Chelsea 4-3 Slavia Prague: Report, Ratings & Reaction as Blues Reach Semi-Finals With Dramatic Win

Chelsea laboured to a 4-3 victory against Slavia Prague in their Europa League quarter-final second leg at Stamford Bridge, booking themselves a spot in the semi finals with a 5-3 win on aggregate against the Czech side.

After the dissatisfaction of the weekend’s defeat to Liverpool, the Blues were eager to bury some league demons with a strong showing from the off in Europe, and they duly raced out of the traps with fervour.

Pedro

This produced results inside the first five minutes, with Pedro opening the scoring after some wonderful link up play with first Cesar Azpilicueta and then ?Olivier Giroud, who sweetly played it in for the Spaniard to dink over the goalkeeper.

He was then saved some severe blushes when another fine flowing move involving first Giroud, and then ?Eden Hazard, who played it nicely across goal for the winger to finish, somehow ended with the Spaniard striking the post with the goal gaping – only for it to cannon into Prague defender Simon Deli and bounce back into the net.

Perhaps afraid of repeating the trick, Pedro turned down the chance for a brace after latching onto a wonderfully weighted ball from N’Golo Kante, instead playing it off to Giroud for the Frenchman to net his 10th goal of the competition.

The visitors then restored some dignity, as Tomas Soucek nodded in a free header at the back post, only for Chelsea to hit their fourth of the night just 63 seconds later. Hazard again played the ball across the face of the goal, with Giroud taking the first unsuccessful bite of the cherry before Pedro had it in the back of the net once more with a scuffed finish.

However, after a first half of plenty for the Blues, Peter Sevcik found it within himself to produce not one, but two cracking strikes into the top-left corner inside the first 10 minutes of the second period to spark the tie back to life.


Ultimately though, it was to no avail, and the Blues stayed firm to reach their 14th European semi final.


Chelsea

Key Talking Point?

It wasn’t as good a game as that vaunted Champions League clash between Tottenham and Manchester City on Wednesday night, but it was almost as ridiculous.

Maurizio Sarri,Eden Hazard

There was no VAR to join the party, but there were still seven goals. Almost all of them were ridiculous, in either a good or a bad way. For Maurizio Sarri though, it will have been a frustrating night. For once, the Blues managed to take their chances with some conviction in front of goal, yet they still found a way to make it unnecessarily uneasy for themselves in that second half, with concentration lapses far too common.

A semi-final beckons, but more care will need to be taken against Eintracht Frankfurt if the club are to escape the cruel grips of Europe’s lesser league next season.


Player Ratings

Starting XI: Arrizabalaga (6); Azpilicueta (7), David Luiz (5), Christensen (6), Emerson (6); Kante (7), Kovacic (6), Barkley (5); Pedro (8*), Giroud (8), Hazard (7).

Substitutes: Willian (6), Jorginho (6), Hudson-Odoi (N/A).


STAR MAN – Despite that inconceivable miss in the first half, Pedro played a key role in almost everything good the Blues did in the opening stages. He was his usual scampering self, harrying defenders with gusto and launching onto attacks with glee. 

Sure, his finishing was, err, hit and miss, but he was still the difference maker, and his considerable European experience was vital in seeing out a confounding second period.


Looking Ahead

After booking their spot in the semis, ?Chelsea can now look forward to a break of sorts, with their next Premier League outing not scheduled until Monday at Stamford Bridge against Burnley. Following that, it’s the crucial trip to Old Trafford to play top four rivals Manchester United.

Let’

Real Madrid Prepare ‘Opening Offer’ for Eden Hazard Amid Conflicting Reports on Paul Pogba

?Real Madrid have been tipped to test Chelsea’s resolve to keep Eden Hazard by tabling an opening bid for the Belgian superstar, but there are conflicting reports on the subject of Los Blancos’ rumoured interest in Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba.

An expensive summer overhaul at the Bernabeu is rumoured to have been one of the conditions laid out when Zinedine Zidane returned as manager last month.

