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The Chelsea Conundrum: Ifs, buts and maybes

For a team who – for a few more months at least – can call themselves champions of Europe, Chelsea are in something of a mess. Only, the word mess doesn’t quite cover it.

Current interim manager Rafael Benitez’s recent comments only add to the pile of inauspicious headlines that are growing almost as quickly as the interest on Roman Abramovich’s finances.

And yet, the club are just one good decision away from recreating the sustained success they enjoyed under Jose Mourinho.

The problem is…they haven’t made a good decision for a very long time.

Rafael Benitez

Of their poor decisions – which could be argued stretch back some seven years – the most recent has something to do with Benitez. Although whether it was appointing him in the first place or branding him a stop-gap is open to discussion.

Quite simply the Spaniard’s appointment hasn’t worked. And as much as hindsight makes experts of us all, it was never going to. Not just because of his time as Liverpool manager, and the ill-feeling that followed controversial results and heat-of-the-moment comments. But because he was replacing the one man who had succeeded where all else had failed – Roberto Di Matteo.

The Italian left with Chelsea just four points off top-spot in the Premier League. Today, they are 19 points adrift.

He left with a win percentage of 61.9%. Benitez’s is currently 10% less.

And most importantly he left with the Champions League trophy and FA Cup residing at Stamford Bridge.

There is no way of knowing where the club would be if Di Matteo was still in charge. But they would be unified; just as they were when they overcame Barcelona and Bayern Munich to secure their owner’s Holy Grail.

Instead there are rumours of disagreements between captain and manager; the same manager who – bold as he was in condemning his job title – made the cardinal sin of attacking the fans. If you really can’t hold your tongue, some things are best saved for the exit speech.

Analysing the Chelsea of today is in part an act of hypothesis. If Di Matteo was still in charge the fans would probably be happy, as would the players. But then you could say the same thing regarding Guus Hiddink – another Abramovich mistake not in the appointment, but in its branding as “temporary”.

The truth is Abramovich dismisses successes and disappointments with equal ruthlessness.  And it is the same for the ones who lay somewhere in between, like Andre Villas-Boas, who is showing at Tottenham what patience can do for a football club.

Perhaps Benitez truly thought he could win over the fans and ultimately cross out the “interim” on his job description. But having realised he was doomed in both endeavours, Wednesday’s words point to a man who may be pondering a few ifs, buts and maybes of his own.

Reports this week suggest Jose Mourinho could return to the chair so abruptly pulled from under him in 2007; although he gives the impression of being smarter than that.

But the simple fact, for Chelsea fans and staff alike, is this:

If their owner appoints the right man but gives him time (measured in seasons not games), then maybe Chelsea will challenge consistently again.

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Chelsea must be regretting replacing Roberto Di Matteo with Rafa Benitez

With 13 games to go in the Premier League season, Chelsea’s campaign hangs in the balance. The standout event of 2012-13 is, and surely will be come the end of the season, the sacking of Roberto Di Matteo. With the unpopular Rafa Benitez brought in on a temporary deal until the end of the season and the consequent mediocre form that has followed, the powers that be at Stamford Bridge must now be regretting the decision.

Di Matteo’s heroics of turning the club’s fortunes round last season to win the FA Cup and Champions League are well-documented. The Italian coach then had to suffer the indignity of waiting around until Roman Abramovich has approached Pep Guardiola and a handful of other European coaches to fill the role permanently before apprehensively conceding defeat and giving Di Matteo a full-time chance. Admittedly Chelsea’s form in Europe had not be blistering in a tough group when Di Matteo was sacked, but surely his domestic form was good enough to keep him in a job.

Rafa Benitez

Di Matteo had won seven of the club’s 12 Premier League games before being given the axe, drawing three and losing only twice. Compare this to Rafa Benitez’s record; 13 matches played, six won, four drawn and three lost. This gives Di Matteo an average of 2.0 points per game; Benitez is down at 1.69 points per game.

