Club Focus – Chelsea – Reading ask all the questions of Blues

Chelsea left it late to maintain pre-season unbeaten honours after a 2-2 draw away at Reading. Carlo Ancelotti selected a side of real strength and natural potency upfront in Nicolas Anelka and Didier Drogba. However the Blues struggled to break down their opposition at the Madejski. The first notable test in Chelsea’s pre-season campaign proved to be of considerable difficulty. With an eye on Manchester United next weekend in the first of the season battles – the Community Shield bragging rights – Chelsea will have to improve in order to overturn their bitter rivals. Tactically, Ancelotti employed his favoured diamond formation – a distinctive feature of his Milan reign. Frank Lampard played off the obvious attacking two-fold of Anelka and Drogba in what looked like a team likely of starting against United next weekend. Branislav Ivanovic pipped Jose Bosingwa to the right-back position and Ricardo Carvalho partnered the solid John Terry in the centre of defence. Deco also started the game raising questions as to how much the two Portuguese internationals will feature in Ancelotti’s plans next year after such strong rumours of the pair becoming unhappy at the Bridge. However, both managed only to reach half-time as the manager portrayed his uncertainty, replacing them with Alex and Florent Malouda.

Familiar faces were on show in Berkshire with former Chelsea reserve team manager Brendan Rodgers now occupying the Royal’s managerial position and left-back Ryan Bertrand recently signed a loan deal with the Championship contenders. Both showed examples of their past, Rodgers utilized his experience at the Bridge opting for the 4-3-3 – a formation he clearly showed could combat Chelsea’s strengths. Bertrand also successfully disrupted attacks on the left-hand side and created some of his own with testing crosses for Petr Cech. Ancelotti remained fairly unconcerned with the proceedings ,watching his side dominate for large periods until two quick goals before the half-time whistle sprung the manager into action. Altering personal in positions still in contention for the new season, Bosingwa, Deco and Carvalho making way, with replacements Malouda and Alex at the heart of the fight-back providing a helpful hand in the late own-goal. Salomon Kalou was introduced with immediate impact, an 89th minute strike starting the comeback after relentless pressure. Chelsea’s continued persistence paid off in the closing stages when Alex Pearce slotted in at the wrong end to bring the game level. The final 2-2 draw will have provided both positives and negatives for Ancelotti, two weeks before the season proper begins.

Transfer speculation from the Bridge this week concerned two midfield dynamos in Joe Cole and Andrea Pirlo. Both reports were dismissed by Chelsea, firstly insisting Joe Cole is indispensable to the club, and secondly suggesting Andrea Pirlo is not a target. Now into the final month of the transfer campaign it seems Chelsea are relatively content with their squad despite having only two out-right and proven strikers at their disposal. It demonstrates their faith in youngster Daniel Sturridge and/ or sleeping giants Andriy Shevchenko and Claudio Pizarro. Young prospect Franco Di Santo completed a loan move yesterday that will see him with Blackburn Rovers until shortly after the Christmas period, with many of the Chelsea staff eager to see Di Santo produce the performances they know he is capable of, at the top level. News regarding a former blue also brought about considerable attention this week as Adrian Mutu lost in his appeal against FIFA, consequently forcing him to pay Chelsea the £14m owed for breaching his contract – the largest fine of its type issued by FIFA to date. The Romanian’s contract was terminated with immediate effect in 2004 when the striker tested positive for a class A drug. Now at Fiorentina, the forward may have been made an example out of by the CAS, warning players against future drug-related conduct. Action from the Bridge will now however be focusing on the pitch with a view to prevailing in the Community Shield next weekend.

Chelsea Club Focus

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Reading ask all the questions of Chelsea – August 5

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