Shorts: Drogba, Lampard, Terry Nominated for Ballon D’Or; Ancelotti Doesn’t Feel Pressure; Di Santo Thanks Allardyce; Terry to Play Till He’s 40; Atletico Previews

Briefest of brief shorts. I will add more links and previews of tomorrow’s Champions League group game against Atletico Madrid as they are published, so keep checking back.


Didier Drogba, Frank Lampard and John Terry have been nominated for the Ballon D’Or, aka the European Footballer of the Year award. The three are on a 2009 shortlist of 30 players. Lionel Messi is the favourite to take the award.


Following Saturday’s loss to Aston Villa at Villa Park, which was our second successive away defeat, Carlo Ancelotti says pressure does not exist in his vocabulary.

Even as a manager who served 14 years in the madhouse of Italian football, eight of them at Silvio Berlusconi’s Milan, Carlo Ancelotti looked taken aback to be asked whether losing two of his first 13 matches at Chelsea – having won the other 11 – has put him under pressure.


Petr Cech says we must rely on deeper concentration at the back.

“The last two away games we’ve conceded three goals from set plays so we need to get our discipline with marking and avoid these goals, because they can be costly. At the moment we are a little bit unlucky as well, but we know we have to pay more attention and have better concentration next time.”

You don’t say.

Michael Ballack has revealed the players conducted an inquest into their defensive difficulties in the aftermath of the defeat.

“We have no problem to criticise each other in the dressing room. A good team and strong players have to do this. We have done this. After that we shake hands and go back on the training pitch.”

Pat Nevin dissects what when wrong at set plays on Saturday.

If you do not mark your man and he scores there is rarely ever a need for the manager to tell you, you know already before the ball is in the back of the net that it is your fault and you have let everyone down. Having said that the manager usually feels it is necessary to mention it afterwards anyway, usually with some colourful adjectives thrown in for good measure.


Five things we learned from the Premier League this weekend.

Set pieces: Only Liverpool have conceded more goals from set pieces than Chelsea this season. Liverpool have struggled with both the theory and practice of marking people at dead balls. Chelsea have two problems: Ricardo Carvalho looks a shadow of the player he was and Petr Cech has a kind of compulsive wander-and-flap reflex whenever the ball is punted into his area. But at least Chelsea can always go out in January and buy … ah.


Ancelotti says John Terry can emulate Paolo Maldini by playing until he is “39 or 40”, with the help of the Milan Lab techniques.

Terry has been hampered by back problems in recent seasons but is now benefiting from the input of Ancelotti’s assistant first-team coach, Bruno Demichelis, at Stamford Bridge. The 61-year-old spent 22 years at Milan where he was the visionary behind the Milan Lab concept, a proactive, holistic approach to work on injury prevention, which cured David Beckham of a back problem through dentistry work and extended the careers of Maldini and Alessandro Costacurta until they were 41.


Franco Di Santo has thanked Sam Allardyce for making him a more complete Premier League striker and hopes Blackburn beat us on Saturday.

“Sam Allardyce is helping me to become a more complete player. I am very happy at Blackburn. I need to improve and gain experience. I need to play games and score goals. If I go back to Chelsea I will try my best but if I stay here I will continue my education. I hope to get back to Chelsea and play. If I go back and don’t play, it is less good for me. It depends on the situation. If I play for Chelsea, I will be happy because they were my first team in England and I always hoped to play in a top team. But if I stay here, I will be happy. I won’t have a problem.”

I don’t get to see much of Di Santo, about 10 minutes every weekend on Match of the Day, but what I have seen of him has impressed me. He looks to have improved with playing time.

Allardyce meanwhile is resigned to returning Di Santo to Stamford Bridge in January when his loan move ends.

“I do not think that there is any real chance of [Di Santo staying]. There is a transfer ban on Chelsea and with the African Nations coming up they will probably need him.”


That’s it for Chelsea links. Now the rest.

Krafty Ken Bates has banned the Guardian from Elland Road over the paper’s coverage of the club’s ownership issue.


Liverpool’s title chances were dented by a beach ball on Saturday. The Independent has 10 more of the strangest ever goals. Includes YouTube links.

