Champions League: Youthful Chelsea Face Ajax Test

Newcastle United’s Dutch defender Jetro Willems (L) vies with Chelsea’s Canadian-born English defender Fikayo Tomori (R) during the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Newcastle at Stamford Bridge in London on October 19, 2019.
Oliver GREENWOOD / AFP

 

Chelsea’s young guns will test their run of form at one of the homes of youth development on Wednesday as they attempt to stop an Ajax team on course to replicate last season’s thrilling Champions League run.

The Blues are on a five-match winning streak in all-competitions after beating Newcastle United 1-0 at the weekend but come up against the Group H leaders in Amsterdam

Ajax are averaging over three goals a game at home and abroad and are hungry for European success after semi-final heartache last season.

Fikayo Tomori, Ross Barkley, Mason Mount, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Tammy Abraham all started Saturday’s win at Stamford Bridge, the first time since 2013 five English players made the London club’s starting XI.

They second on three points in Group H after a wobbly opening two games in the Champions League, with a pair of matches coming up against on-fire Ajax that could decide their European destiny.

“These two games against Ajax are really big because they’re such a strong team … The movement of the team and the way they play football will be a big test for us,” coach Frank Lampard told the Chelsea website on Monday.

Abraham has stolen the headlines with eight goals in nine league appearances and the opener in Chelsea’s 2-1 win in Lille, and Lampard called the 22-year-old a “sponge” for his capacity to learn.

“He wants to listen, to get better, to score more goals, improve his game and help his team-mates. He’s got the beautiful base of that in terms of coaching,” added Lampard.

However four of those Saturday starters are academy products who have flourished under new boss Lampard, who has dealt with the loss of Eden Hazard and a UEFA-imposed transfer ban by pushing the Premier League club’s youth products to centre stage.

Hudson-Odoi, who recently returned from a long-term ankle injury, was a constant menace with his bursts down the flank and it was the 18-year-old who teed up Marcos Alonso for the winning goal from a match in which Chelsea had 16 shots at goal and 72 per cent possession.

Ajax gunning for glory

It was also just the second time this season that Chelsea kept a clean sheet, and they did it without the injured Andreas Christensen and Antonio Rudiger, with 21-year-old Tomori proving an increasingly solid presence at the back.

Rudiger and Christensen are two of a string of Chelsea absentees which includes midfield lynchpin N’Golo Kante and another academy product Ruben Loftus-Cheek, with Barkley and Cesar Azpilicueta also doubts for Ajax.

Ajax’s remarkable form has led to rumours that coach Erik ten Hag is a potential Bayern Munich target, rumours that the 49-year-old refused to play down on Monday as Nico Kovac comes under fire in Germany.

Despite losing midfield dynamo Frenkie De Jong to Barcelona and defensive rock Matthijs de Ligt to Juventus, they are top of the Eredivisie and unbeaten after scoring 31 times in their opening 10 games, three points ahead of PSV Eindhoven and Vitesse Arnhem.

In fact Erik ten Hag’s side have hardly felt the effects of their departures, as the rising stars of Dutch football struggle to impose themselves in new countries.

They are also top of Group H after beating both Lille and Valencia 3-0 with the same brand of thrilling football that captured Europe’s imaginations last season.

However, although they reemerged as a European force thanks to their academy talent, their star turns this campaign are all outside discoveries, with Hakim Ziyech, David Neres and Dusan Tadic all in fine form and new signing Quincy Promes causing havoc from midfield.

The 26-year-old Ziyech’s incredible strike sent Ajax on their way at the Mestalla in their last Champions League match, while Promes, 27, scored in both Group matches and six times in the league.

Even 36-year-old Klaas-Jan Huntelaar is on fire, with five league goals in as many appearances, as they hunt their first European trophy in 25 years.

 

AFP

Chelsea, NFF, Boro Celebrate Mikel Obi As Super Eagles Captain Turns 32

 

 

Chelsea Football Club have sent birthday wishes to Super Eagles captain, John Mikel Obi as he turned 32 on Monday. 

Obi who currently plays for Middlesbrough, was born on the 22nd of April 1987 in Jos, Plateau State.

The soccer-star, made his debut for Chelsea on August 12, 2006.

Chelsea felicitated with Obi via the club’s official twitter handle, tweeting “Have a great birthday @Mikel_John_Obi!”.

In a similar vein, Middlesbrough have wished Obi a happy birthday.

“Happy birthday to @mikel_john_obi! 🎉🎂 #UTB,” the club tweeted in the early hours of Monday.

READ ALSO: Sissoko, Major Doubt For Spurs Ahead Ajax Opener

Meanwhile, the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF), has sent birthday wishes to the Super Eagles captain.

Obi who made his debut for the Super Eagles in 2005, has scored six goals in 85 appearances for Nigeria so far.

