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Unionjack

General Chelsea Stuff

Started by Unionjack,

348 posts in this topic
On 20/02/2020 at 7:37 PM, Jason said:

Steve Holland on the Barcelona 2012 game...

How Chelsea won the Champions League – as told by the men who made it happen

https://theathletic.com/1596879/2020/02/24/chelsea-bayern-champions-league-2012-drogba/

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Chelsea and Bayern Munich will meet this week for the first time in the Champions League since the 2012 final.

That showpiece had been staged at the Bundesliga club’s Allianz Arena, with Jupp Heynckes’ locals considered overwhelming favourites to prevail against a side under the interim management of Roberto Di Matteo. But it was in Bavaria that a journey under the ownership of Roman Abramovich which had taken in eight managers and 101 Champions League games, via one infamous performance from a Norwegian referee and two fluffed penalties in a shoot-out in Moscow, not to mention over £600 million in transfer fees, culminated in glory.

With testimonies from now and then of those involved, The Athletic looks back on a tumultuous occasion when a group of players forged years previously by Jose Mourinho and Carlo Ancelotti finally seized their opportunity on the greatest stage.

This is the story of Chelsea’s Miracle of Munich.


The drama of that night in mid-May will inevitably draw the focus, but Chelsea’s route to the final had been tortuous in its own way.

Andre Villas-Boas’ team had laboured even to emerge from their group. Had Valencia not been defeated in the final game of the section, then theirs would have been an ignominious early exit from the competition. John Terry and Didier Drogba, in the last year of his contract, had addressed the team in a huddle ahead of kick-off, with the Spanish side ultimately seen off comfortably. “That showed, under huge pressure, the team could cope,” said goalkeeper Petr Cech, though there would be sterner tests of their resilience.

Away to Napoli in their last 16 tie’s first leg, and with his tenure unravelling, Villas-Boas had omitted Ashley Cole, Frank Lampard and Fernando Torres. His team were overwhelmed and, had substitute Cole not cleared off the line late on, would have left Naples with a 4-1 deficit to retrieve. Di Matteo later acknowledged that hack in the goalmouth was “the most important moment in our Champions League campaign”.

The Italian had been placed in caretaker charge by the time Chelsea hosted the return and, with experienced personnel playing as if this might be their last game at this level, the Premier League club mounted an unlikely comeback. Branislav Ivanovic scored the decisive goal in extra-time to secure a staggering 5-4 aggregate success.

In that context, their progress past Benfica in the quarter-finals felt comfortable.

Then came Barcelona. An unlikely first leg win, courtesy of Drogba’s solitary goal, set up a feverish second leg at the Nou Camp. There Gary Cahill pulled his hamstring early on and Terry was dismissed for kicking out at Alexis Sanchez, with the visitors trailing 2-0 in first half stoppage time. “If we’d got knocked out, it was going to be all my fault,” said the crestfallen captain. “I felt I’d ruined it for the whole club.”

Ramires’ stunning chip secured a vital away goal in what time remained before the break, but theirs was a rearguard action thereafter.

A makeshift backline – full-backs Ivanovic and Jose Bosingwa ended up as the centre-halves, with Ramires filling in at right-back – heaved to contain their hosts. Drogba was penalised for tripping Cesc Fabregas to concede a penalty, which Lionel Messi thumped against the crossbar. Anxiety overcame the hosts from that moment on, with Torres tearing alone into enemy territory to gather Cole’s pumped clearance in stoppage time and convert to kill off Barcelona’s chances.

“It felt like the longest pitch ever, and that I’d never reach the goal,” recalled the striker. On the bench, a praying Drogba and his team-mates erupted in delirious celebration as Catalonia despaired.


May 18, 2012 – The arrival in Munich

Chelsea travelled to Germany on the eve of the final, traipsing across the tarmac upon arrival in their club tracksuits for the transfer to the Mandarin Oriental hotel in the heart of central Munich. Di Matteo had won the FA Cup Final two weeks previously, but the team’s sixth place finish meant they would only qualify for the subsequent season’s Champions League by beating Bayern and lifting the European Cup, too. The caretaker manager’s future was very much in the balance beyond the expiry of his own contract on June 30. Furthermore, Terry, Ramires, Raul Meireles and Ivanovic were all suspended from the final, the latter having only discovered he would miss out courtesy of a third yellow card in the competition as he conducted a post-match interview at the Nou Camp.

Ivanovic: “Roberto decided not to tell us who had yellow cards going into the second leg of the semi. When it all finished and I realised I wasn’t going to play in the final, I was thinking, ‘Please, just win.’ The final would have been the biggest game of my life and I didn’t have the opportunity to play in it, but we were a team. I will always exchange playing in the final for a medal.”

Di Matteo appointed Lampard captain in Terry’s absence, but his options were complicated further by the reality that Cahill, who had only joined from relegation-bound Bolton Wanderers in the January, and David Luiz had only returned to training the previous week after a month out with serious hamstring injuries. Another injured player, Florent Malouda, rejoined the group on the eve of the final. All three would require late fitness checks to determine their involvement.

Cahill: “I was sick to have missed that FA Cup final with the injury but the target was always to be fit for the Champions League final. It’s been a mad season. We only won five games at Bolton up to January, so to find myself part of a team who won the FA Cup and are now going for the European Cup within a few months is unbelievable. This is my first final of any kind since youth-team football, and it’s come in the biggest competition: so it’s sink or swim.”

Abramovich’s Chelsea had featured in six semi-finals over a nine-year period and only made it through to the final once before, with eight of Di Matteo’s squad in Munich having been involved in the subsequent penalty shoot-out defeat to Manchester United in Moscow back in 2008. Drogba had been sent off in that game, with this a shot at redemption in potentially his last game for the club.

Drogba: “I apologised to the fans after Moscow, but it’s a memory I cannot forget. We all learned from that experience and, as a group, we’d been waiting four years to be in this situation again. To have this chance to be at the top of European football. My future, my contract… all of that is not important. We’ve had a difficult season, and come in for a lot of criticism, but we’ve shown everyone that we still have good players. Now, if we win this game, a difficult season will become a fantastic season.”

Di Matteo: “I don’t know what the future will hold, but the players deserve this chance. They’ve worked so hard to reach this stage. Frank and many of our lads know how it feels not to bring the trophy home. Bayern are playing in their own stadium. They know the environment, the pitch, the dressing-rooms. But our players are motivated. I believe they have all the qualities needed to win this competition.