The Chelsea fans have made their distaste for the former Liverpool boss known, and Abramovich must now regret the hasty and irrational decision to bring the Spaniard to West London. Although elimination from the Champions League was largely Di Matteo’s doing, Benitez has managed to fluff a chance to win the Club World Cup, been eliminated from the League Cup and is lucky to still be in the FA Cup after a close scare against Brentford; he is now one of the favourites to lose his Premier League job next with http://bwinbetting.com.

Chelsea are currently 16 points behind top side Manchester United, and out of the title race. The best Benitez can hope for is to salvage third, or at a push second, and this surely will not be good enough to satisfy the club’s Russian owner.

It is stated in the press that Abramovich is an avid follower of the game, however the decision to sack Di Matteo was an impulse and petulant move, made by someone who does not fully understand the intricacies of the sport. He, unfortunately along with the Stamford Bridge faithful, is now being punished as Chelsea suffer a mediocre season at best.

Chelsea dilemma: Will Fernando Torres’ return to form stop them from buying a new striker?

Roman Abramovich has been on a mission to revamp Chelsea’s squad this summer, with a host of new players arriving at Stamford Bridge throughout the transfer window. However, a new top-class striker has been on the Russian’s wishlist, and has yet to be delivered. In light of Fernando Torres’ good start to the campaign, will the Blues be happy with what they have or look to splurge further before the window closes?

The Spain international has had a torrid time since moving to west London in January 2011, but the old adage of ‘form is temporary, class is permanent’ applies to El Nino. With Didier Drogba leaving the club this summer Torres has had the chance to start all three Premier League fixtures to date, scoring twice and looking markedly close to his old self.

Apart from a number of incidents of playacting, the Spaniard put in a solid performance against Newcastle on Saturday that will remind Abramovich why he shelled out a huge transfer fee to bring Torres from Liverpool. The striker was lively, focused and look like a threat anytime that he had the ball in the opposition half. Add to this a well-taken goal and even the confidence to go for a rabona cross, and Torres will be flying high again.

Given that Roberto Di Matteo seems to be opting to play only one striker, supported by Juan Mata and the impressive Eden Hazard, do Chelsea need to buy another striker? Forgotten man Daniel Sturridge waits in the wings, as does new versatile signing Victor Moses.

However despite this it is likely that the Blues will look to make a last move in the window to secure another forward. Many a name has been linked, and there could well be some last-minute drama that sees a new face at Stamford Bridge. Blues fans will hope that if Hulk, Edinson Cavani, Radamel Falcao or another big-name forward does move to west London that Torres’ early-season swagger does not diminish.

Didier Drogba 2011-2012: The good, the bad, and the ugly

Didier Drogba has finished his Chelsea career on a high after their historic victory in the Champions League final against Bavarian giants Bayern Munich. However, as well as experiencing extreme highs, the African legend’s last season with the Blues has also seen its lows.

The AVB regime

Just a few games into the 2011-12 season you could already see that the arrival of Portuguese manager Andre Villas-Boas had caused an upset amongst the old guard at Chelsea. His micromanagement of the west London outfit was heavily criticised; there were even reports that he would stand and watch players who were coming in late at the Blues’ training ground in Cobham. Along with this, his handling of the players came under the microscope after failing to restore £50m Fernando Torres to his former self, and leaving Chelsea legend, Frank Lampard, out of the starting line-up on numerous occasions.

Many will see Chelsea’s 1-1 draw with Championship side, Birmingham City, as one of the biggest turning points in AVB’s sacking. After not only failing to beat Chris Hughton’s side on their own turf, a media uproar was caused by a supposed Didier Drogba half-time team talk, that Villas-Boas rashly denied. As well as this, the 3-1 loss at the hands of Napoli, and a 1-0 defeat to mediocre West Bromwich Albion, tipped the balances and forced Roman Abramovich to make the bold and brave decision that paid off massively.

