Tuesday 23 February
As the speculation about Ashley Cole continues to fly the club announce that Yuri Zhirkov has not shaken off the knock he picked up at Wolves and that Paulo Ferreira is not registered for the Champions League. So who, you might ask, as the squad catch a flight to Italy, is going to play left back?
Wednesday 24 February
FC Internazionale Milano 2:1 FC Chelsea
Cracking matches don’t come much better than this. Behind after only three minutes Chelsea regrouped and played a much-fancied Inter side off the park for the best part of the match. Losing Petr Cech to an injury could possibly change the course of the season.
It couldn’t have started better for Jose Mourinho and the Nerazzurri, a simple ball reversed into Diego Milito a quick step inside a flat footed John Terry and Cech was beaten at his near post. 1-0. Given all the pre-match chatter about who would play left-back (Florent Malouda who played there in his time at Lyon) a swift attack down the right was perhaps the surprise tactic.
The goal didn’t distract Chelsea from their task, as the midfield gained first control and then dominance. Kalou, playing wide left was the greatest threat but it was Didier Drogba’s free-kick that thundered back off the bar after 14 minutes.
The half closed with a note of controversy; Kalou broke into the box and Samuel took his foot away as he was going to shoot. The gangly Ivorian striker appeared to be waiting for contact but it was a clear penalty.
Salomon did get his name on the score sheet just after half-time. Ivanovic ran across the box and Kalou lashed the ball in from 20 yards. 1-1. The lead did not last, just as many were imploring Chelsea not to drop too deep Cambiasso was allowed to shoot, his first effort rebounded to him from Ivanovic but he buried the second from the edge of the box. 2-1.
It was a few moments later that Cech collected a simple high ball and immediately indicated that he needed to be replaced. Initial ITV scare stories about a cruciate proved wide of the mark but he will not play in the second-leg.
Frank Lampard was having a subdued evening, he had a virus this week, but he nearly poked us level, the ball breaking from Drogba hit a sprawling ’keeper.
All the chances that came after were too difficult, oh, and someone tell Mikel to stop trying his luck from distance, but the level of play in both attacking and defending was breathtaking. At one point Ivanovic slid in to take the ball off Cambiasso’s toe; it was one of the best bits of defending you’ll ever see.
However well we played the defensive laurels have to go to Lucio. He stood head and shoulders above his colleagues and was the rock on which everything we tried foundered.
West Ham United reserves 2:1 Chelsea reserves
A good portion of the reserve side was in Milan getting valuable experience of the atmosphere of a big European night, meanwhile their colleagues were struggling against an experienced West Ham side. Marking his full reserve debut, Marco Mitrovic equalised for us after some twenty-minutes but their age and experience told. Oliver Lee (Robert’s lad) poked them in front with 25 minutes left but they promptly had a man sent off and had to hang on Alamo style to the last.
Thursday 25 February
Petr Cech will be out for the next month with a torn calf muscle. He will miss probably the busiest part of the season, with either Hilario or Turnbull playing nervous ninny between the sticks for the games up until our visit to Old Trafford at the start of April.
Wayne Bridge announced that he does not want to go to the World Cup, ostensibly because of the John Terry affair but he had earlier indicated that he didn’t want to go if Ashley Cole was fit. He didn’t want to sit around and watch someone else play his position.
Friday 26 January
Lots of stories about Chelsea in all the papers today but absolutely no news. Wayne Bridge is, apparently, not going to shake John Terry’s hand on Saturday, er, that is all.
Portsmouth, as widely predicted, become the first Premiership club to enter administration and, therefore, the first to be relegated before the clocks go forward.
Saturday 27 February
Chelsea 2:4 Manchester City
This was a shambles, not all of our own making, Mike Dean was the defeat’s true architect but we helped along the way, Hilario’s performance was so poor we should let him go and rely on Ross Turnbull.
Our first-half dominance betrayed nothing of the story round the corner. Frank Lampard turned in Joe Cole’s astute pass, 1-0, and that should have been that. Instead the whole Chelsea defence allowed Tevez in to score the lamest excuse for a goal ever seen on a football pitch. Obi John decided to head backwards to Tevez, Terry got turned inside out before the Argentinean’s shot bobbled across the goalkeeper and trickled over the line. Hilario should have been substituted then. 1-1
Mike Dean stepped in to help Manchester City after the break perhaps he is an old fashioned moralist who believes in stoning as a punishment for adultery. Chelsea had clearly upset the ref because every challenge was suddenly a free-kick and he was dishing out cards Terry and Ivanovic were both booked in the ten minute after the break none of the cards made any sense there were no dangerous or cynical tackles.
Then Hilario allows a narrow shot from Bellamy to squirm in for 1-2. He should have been substituted after the first one. Leaving him on after those two goals amounts to neglect.
Drogba then controlled a difficult high ball and played it off Given for what should have been a corner. Chelsea were feeling the strain and starting to realise that all of the referee’s decisions were going one way but when Ballack protested Dean ignored the fact of the corner and seized his opportunity to book another Chelsea player.
Sadly, Dean was really warming to his theme. He had to wait until the 75th minute to really punish Chelsea but his chance came when Gareth Barry barged Belletti off the ball and ran into the box with Belletti behind him. Barry fell over but on repeated viewing there simply is no meaningful contact between Belletti and Barry and the referee had a very good view of it and chose to punish Chelsea. He gifted them a third and sent off Belletti.
Dean’s afternoon was complete when an ungainly Ballack tackle gave him the opportunity to reduce Chelsea to nine. The tackle was clumsy and warranted a card but not a sending off, Dean had allowed plenty of similar tackles to go un punished but suddenly he saw a Chelsea player and the Germany captain and decided he was going to control the spectacle. Bellamy made it 1-4 on the break.
The time has come when referees should have to explain themselves in public this is not the first time Mike Dean has taken a game by the scruff of the neck and dictated which way it will go. This is the officious prat who made Frank Lampard take a penalty three times at Upton Park you have to ask how many more shambles will he be in charge of before the thick United bloke in the pub stops rattling on about what a good referee he is. That would take a penalty and sending off at Old Trafford and we don’t need to remind you that Dean, and many of his colleagues, would never do that.
The nine men of Chelsea fought hard, managed no to fall any further behind and picked up a penalty of their own which actually involved contact between two players as Barry tripped Anelka but Lampard’s conversion merely helped the goal difference. 2-4.
Chelsea youth 1:0 Fulham youth
Marco Mitrovic was one of few Chelsea players with reason to cheer this week; he netted on his first full reserve start and came on to find a flicked winner for the youth team on Saturday morning.