“All I’ve done over the last 11 weeks is restore some confidence. It was important the boys remembered they are great footballers, and have been for many years. You don’t lose that in half a season. It was a question of reinstalling a bit of confidence in every player, and as a group and a team. Now they have the chance they have been waiting for. You make your own destiny and fate.”

Lampard: “The memory of Moscow was of defeat. We remember that feeling after the loss. That disappointment. And we’ll use that to inspire us to win this time round. It’s taken us a long time to get back, and we wouldn’t have believed we could be here two or three months ago. But Roberto has been very clever in how he’s managed the situation since stepping up. Rather than come in and make drastic changes, he just spoke with everyone individually and generated confidence within the group.

“The Napoli game changed everything and, from then on, he’s quietly done a perfect job. If anyone deserves to win this game, it’s him. And as for them having home advantage, the atmosphere here in the city has been amazing. There’s such a great vibe. We felt it even in the hotel. We went up to the roof terrace and had a little stretch up there and you could hear the noise, see the people drinking beers below, and sense the friendly atmosphere. And to be underdogs gives you a determination. Bring it on.”

Di Matteo gathered his players in a private conference room at the team hotel on the evening before the final for what they anticipated would be a routine tactical team-talk. Yet, unbeknown to the squad, the interim manager had actually got the club’s video analysis team to compile messages from members of each player’s family with their words intercut with YouTube clips from games or footage of them as kids. The presentation lasted around half an hour, with those present lurching from fits of hysterics to tears.

Ryan Bertrand: “We were called into the meeting and there they were, for every single player. First it was my mum and brother saying, ‘Well done and good luck to the whole team,’ and then it went to all the rabble, all the family, which was a little bit embarrassing. The manager pulled me to one side afterwards and asked me who all the people in the video had been. There could have been some tears, but there was a bit of laughter and banter too, and the whole thing really spurred us on.”

Terry: “He organised all the wives and kids to speak and say how proud they were of their dads. Even the younger players in the dressing room had their parents speaking, wishing them good luck. It was such a good touch. One thing that will stay with me for ever.”

Di Matteo: “We spend a lot of time away from our families in our jobs, but they’re important people in our lives. It was important that they were somehow part of it, this journey. I needed something personal to touch the players, and I wanted to take a bit of pressure away from them. It did exactly that.”


May 19, 2012 – The final

Di Matteo had slept on the question of team selection and only informed the players of his decisions on the day of the game. Given there were so few options in central defence, he had no choice but to gamble on the fitness of Cahill and David Luiz. The manager’s biggest dilemma was on the balance along the team’s left flank, where Malouda would not be able to start. His solution was to turn to Bertrand, a 22-year-old left-back who had never previously featured even on the bench in European competition. The youngster – secured at 15 from Gillingham and a loanee at Bournemouth, Oldham, Norwich, Nottingham Forest and Reading in previous seasons – trained all week on the left of midfield, but had anticipated Malouda proving his fitness ahead of the game.

Bertrand: “We had a walk and a stretch just before lunch and he pulled me to one side, asked me if I was feeling OK, and said I’d be starting.

“We were supposed to have a rest up in the afternoon, but I couldn’t sleep. I had all these images flashing through my head: of where I have been and where I have come from. I thought about my brother, growing up in the Friary Estate in Peckham and around Bermondsey. I remember playing ‘World Cup’, like a tournament with every man for himself, at the bottom of these flats. There was spray paint on the wall and a sign saying ‘No ball games’. To us, that meant: ‘Play football there’. And now, here I was about to take on Arjen Robben and Philipp Lahm, the captain of Germany.

“It made all those loan moves worth it. If that’s how you’re spending your career, constantly moving from one loan to another, you have to think about yourself and be realistic. There have been times when I wondered whether I would make it at Chelsea, but in life you have to have Plan A, B and C. So we looked at it realistically with my mum and my family and, thankfully, I have dug in there and managed to turn a few people’s heads. I won the Reserve League in 2011. To be picked against Bayern a year later felt a bit of a contrast.”

Even as the squad travelled by coach to the Allianz Arena in the early evening, ahead of the 8.45pm kick-off, they sensed their time had come.

Cech: “Everywhere we looked there were signs up for ‘Munich 2012’, and they were all in blue. The stadium was decked in UEFA blue. All the signs were blue. Our accreditation was blue. The match programme was dark blue. We were watching the old penalties against Bayern’s goalkeepers on the bus and I said to the guys: ‘Look, everything is blue. We don’t even have to watch this. We are going to win.’”

Terry: “When we went to Moscow to play Manchester United, everything had been red: the Champions League badges we got; the bands the players had to wear; the flags at the hotel with ‘Moscow 2008’. Pete didn’t like it from day one. In Munich, everything was blue and you could see, in him, he was happy. You pick up on little things like that. And if Big Pete’s happy, I’m happy. I’d got my head around the fact I wouldn’t be playing by then. The next best thing was to be there for the lads. They’d been there for me. I had to repay them and be there for them in the dressing room, having a few words with Ryan to try and guide him.”

The suspended captain found the game a hard watch. Bayern were dominant in possession from the outset, roared on by the vast majority present. Chelsea soaked up pressure, clinging on. Cech deflected a Robben shot onto the woodwork early on, while Mario Gomez missed a fine opportunity just before half-time. By then, the Germans had mustered 16 shots of varying quality to Chelsea’s two, a trend maintained after the break. Yet David Luiz, Cahill, the outstanding Cole and Bosingwa continued to fling themselves into challenges as the midfield worked tirelessly to contain Heynckes’ team. Franck Ribery had a goal disallowed for offside with Bayern’s pressure relentless.

David Luiz: “I’d been out for 35 days and only came back to training at the beginning of the week but, two days before the final, I had a bad pain again in the hamstring. I took the fitness test on Friday OK but, even in the game, after 20 minutes I could feel it again. Feel it bad. But I told myself I was not going to let it make me come off. I’d worked all my life for this. This was the dream I’d had as a kid, to play in this game. So I told myself I would play with my heart. I did not need to play with my body when my heart was strong.”

Eight minutes from time, Chelsea finally cracked. Ribery’s cross from the left may have been aimed at Gomez but, with David Luiz bypassed and Cole attracted to the striker, Thomas Muller was free at the far post to nod it down. The ball kicked up off the turf in the goalmouth to evade Cech.

