Troubled Chelsea Can Confound Critics and Conquer Napoli

Chelsea step into the lions den when they play SSC Napoli in the Stadio San Paolo on Tuesday night.

Waiting to pounce will be a formidable front three of Edinson Cavani, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Marek Hamsik roared on by 60,000 Neapolitans with the press pack waiting to pick over the bones of Andre Villas-Boas’ should the home side take a significant advantage from the first leg of this last 16 round of the Champions League.

The pressure has increased on the Chelsea boss not only due to a series of insipid displays against the likes of Birmingham City and Everton but also as a result of Arsenal’s 4-0 mauling by Italian opponents, AC Milan, in the same competition last week. With talk of the demise of the Premier League being whispered around the footballing landscape, neutrals are expecting defeat for the Blues and even loyal supporters are approaching the tie with trepidation.

Yet Chelsea have extensive experience at this level – substantially more than Napoli for whom this season is their first amongst Europe’s elite since the days of Diego Maradona – and perhaps this extra savvy could yet prove pivotal to the club’s fortunes. This season the Londoners have already faced a top continental opposition in Valencia with whom they were unlucky to only draw 1-1 at La Mestalla and whom they comprehensively dispatched 3-0 at Stamford Bridge.

And it is the second of these games from which AVB should draw his inspiration.

Tactically, the Portuguese got it spot on that day recognising the Spanish team’s strengths and accounting for them whilst also utilising the key weapons at his disposal. Recognising Valencia’s excellence in retaining possession and waiting for the moment to get behind the opposition, AVB set the team up to sit deep and strike decisively on the break using the formidable power of a certain Didier Drogba. The big man scored twice that day and was the architect for Ramires’ goal that night in a performance that rolled back the years and was reminiscent of his one man demolition job against Bayern Munich in April 2005.

On Tuesday. AVB must extract the same response from the Ivorian with the same game plan.

Napoli’s style is different to Valencia in that they operate mainly on the counter, using turnovers of possession to inflict maximum damage on their opponents. The telepathic understanding of Cavani, Lavezzi and Hamsik is the foundation of manager Walter Mazzarri’s approach. Chelsea must not be afraid to sit back, cede possession and deny them space to build attacks, taking this much-vaunted trio out of their comfort zone.

Drogba must be used in his favoured role of human battering ram. He must be allowed to puff out his chest and lead by example. His endeavour must be the focal point of Chelsea’s ambition.

He must must also be supplied with able and trusted deputies. Frank Lampard has proved it on this stage so many times it barely needs to be mentioned. A scorer in two semi-finals, a final as well as being successful in two penalty shootouts illustrates that fact. But it is his understanding with Drogba that is as important as his goals, the ability to release the striker with a quick look and early pass could be worth his weight in gold. The pace and guile of Daniel Sturridge and Juan Mata will also be a vital component of any positive result.

The team looks likely to be missing its heartbeat with the expected absence of John Terry but that only enhances the need for old heads to take the field in Naples. Michael Essien must surely start alongside Ramires whose dynamism has been sorely missed during his recent injury layoff. Ashley Cole will hopefully be fit enough to resume his duties at left back. Petr Cech will need to shrug off his troubles this season and perform to the level of which we all know he is capable.

All is not lost for Chelsea and hopefully we will see the professional pride of the old guard re-affirm the club’s status amongst Europe’s best. As long as AVB selects them.