NFF tweeted, “Happy birthday to @NGSuperEagles captain, @mikel_john_obi. We wish you the best today and always. Enjoy your day!”.

On her part, Mikel Obi’s longtime partner Olga Diyachenko has taken to Instagram to celebrate the father of her children on his birthday.

Olga shared a lovely photo of herself and the midfield marshal, accompanying the picture with a beautiful caption in which she called Obi her “Baby Daddy” in reference to the two lovely girls she bore for the footballer.

She went on to compared her love for Obi to the appealing affection which a fat child has for cakes.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

Happy Birthday baby daddy 😝 love you more than fat kid loves cake 🎂

A post shared by Olga Diy (@olga_allegra) on

Mikel will be hoping to lead his team to victory when Boro takes on Nottingham Forest in a Championship fixture later on Monday.

Lampard Retires From Professional Football

Lampard Retires From Professional FootballThe former Chelsea and England midfielder, Frank Lampard, has retired from professional football after 21 years in the game.

The 38-year-old, who spent 2016 with New York City in Major League Soccer in the US, announced his decision on social media on Thursday.

Lampard made more than 600 appearances for Chelsea and won 106 caps for the Three Lions.

He scored more than 300 career goals with 211 of them for Chelsea during a 13-year spell that saw him become the club’s record scorer.

According to his retirement statement, He said: “While I have received a number of exciting offers to continue playing, at 38, I feel now is the time to begin the next chapter in my life.

“I’m grateful to the Football Association (FA), for the opportunity to study for my coaching qualifications and I look forward to pursuing the off-field opportunities that this decision opens.”

Chelsea To Hold Contract Talks With Victor Moses

Chelsea To Hold Contract Talks With Victor MosesEnglish Premier League leaders, Chelsea plan to enter contract talks with Super Eagles forward, Victor Moses in the coming weeks after it emerged he has become a transfer target for Barcelona.

Moses’ performances in a new wing-back role have been key to Chelsea’s stunning turnaround in form since switching to a 3-4-3 formation, sparking a seven-game winning run in the EPL.

Victor Moses continued his fine form by scoring the winning goal for Chelsea in the 2-1 victory over Tottenham on Saturday, having previously found the net in wins against Burnley and champions Leicester City.

The result also ended Spurs’ unbeaten run and put the Blues at the top of the league table, a point above Liverpool and Manchester City.

Nigerian winger, Ahmed Musa was a second half substitute for Leicester City as they struggled to a 2-2 draw against Middleborough.

Conte Demands Focus After Chelsea’s Loss To Liverpool

Antonio Conte, Chelsea, LiverpoolChelsea manager, Antonio Conte, has called on his team to learn valuable lessons from their defeat to Liverpool in the English Premier League.

The defeat was Conte’s first since taking charge of the Blues and the former Juventus boss was disappointed with the two goals his side conceded.

He asked them to pay attention to details if they want to think like a great team.

Liverpool centre-back, Dejan Lovren, feels The Reds have become fully accustomed to the ‘tactical blueprint’ of their coach, Jurgen Klopp, for trips to the homes of their rivals.

Since Klopp’s arrival at Anfield in October, Liverpool have returned unbeaten in six league visits to Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham and Manchester City.

They also claimed a 1-1 draw at Manchester United in last season’s Europa League last-16 second leg, following a 2-0 first-leg win at Anfield.

“We know what we need to do when we come to away games, especially against big teams like Chelsea.

“We are a team who wants to play, who wants to win – we are not a team who will defend deep and await our chances,” 27-year-old Lovren told Liverpool website.

Chelsea had lost 1-2 to Liverpool in a premier league cracker-match on Friday at the Stamford Bridge.

The much talked about game started with both teams hoping to pick at least a point but Liverpool emerged winners after a perfect first half performance saw them race into a 2-goal lead that Chelsea could not recover from.

Chelsea Lose 1-2 To Liverpool In Premiership Tough Game

Liverpool and Chelsea matchChelsea lost 1-2 to Liverpool in a Premier League cracker-match on Friday.

The much talked about game started with both teams facing the game with so much enthusiasm, hoping to pick at least a point from the game.

Liverpool opened scoring at the 17th minute, with Dejan Lovren guiding a volley into the net from six yards.

Ivanovic had committed a foul and Liverpool took a quick short free-kick before Coutinho flight a ball to the far side of the box, where several Liverpool players were waiting, unperturbed by any defenders. Lovren guided the ball into the net.

Lovren’s first goal for Liverpool in the Premier League gave the visitors early lead in the game.

At the 36th minute Liverpool captain, Jordan Henderson, increased the margin for his side, after he curled a sumptuous dipping shot right into the top corner, beating Chelsea’s keeper again.