Cole: “With the quality of their players, you had to think they’d hold on. They celebrated like they’d won it. Everyone’s heads went down. We’d been that close to holding on in the game, or going to penalties and extra time, and then you lose it like that… it was hard to take.”

Cech: “But when we conceded, all the adversity we’d come up against in the competition over the season – Napoli, being down to 10 men and 2-0 behind at the Nou Camp – came to mind. We still had 10 minutes or whatever it was, and we’d done it in Barcelona with 10 men and with a defence that had never played together before. With 11 men, we could still do anything.”

Juan Mata: “I still believed. Right up to the last minute, I felt we could get back in it. I’d felt it was going to be our Champions League ever since the comeback against Napoli, and through those incredible games against Barcelona. I was convinced we’d have one last chance to score. And we did, with the corner.”

Two minutes from the end of normal time, Chelsea won their first corner of the final which Mata, glancing up at the muddle of bodies in the penalty area, swung towards the near-post.

Drogba: “I was really disappointed, thinking, ‘Oh no, not again.’ The good thing is Juan Mata just shouted at all of us, saying we had to keep believing. And then we won that corner. I tried to point to Juan where I wanted him to deliver the ball and, when I saw it coming in, just flew at it. I made a good contact and it was only afterwards, when I saw the replay, that I saw how close Frank was to blocking it by accident.”

Lampard: “Thank God I didn’t get in the way. If it had hit me in the head, it would have ballooned out of play. But as soon as I felt the big man coming I just ducked my head and let him get on with it. It flew right into the top corner inside Manuel Neuer’s near post.”

David Luiz: “I was telling Gomez, ‘We are playing badly, but we will win – your team is better but we are going to win.’ All the time I was saying it to him. Bastian Schweinsteiger marked me at the corner and I said, ‘No problem. It’s not me who will score.’ And Didier did. Schweiny looked at me as if to say, ‘What the fuck?’”

Drogba: “The last time I’d played in Munich I’d scored with Chelsea, and I’d won with the [Ivory Coast] national team in that stadium. Little details, but they can boost your confidence. But this goal… I can’t explain my feelings after this goal. I was on a different planet.”

The equaliser prompted a brief flurry of Chelsea pressure, but ultimately thrust an increasingly tense occasion into extra time. Di Matteo’s team appeared to be in the ascendancy against opponents suddenly gripped by nerves until disaster struck yet again. Drogba’s panicked trip on Ribery prompted the referee, Pedro Proenca, to award Bayern a penalty.

Drogba: “Sometimes you want to do everything when you’re doing well, but you only end up making things worse. This time, unlike in Barcelona, it was a penalty. I touched him (on his right ankle) and he went down. I was like, ‘I’m dead, I’m finished.’”

Cech: “Oh, come on, we were so close. But I’d been given a DVD with all of Bayern’s penalties from 2007. I’d actually been kind of lazy – I’d had it for four or five days and not really watched it, because I thought the game wouldn’t come down to that – but I still had time, thankfully, to go through them all. I had a couple of hours on the flight over to Munich, and [the goalkeepers in the squad] used them for that. I knew Robben from his time at Chelsea and he always shoots different ways – there is no pattern whatsoever to his penalties – so I didn’t know what to do with him. Half he shoots to the right, half to the left. He even runs up exactly the same way to the ball, whether shooting right or left.

“But when you’re tired, you’ve played in 94 minutes, most players choose power over technique. They put their foot through it rather than placing it. I thought he’d smash it somewhere near the corner and hope it would go through me. And he’s left footed. If I’m left footed, I’d go across to the right rather than opening up my body to put it in the opposite corner. Which is why I went that way, down to my left.”

The Chelsea goalkeeper almost dived too far, the ball striking his left thigh. But he ensured it did not slither under his body and in, grabbing it before Robben could convert the follow-up. Up in the stands, Abramovich punched the air manically.

Petr Cech Arjen Robben

Terry: “Once Robben misses that penalty, an ex-Chelsea player as well, the four of us sitting in the stands just said, ‘It’s meant to be. It will be our year.’”

The game spluttered on, Bayern substitute Ivica Olic missing a fine chance 12 minutes from time and Cahill somehow blocking from Gomez in front of goal. In the end, the shrill of the referee’s whistle signalled a penalty shoot-out to determine the destiny of the European Cup. Di Matteo, scribbling his list of takers on a pad in the dugout, consulted his players before handing his five names to the officials. The spot-kicks would be taken in front of the Bayern end of the ground.

Lampard: “Robbie asked me which one I would like to take, and I said whatever he wanted. He’d put me down as first originally, but ended up suggesting number three. You normally save your regular penalty takers until four or five, but sometimes it doesn’t even get as far as a fifth one. He’d asked Didier to be third originally, but he’d insisted on going fifth. We’d worked on penalties in training, but I remember practising and taking loads in Germany at the World Cup in 2006, and then still missing in the shoot-out against Portugal. You can over-think it. But, against Bayern, we felt the momentum was with us. I believed we were going to win on penalties against a German team, which is strange in itself.”

Not that it started well. Cech dived the right way and reached Lahm’s opening penalty, but it still flew in. Then Mata stepped up and, with his kick too central, saw his effort blocked by Neuer.

Mata: “I was so tired after extra time, but I wanted the responsibility of taking that first penalty because it’s such a crucial moment for the team. To start well. Then, when he keeps it out, you have that horrible walk back to the halfway line, all alone. I was just telling myself to believe in Pete, to believe he would keep out one or two penalties.”

Cech, as he would do all evening, predicted correctly which way Gomez would shoot for Bayern’s second penalty but, once again, the ball flew in. The striker muttered “OK, over to you” at David Luiz as they passed, with the Brazilian unperturbed. The defender, restricted by that nine-inch tear in his hamstring and running on adrenaline, powered in Chelsea’s riposte. Bayern’s response was to send Neuer up to take their third.

Cech: “I’d been convinced it wouldn’t get to a shoot-out but, in those last 10 minutes of the game, I’d been praying for the final whistle. They’d had some really good chances and you could see we were tiring. Gary Cahill was playing with cramp, others were struggling with injuries. It’s amazing he and David Luiz played 120 minutes. And, when it came to penalties, we’d actually done as much preparation as was possible. All the goalkeepers on the staff had taken time to watch the DVD – Ross [Turnbull], Jamal [Blackman], Henrique [Hilario] and [the goalkeeping coach] Christophe Lollichon – and taken notes before discussing it in a meeting. Before we’d started the shoot-out, I’d said to them, ‘So, guys. Where are the notes?’ But Hilario told me not to worry, and that I’d save everything.