3 thoughts on “Troubled Chelsea Can Confound Critics and Conquer Napoli

  1. Low,Isto de tentar dscuitir futebol em janelas de comente1rios deixa sempre pontas de fora. Tenho a certeza que se estive9ssemos sentados a uma mesa de cafe9, a virar umas minis, je1 teredamos concordado.O que eu queria dizer e9 que entendo pouco as oscilae7f5es de intensidade do benfas. Aquela combinae7e3o de valeancias que permite a uma equipa tornar um jogo mais fe1cil, gerindo os momentos de jogo. De uma forma redutora, a ratice! O Bcool973 falou do festival de bola com twente mas tambe9m do fantasma do Lyon. Eu ne3o vi o jogo, ne3o sei se concordas, mas houve outros jogos das competie7f5es europeias que vi e tiveram essa auseancia. A falta de ratice. Uma intensidade e um controlo de jogo que te permitam potenciar e gerir as tuas vantagens sobre os adverse1rios. No caso do campeonato portugueas, essa queste3o e9 muito importante, porque somos mais fortes que quase todos, e nem sempre conseguimos alavancar essa vantagem. Por isso falo do Gil Vicente e do nacional (ne3o vi o feirense), jogos em que tednhamos obrigae7e3o de ter evitado apuros, que no caso do Gil deram em empate. Por isso criticava a exibie7e3o de gala ou de fato de macaco, e em encontrar o meio-termo. Por exemplo o porto do ano passado, que antes de ter entrado num registo estratosfe9rico que ne3o sei se foi um bocado casuedstico, foi, entre Setembro e Mare7o, uma equipa menos emocional, nem sapatinho de verniz nem fato de macaco, nem brilhar nem ter que trabalhar demasiado. Impressiona-me que o Benfica tenha sofrido no jogo de ontem, ainda que, como dizes, tenha tido oportunidades e o nacional nem tanto. Mas ne3o falo em oportunidades, falo na realidade dos factos. Falo em resolver um jogo rapidamente (e ate9 temos marcado cedo), e arrumar a queste3o cedo, como o porto tantas vezes fez o ano passado. Mas ne3o necessariamente com exibie7e3o de gala, porque isso sim, e9 impossedvel de repetir jogo sim, jogo sim. As minhas criticas ao jogo de ontem se3o apenas isso, teve tudo para ser resolvido mais cedo, e ne3o foi. Isso ne3o tem necessariamente a ver com o fato de macaco. c0s vezes o fato de macaco nem e9 assim te3o bom. Diego e Pedro, merda foi mal escolhido da minha parte, e9 f3bvio que o cardozo ne3o e9 um jogador de merda. Se calhar esta queste3o, mais do que de valor, tem a ver com prefereancias. Ele e9 um tipo de avane7ado que ne3o aprecio. E je1 tentei, jogos a fio, gostar do gajo. Ne3o consigo. Mas vou-me calar. Estando a marcar golos e a jogar como este1 ne3o faz sentido, admito. Mas ne3o gosto, ne3o acho que jogue bem, ou que tabele bem, ou que defenda bem, ou que pressione mas marca, e ontem foi um bom golo. Ok. Num cene1rio ideal junte1vamos esta malta toda em frente a uma televise3o com uma ce2mara no cardozo, um jogo inteiro, e a malta ia comentando cada lance, caso a caso. Tenho a certeza que encontraredamos muitos defeitos onde agora sf3 se citam virtudes. Mas ok, he1 o saviola, he1 o postiga, he1 o falce3o, havia o Jardel, ou o Carew, ou o pringle. O cardozo marca, vou arrumar a viola. E arrumo mesmo, sf3 ne3o me digam que joga, assiste, defende, tabela, pressiona epe1 isso ne3o!


  2. your right about Bale/Lennon… although Bale has proven he can score goals from either side of the forward (on the right for Wales). Gallas – seems to be the player a few have expressed their concerns over. King I fear is coming to the end of his career. Caulker (loan at Swansea) is a player who Spurs have back this season and could potentially step up to Tottenham’s standards. Who knows?All I know is that AVB isn’t a wheeler and dealer (neither was Harry in his own words) – at Porto he inherited most of the squad and at Chelsea he wanted to stick with what he had. So maximising what Spurs already have is likely to be the first option.You are right about his Man Management – I nearly included a part about this in my article but it became too subjective. He failed on all accounts at Chelsea. He succeeded on all accounts at Porto. So who’s to say what will happen at Tottenham… the squad is younger than chelsea’s (maybe, w/o research!)… and this might play in his favour.Some managers are great man managers, some are great tacticians… few are both.Chelsea need a man manager… Tottenham have had one of those for the last few years and (although I still can’t believe they sacked Harry) they don’t want that anymore evidently.


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