The Di Matteo turn-around

When Andre Villas-Boas’ assistant manager, Roberto Di Matteo, was announced as caretaker for the rest of the season, no one would have thought that they would be holding the Champions League trophy, for the first time in their history, a few months later. The former Chelsea midfielder started off by picking up from where his ex-colleague left off, with a 2-0 away win over Birmingham City in the FA Cup. Almost a week later, Robbie was in charge of turning around a 3-1 deficit against Napoli in the last sixteen of the Champions League, and he delivered with an astonishing 4-1 home win, including an opening goal from Didier Drogba.

The re-ignition of the golden oldies and the new-found harmony in the dressing room was crucial to the 41 year-old Italian’s success and led him on to do an unprecedented double, winning both the FA Cup, with a 2-1 defeat of Liverpool in the final, and the Champions League, after getting through both Barcelona and Bayern Munich – yet again the Ivorian talisman getting on the score sheet for each of those games.

Drogba’s impact

Forever will Didier Drogba be known as the best performer on the big stage after scoring the winning goal in the FA Cup Final against Liverpool and heading in an 88th minute equaliser in the Champions League Final, not to mention finishing the game with the winning penalty. At the age of 34-years-old, there is no doubt the African powerhouse is still a magnificent player and many will say he is the best in the world at what he does. In both the Champions League semi-final and the final, Chelsea were playing with their backs against the wall, and if there is one man you want to boot it up the field to and bring it down under control, it is Didier Drogba.

The ‘nine goals in nine cup finals’ hero will always be remembered as a Chelsea legend, and his humble exit will be have a bittersweet effect on the fans, who will be somewhat disappointed he was not offered a new contract. For many supporters, it is an end that has come too soon and there is no doubt that fans will be devastated that he’s going, but the monumental symbolism of his last kick of the ball for the Blues will stay in the hearts of Chelsea fans forever.

By Jacob Tucker

Chelsea’s Champions League triumph – written in the stars?

When Roman Abramovich bought Chelsea in July 2003 his main target was to see his side lift the Champions League. After Saturday’s dramatic final in Munich, the Russian billionaire’s dream has finally come true.

Many people will say that Chelsea were lucky to win the trophy; Bayern Munich completely dominated this final. The statistics in this case do not lie; the Germans had 35 shots compared to Chelsea’s nine and had 20 corners compared to just one from the west London outfit. This is where Bayern have only themselves to blame for not winning this final. They looked nervous in front of goal, particularly Mario Gomez, who wasted three golden chances in the first half and from those 20 corners they created very little mainly due to the poor delivery from Arjen Robben. Compare this to Chelsea however, whose one corner came in the 88th minute, and Juan Mata’s floated delivery was met by Didier Drogba, who showed great intent to win the ball ahead of the Munich defence.

If Chelsea had been beaten then there may well have been questions as to whether Roberto Di Matteo got his tactics right. His decision to start with Ryan Bertrand at left midfield would have been most under the microscope. The Italian trainer clearly did this to try and combat the threat of Robben and Lahm down that wing, but it seemingly backfired when Robben spent much of the first half controlling the game from the middle of the pitch and the opposite wing. Chelsea looked far better balanced when Malouda came on for Bertrand as a more natural left-sided midfielder.

The biggest tactical mistake of the night though may have come from Bayern boss Jupp Heynckes. As soon as Thomas Muller had put Bayern ahead in the 83rd minute, the Bundesliga team’s coach took him off and replaced him with the more defensive Daniel Van Buyten. This caused a major reshuffle for Bayern with the breaking up of Boateng and Tymoshchuk at centre back, who had both dealt well with Drogba, to allow Van Buyten into defence. This invited pressure onto the Bayern defence for the first time in the game and allowed Chelsea more of the ball for the final ten minutes.

There is a belief in football that sometimes a team’s name is already destined to be on a trophy before the final outcome has been reached. This was also spoken about when Liverpool won the tournament in 2005. Certainly there were instances along Chelsea’s route to glory that made you believe it was destiny for them to win it. Ashley Cole’s goal line clearance late on against Napoli that prevented them from falling 4-1 behind, the numerous Barcelona chances missed at Stamford Bridge in the semi-final and then missed penalties by two of the biggest names in world football, Messi and Robben, in the semi and the final.

