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.
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 email@example.com and as ever good luck.