FBL-ESP-LIGA-REAL MADRID-HUESCA

Hazard has been a long-term target for the reigning European champions, and speculation that he could leave Stamford Bridge has only increased after Chelsea failed to agree a new contract to extend his current deal beyond 2020.

According to The Sun, an opening offer of £85m (€98m) for Hazard is coming from Madrid, and it’s claimed that an ‘official bid’ will be made this week. ?Marca even claims a deal could potentially be ‘finalised in the coming days’ to make the 28-year-old Real’s third summer signing already.

Assuming the clubs can agree on a formal fee, Hazard will apparently be offered a six-year contract to make the move to the Spanish capital, where he would reunite with friend and international colleague Thibaut Courtois, who completed the same transfer last year.

Eden Hazard

Hazard’s expiring contract puts Chelsea in a difficult position, with the club forced to sell this summer in order to avoid losing their most valuable asset as a free agent in a year’s time.

But Real may not stop at pinching just Hazard from the Premier League, as The Sun also claims that a sub-par performance against Barcelona in the Champions League this week hasn’t dampened interest in Paul Pogba, with Real even ‘accelerating their pursuit’.

The Sun’s gossip is that Zidane believes he can get the best out of his inconsistent countryman, with Pogba apparently seen as the ‘right man to build the midfield around’.

Paul Pogba

However, a conflicting report from Marca notes that while Pogba and agent Mino Raiola are ‘happy’ for a deal to go ahead, Real view the €150m (£130m) starting price as ‘excessive’ and simply ‘don’t share the enthusiasm’ for Pogba that they have for Hazard.

Certainly, as far as Manchester United are concerned, the stance is that Pogba is not for sale.

“There might be a campaign, there might be press, you never know what there is. In my talks with Paul he has always been positive here and I don’t see a difference in him when I chat to him,” United manager Ole Gunnar Solskajer said on the matter last week.

Let’

Olivier Giroud Hints He Could Reject New Chelsea Contract This Summer Over Lack of Games

?Chelsea striker Olivier Giroud has hinted that he may reject the potential offer of a contract extension at Stamford Bridge and move on this summer if a proposed new deal doesn’t come with assurances that he will play more next season.

Giroud is already nearing the end of the initial 18-month deal he signed upon completing his £18m transfer across London from Arsenal in January 2018.

Olivier Giroud

The 32-year-old World Cup winner has scored nine goals in the Europa League this season, making him the competition’s top goalscorer. But his Premier League tally for the campaign stands at just two after starting only seven of his 24 appearances.

Chelsea still hold an option to extend his current deal by 12 months until the end of next season, thereby ensuring they would at least receive a transfer fee if the player insists on leaving.

However, according to the Daily Mirror, no talks have taken place yet, and that is leaving ?Giroud uncertain over his future and whether he would even want to stay.

“I’m not satisfied with being second choice. The important thing for me is to have more minutes. I’m a competitor, so obviously I want to play more,” he is quoted as saying.

Olivier Giroud

“I don’t know what will happen. I have to meet the club. I’m happy to be here. I just want to enjoy it. I don’t want to retire. They must talk to me before the end of the season. With what I’ve achieved here, there is no reason they won’t give me one more year. But I need to be happy.”

Chelsea are approaching a delicate situation this summer. As things stand, the club is still banned from signing new players for the next two transfer windows as they await the outcome of an appeal against the FIFA-imposed sanctions for the alleged breaching of transfer regulations.

If they lose the first appeal and the likely follow-up appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), it means no new players can be registered this summer. That means no permanent deal for Gonzalo Higuain or expensive new acquisitions to boost an ailing squad.

Gonzalo Higuain

That scenario would surely give Giroud the playing time he is looking for, while Tammy Abraham has been tipped to return to west London next season after scoring 24 goals in the Championship while on loan at Aston Villa. That is in addition to the 23 league goals the home grown starlet also managed in the second tier for Bristol City two years ago.

Let’

The Top 20 Premier League Home Kits in History

Kits. Shirts. Jerseys. Threads. Whatever you call them, there is one thing we can all agree on – they are *the* *most* *important* thing in football. 

