Alan Shearer has told BBC Sport that he believes Chelsea remain the team to beat this season. The reigning Premier League champions haven’t done much in the transfer window yet, but the ex-Blackburn and Newcastle striker believes they’ll still have too much for every other club in the league as the season progresses.
Shearer said, “Chelsea won at a canter last season, certainly from February on, but it will be tighter”. The Premier League all time top scorer, who netted 260 goals during his time in the top flight, feels that Manchester City and Manchester United are the teams likely to push Chelsea the furthest in the chase for the Premier League crown. He said, “I still think there’s work to be done for United. I don’t think there’s a lot between City and United, they’ll be pushing Chelsea all the way. I still think they might lack just one or two players”.
With Manchester City having added Raheem Sterling and Fabian Delph to their ranks already and rumours abound that they’re looking to add both Paul Pogba and Kevin De Bruyne, there’s no question that the Manchester club will bounce back after a poor season last year. Their city rivals, meanwhile, have brought in a new goalkeeper in Romero and have significantly strengthened their midfield, with both Morgan Schneiderlin and Bastian Schweinsteiger coming in. Despite the addition of Memphis Depay, it is widely accepted that United still need to bring in another attacker or two and would benefit from better defensive options.
Arsenal have also been reasonably quiet in the transfer market, with only Petr Cech making his way to The Emirates so far. Links to Alexandre Lacazette and Karim Benzema have so proven to be fruitless, but there’s still plenty of time left in the transfer window for Arsene Wenger to make his move.
Chelsea have only made two additions of any note, both of whom are more likely to be second choice options than out and out first XI players. Asmir Begovic has arrived from Stoke in order to offer some cover for Thibaut Cortois, and Radamel Falcao has come in to replace Diego Costa should he get injured or fatigued as the season goes on.
Regardless of the limited additions, however, Shearer still feels that Chelsea will be good enough to defend their crown, declaring that they remain “the team to beat” this season. The former England front man feels that the top four is likely to remain the same but “not necessarily in that order”, saying that, even though Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur have improved their squads this summer, they are unlikely to have enough to break into the cabal at the top of the table.
Rafa Benitez and Jose Mourinho have been on less than cordial terms ever since the former took over at Liverpool and the latter was in his first spell of managing Chelsea, and it seems the two have re-ignited their long standing feud in recent days.
Despite not managing in the same league as each other, the two can’t resist swapping broadsides, with Rafael Benitez’s wife Montserrat Seara saying earlier this week, “Real Madrid are the third of Jose Mourinho’s old teams Rafa has coached. We tidy up his messes. If you think about it, of course you end up crossing paths. There are only a few world-class clubs out there”.
Even though the jest from Rafa’s wife seemed to be in good humour, Mourinho couldn’t help but respond, saying, “The lady is a bit confused. Her husband went to Chelsea to replace Roberto Di Matteo and he went to Real Madrid and replaced Carlo Ancelotti. The only club where her husband replaced me was at Inter Milan, where in six months he destroyed the best team in Europe at the time”.
Had he left it there many would have chuckled at the pair’s renewed rivalry, but instead Mourinho went one step further and made a comment that many feel is misjudged at best, misogynistic at worst. He said, “if Benitez’s wife, focused on taking care of her husband’s diet then she will not have any time to talk about me”. Quite why Mourinho felt the need to make it so personal remains to be seen.
Rafa Benitez once said of his Portuguese rival, “Me and Jose were really good friends until Liverpool started beating Chelsea. Since then, he’s changed his mind”. Whilst Mourinho remains convinced that he’s the better manager, saying, “”I expected at least a thank you for the success I gave him at Inter. Ask the fans what they think of us”.
Whatever the reasons behind the renewed rivalry of the two managers, expect sparks to fly should Chelsea draw Real Madrid at any stage of this season’s competition.
After a long summer of waiting, Chelsea are finally back in competitive action on Sunday, as they face Arsenal at Wembley. The champions take on the FA Cup winners in the traditional opener to the season, but recent events have raised the temperature ahead of the game.
Petr Cech’s move to Arsenal in the summer was bad enough for the Stamford Bridge faithful to take, but even worse after they realised that he’d be making his debut against them. It’s hard to know how the fans will react, but you have to question the club’s thinking about strengthening a major rival.
