Club Focus – Chelsea – Ban dilemma for Blues

With news of the transfer ban beginning to sink in across Europe, Chelsea may be required to reconsider its Champions League squad list submitted last Wednesday as List B (reserved for 3 youth team players) contained the newly-infamous name Gael Kakuta. The club could choose to delay the proceedings of the ban until after the January transfer window, although this could have significant implications in a pending legal battle between Chelsea and FIFA. If the Blues attain a striker for the squad to compensate for the loss of Didier Drogba to the African Cup of Nations in January, then this could create mayhem. Picture the following – the newly signed striker scores a goal which subsequently knocks out a team from the UEFA Champions League or relegates a side from the Premier League, before retrospectively becoming an illegal player. A ‘Carlos Tevez Sheffield United’ situation sounds worryingly close for comfort.

The ban is now set in stone on an ageing Chelsea squad however, with news speculating a similar punishment on Manchester United for their alleged poaching of Paul Pogba from French side Le Havre, the money implemented into the Manchester City foundation might just become that bit more decisive. City’s growing empire is now able not only to spend the money of one man’s fortune but may be handed the privilege of two of their closest challengers being disqualified from adding to their squads. This could further aid their fight to break the stronghold at the top which has been highly publicised as the powerful ‘top four’. Chelsea will, however, feel their current squad will succeed this season despite a number of setbacks most notably the player registry ban and the future African Cup of Nations.

Michael Essien secured Ghana’s progression to the World Cup Finals with a well taken second goal in a 2-0 victory over Sudan. The result gave the Ghanaians four wins from four, enough to see them progress to South Africa. The Ivory Coast is within one point of qualification with two games remaining so Drogba and Salomon Kalou will likely be appearing at the tournament. Drogba scored twice in a 5-0 win – the striker and Frank Lampard being the only Chelsea players to ripple the back of the net this weekend. John Obi Mikel’s Nigerian side have more to do, after a late equaliser at home to Tunisia concluded with a 2-2 draw, leaving the Africans two points off Tunisia who are top. Portugal also fell short, saving themselves from defeat to Denmark only after a late equaliser. Deco, Ricardo Carvalho and Jose Bosingwa’s places at the tournament are in doubt as Portugal currently lies fourth in the table behind Denmark, Hungary and Sweden.

Looking to the month ahead, Chelsea begin their latest Champions League campaign against Portuguese side FC Porto at home on September 15 before travelling to Apoel Nicosia at the end of the month. The Blues will expect to take maximum points from these games, and will hope the busier period will not affect the progress made by Carlo Ancelotti’s side to date. As well as a League Cup fixture home to QPR, Chelsea’s league games will be tough battles. Away fixtures to Stoke and Wigan may prove difficult as these teams – Stoke in particular – make it difficult for travelling sides to break them down. The sides have dedicated fan bases, who aid their teams bid for Premier League survival by creating strong atmospheres at home with the grounds becoming fortresses. Chelsea face their first test against notable opposition on the September 20 as they face a high-flying Tottenham side who to date have notched up a convincing string of results. Jermain Defoe has proved difficult to handle for club and country this season, and John Terry and Carvalho will have to be light on their feet to deal with the striker’s creativity and pace.

The international break came at a welcome time for the Blues, allowing them time to reflect on a turbulent week. The side were given a break from their Premier League duties in which the club would have hoped to protect the players from the current off-field traumas. The Chelsea board will be hoping for an injury free mid-week of international football as they look forth to what becomes a busy period of fixtures.

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