“Neuer’s I wasn’t expecting. His was the only one I had no idea about. They had Hans-Jorg Butt on their books, a goalkeeper who did take penalties, and he’d always slow down in his run-up and wait for the keeper to move, so I wondered if his colleague would do the same. That’s actually why I didn’t reach it. I waited too long and couldn’t quite get to it. Gomez’s was the best penalty. Neuer’s was close to it. But I’d gone the right way each time and it would have been impossible to have kept guessing right and not save one.”

Lampard converted to make it 3-2 before Cech’s preparation finally paid off, his one-handed save denying Olic. The onus was now on Cole to level.

Cole: “It’s nerve-racking at the best of times, and this was in front of their fans, which is not a great scenario. A huge goalie, too. He kept jumping up on to the crossbar and I was just like, ‘Wow, this guy’s massive. How am I going to put past him?’”

Yet his effort had too much pace on it for Neuer and flew in to the goalkeeper’s left to restore parity at 3-3. Up stepped a nervous Schweinsteiger, conscious that momentum in the shoot-out appeared to have switched. For the sixth time in as many penalties that night, Cech duly dived the right way.

Cech: “The last two pens would be Schweinsteiger and Didier — so I could give Didier his happy ending. I knew Bastian was going to wait in his run up so, when he slowed down, I stayed still. You know he can’t generate enough power to shoot strongly when he stutters his run, and I’d guessed he would go to my left again. As I touched the ball on to the post I was sure it wasn’t going to go in, but my concern was it would hit me on the back of my legs and rebound into the net, so I tried to swing my legs forward so it didn’t hit them. It really passed my heels by two inches. In that moment, I thought, ‘That is it. We’ve done it’ — I couldn’t imagine Drogba missing.”

Lampard: “That it came down to Didier, the man who probably deserved it most in terms of inspiring that run to the final… I couldn’t see him missing, either.”

Drogba: “I can be a Champions League winner. This is my chance. This is my chance, and it’s happening. I just put the ball in the corner and, ‘Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God. We’ve done it.’ A great moment. A great feeling. I went to run to all the guys, but the guy who really saved my night was Petr, so I had to go to him first. I said, ‘Thank you, thank you…’ And then, blackout, players jumping on us. There are no words to describe it. I’m blessed. I’m blessed.”

Cole: “He didn’t take a massive run up or anything, so you’re thinking, ‘Didier, what are you doing here? Just blast it and hope it goes in. Please score. Please score.’ And then to see the goalie dive one way and the ball rolled the other way… We’ve won the Champions League. A dream come true. I’ve never experienced an emotion like that.”

Didier Drogba penalty Bayern

Ivanovic: “I was the third person to get to Didier when he scored the winning penalty, even from the bench. I remember when the shoot-out started I was already on the pitch. Michael Essien was next to me. He was so calm. ‘Don’t worry, we’re going to win. We deserve to win.’ He gave me that belief. We were all desperate and when Didier scored, it was the top of all our careers.”

Lampard: “If you wanted to write a film script about a football team that somehow managed to win the Champions League, that was it. Cue the best feeling I’ve had in my football career, by a million miles. An explosion of emotions from all of us, individually and as a group. We all wheeled off in different directions. A couple of fans ran on. One accidentally clumped me round the mouth – I had a bloodied mouth afterwards when we went to collect the trophy. But it was all worth it.”

Bayern’s players crumpled to the turf in defeat while those in blue spun away in giddy celebration. Mata fell to the earth, crying. Up in the stands, Abramovich, clutching a Chelsea flag, and his son Arkadiy were in tears. The team’s suspended quartet had changed into their kits, as per UEFA regulations, prior to the final whistle and would join their team-mates on the victory plinth to collect the trophy.

Terry: “UEFA had sent the club an email saying they wanted the players in their full kits. I know people said I had shinpads and everything, but that wasn’t true. As soon as we won, the tracksuit bottoms were off, the top thrown away, and we were on the pitch. I’ve taken some stick for that, but it hardly matters. It was the right thing for UEFA to do. It would have been really hard to take if we’d been denied that moment. As for the handover of the trophy, we’d tended to make it a joint thing over previous years. When we’d won FA Cups or league trophies, I’d said to Frank I wanted to lift it with him, as captain and vice-captain. Frank had turned to me the night before and said, ‘If we do win it, I want you to lift it with me.’ It was an unbelievable feeling to be up there. Year after year, we’d had bad memories of this competition. But that win wiped them all away. This is what we have strived for.”

Di Matteo, overcome with emotion, met Abramovich at the top of the steps as he climbed to the presentation and, as he embraced the owner, twice bellowed, ‘I won it, I won it.’ Drogba would present the trophy to the oligarch in the raucous celebrations that ensued.

Drogba: “We’d had a few conversations over the years, him asking whether we’d win the Champions League this year or not. I was always cautious, saying I wasn’t sure, but a week before the final in Munich we’d spoken and I’d told him this was our time.”

Once back in the dressing-room, Abramovich attempted to speak to the throng using Eugene Tenenbaum, one of the club’s directors, as an interpreter. “We’ve won it,” was the crux of the translation, “but this is just the beginning.” The rhythm of his speech was disrupted more than once with the players erupting in choruses of “We want him to stay” whenever Di Matteo’s name was brought up. The interim manager, sitting in the corner, delayed his post-match media duties to survey the scene.

Bruce Buck (chairman): “Roman’s message was it was all down to the boys. That they’d done it. We’d had a tough season, a bunch of highs and lows, but they’d grasped it and deserved all the credit. It was very difficult when Andre left, because he’s a really good guy. I guess we just felt it was something that had to be done and, obviously, it’s turned out really well for us.

“Then Didier rather took over. There was this big table in the middle of the room with the lockers around it, and he was dancing on that table, praying to the cup. It was almost a religious experience. He talked about Barcelona – not this year’s Barcelona, but the game in 2009 [when Tom Henning Ovrebo’s refereeing performance had been so ferociously criticised] – and about Moscow, and it was really a lot of fun.”

The striker’s skit ended up as a chronology of Chelsea’s dalliance with the Champions League over the years, through their efforts that night, with the occasion joke thrown in about the bonuses the players would now be due.

Terry: “That speech probably lasted 10 or 15 minutes, and was really special. He realised he was leaving, but what a way to go out.”