The script of this final was clearly written for Didier Drogba also. In possibly his last game for Chelsea he came up with the stunning header for the equaliser. When Chelsea lost the final in 2008 to Manchester United, Drogba was sent off so was unable to take the decisive fifth penalty in that final which John Terry took and missed. This time though the Ivory Coast international was on the pitch and showed great coolness and composure in front of the Bayern fans to give his team the greatest prize in European club football.

What next for these two clubs though? Chelsea still do not have a permanent manager, but Di Matteo could not have done any more to put his name forward. But is he a big enough name and is the style of football that he has used good enough to satisfy Roman Abramovich? As for Bayern, major questions may now be asked of Heynckes. A few months ago they would have been eyeing up three trophies. Dortmund though have blown them away in the league through sheer consistency and then beat them for the fifth time in a row to win the domestic cup in Germany. Add to that losing on Saturday in front of their own fans and the board may decide it’s time for a change in Munich.

By Chris Newman

Manchester City, Newcastle and the biggest Premier League winners of 2011-12

A fantastic last day of the season capped off one of the most memorable Premier League seasons in the recent memory. 2011/12 has had it all; a topsy-turvy title race that literally went down to the wire, a bitter battle for the top four, heroics in the Champions League and a breathtaking relegation battle. Now that the dust has settled, here are Ninety Minutes Online’s top five winners of 2011/12.

Roberto Mancini’s Manchester City mindgames

An incredible title race has been consisted of champions and perennial favourites Manchester United being confronted by cross-town rivals Manchester City, with the noisy neighbours claiming victory on a captivating last day. The Etihad Stadium outfit looks almost unstoppable at the start of the season, with Sir Alex Ferguson’s men struggling to keep up at times, before the Red Devils recaptured the advantage and found themselves eight points clear at the summit. After a derby victory for City, the battle went down to the last day, with two goals in stoppage time by Edin Dzeko and Sergio Aguero against QPR unbelievably giving the Citizens their first top-flight title since 1968.

Ferguson is usually the king of managerial mindgames, but on this occasion the imperious Italian has seemingly got into the United players’ thoughts, and City provide worthy winners of the 2011/12 Premier League.

Alan Pardew and his Newcastle team

Despite missing out on the top four with a last-day defeat by Everton, Newcastle have been exceptional under Alan Pardew this season, and have defied the odds to be in the race for Champions League qualification. The likes of Cheik Tiote, Demba Ba and Yohan Cabaye have proved to be astute signings, whilst the January acquisition of Papiss Cisse has resulted in a new number nine hero for the Tyneside club.

Pardew and his side must be given credit for finishing above the likes of Chelsea and Liverpool this season and providing some exceptional football at times.

Newly-promoted sides

Norwich, Swansea and QPR faced an uphill battle to stay in the Premier League this season, and many prophesised a speedy return to the Championship for the trio. However, all three sides have proved that they are good enough to cut it in the top-tier, and will look to push on next term. Swansea have been one of the teams of the season, and an 11th place finish, with a stylish brand of football to boot, is an exceptional achievement. Norwich, led by talisman Grant Holt, were not far behind in 12th and also claimed some scalps this term.

Meanwhile, although QPR escaped the drop on the last day, the Loftus Road club have beaten Arsenal, Tottenham, Chelsea and Liverpool to show their worth. All three will provide motivation to Southampton, Reading and either West Ham or Blackpool for next season.

Roy Hodgson

With Fabio Capello’s decision to walk away from the England manager’s post, a media frenzy has brewed over who the man to lead the Three Lions to Euro 2012 would be. With Tottenham boss Harry Redknapp the frontrunner and favourite, the press had us believing that it would be a matter of when and not if the White Hart Lane supremo took charge.

However, Roy Hodgson’s excellent achievement of lifting West Brom to 10th in the table has been recognised, and the Hawthorns man will now lead England to Ukraine and Poland.

