Chelsea’s first Champions League tie came at home to Porto in an open-ended game. Both sides created considerable chances, although keeping possession proved to be a more difficult task on the night. The referee in the first half could be criticised of brandishing yellow cards all too easily, even preventing the game from flowing at times. The same, however, cannot be said of the rain which relentlessly pounded the Stamford Bridge turf. Frank Lampard made efforts to profit from the greasy surface with dipping strikes, attempting to cause Helton problems by cleverly bouncing the ball just yards in front of the Porto keeper. In the end it was Nicolas Anelka who broke the deadlock in what proved to be the decisive goal – the Frenchman sent the ball in from a tight angle after his earlier effort was pushed away.
Anelka replaced the banned Didier Drogba as the lone striker, however last season’s top scorer was unable to provide the options the Ivorian offers to the team. Chelsea’s number 39 struggled to maintain the ball, often being pushed aside or found wanting a touch too many. Although the striker can provide the team with goals, the implications Drogba’s exit to the African Cup of Nations will have were clear. The formation lacked the extra dimensions of which the African has so successfully filled this season – the strength and power on the ball as well as the his influence to encourage teammates were omitted from the display. Despite, in many respects, a performance which will largely be defined as lacklustre, the Blues came out on top once again under Carlo Ancelotti in a 1-0 victory. The Chelsea manager expressed his delight at the triumph when taking into consideration the fatigue many of the players presented in the latter stages.
This Sunday, Ancelotti’s men face a form Tottenham side with an in-form striker in Jermain Defoe. Niko Kranjcar looks likely to replace his fellow injured Croat on the left-hand side, the new signing at White Hart Lane was the only flicker of light on a dark Croatian display against England last Wednesday. Tottenham will be one of few sides Chelsea face a 4-4-2 formation against this season. Spurs have opted for a 4-4-2 in their opening fixtures playing wingers with freedom to attack, and a pairing of defensive shields in Wilson Palacios and Tom Huddlestone. Aaron Lennon has been a thorn in the side of every opponent to date this season and his pace and ability may cause Ashley Cole to refrain from his prospering attacking duties. Should Cole opt for an overlap, the Chelsea defence must – for the first time this season- be wary of a quick counter-attack. The England left-back would have been placed against the Tottenham winger on a number of occasions during international training games and will be more than familiar with Lennon’s capabilities one-on-one.
This threat from their opposition may nullify that which Cole possesses and may therefore affect the so-far unquestionable system the Blues have implemented. This may present Malouda with an opportunity to play a wider role on the left to compensate for Cole’s more reserved responsibilities, in what is likely to be a 4-3-2-1 formation. Malouda and Cole would therefore be able to combat Lennon effectively by doubling up – Malouda’s strength and ability to hold off challengers when in possession make him a decent cover were Cole to push on. John Terry may also be given the difficult task of invalidating the aerial prowess of Peter Crouch – the England striker’s height makes him a real nuisance to opposition defenders. Chelsea will hope for a better start than Manchester United against managed Spurs – United found themselves a goal down inside the opening minute thanks to an acrobatic Defoe strike. Should Chelsea fall behind, however, it would not be unfamiliar territory the Blues have conceded first in three of their first five Premier League games.
Off the pitch, Peter Kenyon ended his role as Chelsea Chief Executive. The former Red Devil will leave his full time post at the end of October, although he will continue to represent Chelsea at various UEFA committees as a non-executive Director. Chelsea’s Chief Operating Officer, Ron Gourlay, will be promoted to succeed Kenyon. Gourlay has spent five years with the Londoners, with an overall 25 years of experience to his name, the 46 year-old similarly spent time at United before his move south. Kenyon’s replacement described the appointment as an “honour”.
Chelsea Club Focus
Terry commits future to positive Blues set-up – July 29
Reading ask all the questions of Chelsea – August 5
Chelsea start as they mean to go on – August 12
Patience is a virtue – August 18
Christmas comes early for the Blues – August 21
Chelsea maintain 100% record – August 25
Blues to cruise over Burnley pot-hole – August 28
Cole-scoring prowess – September 1
Blues stunned by transfer ban – September 4
Ban dilemma for Blues – September 8
Blues look to bounce back from ban – September 11 Perfect start continues, just – September 15
Blues aim to follow in United’s footsteps – September 18