But, even *more* important than that is the ranking of said kits. It’s a big task, make no bones about it, but it’s also imperative. Too many have tried. Too many have so abysmally failed. So, here, at last, is your DEFINITIVE top 20 home kits (or ‘jerseys’ – we’re all friends here) of the Premier League era. 

Some disclaimers right off the bat. 1) One kit per club, otherwise it just gets messy. 2) ONE KIT PER CLUB. Right. Let’s GOOOO. 


20. Queens Park Rangers – 1995/96

What a place to start. This perfectly summarises everything we’re looking for – invention, class, subtlety, ingenuity etc etc. Some QPR fans consider the preceding cut from 1994/95 to be superior, but that’s just insanity, IMHO. 

Though that edition was pretty similar, the badge was not centralised, and that makes it plainly inferior. But also, just look at that blue.


19. Manchester City – 2000/01

Man City v Arsenal

Undoubtedly, Manchester City’s greatest look came in the years 1997-99 (we’re talking Kappa sleeves and everything). Unfortunately, they were in the second division at that point (tinpot). Thankfully, though, they briefly returned in the 2000/01 season to deliver a true classic, before promptly plummeting back to the depths.

But the kit. Let’s talk about the kit. Gorgeous, isn’t it? Subverting the usual mundanity of that one-tone Sky Blueness, the Citizens plumped for a generous coating of white on the sleeves, alongside a deeper blue to create a flash-in-the-pan masterpiece. In case you’re wondering, no not every single one of these will have centralised logos, but it helps. 


18. Leicester – 2000/01

Leicester v West Ham

Le Coq Sportif sponsor? Check. 

Outrageously large stitched embroidery of Walkers logo? Check.

Robbie Savage’s flowing locks? I mean, they didn’t come with the kit, but check.


17. Fulham – 2009/10

Bobby Zamora

As you’ve seen so far, the legacy of a shirt is not always intrinsically linked with team success, but it is when you look at this Fulham kit from the summation of the first decade of the 21st century. 

It was a time of unbridled prosperity for the Cottagers. A time of Bobby Zamora, Roy Hodgson, Clint Dempsey, Andy Johnson, Dickson Etuhu, Damien Duff and Zoltan Gera. A time of FIFA 10 free-kicks with Danny Murphy. A time of Juventus triumphs and Europa League finals. 

And all that was made even more poignant thanks to their wonderfully woven threads.


16. Everton – 2005/06

Tim Cahill

If I was given a choice of Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio or Tim Cahill to parade down a catwalk in this outfit, be it laid down on Goodison Park or otherwise, it would be Timmy C every day of the week. 

Has one man not named David Ginola ever looked so good in a kit? I doubt it. And that’s as much down to the kit as it is the man himself. An intoxicating combination.


15. Nottingham Forest – 1992/93

Stan Collymore

Yes, we’ll get to the pinstripes, and how impressively Nottingham Forest pulled them off, in a minute. But for now, let’s marvel at this kit in totality. Take the red strip at the bottom of the shorts and the reverse embroidery at the top of the socks. Exceptional. 

But, as alluded to, it is all about the pinstripes. Those darned controversial, alluring pinstripes. Many have tried to incorporate them, many have emerged with thin, orderly lines of egg on their face. But in the 1992/93 season – yes, they were relegated, of course they were – Nottingham Forest executed the design with pure panache. 


14. Aston Villa – 1993-95

ASTON VILLA V NEWCASTLE

Ignore the impending ACL injury that’s about to occur in this photo (I’m sure he was fiiine), and instead immerse yourself in the intricacies of this cracking offer from the Villans. 

I know, the ‘Müller’ logo shouldn’t work with the Claret and Blues’ signature colour palette, especially with one as Claret heavy as this one, but it somehow does, doesn’t it?


13. Southampton – 1993-95

FA PREMIER

Wow. Look at that. Jarring at first, perhaps. But stare deeper. Lose yourself in the abstract stripes that lead nowhere, obeying no rules or regulations. 