The Guardian reports that Liverpool will search Manchester United fans for beach balls before Sunday’s match at Anfield.

Liverpool have sold out of the £10 “Beach Set” that diverted the team’s title prospects at Sunderland and will search Manchester United supporters for any offending items, including beach balls, before Sunday’s Premier League clash at Anfield.


Will Buckley in the Observer at the weekend: 235 days to go and England have already won the World Cup.

England will do well to reach the quarter-finals. The fact they are third favourites, at less than half the price available on Holland and Italy, is an aberration. Even the Sun at its most bombastic in a piece headlined “Yes We Can: 72% per cent give England the World Cup nod” felt moved, in the interests of balance, to include a small box entitled “3 Lions: Five Big Worries”. These being, to paraphrase: can’t pass; light on keepers; can’t deal with pressure, no killer instinct; rubbish without Rooney. Not really what you want from 11-2 shots.


The Guardian’s ‘The Gallery’ series features some fine Photoshop work, this week England’s internet adventures.


UPDATE: The Independent lists the greatest playboys in sport.

George Best: Manchester United hero George Best was known as much for his off-field antics as his moves on it. He once told interviewer Michael Parkinson that he had sex at half time whilst his heavy partying is considered the reason for his career tailing off. Best is also only one of two men known to have slept with at least two Miss Worlds. The glamour of this fact is somewhat tarnished when you realise the other man to have achieved this is Bruce Forsyth.


Alex Ferguson says that Manchester City and Chelsea are at risk of financial disintegration in the future.

“That is exactly what was happening in the business world two years ago. There were warning signs and everyone knew there were, yet they carried on because it was so easy to access loans. In the football world you say to yourself the warning signs are there, but nobody seems to be bothering about it. You wonder where it’s going to go and what is going to happen if one major club are to go, to collapse.”

This from the manager of a club that is £700m in debt.


Finally, FIFA President Sepp Blatter will seek to stay in charge of world soccer’s governing body after 2011 because of the raft of new initiatives he wants to push through.

“I have not finished my mission in soccer, I need more time. I hope that in 2011 the FIFA Congress has further faith in me, otherwise I’ll go back to my village.”

For the good of the game, let’s hope he’s sent back to his village.

That’s it for now. Check back for updates.


UPDATE: The Daily Telegraph’s preview of tonight’s Champions League game against Atletico Madrid.

Atletico Madrid have endured a torrid start to the season both in Europe and La Liga.

With only one win in all competitions they are currently 15th in the league, with only six points from seven games and are bottom of Group D after a disappointing home draw to APOEL Nicosia and a loss away to Porto.

UPDATE: See also BBC Football’s preview. Both include video of Ancelotti’s press conference.

UPDATE: Dominic Fifield in the Guardian says Atletico lack the aerial power to trouble our suspect defence.

Atlético Madrid were supposed to be the side to challenge Chelsea’s supremacy in this Champions League qualification group, though it says much about these teams’ recent toils that the Spaniards’ visit to Stamford Bridge actually offers Carlo Ancelotti’s side some relief. Defeat by Aston Villa at the weekend exposed familiar frailties at the heart of Chelsea’s line-up and fatigue has already seeped into this team’s preparations. “It’s not easy,” said the Italian. “But I think it’s even more difficult for Atlético at the moment.”

UPDATE: Giles Smith appraises Premier League keepers.

Pepe Reina? I don’t think so. He looks like Corporal Jones when he’s under pressure and has very little presence in general. Plus his inability to respond flexibly to stray beach balls is a real worry. (Cech, one feels, in that unfortunate circumstance last Saturday, would have saved both balls – the match ball and the cheap plastic one. Then he would have returned the cheap plastic one to its rightful owner, before converting defence into attack by using the match ball to pick out Didier Drogba on a swift counter. That’s the difference between Cech and Reina.)

UPDATE: Martin Samuel says the ghost of Guus Hiddink will haunt Carlo Ancelotti at Chelsea.

Hiddink unattached is a dangerous guy. He is a threat to Ancelotti, although he probably does not mean to be. It is fair to assume that, right now, he is focused solely on steering Russia to the World Cup in South Africa and fulfilling his obligations there until his contract ends in 2010.