Cech’s move does make Arsene Wenger’s side a real title threat now. They’ve plugged their major weakness from the last few years, and added a player who has experience of winning things at the highest level. Can he inspire them to a win on Sunday? Jose Mourinho will certainly be hoping he won’t.
On top of that, the recent war of words between Mourinho and Wenger has heightened the intense build up. The Portuguese has been taking shots at the Frenchman and Rafa Benitez like he’s rereleasing some greatest hits. He openly criticised Wenger’s spending in recent years and what it’s returned them, which does feel a tad hypocritical coming from a man who has spent big since first coming to Stamford Bridge in 2004.
It’s quite likely that he’s fully aware of that. Someone as smart as Jose doesn’t just forget how much their squad cost. His plan was probably to take up headlines, to avoid talking about how his team have struggled in preseason, and the lack of signings that have arrived this summer. Taking the pressure of his team is something the manager does very well, and it worked again this time.
Hopefully, that helps them go on to beat the Gunners on Sunday. Mourinho has an unbeaten record against Wenger, and he’ll be looking to keep that up. While he may not have the Community Shield down as a priority, we’ve rarely seen Jose turn his nose down at a trophy. He counted his 2005 shield win over Arsenal when he spoke about his medals from his first spell, so he does take it seriously.
Because of that, we expect a full strength team on Sunday, which will pretty much be the 11 that started most of last season. Don’t expect any new recruits to start, they should kick off the season on the bench. While there may not be any new names there, it’s still the side who won the league last season with room to spare, now armed with a little more experience.
We think that team will have enough to overcome Arsenal once more, kicking off the season with a victory and another trophy. While it hopefully won’t be a season highlight, a win here would be a great marker to set for the coming campaign.
Former Chelsea striker Didier Drogba has joined the Major League Soccer side Montreal Impact on an 18 month deal. Chicago Fire had initially acquired Drogba’s rights after they filed a discovery on the player. But the possibility of playing for the French speaking Canadian club in Montreal proved too much for the Ivory Coast striker.
37 year old Drobga has played for Chelsea 381 times across two spells at the West London club. His trophy haul includes four Premier League titles, three League Cups, four FA Cups and two Community Shields. He also hit the winning penalty with his last kick of the ball during his first spell at Chelsea when the Blues won the Champion’s League in 2012.
Didier Drogba is also the Ivory Coast’s all time top goal scorer, having netted 65 times in 105 international appearances. This, along with his goal scoring exploits at Chelsea when he scored 164 goals over nine seasons, caused the Montreal Impact President Joey Saputo to express his delight at Drogba’s signing. Saputo said, “[This is] one of the biggest days in [the] club[‘s] history. It’s an honour to welcome Didier Drogba to the Impact. From the first conversation I had with him, I felt that he really wanted to play in Montreal. His arrival will be beneficial in every aspect”.
The Montreal Vice President, Nick De Santis, said, “He’s had an impact on millions of people since the start of his career and he will continue to do so wearing the Impact colours. A player of his magnitude can only help grow our club. He’s been a leader, a winner and a champion throughout his career”.
Drogba joins former West Ham and Aston Villa player Nigel Reo-Coker at the Saputo Stadium, and his journey to the MLS will see him cross paths with another Chelsea legend in Frank Lampard. The former Chelsea midfielder now plies his trade with New York City FC. Major League Soccer has seen an influx of former Premier League players in recent times, with Liverpool’s former captain Steven Gerrard being one of the most high profile of those when he left the Merseyside club in order to join LA Galaxy this summer.
Drogba has his work cut out if he aims to help Montreal Impact to the same kind of success he has enjoyed at Chelsea and Galatasaray. Impact, who have been members of the MLS since 2012, finished bottom of the league last season. They are currently sixth in the Eastern Conference, one place above Frank Lampard’s New York City FC.
Former Chelsea striker Hernan Crespo has expressed his doubts over the club’s loan signing of the Columbian striker Radamel Falcao. Falcao was rated as one of the best strikers in the world until a cruciate ligament injury threatened his career.