Lampard: “It was all about Didier’s charisma in that dressing-room. He was centre-stage, speaking about how long we’d waited for it, how the cup had eluded us. And now we finally had our hands on it. I reckon he’ll end up as a politician one day. The personality he brings to an occasion… players were crying, they had tears in their eyes. I’ve never been so emotional after a game.”

Ivanovic: “It’s hard to explain how important Drogba was to the team, to the club, to everyone. When you talk about Chelsea at that time, you talk about Drogba, Lamps and John. They were the most important people in the club. Didier was in the team for such a long time, so many years, and he deserved that moment. It was a gift from the gods for him. He was more than a team-mate for all of us. He is special.

“I’m someone who believes in fairytales and, while he spoke to us all, I was thinking, ‘There’s no chance he’s going to leave.’ I didn’t even listen to what he was saying. I wanted him to stay, we all wanted him to stay. But the decision had already been made and we couldn’t change anything. At least Didier made history for ever.”

Drogba: “We tried to celebrate in a dignified manner on the pitch because we knew the Bayern players were hurting. I spoke to Arjen Robben. I’ve been in that situation before, so I felt for them. But once we were off the pitch, we could go wild. That speech was for ‘my people’ to understand how important that day was for all of us. If we had not won the Champions League, it would have been very difficult for me to leave the club. We had been chasing that trophy for eight years, and had always come so close to it.

“We walked by it in Moscow [losing the 2008 final], almost touching it. But we put that right. And we gave something back to the boss [Abramovich] for all he had done for Chelsea. People always talk about him buying expensive players, but look at the facilities at Cobham – some of the best in the world – and the academy he has built. He developed the club, and this was a reward. To leave Chelsea with a Champions League… it was like something out of a movie.”

Cech: “I wish I had seen it. But I was the player picked for doping control, so I have no idea what happened in the dressing-room after the game. Apparently Didier gave a speech, the owner gave a speech, people celebrated, everyone was kissing and having Champagne, and I came back two hours later from doping control to find the place empty. There was almost nobody there. I just took a picture, quickly, in the dressing-room with the cup.”

Some players traipsed through the mixed zone at the Allianz Arena clutching bottles of beer, emotionally spent by their evening’s work. The interim assistant first-team coach, Eddie Newton, told those in attendance “This job’s a doddle, isn’t it?” through a smile. Di Matteo, accompanied by his young son in a replica shirt sporting his father’s name, walked through clutching the trophy. Cole dismissed the opportunity to speak with the media, as was his right and, in truth, the norm. Torres, who had played 36 minutes off the bench, tempered the mood of celebration by airing his frustration at a bit-part role at the club.

Torres: “I’d felt huge disappointment when I saw the starting line-up, maybe the biggest disappointment of my life. In the end I was able to play a bit and help the team. But, this season, I felt things I never felt before. They have treated me in a way I was not expecting, not the manner for which the club brought me here. We have had many conversations and now the season is finished we will have more talks to see what happens in the future because this is not the role for which I came and I’m not happy. All this makes up for it, of course, but as far as the future is concerned… I’ve gone through some very bad moments. The worst moments of my career during the season. I am not willing to relive those moments.”

The celebrations would continue back at the Mandarin Oriental. The players only returned to their hotel just before 3am, with Gianfranco Zola and Ruud Gullit, former team-mates of Di Matteo’s, gatecrashing the party in the China Moon roof terrace bar. Some players ended up sleeping in their suits by the pool, their winners’ medals draped round their necks. The club secretary, Dave Barnard, took the trophy to bed.

Buck: “Because, if it had gone missing, it would have been his fault.”

By then, it already sported a considerable dent just beneath the engraving ‘Chelsea Football Club 2012’. A procession along the King’s Road awaited back in London as the significance of all that had been achieved finally sank in.


What happened next?

Drogba’s departure was confirmed a few days later, the striker eventually moving to China to play for Shanghai Shenhua under freedom of contract. There would be a subsequent season-long spell at Galatasaray before he returned to Stamford Bridge in 2014 to play his part in a title-winning campaign under Jose Mourinho.

Di Matteo would have to wait until mid-June before Abramovich confirmed his full-time appointment with the new European champions, though his stint in charge would be short-lived. A poor run in the autumn and a devastating defeat at Juventus, which effectively jettisoned the holders from the Champions League defence at the group stage, cost him his job. He was sacked in the small hours of the morning upon the team’s return from Italy.

It would be Bayern who would hoist the trophy that season, beating Borussia Dortmund at Wembley. Robben, the fall guy in Munich, scored their late winner.

Chelsea have enjoyed two Europa League final wins in the years since, including in 2013 under Rafael Benitez’s interim stewardship when Terry again missed out through injury but Ivanovic scored the winner. Yet there have been no further triumphs in the Champions League to savour. That victory in 2012 remains London’s only European Cup success, with Abramovich’s hopes dashed that Munich would be the start of an era of dominance. Rather, it represented the pinnacle.

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On 25/02/2020 at 2:11 PM, Iggy Doonican said:

A mate just sent me this the Spurs match thread is closed so I thought I'd stick it on here. A couple of years old still fucking hilarious though.

 

Is there a way to set an embedded GIF to auto repeat? I bleedin' love Spurs. Their capacity to make me smile is endless.

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7 hours ago, OhForAGreavsie said:

Is there a way to set an embedded GIF to auto repeat?

If it's in a Twitter post like the one above, then no, I don't think so. 

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2 hours ago, Jason said:

 

yet another thing my future forward, proactive thinking warned of for ages, from the day it was floated 

but I am sure i will have a pack of trolls come and accuse me of acting like I think I own the club

ffs

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56 minutes ago, Vesper said:

yet another thing my future forward, proactive thinking warned of for ages, from the day it was floated 

but I am sure i will have a pack of trolls come and accuse me of acting like I think I own the club

ffs

Tbh it won't effect us like at all.

FIFA confirm new loan limits for next season and beyond; Chelsea Loan Army barely affected

https://weaintgotnohistory.sbnation.com/2020/2/27/21156351/fifa-confirm-new-loan-limits-for-next-season-and-beyond-chelsea-loan-army-barely-affected

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8 minutes ago, NikkiCFC said:

Tbh it won't effect us like at all.