Football

Football has been a massive winner this term, as the 2011/12 Premier League season has been the most competitive, spell-bounding and enthralling campaign for many a year. Whether it was the race for the title, five teams slugging it out to stay in the division, the heroics of the new boys or the quality of the sides in the top six, 2011/12 will take some beating next season.

Honourable Mentions

  • Roberto Di Matteo – The Italian has completely rejuvenated Chelsea since taking over from Andre Villas Boas, and after winning the FA Cup is 90 minutes away from lifting the Champions League crown.
  • Paul Scholes – The ageing veteran came out of retirement to show that he still has what it takes to compete at the top level despite his age. Rumours are circulating that Roy Hodgson will take Scholes to Euro 2012.
  • Arsene Wenger – Many had lost faith in the French manager at the start of the campaign when the Gunners lost four of their first seven games, but Wenger has led the club to a third-placed finish despite the criticism.
  • The FA Cup – With the emergence of the Champions League, over recent seasons the FA Cup has had to take a back seat, but some enthralling games between the nation’s best teams have been a joy to watch this season.
  • David Moyes – The Scottish coach continues to overachieve despite a shoestring transfer budget at Goodison Park, and leading the Toffees to seventh place is an excellent return.

Published – Soccerlens

Chelsea to splash the cash this summer: All change in the Roman empire

A win against Bayern Munich in the Champions League final will be vital in deciding who Chelsea will attract when the transfer window reopens, but what does the summer look like for the west London club?

Out with the old

Didier Drogba

For the fans at Stamford Bridge, seeing 34-year-old Didier Drogba leave the club will be devastating, as they saw him lead the Chelsea front-line to victory in the FA Cup final. The Ivorian veteran is still a world-class striker, using his physical strength and experience to get those vital goals needed to win trophies. Since joining in 2004 from French side Marseille, Drogba has scored 156 goals for the club and is the highest-scoring foreign player ever to have played for Chelsea. There is no doubt the African target man will be a key part of the Blues’ season-defining game against Bavarian giants Bayern Munich, but after refusing to sign a new deal at the club, his future is doubtful.

Florent Malouda

The French winger has been a great asset for the west London side over the past few years but the 2011-2012 season has seen a rapid decline in playing time and quality for Florent Malouda. With his contract expiring in the summer, a departure from England seems very likely. The 31 year-old has been on the bench for the majority of the campaign, under both Chelsea exile Andre Villas-Boas and interim first coach hero Roberto Di Matteo, but has been particularly of use when resting the first-team before two important Champions League games. If there is one place that Chelsea are lacking, it is deadly wingers – so making space for new blood out wide, will be a priority for Abramovich.

In with the new

Kevin De Bruyne

The 20-year-old attacking midfielder looks a bright prospect for Premier League football and after signing from Belgium champions Racing Genk, Chelsea fans are optimistic that De Bruyne will add that vital creativity and wing play that the Blues really need at the moment. The Belgium international plays predominantly on the left of midfield and looks talented and creative, bemusing defenders with his dribbling skills and has a good eye for goal.

Marko Marin

Nicknamed the German Messi, Marko Marin has suffered a shaky season with German side Werder Bremen, but a £6.5m move to Chelsea could jump-start his career. Much like Belgium counter-part De Bruyne, the 23 year-old German plays predominantly out wide or as an attacking midfielder using his speed, agility, and skill to bring the individual quality that every Premier League side needs. Although scoring few goals for his team, Marin creates chances and has never recorded less than ten assists in a Bundesliga season.

Transfer targets

Willian

Although not as famous as other players linked with a move to Stamford Bridge, Willian is a player of extreme quality and skill. Spending the last five years playing for Ukrainian side, Shakhtar Donetsk, the young Brazilian has come out of obscurity after increasing rumours over a move to the west London club. His dribbling skills are superb and he will hope to form a partnership, if joining Chelsea, with Brazilian comrades Ramires, David Luiz, and youth superstar Lucas Piazon.

