Chelsea lost their unbeaten record in pre-season yesterday afternoon when they went down 2-0 to Rangers at Ibrox. Nacho Novo struck from 20 yards on 86 minutes, and Filip Sebo made sure of the win just a minute later when his shot from a similar range deflected off Ricardo Carvalho and looped over substitute goalkeeper Henrique Hilario’s head and into the far corner of the net.
Shaun Wright-Phillips was Chelsea’s stand out player. He came on at half time in place of Joe Cole and was a constant threat down the right flank. On current form I would pick him ahead of Cole who has struggled so far this pre-season. Steve Sidwell also shone in a four-man midfield, while Florent Malouda showed flashes of quality wide on the left. Didier Drogba and Andriy Shevchenko started up front but didn’t enjoy a great deal of success against a resolute Rangers defence. Claudio Pizarro and Jon Obi Mikel replaced Malouda and Shevchenko respectively at half time, and Ashley Cole made his first appearance since the FA Cup final, coming on with half an hour remaining.
John Terry, who signed a lucrative new 5-year contract on Friday, returned after missing the Feyenoord game in midweek and played 90 minutes. Tal Ben Haim lined up alongside Terry at the heart of defence in the first half and switched to playing left and then right back during the second 45 minutes, proving what a versatile player he is. Getting Ben Haim and Sidwell on free transfers could turn out to be the best business Jose Mourinho’s done as Chelsea manager. Pizarro, who also joined on a free this summer, hasn’t had enough time to make a big impression, but he certainly looked sharp when he came on in the second half.
There was no sign of Arjen Robben. He has now missed three pre-season games in a row. With Real Madrid maintaining that they will sign him in the coming week, perhaps he has played his last game for Chelsea. Assistant manager Steve Clarke insisted after the game in Holland that Robben is injured, but I’m starting to believe there is something in the Real rumours. And while I think his departure would be a big loss, if he is set on a move to the Bernabeu, the rumoured £20m (€30m) transfer fee is more than fair for a player with his sparkling injury record. Malouda is a worthy replacement.
A large chunk of the £20m Chelsea get for Robben will be deposited in the bank account of UEFA Cup holders Seville in exchange for their Brazilian right-back Daniel Alves, according to some newspapers. Alves has been linked with a move to Stamford Bridge all summer. Current right-backs Glen Johnson and Paulo Ferreira are more than capable on their day, but both can be a bit hit and miss. Whether Alves is any better is open to debate. He certainly looks special going forward, but I’m not convinced he’s great defensively. One thing’s for sure, Alves is a far better player than Spurs’ glove-wearing jessie Pascal Chimbonda, who has also been linked with Chelsea. The fee being reported beggars belief.
Chelsea’s next pre-season fixture is against Brondby in Copenhagen on Tuesday evening. Kick-off 7:05pm BST.