FIFA confirm new loan limits for next season and beyond; Chelsea Loan Army barely affected

https://weaintgotnohistory.sbnation.com/2020/2/27/21156351/fifa-confirm-new-loan-limits-for-next-season-and-beyond-chelsea-loan-army-barely-affected

it will when it is extended to non international loans (within 3 years, and the FA could do it before then) and the 8 is dropped to 6 (and that is for all, BOTH in and out) in 2022

time to start selling the dregs off over the next two years to avoid it all

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Inside Chelsea: Why Carlo Ancelotti will always be welcome at Stamford Bridge

https://theathletic.com/1653892/2020/03/05/carlo-ancelotti-chelsea-roman-abramovich/

Carlo-Ancelotti-Chelsea-scaled-e1583349013248-1024x711.jpg

Carlo Ancelotti has a back-up plan ready if he is prevented from standing on the Stamford Bridge touchline when his Everton side face Chelsea on Sunday. “If I am banned (by the Football Association), I will be disappointed but the stand at Stamford Bridge is near the dugout, so I will be close,” he said this week, after being shown a red card by referee Chris Kavanagh for his protestations after Everton’s 1-1 draw with Manchester United.

The Italian’s enduring popularity with just about everyone at Chelsea is such that he could probably have his pick of any seat in the stadium he called home for two rollercoaster years from 2009 to 2011. Remarkably, this will be the first time Ancelotti has returned to Stamford Bridge as an opponent but it is not the first time he has been back. He has watched Chelsea games from the directors’ box as a guest of the club and visited their Cobham training base.

Ancelotti remains on better terms with the Chelsea hierarchy than any former manager other than Guus Hiddink, a long-time friend of Roman Abramovich, and the genuine warmth towards him from the club’s board indicates a desire to live up to the one conciliatory line in an otherwise cold statement that confirmed his sacking in May 2011: “Carlo will always be welcome at Stamford Bridge, where he will be given the reception and respect his position in our history deserves.”

No other manager in Chelsea’s 115-year history has matched Ancelotti’s achievement of winning the league title and FA Cup in the same season, though Antonio Conte came close in 2016-17. Time has only enhanced his success and the struggles of many of his successors have heightened the sense inside and outside the club that his dismissal — confirmed in the bowels of Goodison Park minutes after his last press conference on the final day of the 2010-11 Premier League season — was harsh.

The landscape of English football has shifted drastically over the past decade, and so too has Chelsea’s place within it. Frank Lampard is expected to qualify for the Champions League; Ancelotti’s brief in the summer of 2009 was to find a way to win the whole thing. But that wasn’t all. “I want a manager who gives my team an identity because when I watch Chelsea, I’m not able to find an identity,” he recalls Abramovich telling him in his 2016 book, “Quiet Leadership”.

Chelsea’s director of football operations at the time, Mike Forde, had 10 meetings with Ancelotti before his appointment was finalised, covering all aspects of his vision for the job. But ultimately what enabled Ancelotti to succeed — and then survive as long as was reasonably possible — was his willingness to compromise on his methods and embrace new ideas as they were presented to him.

Ancelotti wanted to bring several AC Milan assistants to Chelsea but accepted Abramovich’s request to see how he worked with the existing staff first. In the end, only Italian psychologist Bruno Demichelis came with him to England, while Ray Wilkins and Paul Clement, promoted from the reserves, were quickly adopted into his “football family”. “My experience at Chelsea taught me that you don’t necessarily need what you think you want,” he later wrote.

Carlo Ancelotti Branislav Ivanovic

In one of his early meetings with Abramovich, Ancelotti suggested Chelsea sign Franck Ribery from Bayern Munich and Xabi Alonso from Liverpool. Chelsea then tried in vain to buy Andrea Pirlo from Milan in the summer of 2009. Ancelotti’s response to not getting a new midfield conductor or superstar winger was practical rather than political: he simply tweaked the formation and moved Michael Essien into a deeper role.

This calm, pragmatic attitude earned Ancelotti less credit than it should have within Chelsea at the time but subsequent public confrontations with Jose Mourinho and Conte over transfer strategy have cast his actions in a much more favourable light. Abramovich has learned the hard way the value of a low-maintenance leader.

Ancelotti’s plan on the pitch was to make Chelsea a dominant possession team with the 4-4-2 diamond he had deployed at Milan but, after discussions with his senior players, he switched to a 4-3-2-1 system. “The smart thing he did was look at it and realise it didn’t suit some of our big players, myself included,” Lampard said of his former manager in 2017. “I remember being uncomfortable at the top of the diamond and not so comfortable on the left.

“He changed the formation and that’s the brilliance of Carlo Ancelotti the manager. He is a players’ manager. He listens to his players and he wants to get the best from his best players because he knows that’s how you win the league.”

“Carlo was the main figure in that moment; he completely turned everything that was going on at Chelsea after Mourinho and (Luiz Felipe) Scolari,” Branislav Ivanovic tells The Athletic. “He was exactly what Chelsea needed in that moment. It was a golden time for us.

“He is an amazing person. He is a coach who can bring the best out of players. He knows how to work with the big players, he knows how to get the best out of them. He gave us some freedom in the game but also gave us some tactics, which helped a lot.”

The result was the closest any manager has come to giving Chelsea the kind of proactive identity Abramovich craves. Manchester United’s three-year hold on the Premier League trophy was broken in style with a then-record 103 goals scored, while both Lampard and Didier Drogba enjoyed the most prolific scoring seasons of their careers. Victory over Portsmouth in the FA Cup final added a further layer of gloss to a historic campaign.

“Carlo just clicked with everyone,” Clement tells The Athletic. “We scored 103 goals, only bettered once, and had an incredible attacking side, a team with a lot of maturity in every position. We had top players, competition for places, and personnel at the peak of their powers. They were late 20s, they’d won big trophies, and knew how to achieve success.

“We just tapped into that and Carlo developed a style that suited them. That played to their strengths: pace and power going forward, aggression and solidity at the back. We were unstoppable at times. Opponents didn’t know what had hit them. It was a special year.”

But on the road to the champagne were plenty of reminders of the Chelsea dysfunction that eventually engulfed Ancelotti. John Terry played through being stripped of the England captaincy in February 2010 amid media allegations of an affair with the ex-partner of former team-mate Wayne Bridge. The breakdown of Ashley Cole’s marriage to pop star Cheryl Tweedy also dominated the UK newspapers. Both men confided in their manager about the problems in their personal lives.

