Monday 13 September
John Terry will travel to Zilina tomorrow but Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole will not. Ancelotti said that Frank was still recovering and he is giving Cole the night off: “Frank [Lampard] needs some more time before he is ready to play but he should be OK for the game on Sunday.”
Tuesday 14 September
Carlo Ancelotti took the unusual step of naming his side a day early. He seemed somewhat nagged by journalists’ questions about the fitness and availability of his players. So the team for tomorrow night is: Cech; Ivanovic, Alex, Terry, Zhirkov; Benayoun, Essien, Mikel; Malouda, Anelka and Sturridge.
Sturridge, Benayoun and Zhirkov all make their first starts of the season.
Wednesday 15 September
MSK Zilina 1:4 Chelsea
This was a comfortable night for Chelsea in the end but one that could have unravelled in the second-half. The tidy little ground is much changed from our last visit seven years ago but it is compact and friendly. Jeremy Walters will have been pleased to see Jez on the hosts team sheet, fans of gloomy existential poetry will have noticed his midfield partner Rilke. Locals were militant before the game over ticket price rises of over 100% but the ground was packed not quite to the rafters but enough that the Chelsea team decided to drive the few meters from their hotel and hang the environment.
Michael Essien got us off to a flier but the Pineapple’s reception suddenly went dead and a quick sweepstake suggested that everyone thought we would score while the Skybox was wrestled to submission. Essien scored somehow. 0-1. Well, later replays showed Yossi Benayoun slid a pass through to Anelka breaking left and he fed the ball back to Essien to side-foot from the edge of the box. Michael clearly has been working on his finishing and has nearly matched last season’s goal tally.
Anelka ran on to another ball down the Zilina right and scored with a first-time shot to the far post when their ’keeper seemed to get out of way. Still they all count. 0-2.
Three followed quickly as John Terry headed Malouda’s corner onto the bar and Nicolas stabbed in the loose ball. 0-3.
It was at that point that the local Manchester United fans started pouring into the bar, a little more sheepish than usual after last night’s draw with Rangers but still in the mood for teasing. At least two of them are from the Greater Manchester area.
The game subsided somewhat toward half-time but exploded back to life afterwards as Benayoun again found a colleague, this time Sturridge (nerves seemed to give him two left feet in the first-half) who rounded the ’keeper and cut the ball back in. 0-4.
At that that stage Ancelotti would have been pleased: comfortably ahead and restricting Zilina to long range shots that Cech took in his stride. The Italian’s mood however descended into seething fury as first Zilina pulled a goal back and then we spent ten minutes flailing.
Zilina’s goal was a farce; Cech came for a cross and flapped it on to Ivanovic’s head, Tomas Oravec slid in to spare the Serbian the embarrassment of an own goal. 1-4.
They huffed and puffed to get closer and with the crowd behind them momentum had definitely shifted but gradually we pulled it back together. Ancelotti was confident enough to bring on Gaël Kakuta and later Patrick Van Aanholt and Josh McEachran. Josh ‘Champion’s League’ McEachran didn’t look to dazzle but did the simple things well and kept possession. At 17 and not yet a half, Josh is the first player to appear in the Champions’ League who was born after it started in 1992, Kakuta was a little more urgent and we are not sure if Patrick actually got to touch the ball.
The sight of Chelsea’s future playing out the game made up for the wobbly spell to some extent and show that Ancelotti is a man of his word. Alright we were three ahead but he trusted the youngsters to steer us home and you haven’t been able to say that of many Chelsea managers in recent times.
Thursday 16 September
Newcastle reverses 2:3 Chelsea reserves
Oh yeah remember the reserves, 25 days after the first game of the season comes the, er, second game of the season. Missing the three who played in Zilina the reserves made a decent fist of this game and came away with a win. On balance we probably didn’t deserve more than a draw but goals from Milan Lalkovic and the returning Adam Phillip (penalty winner at the death) put a smile on Steve Holland’s face.
Friday 17 September
Carlo Ancelotti has been speaking of his father’s illness. Giuseppe Ancelotti (87) has been ill with old age complicated by diabetes and Carlo has been flying back and forth to be at his side. He said he expects to be in the dug-out on Sunday and Wednesday.