The first half of the game ended, with Liverpool two goals ahead of the home team.

Play resumed in the second half, with Chelsea making attempts to close the margin.

At the 62nd minute, Matic did brilliantly, showing unseen nimbleness to jink his way past Lallana to the by-line and cut the ball back to Costa, who stabbed the ball into the net at the near post.

It looked like a comeback for the home team, which made several efforts to share points with the visiting side.

Liverpool defence held sway, warding-off all attacks from Chelsea, carting home three maximum points.

It was their fifth game in the new season and with the win, Liverpool now have 10 points below Chelsea with 10 points but ahead of the reds on goal difference.

Manchester City is at the top of the table. The club has remained unbeaten in the new season, with 12 points from four games.

They are followed by Everton on 10 points, with five goals difference.

Conte Demands Aggressive Football From Players

Antonio Conte, Chelsea,Ahead of the new Premier league season, new Chelsea Manager, Antonio Conte has urged his players to maintain the aggression and high intensity of football shown in pre-season.

This comes after a 1-0 win against Liverpool in the International Champions Cup (ICC) where Chelsea Midfielder Cesc Fabregas was given a straight red card for a rash challenge on Liverpool Defender, Ragnar Klavan and 6 other players where cautioned.

“I like my teams to be aggressive and I like if my team plays with great aggression and high intensity. We train to prepare for that because I want that my team has an identity,” Conte told Eurosport.

“I always gave an identity to my teams. I am searching to transfer this to my players. I am pleased because I see a great attitude. I want to continue in this way because this is the only way to come back very soon for the title.

“Not to speak, but actions. Now is not the moment to talk.”

Chelsea meet European Champions, Real Madrid on Saturday and end their ICC tour against AC Milan on Wednesday.

Xhaka Looks Forward To Arsenal’s ‘Family Atmosphere’

Granit Xhaka, ArsenalGranit Xhaka says former Gunners Havard Nordtveit, Johan Djourou and Philippe Senderos encouraged him to join the “family” atmosphere at Arsenal.

The 23-year-old midfielder arrived in north London as Arsène Wenger’s first signing of the summer, having spent the last four years at Borussia Monchengladbach.

Xhaka says his former Gladbach team-mate Nordtveit and Swiss compatriots Djourou and Senderos talked up the positive atmosphere at the club.

“I spoke with [Nordtveit] about Arsenal and he told me it’s a big club, a family club and it’s very important for me to come here,” Xhaka told Arsenal Player.

“Philippe played here and I play with him in the national team. Johan and Philippe have only told me positive things.

“Arsenal is Arsenal. It’s not a small club, it’s a very big club and it’s like a family. It’s very good for me because I love my family and to have another family here is very good.”

Xhaka progressed through the youth ranks of Mohamed Elneny’s former side Basel, and the 23-year-old says he is looking forward to playing with the Egyptian.

“I know him by name, but when I went to Monchengladbach he came to Basel,” he said. “My brother played with him and I had heard of him before I came here. In Switzerland we produce very good young players and many of these players have come to England. That’s very good.”

 

Wenger Hails Arsenal Character In Man City Draw

ArsenalArsenal manager, Arsene Wenger believes his side have the character to seal a top-three finish in the Barclays Premier League going by the manner in which they drew 2-2 draw at Manchester City.

The Gunners extended their unbeaten run to nine league matches as they came from behind twice through goals for Olivier Giroud and Alexis Sanchez against City at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday.

Arsenal now need a point in their final match of the season, against relegated Aston Villa on Sunday, to guarantee third place in the table.

“We have seen again today that we just want to finish the job with the result,” Wenger said. “We have had strong concentration in recent games and our character has been questioned a few times this season.

“We gave the right response today on the pitch, but you have to say if you look we have the best results against the top-four teams. That doesn’t come without character.”

Wenger also said striker Danny Welbeck will have a scan on his knee on Monday to determine the extent of an injury that forced him off the field in the 59th minute.

“I hope that it is not bad one and a meniscus.” Wenger added. “We tried to keep him on the pitch and straight away he tried to move on and he said it was impossible. At half time, I looked at him and he was very down so he must have pain.”

Manchester City manager, Manuel Pellegrini, was remorseful that things did not end well as the result means that Manchester United will now finish above them if they win both their final league matches.

“It was not the way we wanted to finish the season, We wanted to qualify for the Champions League final and to win again today.

“But there are three years of work here, for me, three wonderful and unforgettable years so all I can say to all the fans is thanks for all of it.

“I will never forget you and, most of all, don’t change. Continue the same way because I’m sure next year that this team will need you and will be a very successful team in all the competitions.”

Losing out on Champions League qualification would prove a disaster for incoming City boss, Pep Guardiola.