One week before the first leg of Chelsea’s clash with Inter Milan in the Champions League round of 16, Abramovich called a squad meeting at Cobham, in which chief executive Ron Gourlay warned the players that any further embarrassing misdemeanours would be met with severe disciplinary measures. The undercurrent of the owner’s response was the perception that Ancelotti was too much a friend to the players, and that his relaxed attitude created as many problems as it solved.

Abramovich was, at the time, in the habit of reinforcing discipline himself, turning up at Cobham to question his squad and manager after unexpected defeats. Ancelotti would receive text messages from the Chelsea owner consisting of nothing more than a question mark, to which he replied with an exclamation mark. “I chose not to meet aggression with aggression. It is not my way,” he later wrote. “I like to think through the difficult times, address the problems coolly and with reason.”

Ancelotti is flexible on many things but he maintains an unshakeable belief in the philosophy that underpins his management style. “He (Abramovich) would try to convince me, with all my experience to the contrary, to be stronger, tougher and more rigorous with the players,” he later wrote. “I’d heard it all before and I’ve heard it since but he was wrong — they are all wrong.

“They hire me to be kind and calm with the players, and then at the first sign of trouble along the way, that’s the very characteristic they point to as the problem. I know that if I am winning then, it is because I am calm. Equally, if I am losing, it is because I am calm. How can it be both? It’s a paradox but I was trapped by it at Chelsea.”

Two defeats in the space of three days in February 2010, away at Inter and at home to Manchester City, were what Ancelotti later called the “thunderbolts” that marked the beginning of the end of his relationship with Abramovich. Chelsea’s owner demanded answers after both results and criticised the tactics deployed against Inter in front of the players. Elimination at the hands of Mourinho, en route to his second Champions League triumph, only heightened the humiliation.

The loyalty Ancelotti commanded in the Chelsea dressing room averted disaster, secured a historic double and earned him a second season. But the players could not protect him forever.

Frank Lampard Carlo Ancelotti

Lampard, Terry and Essien all missed significant chunks of the 2010-11 campaign through injury, while Drogba contracted malaria. January spending only complicated matters. Years earlier at that meeting in Paris, a frustrated Abramovich had asked Ancelotti how to get the best out of a struggling Andriy Shevchenko and Fernando Torres, diminished by injury and weighed down by a £50 million price tag from Liverpool, presented a similar headache.

Chelsea’s dysfunctional off-field structure also wore Ancelotti down. He had generally communicated with Abramovich and the board through sporting director Frank Arnesen but when the Dane left for Hamburg in February 2010, the hierarchy lost coherence. “It wasn’t that there was nobody trying to do that job — it was that everybody was trying to do it,” Ancelotti wrote. By the time Wilkins was sacked and replaced by Michael Emenalo later that year, his fate was sealed.

Ancelotti faced a higher bar for success than any other manager hired by Abramovich. It was Champions League or bust and, when United eliminated Chelsea at the quarter-final stage with a 2-1 win at Old Trafford, it was left to Sir Alex Ferguson to console the Italian after another dressing room dressing down from the owner. “Carlo was really upset, so I said, ‘Just forget it’,” Ferguson recalled in a chapter written for “Quiet Leadership”. “He can’t get rid of you in the middle of the season.”

Looking back on the unvarnished picture painted of Abramovich in the book, it’s remarkable that relations between Ancelotti and Chelsea remain so warm. It helps that both parties have enjoyed considerable success since that inevitable parting of the ways: Ancelotti winning league titles with Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich either side of a Champions League triumph with Real Madrid, while Abramovich got his hands on Europe’s biggest prize in 2012.

Chelsea’s hierarchy has changed drastically since 2011. Gourlay, the man tasked with delivering the bad news at Goodison Park, left in 2014 and Marina Granovskaia has assumed his duties and more as chief football executive. Emenalo is gone and the technical structure above Lampard is considerably streamlined, with Cech — another stalwart of Ancelotti’s double-winners — growing into an advisory role this season.

Abramovich is also a different kind of owner: no less financially committed but more patient and less prone to harmful interference. Even if he had not delegated day-to-day responsibilities for the football operation to Granovskaia, his standoff with the UK government would still ensure that awkward semi-regular inquests in front of the players are a thing of the past.

Within this context, the enduring affection and respect for Ancelotti at Chelsea can be seen as a tacit admission of past mistakes. He may now be in the business of creating happier memories at Goodison Park but he will always find a warm welcome at Stamford Bridge — in the board room as well as in the stands.

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Chelsea training cancelled after coronavirus concern

https://theathletic.com/1671855/2020/03/12/chelsea-coronavirus-training-cancelled-cobham/

chelsea-coronavirus-training-cancelled-scaled-e1584021629719-1024x683.jpg

Chelsea players were ordered not to attend training on Thursday after someone close to the squad complained of coronavirus symptoms.

Sources have told The Athletic that the situation developed on Wednesday night and a decision was made to cancel Thursday’s session early in the morning before any of the players had arrived.

The person experiencing the symptoms — a fever followed by a dry cough, which can lead to breathing problems — had not been diagnosed with coronavirus as of Thursday lunchtime.

It is understood that the club’s training base at Cobham in Surrey is being thoroughly cleaned as a precautionary measure and there are no members of staff in the building, including head coach Frank Lampard and his backroom team.

Training is set to go ahead on Friday and Lampard’s press conference ahead of Saturday’s trip to Aston Villa is planned to take place at Cobham from 1.30pm.

The club’s preparations for the evening kickoff have been compromised, though, and their travel arrangements are now at risk.

The team were going to drive up to Birmingham on Friday to stay in a hotel overnight, something the squad do regularly for away matches. But now there is a strong possibility they will have to make the coach journey on match-day instead.

The game against struggling Villa is an important one for Chelsea’s bid to qualify for the Champions League via a top-four finish. They lead Manchester United, who are in fifth, by three points with nine Premier League fixtures to go.

Chelsea are full of confidence after beating Liverpool 2-0 in the FA Cup fifth round and then securing their biggest victory of the season with a 4-0 triumph over Everton in the top flight last Sunday.

The dressing rooms at Stamford Bridge were thoroughly cleaned before the latter match, while access for camera crews was also limited. This is standard practice across the Premier League, The Athletic has been told.

There is a strong possibility that the Villa fixture and other English football fixtures will be ordered to be played behind closed doors as action is stepped up to control the spread of the virus.

Spectators have already been barred from the second leg of Chelsea’s Champions League match against Bayern Munich in Germany next Wednesday.