Edinson Cavani

The Uruguayan hitman has been quite the star for the last number of seasons at the San Paolo, and at the age of only 25 the future looks bright for a player who has shone not only in Italy but also in the Champions League. A player who dominates not only in the air but also on the ground, Edinson Cavani could be described as an all-round striker – able to keep the ball, play the ball, and most importantly, score goals. Napoli’s 25 year-old forward could be a perfect replacement for departing Drogba, but whether he would adept to the Premier League is hard to tell.

By Jacob Tucker

Champions League Final: Why Chelsea can upset Bayern Munich

It has been quite the Champions League campaign this season, with a number of shocks, surprises and upsets, none more so than the fact that Chelsea ousted Barcelona in the semi-finals to set up a final against Bayern Munich. With the last fixture taking place at Die Roten’s Allianz Arena home, the Bundesliga giants will be favourites, but the Blues should not be written off; here’s why:

Roberto Di Matteo and recent resurgence

The Chelsea side that was comprehensively beaten 3-1 in San Paolo by Napoli earlier this campaign, Andre Villas-Boas’ last European fixture in charge, looks like a different team to the current crop. Under interim boss Roberto Di Matteo the Blues have only lost one game in their last 17, with the playing squad seemingly rejuvenated under the former Chelsea midfielder. Despite being favourites, Bayern will have to work hard to overcome a team in form.

A last hurray for the old guard

With the signing of Marko Marin announced for next term, Chelsea are expected to bring in a host of younger players this summer to inject a fresh feel into their squad. This may well mean the end for a number of the established players that have been the basis of the Stamford Bridge side over the last five years. The likes of Didier Drogba, Florent Malouda and even Frank Lampard may well make an exit from west London at the end of the campaign, making them more motivated to end on a high.

Bayern’s questionable defence

Although the Bavarian side’s rearguard has improved since last season, there are still question marks over their central defenders. Jerome Boateng has been used in the middle of the defence despite playing the majority of his football on the flanks, whilst Holger Badstuber is suspended for the game against the Blues. The Premier League side will be aware of this and look to attack the heart of the hosts.

Didier Drogba

Given the unconvincing nature of Bayern’s backline, Didier Drogba will look to use his considerable ability and experience to take full advantage. The Ivory Coast international looks to be one of the players certain to leave Stamford Bridge in the summer, as an expiring contract has not shown any signs of being renewed. The African marksman scored the winner against Barcelona at Stamford Bridge and in the FA Cup final, and will be the west London club’s main attacking weapon in Germany.

Published – Bleacher Report

Chelsea’s FA Cup triumph: The collapse of King Kenny as the Blues ride their luck

A resilient backline and a spectacular attacking force made a wonderful day for Chelsea fans and club, as the Di Matteo turn-around was finally credited with a domestic trophy, leaving Kenny Dalglish’s management, once again, under huge criticism.

If there was one way to describe the FA Cup Final this year, it would be a game of two halves, as we saw the first half dominated by the men in blue, until the 60th minute when substitute Andy Carroll scored a revitalising goal that transformed the Anfield outfit into a dangerous attacking force. The first 45 minutes held a sense of déjà vu for Liverpool fans, as they saw a performance lacking creativity, chances, and momentum. Not only were the forwards under-performing, but another weak defensive performance was to blame, when Ramires slotted a strike home in the 11th minute, beating Spanish goalkeeper Pepe Reina at the near post, who was once again to blame with poor judgement and positioning.

More chances came from the Blues after Salomon Kalou made a steaming run through Liverpool’s defensive third but was stopped by a desperate Martin Skrtel tackle inside the box. Early into the second half another goal came for the west London side as a beautifully measured pass by Frank Lampard saw Drogba into a dangerous position, who in turn hit it perfectly into the far right corner of the net. A few minutes after Chelsea had a great chance to finish it off when a fluid attacking move from the Stamford Bridge outfit saw Kalou into a dangerous position, but the Ivorian put it high and wide, leaving him hoping that he wouldn’t come to regret that opportunity.