Don’t focus on the strangeness of the word ‘Dimplex’ and then say it over and over again in your head till it’s ringing, no, look past the inopportune sponsorship deal of the time, and instead marvel at that walking art exhibition of a shirt. And don’t sleep on the shorts.


12. Coventry City – 1996/97

Coventry City have been through hard, hard times since they graced the footballing world with this Gallic beauty. 

From their ill-advised follow-up to said beauty, where they swapped the gravitas of Peugeot for the boy-racer brashness of Subaru, and shoved a shirt-sized badge in the background, to, you know, plummeting down the Football League, it’s been a difficult 20-odd years. 

Clearly, that’s the price of greatness. It’s Icarus all over again.


11. Crystal Palace – 1997/98

Bruce Dyer

?Crystal Palace went full Bayern Munich here (especially when accompanied with the white shorts, which we couldn’t here, because all of the pictures contained a combined singular pixel), and it was an utter treat. 

Sure, a bit like City’s 2001 effort, it did not portend to on-field success – the Eagles were instantly relegated after their triumphant promotion campaign the year before – but still, talk about going down fighting. Yes, the badge might be a tad oversized, but that oversight becomes overpowered when faced with the cosmopolitan wonders of that TDK logo combined with the adidas stripes, especially those tricolor-like ones on the shorts. Magnifique. 

They may have been relegated to the Championship, but they did it in a Champions League kit.


10. Leeds United – 1995/96

The difficulty in executing a successful homage kit in football cannot be underestimated, which is why this stunning offer kicks off our top 10. 

I won’t lie, Leeds have had some corking kits – from the yellow-striped classic from the two years prior to this one, to the Hypebeastified Strongbow shirt at the turn of the century – but it’s this one that nabs the title. Just look at the badge. Christ. 


9. Tottenham – 1999-01

Tottenham’s best kit, and it wasn’t even close until Nike came to sort it out in 2017. Still, what a glorious kit that is, made even more glorious by the grade A lid David Ginola was sporting throughout his Spurs career.

Also, Holsten is a Hall of Fame sponsor, thank god the club saw the error of their ways when they momentarily swapped it for Hewlett Packard back when their logo was a wordy eye-sore.


8. Sheffield Wednesday – 1992/93

Now, normally you want to isolate the kit in question as much as you can, and there are probably better examples of why this Sheffield Wednesday number is so worthy, but, for my money?, none show this fact more than this one. 

Because just look at that Sheffield United monstrosity. If you were thinking this is all just 90s nostalgia, then think again, because I never want to remember that. Also, as an aside, no this is not a Testimonial, this is an FA Cup semi final and that old bloke is an actual player. 

P.s. if the aforementioned Football Sponsorship Hall of Fame had a sponsor itself, it would be the Sanderson Football Sponsorship Hall of Fame, because, I mean, cooome on. 


7. Liverpool – 1993-96

Some ?Liverpool fans stan for the infamous v-neck of 1995/96, probably because of its presence in that infamous 4-3 comeback against Newcastle, but its thickness around the neck makes me sweat every time I see it.

This one, on the other hand, feels like the perfect balance between comfort and style. Plus, you have the classiness of that green finish at the top of the collar and the end of the sleeves – so festive! – and the biggest adidas stripes you’ve ever seen plastered down each side. Winner.


6. Chelsea – 2001-03

Diego Forlan of Manchester United tussles with Frank Lampard of Chelsea for possession of the ball

No, it may not have the title-winning credentials of 2003-05, or the Autoglass and Gianfranco Zola-ness of 1997-99, but it has everything else. 

From a pre-rounded, pre-completely altered badge, to a collar in the last season you could really get away with one, this is a wonderful conception, and hangs effortlessly on the greatest goalscoring midfielder the ?Premier League has ever seen.


5. Blackburn Rovers – 1994/95

What a timeless, timeless design. Yes, it’s imbued by the fact that Alan Shearer and co won the title in iconic style wearing it, but still, what a shirt. Shoutout to Asics. They may not have made many football kits, but when they did…oof. 

