MIXED NIGHT FOR INTERNATIONAL BLUES

It was another busy night of international action for Chelsea’s players, but England will have to wait after their game was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch.

The World Cup qualifying game in Poland was a victim of the weather, with the game put back until Wednesday afternoon. Ashley Cole and Gary Cahill will be able to take the field from 4pm UK time in Warsaw.

Two second-half goals were enough for Belgium to see of Scotland in Brussels, with three Chelsea men featuring for the home side. Goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois and winger Kevin De Bruyne, both away on loan at Atletico Madrid and Werder Bremen respectively, each played all 90 minutes, while Eden Hazard was a half-time substitute for Tottenham’s Moussa Dembele. Both goals came following De Bruyne corners.

In the same group, Branislav Ivanovic was only named as a substitute in Serbia’s 1-0 defeat in Macedonia, the defender coming on with 22 minutes to go, just 10 minutes after his side had fallen behind to a penalty, which also saw them reduced to 10 men.

Belgium sit atop the group with 10 points from their four games, while Serbia trail with just four. Croatia also have 10 points.

In Group B, Petr Cech kept a clean sheet for his Czech Republic side, but will be frustrated they were unable to break the deadlock against Bulgaria in Prague. The draw leaves the Czechs third in the group but with a game in hand on the Bulgarians and Italy ahead of them.

Substitute Fernando Torres could not help Spain past France in Madrid, as the visitors stole an injury-time equaliser through Arsenal’s Olivier Giroud. The Chelsea forward was introduced with 15 minutes remaining. Spain remain at the top of their group with seven points from three games.

In a friendly played at lunchtime in Poland, David Luiz, Oscar and Ramires were all starters for Brazil as they demolished Japan 4-0.

In the Under-21 category, there were vital away wins for England and Spain as both progressed to next summer’s European Championship Finals in Israel.

Josh McEachran was an unused sub as England won 1-0 in Serbia (2-0 on aggregate), while Oriol Romeu played the first half for the Spanish in Denmark, where they won 3-1 to complete an 8-1 aggregate victory.

GULLIT: STARTING TO BUILD

As a man who represented the Blues in the 1990s, both as a player and manager, Ruud Gullit, who recently popped into Cobham to catch up with his friend Roberto Di Matteo, believes the best is yet to come from the current table-toppers.

Signed from Serie A in 1995, the Dutchman enjoyed a successful stint as a Chelsea player before being handed the managerial reins when Glenn Hoddle departed to take charge of England.

Gullit landed the club’s first major trophy for 26 years when we won the FA Cup in 1997, and the man who was responsible for luring Di Matteo to the club from Lazio believes the Italian has done a tremendous job thus far.

Ruud Gullit celebrates a goal with Roberto Di Matteo

‘I’ve been very impressed,’ Gullit tells the official Chelsea website. ‘Robbie [Di Matteo] wanted to change a few things because when you take over halfway through a season it’s not easy.

‘He started with the fundamentals, the defence, and he won a lot with that. He’s now starting to build something offensively, but we haven’t seen the best of Chelsea yet, that still has to come, but I’m very pleased with the way the team has progressed.

‘Sometimes you need luck; he was here as an assistant so all of a sudden he was in charge, but that’s not easy and I think he handled it very well.’

There is no escaping the fact that there has been a significant transition in the brand of football currently on display, particularly when compared with recent years.

That, of course, has been aided by the acquisition of players such as Oscar and Eden Hazard who, along with the in-form Juan Mata, have played a pivotal role in our unbeaten start to the league campaign.

Gullit was responsible for the coining of the term ‘sexy football’ during his time as a pundit at Euro ’96, a phrase which stuck when he was in charge at Stamford Bridge due to his implementation of a free-flowing, expansive game, and he admits there are similarities in what Di Matteo is trying to do.

‘He’s bringing good football back, he knows how to do that,’ explains the former World Player of the Year. ‘In those days he was at Chelsea, along with Eddie Newton, so the club are in good hands.

‘It’s more the mentality of the team, we have more players who can keep hold of the ball better now, and if you have the ball you can score goals.’

The Champions League triumph at the end of last season was a night that nobody connected with the club will ever forget.