Having scored an incredible 62 goals in 72 games for FC Porto and netting 68 times in 86 appearances for Atletico Madrid, Falcao earned himself a £50 million move to Monaco in 2013. The injury meant he missed out on the World Cup in Brazil in 2014 and Crespo believes he’ll never be the same player again.
Crespo told BBC World Football, “There is a big difference between Falcao before and after his injury. Before the injury, he was the best of the ‘human players’ – all players apart from Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, who are on another level”. His strike rate at Porto and Atletico Madrid would certainly back up Crespo’s assertion.
Yet the 40 year old feels he could yet force his way into Jose Mourinho’s thoughts in the coming season, saying, “After such an injury, you need time and it’s not easy to recover. It won’t be easy for him. Jose doesn’t give presents away. All [he] has to do is to believe in himself and be the great player he is. That will be enough to convince Mourinho to give him a chance”.
Crespo, who was named by Pele in a list of the 100 greatest living players, is now the manager of Serie B side Modena. He believes that Falcao could improve on his performances at Manchester United last season, when the Columbian disappointed. Falcao found the net just 4 times in 29 appearances for United, leading Louis Van Gaal to decide not to exercise his right to buy his player at the end of his season long loan.
But Crespo said, “He was probably not the kind of player Van Gaal was looking for. You have to take your chances if you want to play regularly. We will see what happens at Chelsea”.
Crespo is Argentina’s third highest goal scorer, having put the ball in the ball in the back of the net 35 times for his country. He is behind only Gabriel Batistuta and Lionel Messi in the list of his country’s leading goal scorers. He scored over 300 goals in a career that spanned 19 years, meaning he can speak with some authority on the ability of a striker to retain the spark necessary to stay at the top of his game.
Crespo also has something else in common with Falcao, as he also was brought in as a back up to Chelsea’s main striker during his second spell at the club. Falcao knows his chances of regular football with the Blues will be limited given that he has been brought in as support for the injury prone Diego Costa.
Crespo played for Chelsea 31 times in his first spell at the club, scoring 12 goals, before being loaned out of the club when Jose Mourinho took over as manager in 2004. They failed to land a big name striker in the summer of 2005, though, so Mourinho recalled Crespo from his loan at Milan in order to have some competition for Didier Drogba. He scored 13 goals in his second spell at Chelsea, helping the club to secure the 2005-2006 Premier League title.
Falcao made his debut for Chelsea in a friendly against Paris St. Germain at the weekend, replacing Diego Costa after 69 minutes. The game finished 1-1 before going to penalties, with Falcao converting the first spot kick. Though it’s only a penalty in a friendly, the Columbian striker will be delighted to be off the mark as he attempts to prove he is far from finished in the game.
After a long summer break, the new Premier League season is almost ready to kick off. The big question on Chelsea fans’ minds is how do they follow up from such a great season? We predicted Premier League and League Cup success last year, and now we’re sticking our neck on the line again, as we take a look at what the next nine months has in store for the Blues.
This year the campaign kicks off in style, with a trip to Wembley to meet neighbours Arsenal. The traditional curtain raiser between the league and cup winners doesn’t always mean as much as suggested. The media build this game up, but Arsenal’s 3-0 win over City last year didn’t really affect the outcome of the league. City finished second, the Gunners ended up well off the pace in the battle for the title.
Despite that, there’s no doubting Chelsea will be taking this game seriously. There’s still a trophy on the line, and Jose Mourinho has an unbeaten record against Arsene Wenger to protect. The Blues manager has won this trophy once, and lost in 2006 and 2007. We think he’ll be lifting the Shield at Wembley though, giving his side the perfect start to the year.
LCN Community Shield Verdict: Winners
The League Cup became the first trophy of Mourinho’s second spell back in March, when he lifted the trophy for the third time. Heading into this campaign, it’s tough to see the Blues going all the way here again. You get the feeling the victory last season will see their priorities shift, with other titles taking the focus off the League Cup.
In his first spell, Mourinho’s two League Cups were separated by a season where they didn’t really feature in the competition, and it’s easy to see that being the case here again. He’ll likely give more squad players a chance in the cup games early on, preferring to concentrate on the Champions League, and later on, the FA Cup and Premier League.
