Monday 16 April
The FA Cup final will take place on Sunday 5 May at 5.15pm. No reason has been given for the kick-off time, presumably it is designed to make it more difficult for Liverpool fans to get home.
To clear up a few of the weekend’s issues: Fleetwood Town will be joining the Football League next season after winning promotion, Charlton move back into the championship after Chris Powell’s Charlton Athletic clinched promotion winning 0—1 t Carlisle. In the Championship Darlington lost their struggle at Portsmouth.
Tuesday 17 April
No news on David Luiz’s ankle but scans have been done and it seems he misses the game with Barcelona come what may. The key decision now will be whether Ivanovic comes inside or Gary Cahill gets the nod.
Phil Dowd is the lucky whistler at the Cup final.
Islam Feruz, who has been tearing up opponents in the youth and reserve ranks has been called up to the Scottish U21 squad.
Bayern München scraped a late winner against Real Madrid when Mario Gomez scored in the last minute to bag a 2-1 lead in the first leg.
Wednesday 18 April
Chelsea 1:0 Barcelona
Another titanic night under Roberto Di Matteo keeps the dream alive for another week. We’ll have to play much better than this at Camp Nou to stand a chance but the football gods seem to have decided that we deserve a lucky break for a change.
We needed every ounce of luck as the match started with the expected ball hogging Catalans flicking it this way and that. When we did manage to rob them possession each pass seemed hurried and over hit. Drogba managed a couple of surges through the middle but mis-controlled on both occasions; someone actually said: “what you need in that situation is a striker like Torres.”
We could have been one down when, the phoney war over, Barça sprang through the middle and the whole stadium, Cech included, held their breath as Sanchez chipped effort finally came back, eventually, belatedly, seemed-as-if-time-stood-still, off the crossbar.
We had been warned but the tactics remained the same; without closing them down we invited them to have possession and tried to funnel them into the middle of defence.
We went straight up the other end and a long Ivanovic throw caused a scramble in their goal mouth but the ball seemed to get stuck under John Terry’s feet and was cleared.
Cesc Fabregas had been such a pain in all his years at Arsenal that it was a surprise when he shanked the next clear chance wide before Lionel Messi, of all people headed goalwards but Cech was quick enough to save.
Then we were suddenly ahead: Messi tried to nutmeg Lampard who robbed the ball, fed Ramires who charged forwards, as he does at his best, and fed Drogba for a simple shot and 1-0. Didier has spent some of the evening rolling round on the floor pretending to be injured but he looked the majestic terror of old as he scored and it was in the time added on at the end of the half for his theatrics.
The second-half followed the same pattern as Terry and, increasingly, Cahill dominated in the middle of our box and Cole and Ivanovic put in a shift alongside them. Lampard, Obi John and Meireles screened in front of them and Ramires and Mata were supposed to be supporting Drogba but rarely got close to him unless he came back looking for the ball.
Cech had a save to make five minutes from the end when a Puyol improvised a flicked header but the Cech was equal to it.
The real drama was saved for the dying minutes: Terry brilliantly tackled Messi but the ball fell to Pedro who curled an effort onto the post before Busquets fired over. All in time added on for Didier rolling around, looks like he got away with it this time.
It seems the football fates were with us for once. Barcelona looked like they’d been robbed at the end and it is good that they know that feeling. Let’s hope they still feel that way after the second-leg.
Thursday 19 April
We’ll get around 25,000 tickets for the cup final. The usual completely inadequate, derisory allocation as the FA shamelessly scalp the other 40,000 seats in a naked grab for cash.
We should make a few arrangements among ourselves. If you’ve been to a cup final, or two, in recent years perhaps you should volunteer to let someone else have a go.
Friday 20 April
Chelsea youth 4:0 Blackburn Rovers youth
The FA Youth Cup first-leg is a blazing success. Adi Viveash has got this group on song and passing through and round teams in a blur of movement. They look better and more accomplished than any of their peers and it makes the prospect of the NextGen series next year so appealing. To see this group play their counterparts at Ajax, Barcelona Sporting and Internazionale will be a better measure of their progress but to see them as our Carling Cup side next year would really bring them on.
As it was tonight: first-half goals from captain Nat Chalobah and Lewis Baker married to a second-half double from Islam Feruz were enough to see off a very good Blackburn side. Jamal Blackman has to be in good for to keep out a string of chances for the visitors.
Saturday 21 April
Arsenal 0:0 Chelsea
This ended up little more than a training ground friendly for most of the squad rested with Tuesday night in mind. Roberto will have been impressed by the shift put in by Ryan Bertrand at left-back in particular but Essien, Bosingwa, Romeu, Malouda, Sturridge and Torres all came in to give the starting line-up a reall make shift feel.
The early exchanges of tippy-tappy almost ended with Kalou winning a penalty, Manchester United would have been awarded a kick but Salomon was a little slow going down after contact.
Most of the first-half play was bitty and inconclusive. Van Persie, for example broke free to chip Cech but his effort came back off the bar and he was offside in any case. It was typical of play probing but no penetration.
The second-half was a lot better from Chelsea with Sturridge becoming more influential but it wasn’t until the late flurry of chances that either team had to worry about conceding and ultimately neither did.
Roberto Di Matteo will be happier than Wenger as he’d named a scratch side whereas Arsenal were at full-strength and trying to cement their top-four place.
Barcelona 1:2 Real Madrid
Sadly the evening game effectively leaves the title to Madrid and Barcelona free to concentrate on the European Cup.
Cardiff City youth 2:2 Chelsea youth
Andy Myers was in charge for this youth team trip and without all the players who appeared in the youth cup final first-leg yesterday. The young squad were still good enough to establish a two-goal lead but not quite strong enough to hold on to it.