The turning point of the game was the substitution of Andy Carroll for Jay Spearing, and many will be wondering why the huge powerhouse did not play from the start. Chelsea’s first scare came half-way into the second part of the game, when the substitute scored a reasonably lucky goal after a tackle by Stewart Downing swooped the ball out from the feet of Jose Bosingwa and favourably into the path of the £35m target man, who converted with an unstoppable shot above Petr Cech. For the last 25 minutes, the Blues were once again playing a back-against-the-wall performance, suffering wave after wave of attacks from a newly-revived Liverpool side. Countless crosses were delivered into the box before another great chance came when Carroll got his head onto a back post ball and thought it was in, but the Liverpool forward was denied by Petr Cech, who made a fantastic goal-line save to keep Chelsea in the game and allowed them to go on and secure their victory.

There is no doubt, Kenny Dalglish will be harshly criticised for picking a very wrong starting XI – playing an inexperienced Jay Spearing at the important role of holding midfielder, and assorting themselves in a 4-5-1 formation with Luis Suarez playing a very isolated role upfront. When Carroll came on, it allowed the Uruguayan to drop deeper and play a creative role as a second striker, as well as having the danger-man in the box waiting on those vital crosses – all in all giving Liverpool an eye for goal. Taking nothing away from Chelsea, Didier Drogba had a particularly good game, and was crucial in holding the ball up and bringing the midfielders into play with his awareness and experience; complemented by the creative Juan Mata, and speedy wingers Salomon Kalou and Ramires, the Chelsea forwards were a force to be reckoned with. Their sturdy defence should not be overlooked, with captain John Terry putting in a stunning performance to keep the Blues in the game.

Dalglish will be worrying about his future with the Reds, whilst Di Matteo will be over the moon with his team. Chelsea fans will be hoping that the Blues can ride their luck to Munich in the Champions League final, which will surely be the deciding factor in the Italian’s chances of landing the manager’s role on a permanent basis.

By Jacob Tucker

Liverpool vs Chelsea: FA Cup Final the perfect tonic to below-par Premier League form

Two teams who have under-performed in the Premier League this season meet in the FA Cup final, as Liverpool and Chelsea will look to salvage their seasons on Saturday at Wembley.

FA Cup final tickets will be snapped up by Liverpool fans, who will travel to Wembley for the third time this season. The Reds have already tasted glory by winning the Carling Cup this term, beating Chelsea along the way to success. Despite progression in the cup competitions, the Merseyside club have been let down by poor league form, and currently sit in a disappointing eighth place in the standings.

The Anfield club have shown that on a one-off basis they can beat anyone in the league, with both Manchester clubs, Arsenal and Chelsea all being beaten at the hands of Kenny Dalglish’s side this term. However, worrying inconsistency against the so-called lesser sides has seen anger on the terraces and the dismissal of director of football Damien Comolli.

King Kenny is coming under increasing pressure from ambitious American owners Fenway Sports Group, and despite the Scot’s heroics on the field for the club, he is not exempt from criticism and possible questions over his position. A win in the final would complete a cup double and salvage Liverpool’s campaign; a defeat and the Kop faithful will not be satisfied with 2011/12.

Chelsea have undergone a major upheaval since the sacking of Andre Villas Boas, and now look like a more dangerous outfit under Roberto Di Matteo. The Blues put London neighbours Tottenham to the sword 5-1 in the semi-final, and with the club currently sitting in sixth in the Premier League, need a cup triumph to take attention away from a substandard league campaign.

The Stamford Bridge club will prioritise their Champions League final against Bayern Munich, but will also want domestic glory. The FA Cup could well be the reason to keep Di Matteo on as the club’s manager on a permanent basis, and could be the last hurrah for some of the club’s older heads such as Didier Drogba.

This should be a close game between two evenly-matched sides, with Chelsea entering the fixture as slight favourites due to their recent upsurge in form under RDM. The game has the ability to salvage some pride for either side, and could well play a major part in deciding the fate of both teams’ managers.

Published – EPL Talk

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