LCN League Cup Verdict: 5th round
Mourinho’s love of English football extends to its oldest competition, the FA Cup. The Portuguese has won the famous trophy just once, back in 2007. Exits to Newcastle United and Liverpool prevented a league and cup double in 2005 and 2006, while last year the Blues were dumped out by Bradford in one of the biggest cup shocks in history.
That defeat clearly affected Mourinho, as he rung the changes after that game, and even cleared out some of the squad players who underperformed that day. The mess that the defence became without John Terry could be the driving factor behind the pursuit of John Stones. The captain didn’t miss a game after that, showing just how crucial he is to the team.
Mourinho will probably feel like he has demons to exorcise after the Bradford defeat, and we see him putting a lot of focus on this trophy. Expect to see stronger sides picked for the cup, as he tries to avoid a repeat of last year’s early exit. Adding the FA Cup to the cabinet would be a great achievement, especially if it’s done alongside the league title. We expect the Blues to taste success in this competition once more, ending the dominance that Arsenal have had in the last few seasons.
LCN FA Cup Verdict: Winners
Even with that Bradford defeat, the Champions League had to be Chelsea’s biggest failing last season. They looked far from their best in the group, and then were put out by PSG despite dominating that tie. The Blues failed to defend a lead, plus an away goal against a 10 man side, with their lack of ruthlessness costing them dearly. That exit showed that they still have some way to go at the highest level.
Winning back the European Cup will be Mourinho’s ultimate aim. After winning it with two clubs, he’ll want his third to come at Stamford Bridge. It was the only cup missing in his first spell, and he’s surely looking to make up for that. It may be the young nature of the squad, or the abundance of flair players in midfield, but the Blues just don’t have that lethal quality to kill teams off in ties. Until they can do that, they won’t be serious contenders for the biggest prize in club football.
LCN Champions League Verdict: Semi-finals
The Champions come into the season as favourites with bookmakers and pundits alike. After dominating the league last term, they are going to be in the picture to win it again this year. Given how the other top four sides have strengthened significantly since the end of last season, can the Blues hold them off and retain the trophy?
This season is promising to be one of the greatest battles for the Premier League title in years. Arsenal and the two Manchester clubs have all spent money, adding more quality to their squads. The signing of Petr Cech plugged a key weakness for Arsenal, while United have added a lot of talent to their midfield, as Louis van Gaal continues to rebuild the Red Devils. Manchester City made their intentions clear, signing Raheem Sterling from Liverpool for a £49million fee.
As far as the bookies are concerned, all three of those sides can challenge Chelsea for the title. The Blues’ limited business means the chasing pack will fancy their chances, but even without spending big this summer (though there is still time for that), Mourinho still has the strongest squad in the league at his disposal. He’s added depth with Asmir Begovic and Falcao, while returning loan players can fill out the squad if needed.
The other key thing to remember is that Chelsea won the title through consistency. The challengers all faltered at some point, while the Blues kept steady and sealed the title. The new signings by the other clubs don’t look to have fixed that problem just yet, while Chelsea have done little to affect the balance of their side. It will certainly be closer than last time around, but we confidently predict that the title will be staying at Stamford Bridge for at least another year.
Andrei Shevchenko. Fernando Torres. Radamel Falcao? Chelsea fans probably saw the club heading down a well-worn path last week when they announced the capture of the Colombian forward, a once fearsome, now injury hit big-name striker. Many are expecting him to join the ranks of Torres and Sheva, two famous examples of clinical strikers turned Blues duds.
There are a few differences this time around, most notably the lack of fanfare. Falcao has joined with a mixture of grumbling and faint hope, but for years reports of him making a move to Stamford Bridge piqued the interest of most fans. A year ago the former Atletico man joined Manchester United on loan on deadline day, prompting excited chatter that he’d fire them to the title.
The Red Devils spent over £20million in loan fees and wages on Falcao, and in return they got 16 shots on target in the Premier League. Obviously, that underperformance means there’s little reaction matching other big name signings of recent years. Instead, many see the forward as finished, suggesting this is Jose Mourinho’s ego gone out of control. But, should we really just accept that Falcao will be a disaster? Here is why it’s too early to be writing him off.