Gullit was present in Munich for that never-to-be-forgotten final, and took great satisfaction from seeing his good friend achieve what so many managers had tried – and failed – to do in previous years.

‘I was there all the way through,’ he explains. ‘We were a little bit lucky but sometimes you deserve luck. Everybody thought that it was the end of their time at Chelsea for a lot of the players.

‘I just felt it was destiny, I said it throughout all of the games, and also on television, and that’s how it turned out. In the end I had to laugh, because whatever the opposition were trying to do they couldn’t score.

‘For me, it was just a great feeling that Chelsea won the competition because they had wanted it for so long and then finally got it at a moment when you least expected it, and that’s the best feeling, it’s like scoring a goal in the last minute of a game.’

Ruud Gullit with Didier Drogba

Next up for the Blues is a trip to White Hart Lane and a reunion with former manager Andre Villas-Boas, whose Tottenham Hotspur side are currently in a rich vein of form.

Asier Del Horno and Damien Duff were our goalscorers the last time we emerged from N17 with all three points, back in 2005, but Gullit sees Tottenham’s impressive run of late as a source of encouragement.

‘In my days it was common for Chelsea to win at Spurs, but that’s football, things change,’ he says.

‘Of course, Robbie wants to win and put things right, so therefore it’s an extra motivation for the players. It’s going to be tough, they are a good team as well and I’m looking forward to the game.

‘Tottenham are a team full of confidence and that means they will look to attack, if they do that there will be more room in behind their defence to take advantage of.’

While it’s certainly been a solid start to the season for the Blues, between now and next May there will be plenty of difficult tests to overcome.

It’s abundantly clear that there is more than enough quality within the squad to ensure another successful season for the club, but, as Gullit admits, only time will tell.

‘We don’t know yet, it’s only the beginning of the season and there are still some things to work on,’ he says.

‘Defensively, we’ve conceded a few goals but in terms of possession, we’ve had more than ever, which is a good thing.’

Ruud Gullit can be viewed talking to Chelsea TV via the channel’s online access.

CHELSEA TV HEADLINES: BACK FROM AFRICA

The Blues News cameras were as ever at Cobham today to capture the return to training of John Mikel Obi and Victor Moses following their international success.

The bulletin can be viewed here and Moses will be talking to the channel tonight in Blues News at 6.30pm and 10pm.

PAT NEVIN: LOCAL COUNSELLING

Forget the international matches, we all know the big story of the week will come on Saturday when the Blues take on London rivals and a former boss. Pat Nevin begins the countdown in this week’s column…

There is more than a little excitement over the up-and-coming game against Spurs. Of course there always is a buzz, but this time it has a little more spice than usual. Personally I am not sure how the Chelsea fans will react to Andre Villas-Boas sitting on the opposition bench and even when he appears it will be tricky to gauge what the reaction really means.

First and foremost there aren’t too many who go directly from Chelsea to Spurs and get a positive reception from the Stamford Bridge faithful. They are after all one of our greatest rivals. I well remember Gordon Durie (pictured below), my old team mate for the Blues and Scotland, facing his former team wearing lilywhites; you couldn’t say it was exactly the most well-received reacquaintance, not unless you are the type of person who sees Judas Iscariot as the good guy in the Bible stories. Gordon is a friend and as such I felt sorry for him, but I understood the anger.

Lots of Chelsea fans I know have never forgiven him, so it appears that it can be a rather painful switch for supporters to swallow. The thing is that it was considered old ‘Jukebox’ himself had made the move of his own volition; the same cannot be said of AVB who didn’t jump ship as much as he was asked politely to walk the plank. So maybe he will not get just as negative a reception.

Durie

AVB’s time wasn’t hugely successful but few would argue that he didn’t try his best under the circumstances, which let’s be honest weren’t particularly easy. In that he got a very quick opportunity to get back into the Premier League with a top-half side, it really is asking a lot of him to turn it down because the rapport between the fans at the Bridge and the Lane isn’t exactly cordial all the time. I personally hope it isn’t too poisonous towards the man, but of course everyone has the right to react how they feel.

