba, Fernando Torres and Nicolas Anelka, but the trio did not gel in their defeat to Liverpool last weekend so the Italian may look to leave one on the bench, most likely Anelka.
 
Fulham are in good form and have recorded 11 points in their last six league matches, moving them up to 12th in the table. Due to terrible results on their travels, Mark Hughes’s men have depended on an excellent record at Craven Cottage, and have won their last three Premier League home matches without conceding a goal. Their record historically against Chelsea is terrible however, having recorded just one victory in 28 league and cup meetings.

The Cottagers are still without centre back Phillippe Senderos and although Bobby Zamora played for the reserves in midweek, he is still not match fit and will not feature. Fulham do have three ex-Chelsea men in their ranks however, and Eidur Gudjohnsen, Damien Duff and Steven Sidwell will look to impress against their former employers. On loan signing from Chelsea Gael Kakuta is ineligible to play.
 
Expect a passionate affair on Monday night, with both teams looking to attack and win the match. Chelsea have the firepower to win the game, and new signing Fernando Torres will look for a better performance than last week if he is to endear himself to his new supporters. Fulham’s home record is one of the best in the league however, and Mark Hughes will spur his men on to attack their local rivals and strive for three points.

Published – http://www.sportingo.com/football/a18511_chelseas-stellar-strike-force-out-wreck-fulhams-proud-home-record

Chelsea boss Ancelotti focusing on Champions League

Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti has conceded that the London club are not in contention to win the Premier League title this season, and instead insists the Blues main priority is to finish in the top four, and retain Champions League football for next season. Chelsea are well behind pace-setters Manchester United with 13 games remaining and the Italian has stated that the deficit is too much to be clawed back

Speaking at a press conference to unveil new Brazilian defender David Luiz, Ancelotti clarified that European football next season was a more achievable goal. “Now for us it is difficult to think that we can come back and fight for the Premier League title. The most important thing is to reach fourth place in the table to maintain Chelsea in the Champions League and we have to fight with the other teams,” Ancelotti conceded.

The statement reiterates that the gap between Chelsea, Manchester United and the rest of the pack has been closed with a resurgent Arsenal impressing at home and in Europe, Manchester City’s millions powering them into title contention and Harry Redknapp’s Spurs continuing the form that saw them finish fourth last season. Chelsea still have to play United home and away this season, so it is not inconceivable that Chelsea could gain ground on the league leaders, but Ancelotti feels the gap is just too great, admitting: “The gap is very big, we have to be honest”.

After a flying start to the season in which Chelsea won their first five games and looked on course to be the team to beat, they now find themselves in a battle with neighbours Tottenham for fourth place. Ancelotti’s admission will disappoint some Chelsea followers and failure to qualify for the Champions League would be unthinkable, and would surely end the Italian’s tenure at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea travel to local rivals Fulham on Monday night, and the ex AC Milan coach will hope for three points to keep pressure on his top four competitors.

Published – http://www.sportingo.com/football/a18503_chelsea-boss-ancelotti-focusing-champions-league

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