It’s impossible to argue that Falcao was a disappointment for United last season, scoring just four times in the league. When you’re paying a forward upwards of £200,000 per week, you’d expect a much higher return than that. He did head to Manchester with baggage, after injuring himself in 2014 with Monaco. He missed the World Cup last summer, and he never really looked at full fitness last term.
Given that he missed a large part of preseason last summer, that’s hardly surprising. Many experts say it can take a year to return to your best after recovering from an ACL injury, Falcao wouldn’t have been back near his best until the tail end of the season, having already played for months. Now, with a good break and a preseason to get himself ready, he should be in perfect shape for another crack at the Premier League.
The league is one that many foreign stars take a while to adapt to, given the huge culture change. It didn’t help that the Colombian moved to Manchester not really knowing anyone there, dumped into a United side in the middle of a transition. He came through that year, and now his season at Chelsea should be a lot easier. He has compatriot Juan Cuadrado, plus former Atletico teammates Thibaut Courtois, Diego Costa and Filipe Luis.
Those four should make his move to London a lot easier, and he’ll have a more familiar feel to life than he did at Old Trafford. Monaco’s Vice President accused Louis van Gaal of not giving Falcao enough encouragement, that shouldn’t be a problem here. With Mourinho and his former teammates in his corner, hopefully the Colombian can reproduce the performances that earnt his reputation.
When asked about signing the striker, Mourinho told South American TV, “If I can help Falcao reach his level again, I will do it. It hurts me that people in England think that the real Falcao is the one we saw at Manchester United.”
He’s got a point. While no one can deny he struggled last season, his track record at Porto, Atletico and Monaco is incredible. During his spell with those three, his record was 104 goals in 139 league appearances. He played 42 times in Europe for those three, scoring 38 times, which shows his impact at the highest level. That is the player Mourinho sees, and that’s the one he believes he’s just signed.
It’s a much needed signing, too. No matter what you think about Falcao, there’s no denying that the Blues were a forward short before he joined. This time, unlike the Shevchenko and Torres deals, the issue was more quantity than quality. In Diego Costa, Mourinho already has a world class forward, and Loic Remy is a capable replacement. Didier Drogba rounded out a solid front three last season, stepping in when Costa had his injury problems.
Costa established himself as top dog last season, and Mourinho isn’t the type to reward that by dropping him to the bench. Any striker who comes in has to accept that they’re second choice, and that they’re basically a replacement for Drogba. While he’s a legend at the club, the Ivorian only scored four times in 28 league games last year. That’s a record that Falcao is capable of beating.
Of course, he’ll need to do more than beat that record to prove to be value for money. The good news is, Chelsea won’t be wasting quite as much money as United. They were out a fortune after loan fees, wages and bonuses, with the Colombian on a rumoured £285,000 a week. Reports say that he’s taken a 50% pay cut to come to Chelsea. While £140,000 per week isn’t anything to be sniffed at, that’s a huge drop for the player to take while still in his prime, at least in age terms.
Of course there are still problems here, many point out that the club could be in trouble if Costa’s injury problems rare up again. But, that’s the case no matter who comes in. Replacing what the Spaniard can do up front is almost impossible. All Mourinho can really do is hope Costa stays fit, while having a decent back up or two for the likely suspensions and extra exertions of the cups.
It is hard to view this as anything other than a one year spell. Mourinho would have to work miracles with Falcao to justify triggering his £35million buy-out clause next summer. But, just because this deal will expire doesn’t make it a bad one. Signing a player who has a world class record as back up on reduced wages could easily be a masterstroke. While it could all go horribly wrong, this is the kind of test that Mourinho will relish – and who are we to doubt The Special One?
Asmir Begovic becomes Chelsea’s second major signing of the summer. The Stoke ‘keeper has joined the Blues on a four year deal, following in the footsteps of Radamel Falcao who signed a year long loan deal at the start of the month.
Mark Hughes and Stoke City had hoped to keep hold of the Bosnia-Hercegovina international, who had one year left on his contract at The Britannia Stadium. However the lure of the Premier League champion’s was too much for Begovic, who goes to Stamford Bridge in full knowledge of the fact that he will be Chelsea’s second choice stopper.