“My father is not well – he’s an old man – so when possible I have to go to Italy to see him. He has good support from my sister back home, but I will be there when I can. Everyone here knows my situation, and I have good support from my assistants. It’s difficult, emotionally, when it’s your father. I have to do my best to stay close to him, but this is life. I will keep my focus.”
Frankly, for the Carling Cup, he should let Steve Holland play the reserves and stay with his dad.
Frank Lampard will not be fit for Blackpool but could be given a run in Wednesday’s game with Newcastle. We will rely on Ramires and Kalou in the meantime.
Saturday 18 September
Tottenham Hotspur youth 4:2 Chelsea youth
Ah, just as you’ve fought you way back from two-nil down the buggers snatch a couple at the end.
After two first-half mistakes let them into a 2-0 lead, Todd Kane first scored a tap in and then found Bobby Devine with a cracking through ball; Devine spun and shot to bring the scores level.
Jamal Blackman then saved a penalty but two late gaols for the home side took the shine off the comeback.
Bobby Smith has died at the age of 77. As a young centre-forward with us in the 1950s he had an impressive goals to games ratio (30 in 86 games) but Ted Drake didn’t seem to appreciate the lad, preferring Roy Bentley, and he was sold to Tottenham where he won the double in 1960-61.
Mixed bag of results today in the Premiership: the strangest at the Stadium of Light where Arsenal took the lead when a defensive clearance ballooned twenty-five yards into the net, only for the equaliser to come five minutes into a four-minute period for stoppages. The upshot is that we still lead the table with a game in hand.
Sunday 19 September
Chelsea 4:0 Blackpool
After a timid Liverpool lost at Old Trafford Chelsea needed to maintain the gap and Blackpool were very obliging guests.
The roller coaster started after 72 seconds: Drogba’s corner flew across the box for Salomon Kalou to lash home. 1-0. You really do need to be in your seat at kick-off these days if you want to see all the goals.
The next showed Michael Essien’s new-found midfield creativity. He fed Drogba on the right and his precise cut-back was killed off by Malouda. 2-0.
Essien again created the third, as his pass released Ashley Cole, who was treated to acres of space all afternoon, he found Drogba and the captain for the day’s turn and shot was too powerful for a shell-shocked defence, the deflection helped. 3-0.
Malouda scored his seventh of the season after Didier turned provider for Kalou’s run and the square-ball was lashed in by our new top-scorer. 4-0.
In between Cech had to be alert to turn away an edge of the box shot from Luke Varney at full stretch.
Everyone expected a cricket score but Blackpool refused to lie down in the second period and had as many chances as we did. Cech was assured and acrobatic all afternoon, especially when Gary Taylor-Fletcher’s shot looped toward the top corner. When the big Czech stopped was beaten by DJ Campbell, Branislav Ivanovic was there to hack off the line.
Chelsea had plenty of chances to make all the bets on five, six, or seven come true but sloppy touches and some poor decisions kept the score down. Malouda had one sumptuous chance for a hat-trick but just mistimed his volley, allowing the excellent Matthew Gilks in the Blackpool goal, to finger-tip over.
Ian Holloway blamed himself for altering his side’s previously successful system: “We’ve seen some teams underestimate us a bit, but the champions didn’t. I thought some of their movement was a little bit different, which I’ve not seen before.”
Yet the feeling remains that Blackpool have nothing to be ashamed about. They were easily the best side we’ve played in five games and some of their second-half play, with more assured finishing, could have cause the champions problems.
Jeffrey Bruma had a twenty-minute run out for Alex and that you didn’t notice the difference is testament to the youngster’s calibre.
Plenty had been made of our ‘easy’ start to the season and while we have plenty of difficult games to come, starting with Manchester City away, the feeling remains that we would still be on top of the pile if we’d faced stiffer opposition.
So, ‘easy’, perhaps but there is a feeling that we have now finished our pre-season and the real business of defending our crown starts next Saturday lunchtime.