And, if you think it’s hard to go wrong with such a colourway, then take a look at the 20 odd kits the club have made since. Horrendous.


4. West Ham United – 1999-01?

Paolo Di Canio

?A rare FILA citing? Check. 

An even rarer Dr Martens sponsorship citing? Check.

The perfect distribution of colour? Check.

Did Paulo Di Canio look good? CHECK.

Have you ever seen a more West Ham kit in your life? Has a kit ever defined a football club so well? No and no.


3. Manchester United – 1994/95

Of course, there are many, many iconic ?Manchester United shirts, but none match the ingenuity and invention of this one. You can take the simplicity of the Vodafone years at the turn of the century, or the laced up collars of the first years of the Premier League era, but neither of them contain a superimposed image of Old Trafford, do they?

Yes, it may be subtle, and therefore tough to see here, but you can still just about see the outlines. Well before its time, and none of the copycats have been able to match that subtlety since. 


2. Arsenal – 2005/06

William Gallas,Thierry Henry

The thing is, right, it’s really hard to make a novelty kit work. In reality, it should never work, and I understand those Gooners who disparage this shirt because it’s not ‘proper’ Arsenal – there are many great ‘proper’ Arsenal shirts. Many. 

The problem, though, is that none of them are as good as this. None of them. Just look at Thierry Henry – this is as good as it gets. Well, almost. 


1. Newcastle – 1995-97

Alan Shearer,Les Ferdinand

?Ladies and Gentleman, I give you the greatest kit of the Premier League era. In reality, it’s not even that close. 

You do not get more iconic than this, so drink it it in, savour it, study every detail, because you will never see stitching like this again. Never. You could write a 10,000 word thesis on the Newcastle Brown Ale logo alone, and a chunk more on the aesthetics of the retro adidas sign in conjunction with the Magpies’ famed black and white stripes. 

I need a cold shower.

Let’

Mateo Kovacic ‘in Talks’ Over Zenit Switch as Zinedine Zidane Looks to Raise Real Madrid Funds

?Mateo Kovacic is in talks with Zenit Saint Petersburg over a potential summer move from Real Madrid, as Zinedine Zidane looks to raise funds for a summer squad overhaul.

The 24-year-old has spent this season on loan with Chelsea after Real deemed him surplus to requirements, but the Blues have no option to sign him permanently. With their two-window transfer ban approaching, Kovacic’s future seems unclear.

Mateo Kovacic

Given the ?Blues look set to be unable to sign ?Kovacic permanently, the ?Daily Mail claim his representatives have opened talks with Zenit as they look to find the midfielder’s next move.

Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri has recently ?spoken of his desire for the club to try make Kovacic’s loan deal permanent, but their impending transfer ban will throw a spanner in the works.

As it stands, Chelsea will be unable to sign players in the next two transfer windows, although they are hoping to either delay or overturn that punishment after an appeal.

Maurizio Sarri

Even if they are granted this summer’s transfer window to sign players, there remains some uncertainty over whether Kovacic would be signed. Sarri may have expressed his wish, but the Italian is also facing a potential exit from Stamford Bridge after struggling to win over a large part of the fan base.

Zidane is eager to sell Kovacic this summer as he sees no long-term future for the Croatia international at ?Real. He is keen to raise funds to sign the likes of ?Eden Hazard and ?Paul Pogba, and sees Kovacic as an easy way of generating some extra money.

FBL-EUR-C3-SLAVIA PRAGUE-CHELSEA

But, with Chelsea potentially unable to complete the deal, Zenit have now expressed their interest in Kovacic, and are in the process of negotiating a deal with the midfielder’s agents.

He has made 43 appearances for the Blues this season, often rotating with ?Ross Barkley for one of Sarri’s three midfield spots. However, the emergence of ?Ruben Loftus-Cheek has left many fans calling for Kovacic to leave the club, and they may soon get their wish.

Let’