To be fair I would be more concerned by one or two of their players, actually one of their players, specifically Gareth Bale. The Welshman is an extraordinary talent when he is on form. Remember the night he had on the left wing in Milan against Maicon? I suspect the Brazilian still attends counselling sessions following that nightmare. Well Bale had another very similar performance for Wales against Scotland on Friday night. On this occasion he played on the right-hand side but it appeared to have little or no impact on his effectiveness. Make no bones about this one; a fit Bale will present a clear and present danger to Chelsea if he is given any free space to run into.

As I mused about it the other day, I wondered about who I would like to see marking him, Ashley Cole or Branislav Ivanovic? Both would be interesting battles, but maybe the man we should really look to is Roberto Di Matteo, he has to organise a structure to stop him getting the right service. Happily Robbie has done this before to great effect, but it is a different Chelsea this season, one that pushes forward and leaves the odd gap behind. If the ball is put in the right area then there is probably only one man who could stop Bale, sadly Usain Bolt isn’t signed up on Chelsea’s books at the moment.

Now this may all seem a bit negative and over concerned about the opposition, but it is the key ground for the battle as far as I am concerned. AVB will do everything he can to get the best out of his star and Robbie will be trying to combat it. The easiest way is of course to keep possession and not allow Spurs players enough time on the ball to pick out the right pass. I suspect that may well be the master plan, either that or play one in front and one behind Bale to starve his supply. The problem is that this can detract from our game plan. No, I reckon that it might be worthwhile trusting our myriad of stars to cause them more trouble than even Bale can cause us.

Like the Arsenal match before, lots of people will now suggest that this is among the biggest tests the new Chelsea will face this season. I just feel that the tactics against Arsenal were spot on, the attitude from every player superb and as such there is nothing to fear from doing roughly the same thing again. Those fine tactics from our boss were sadly overlooked by many a pundit and scribe at the Emirates, mainly because so many other stories were vying for attention.

This week up at White Hart Lane may well prove just as stern a test tactically, after all last season the two league games produced two draws and only two goals in total. I just get the feeling that this season the encounters in the league will produce more goals, in fact I wouldn’t be surprised that by 3pm on Saturday afternoon we might already have surpassed last year’s total for both games.

There is one other rather positive bonus for Chelsea of course; I think I can vaguely remember there was a cup game as well between the sides near the end of the season. It is a fairly faint memory, but didn’t we win that one 5-1 or something? I think some of their lads were looking for Maicon’s counsellors’ number after that day at Wembley, wouldn’t it be nice to have a similar score this time.

Last week’s question was; could you tell me the name of any player who has played and scored for the first teams of both Chelsea and Newcastle United? Well there were plenty to choose from and huge numbers of you got it right.

Among the names you could have chosen were; Hughie Gallacher, Pop Robson, Laurent Charvet, Damien Duff, Scott Parker, Celestine Babayaro, Joe Allon, Gavin Peacock, Geremi, Roy Bentley, Angus Douglas, Sam Weaver and Mick Harford.

The lucky winner however, chosen at random, was Robert Hines from the USA. The prize will be shipped off before you can say, what was the score in the FA Cup semi-final last season?

On to this week’s quiz, the prize will be a DVD of the victorious Champions League campaign, signed by Juan Mata. To stand a chance of being the lucky winner could you tell me the name of a player who has played for Spurs, Chelsea and Arsenal? Here is a clue, it is not a long list!

Answers as ever to me at pat.nevin@chelseafc.com and as ever good luck.

INTERNATIONALS: UNDER-21 SUCCESS FOR BRUMA

Jeffrey Bruma was part of the Netherlands Under-21 side that on Monday evening duly completed their progression to the European Championship Finals.

The young Dutch side were already 2-0 up after the away leg of a play-off against Slovakia and they repeated that result in the home match, both goals coming in the second half.

The Finals will take place in June in Israel and it is the first time the Netherlands have qualified since 2007 when they were winners for a second year running.

Twenty-year-old defender Bruma is currently on loan at Hamburg where he has played four games in the Bundesliga this season.

Tomorrow (Tuesday), Josh McEachran and England Under-21s, plus Oriol Romeu and Spain Under-21s will be attempting to join the Dutch in the Finals. Both sides lead after their first legs.