Manchester United Force Leicester City To Wait For Title

Leicester CityLeicester City were held to a 1-1 draw by Manchester United at Old Trafford and will have to wait to complete their fairytale Barclays Premier League triumph.

The Foxes needed a win to be crowned champions with two matches to spare.

Claudio Ranieri’s unchanged side had a passive start and Anthony Martial capitalised by opening the scoring but captain Wes Morgan headed a 16th-minute equaliser.

Leicester will emerge as champions at home to Everton next weekend if Tottenham Hotspur fail to beat Chelsea on Monday, while any victory from City or slip-up by Spurs will complete the remarkable story that Sunday’s draw left dangling.

United, who could not capitalise on a late red card for Danny Drinkwater, lost ground on Arsenal and Manchester City in the race for a top-four spot but edged ahead of West Ham United into fifth.

 

Yusuf Invites 26 Players For Super Eagles Friendlies

Super Eagles-Salisu Yusuf-Eagles FriendliesSuper Eagles Head Coach, Salisu Yusuf, has called up 26 players for the international friendlies against Mali and Luxembourg in Europe.

The three-time African champions would take on the Les Aiglons of Mali in France on May 27 before flying to Luxembourg to play the country’s national team on June 1.

Yusuf, who was installed as interim Head Coach by the Nigeria Football Federation last week, picked a relatively young squad that also includes former U-20 and former U-23 players.

All the invitees in the goalkeeper categories are: Carl Ikeme (Wolverhampton Wanderers, England), Daniel Akpeyi (Chippa United, South Africa), and Ikechukwu Ezenwa (Sunshine Stars).

The defenders invited are: Abdullahi Shehu (Uniao da Madeira, Portugal), Musa Muhammed (Istanbul Basaksehir, Turkey), Elderson Echiejile (AS Monaco, France), Kingsley Madu (AS Trencin, Slovakia), Kenneth Omeruo (Kasimpasa SK, Turkey), Leon Balogun (Mainz 05, Germany), Gbenga Arokoyo (Gaziantepspor, Turkey), William Troost Ekong (Haugesund FC, Norway), and Chidozie Awaziem (FC Porto, Portugal).

For the midfielders, players called up are: Ogenyi Onazi (SS Lazio, Italy), John Mikel Obi (Chelsea FC, England), Kelechi Iheanacho (Manchester City, England), Wilfred Ndidi (KRC Genk, Belgium), Raheem Lawal (Osmanlispor FK, Turkey), and Etebo Oghenekaro (SC Farense, Portugal).

The players invited in the forward category are: Ahmed Musa (CSKA Moscow, Russia), Moses Simon (KAA Gent, Belgium), Victor Moses (West Ham United, England), Odion Ighalo (Watford FC, England), Alex Iwobi (Arsenal FC, England), Aminu Umar (Osmanlispor FK, Turkey), Aaron Samuel (CSKA Moscow, Russia), and Brown Ideye (Olympiakos FC, Greece).

Sunderland, Arsenal Draw Goalless As Leicester Crush Swansea

premier leagueEnglish Premier League side, Sunderland are out of the relegation zone following a goalless draw against Arsenal at the Stadium of Light.

Both sides had penalty shouts turned down in the first half, as referee Mike Dean waved away appeals from Jermain Defoe and Alex Iwobi.

Patrick Van Aanholt went closest to breaking the deadlock when his free-kick hit the post, while former Arsenal goalkeeper, Vito Mannone made several impressive saves to preserve his clean sheet.

As Sunderland pressed for a vital winner in the second half, Arsenal Petr Cech stood strong with equally impressive saves to ensure both teams shared the points.

Leicester City moved within sight of the Premier League crown after cruising to a 4-0 victory over Swansea City at the King Power Stadium also on Sunday.

Claudio Ranieri’s side were without the suspended Jamie Vardy for the game, but still cruised past the Swans to establish an eight-point lead in the Premier League.

Mahrez opened the scoring while Ulloa added a brace either side of half-time and Albrighton made it 4-0 late on.

Second-placed Tottenham face West Brom at White Hart Lane on Monday evening.

In other matches played on Saturday, Super Eagles forward Kelechi Iheanacho helped Manchester City beat Stoke City 4-0 in the day’s lunchtime kick-off.

The 19-year-old scored twice in the 64th and 74th minute adding to further strikes from Fernando and Sergio Aguero.

Iheanacho who also recorded an assist against the potters now has 5 goals in the Premier League this season.

The big win ensures that Man City has leapfrogged Arsenal to occupy the third position on goal difference.

In other games, Liverpool and Newcastle battled to a 2-2 draw in Rafael Benitez’s return to Anfield.

Chelsea beat AFC Bournemouth 4-1, while already relegated Aston Villa lost 2-4 against Southampton.