Begovic said, “I have loved my time at Stoke but feel I had to take this opportunity to continue to develop and challenge myself as a player. I am very happy to be joining Chelsea. After speaking at length to the manager, I feel like I can develop here and be an important part of this team. I am looking forward to meeting up with the team on Wednesday for the pre-season tour”.
Begovic will take the number 1 shirt that was vacated when Petr Cech left the club to join their North London rivals Arsenal. Stoke, meanwhile, have signed Shay Given to replace him as their experienced number 1, with Jack Butland likely to take over between the sticks at the Potteries.
Although it is considered to be a separate deal to the one that took Begovic to Stamford Bridge, Marco van Ginkel has headed to The Britannia on a season long loan and the deal almost certainly helped to smooth the gears for the goalkeeper’s transfer.
The 22 year old Dutchman got a knee injury not long after signing for Chelsea from Vitesse Arnhem that severely limited his chances at Stamford Bridge. He spent last season on loan at Milan in order to improve his fitness, making 18 appearances for the Rossoneri.
Stoke have paid a £1 million loan fee to sign the midfielder, but the way Chelsea structure their deals means that that amount will lessen with each appearance that the youngster makes for the Potters next season.
The fee for Begovic is rumoured to be around the £8 million mark, and Jose Mourinho will be pleased to bring in such an experienced and talented goalkeeper to act as a back up to his first choice stopper Thibaut Courtois.
Mourinho is known to give his second string a fair crack of the whip during League Cup games and matches that are of less importance to Chelsea’s overall season – such as dead rubber Champion’s League games – so, though he is unlikely to be the Blues’ number 1 ‘keeper unless Courtois gets injured, Begovic can be confident of making a number of appearances for the Stamford Bridge club.
Brentford FC are set to sign a 22 year old midfielder from Chelsea for around £750,000. Josh McEachran made his debut for the Blues in 2010 when he played in a Champion’s League game against MŠK Žilina, coming on as a substitute. He made history by becoming the first player to be born after the competition started in its rebranded format to take part in it.
Having joined Chelsea’s youth academy as a 7 year old, McEachran signed a 5 year contract worth around £2 million a season on July 15th 2011. It was hoped he’d go on to become one of the club’s best homegrown talents. His opportunities have been limited over the last few years, however, with loans to Swansea City, Middlesbrough, Watford, Wigan Athletic and Vitesse helping him gain experience in recent times.
McEachran made 22 appearances for Chelsea, with his final one being a brief 6 minute spell in a game against Wolves when Andre Villas-Boas was manager. He made 21 appearances at Vitesse last season and their manager Peter Bosz was keen to take him on loan again this time around, but Chelsea’s decision to sell him has removed that option.
Brentford, who finished 5th in the Championship last season, are keen to build on their good league campaign last time around. Marinus Dijkhuizen, who took over as head coach after Mark Warburton’s departure, has offered McEachran a four year contract. He will become the club’s fifth signing, and the deal is expected to be announced later this week.
Italian Club Fiorentina are considering taking legal action against Mohammed Salah after it emerged that the Chelsea winger is refusing to return to the club for a second spell on loan.
Fiorentina signed the Blues wide man on loan in January as part of the deal that saw Juan Cuadrado head to Stamford Bridge for £23.3 million. The loan was originally supposed to run up until 30 June, but the Italian club declared in January that they had the option to extend the loan deal into the 2015-2016 season, plus they had an option to buy the Egyptian if they felt he did well for them.
The problem is that the winger has decided he wants to join another club and has refused to attend pre-season training, as well as rejecting an improved contract offer from the Serie A team.
Salah came to Chelsea from Basel in January of 2014 in an £11 million move. He signed a five and a half year deal, having scored 5 goals in 29 appearances for the Swiss club. At Chelsea he wasn’t able to make quite the same impression, starting just 9 times and netting twice. He was able to get close to replicating his Basel form for the Viola, though, getting 9 goals in 26 appearances during his time in Italy.
Salah’s refusal to head back to Serie A has caused major consternation at Fiorentina, with the club releasing a statement confirming that the matter is now in the hands of their lawyers. How this one pans out remains to be seen, but whatever happens it is unlikely that the winger will still be at Stamford Bridge come the end of the season.