The night before
Went to the Bridge to watch the youth. Unlike the Barcelona match we were the smaller team with Blackburn proving that meat pies with gravy will make you a bulkier teen. First 20 minutes Blackburn dominated but we managed to score against the run of play. A final score of 4-0 should almost guarantee a second FA Youth Cup in three years. If we were taking a 4-0 lead to Barcelona we’d all be feeling a lot more relaxed.
RDM picked the optimum team by changing every player except in positions where he had no choice, with Terry and Cahill having to play due to lack of cover at centre-back. It was good to see Romeu returning from exile. The team selection gave us a chance of beating Arsenal and keeping enough in reserve for this coming Tuesday.
Playing Arselona is good preparation for Barcelona in that Arsenal are the nearest equivalent, in so far as drinking a glass of Pomagne is preparation for a night of Champagne.
We looked organised and confident and our passing game, that disappeared against Wigan and Fulham, was back in place. Arsenal hit the bar and made a couple of chances but we never really looked threatened. In fact it beggars belief that we trail Arsenal in the league but I guess this is due to idiots like me wanting to persevere with AVB.
We had a few attacks that looked really promising but the trio of Torres, Sturridge and Kalou always contrived to make catastrophic final passes.
The match ended 0-0 which in the context of playing Arsenal away, who have had maximum recovery time between games because they’re not challenging for anything, after a week of two tough semi-finals is a terrific result. Whether it’s enough to get us into fourth place remains to be seen but the ultimate scenario has to be either Arsenal or Spurs finishing fourth and we win the Champions League, resulting in the fourth spot qualification being removed.
John Terry is the ultimate leader and warrior and gives everything in every match. You won’t catch JT wearing pink boots. JT was ably supported by the increasingly confident Cahill, Bosingwa, who for once didn’t cause me any heart stopping moments and Ryan Bertrand. Ryan looks like a Premier League player and wouldn’t cause me to panic if he needs to step in for Ashley in any game.
I don’t know where Romeu has been but it was clear he was off pace and lacking match practice. Essien had a decent game and looked strong and survived the full 90 minutes. Even Malouda put in a decent shift and showed his commitment by carrying on after getting a gash on the head after a collision.
Whilst our defence and midfield held tight and stopped Arsenal from scoring our attack lacked any cutting edge. Torres was disappointing for a player that didn’t make the A team for Spurs or Barcelona and I thought he’d try and make more of an impression to give RDM something to think about. According to Ruud Gullit, who pleasingly was very pro Chelsea on Sky, RDM has had a long chat with Sturridge to outline his weaknesses and gave him some videos to study. I’ve no doubt Daniel watched the Trumpton DVD but it had no discernible effect on his performance. Completing the frontline was Kalou who does so much that is right only to tarnish it with a frustratingly poor final ball.
Overall a decent performance and point, with no injuries, means we’re still capable of fighting on all fronts.
RDM gave great pre- and post-match interviews and presents himself in a most statesman like fashion. It was really pleasing to see him and Eddie Newton on our bench compared to the grey and dull Wenger/Rice combo who looked like a before shot in a Grecian 2000 advert.
Time for the players to relax. I don’t know if it’s a good idea for them to watch El Clasico.
The gods are on our side ensuring the woodwork and phantom goals keep our momentum flying. I hope they’re omnipresent and with us at Nou Camp.
The press reports
The Observer, David Hytner: “This was not a good game, to offer one of the understatements of the day, yet the point for both teams did not feel too bad. Arsenal consolidated in third place to retain control of their destiny in terms of a Champions League finish while Chelsea conserved their most important players for Tuesday’s semi-final showdown against Barcelona in Europe’s elite competition. They did not suffer too much damage. Happily for them, they picked up no injuries.”
The Sunday Telegraph, Duncan White: “While Chelsea will doubtless employ conservative tactics in Barcelona, very few of these players will be involved. Di Matteo made eight changes from the side that had beaten Barcelona on Wednesday, with only John Terry, Gary Cahill on Petr Cech retained. In the circumstances it was no surprise that they ceded the initiative to Arsenal.”
The Independent on Sunday, Glenn Moore: “Chelsea head for Catalonia for tomorrow’s Champions League semi-final second leg in far better shape than opponents Barcelona, having enjoyed an encouraging dress rehearsal at the Emirates on Saturday.”
The Official Chelsea FC Website: “It is consecutive London derby draws in the league for Chelsea who earned this point with a much-changed side. For the second game running our opponents hit woodwork twice in the game and had the better chances. Good approach work by Chelsea was too often let down by inaccurate passing in the final third.”