Posts Tagged ‘Europa League’


Portuguese manager Andre Villas-Boas has become another victim of Roman Abramovich’s crazy lust for instant success as he exits nine months into the Stamford Bridge hot seat. Seven have been axed by the owner during his tenure and with former Liverpool boss, Rafael Benitez, installed as the bookies favourite to be the next Chelsea manager, you can’t see him lasting much longer.

AVB as he became known, emerged on Abramovich’s radar following his domestic and Europa League treble winning feat of 2011 with FC Porto –any comparisons becoming clear yet? (He also was part of The Special Ones’ backroom team at Internazionale & Porto). Onlookers predicted he may follow Jose Mourinho’s European success by taking his Europa League winning graduates one step further to the Champions League –but Chelsea came calling for the new boy on the block, possibly too soon, and the crazy goldfish bowl of the English Premiership beckoned. He inherited a squad which was in a quandary and disorderly in its age and abilities. Something he also took on was some rather meddlesome experienced first-team stars and an owner with ideas above his station on how “his team” and “his players” should be playing.

Villas-Boas required a clear-out and if he had any hope of succeeding, John Terry and Frank Lampard had to go –their constant actions and undermining of the ex-bosses has hamstrung the club from the undoubted potential they have to contend for major honours in England & Europe. This combined with the Russian tycoon appearing at training and interfering in the dressing room would drive anyone to the brink, and the young Portuguese man has been on the back foot since last June. A season in the Premiership is hard enough to get to grips with –never mind doing so with the harsh media spotlight and criticisms which are lurking behind every dropped point or defeat. The ex-Porto boss required time to stamp his authority and footballing beliefs within the Blues team –to clear out the deadwood and the players which didn’t fit, and incorporate his own cast list on the Chelsea starting IX.

Out of the previous six bosses, only three delivered major trophies whilst Claudio Ranieri, Avram Grant and Guus Hiddink all made reasonable inroads in the Champions League without providing Abramovich with the holy grail of European elite success. Power struggles at a club are one thing – but in-fighting between coaching staff, lack of respect and resent for your first-team coach and colonial groups of squad players is a situation of unmanageable proportions of which the club dictator needs to shoulder the burden of responsibility for. I am certain that within the next few years, Andre Villas-Boas will emerge again as one of the most wanted men in European football –where Chelsea go next, is not as clear-cut.


Antonio Di Natale was the talk of Udinese’s bouts with Arsenal last month, and his two performances certainly made onlookers sit up and notice. In Italy the 33 year old striker guided a beautiful header past the Gunners and was a constant thorn in the shaky North Londoners side.

Di Natale

The Udinese forward strikes again

Many thought that Udinese were possibly the best team in the qualifiers not to make the champions League and they certainly made a good case for this standing. Their constant attacking at home to Arsenal had many viewers feasting over their forward play and scratching their heads as to how only one goal was scored in Udine. They currently sit third & unbeaten in Serie A and drew with Milan giants AC last weekend. Di Natale has scored three of their five goals in the domestic campaign as well as the opener in their win over Rennes on Europa League match day one.

Celtic came back from their league defeat at Ibrox with a win which wasn’t fully convincing but was workman like at Paradise today. The alarm bells were ringing early doors though as the reshuffled back four was at sixes and sevens against a very poor Inverness side. Foran and Tade almost breaking through the paper-thin resolve. A problem which was identified by supporters last week was high balls not being attacked in the final third,  and this is pretty appalling stuff when for many youngsters this is one of the first commandments of defending. Two goals before the interval calmed the nerves and Caley Thistle lost some early confidence which helped the pressure on Majstorovic and Loovens.

In the second half I noticed a difference to the way Celtic defended – the two centre backs did attack the high balls and also made timely and quicker interventions with balls into feet. This I think must have been drummed into them in the dressing room and hopefully Johan Mjallby was the coach dishing out the lessons. Who better to learn from?? This will again have to be the tactic early on on Thursday night or the veteran Italian international striker and friends can have a field day. The whole team can also take a leaf out of man of the match Joe Ledley’s attitude and work rate – as I pointed out last week his energy and harrying would have, I’m sure ensured Celtic took a better result home from Greyskull.

As we all know, Celtic were handed a great opportunity to play in this tournament and hopefully they can pay back the fans and head honchos at UEFA who sided with us, with an inspired and spirited performance. As my boys club mantra at East Kilbride was – ‘right from the start b(h)oys!’