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Chelsea put contract talks with five players on hold due to coronavirus

Chelsea have halted contract talks with five first team players due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

https://www.express.co.uk/sport/football/1260419/Chelsea-news-contract-talks-five-players-on-hold-coronavirus

Chelsea have put contract negotiations with five players on hold as the Blues wait to see the full impact of the coronavirus crisis on the current Premier League campaign. The season has been postponed until at least April 30 and is at risk of running well into the summer if all of the remaining fixtures are to be played.

That means a number of players are left awaiting clarification over their contract situations with deals set to expire on June 30.

Chelsea have four players – Willian, Pedro, Olivier Giroud and Willy Caballero – who are all out of contract and are set to leave the club at the end of this season.

The Blues also want to sign Tammy Abraham up on a new deal, with the club’s top scorer having just two more years to go on his current contract.

The Telegraph now report that Chelsea have halted all negotiations due to the uncertainty surrounding the culmination of the Premier League campaign.

 

snip

 

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Exercise bikes, skipping ropes and weights sent to Chelsea’s housebound squad

https://theathletic.com/1699691/2020/03/26/exercise-bikes-skipping-ropes-and-weights-sent-to-chelseas-housebound-squad/

chelsea-stamford-bridge-coronavirus-locked-scaled-e1585155904390-1024x682.jpg

It has been less than two weeks since the coronavirus outbreak shut down the Premier League, but it already feels like a century ago.

All over the world, football has been forced to make a jarring transition to the fringes of public life and Chelsea, like many other top clubs, are still adjusting to this new reality.

Even if you were able to take an idle walk past Stamford Bridge or the club’s Cobham training ground, there wouldn’t be much to see. Both sites are now populated only by essential maintenance and security staff – “key workers”, in accordance with the latest UK government guidelines. All other club personnel are working from home, where the players have been for some time.

Callum Hudson-Odoi’s positive test was announced on March 13. The rest of the first-team squad and staff were immediately told to stay away from Cobham and self-isolate as a precaution. That requirement formally ended on Monday – 14 days after Hudson-Odoi was first instructed to stay at home after displaying cold symptoms – but social distancing is still the order of the day.

But how do footballers work from home?

Chelsea acted quickly to establish a new daily routine. Exercise bikes of the type found in the gyms at Cobham were delivered to all players at their homes, together with a GPS watch that logs their physical activity. Skipping ropes and weights were also sent out. Fitness programmes are tailored to each individual, as they would be at the training ground, and staff monitoring the results provide daily online feedback.

Workout schedules consist of two sessions per day. They are intense and not limited to work on the bikes. For players who live in houses out of London near Cobham, the garden is the new training pitch: they are instructed to do sprints, as well as extra exercises designed to maintain core strength. Those in apartments closer to Stamford Bridge have been instructed to find quiet outside space for running. Communal gyms are now out of bounds.

Healthy diet and nutrition remains a key emphasis during self-isolation. Some players have also been sent packages of fresh fruit and vegetables. With so much uncertainty around the date of football’s return, Chelsea are determined to ensure that standards of fitness and conditioning are kept as high as possible in the interim.

Frank Lampard and his backroom staff are in regular contact with the players, and not simply to make sure they are doing the work required. There is also a desire to check in, to chat, and above all to make sure that every member of the squad feels personally supported throughout what is an hugely unprecedented and unsettling situation.

The training measures have been met with no complaints, and the players are doing their best to face their new restrictive circumstances in good spirits. For the foreign players with particular family concerns, the club are dealing with travel requests on a case-by-case basis. Willian was allowed to fly home to Brazil to be with his wife and young daughters, while three Chelsea Women players have been granted leave to return to Scandinavia.

Boredom is the main enemy for most. Players everywhere are having to get creative in search of light-hearted ways to fill their time. The #StayAtHomeChallenge, featuring kick-ups with a roll of toilet paper, has proved popular, while Emerson Palmieri posted a video on Instagram of him playing a tambourine to traditional Brazilian music. Most unexpectedly, it seems club captain Cesar Azpilicueta has taken up jigsaw puzzles.

Others are taking an opportunity to help those less fortunate. Christian Pulisic announced earlier this week that he has donated to Feeding America, a charity in his native USA that runs food banks aimed at providing access to meals for people in difficulty. Mason Mount, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Billy Gilmour are participating in a FIFA 20 charity stream to raise funds for those affected by coronavirus.

 

At club level, Chelsea’s community work continues, stretching beyond Roman Abramovich’s high-profile decision to make the Millennium Hotel attached to Stamford Bridge available to NHS staff working in hospitals across north-west London. The old and vulnerable are also receiving regular phone calls, newsletters and video messages from the club’s foundation coaches and well-being staff.

Mindful of the fact that schools across the UK have been closed indefinitely, the Chelsea Foundation are working to make an online resource available to pupils, parents and teachers, and are setting up virtual classrooms. Coaches are also preparing football skills sessions for children that are specifically designed to be done in the garden.

The two-year foundation degree in coaching and development, run by Chelsea Foundation in collaboration with St Mary’s University, is moving online. So too are the entrepreneur and start-up programmes launched in 2018 to educate those thinking of self-employment and starting their own business.

Football, of course, cannot be played online. The uncertainty around when live sport will be able to resume hangs over everyone at Chelsea, and this unscheduled break is all the more frustrating for the players on Lampard’s previously extensive injury list.

Pulisic, having been sidelined since January 1 with a persistent thigh problem, had just returned to full training and had earmarked the second leg of the Champions League last 16 tie against Bayern Munich on March 18 for his return to action. Hudson-Odoi, as well as making a swift recovery from coronavirus, is also no longer bothered by a previous hamstring injury he aggravated in training earlier this month.

Most tantalising of all is Loftus-Cheek, who was finally on the verge of making his first-team return after spending nine months battling his way back from a devastating achilles rupture. He also looks in excellent physical condition now, but has been forced to accept the fact he doesn’t know how much longer he will have to wait to play competitive football again.

Chelsea, like several other Premier League clubs ravaged by injury in recent months, have good reason to be optimistic that when football does finally resume, they may well be able to do so with a squad returned to full strength.

In the broader context of world events, however, these are trivial concerns. Until football comes back, all anyone can do is stay fit, stay ready and stay at home.

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20 hours ago, Vesper said:

Exercise bikes, skipping ropes and weights sent to Chelsea’s housebound squad

https://theathletic.com/1699691/2020/03/26/exercise-bikes-skipping-ropes-and-weights-sent-to-chelseas-housebound-squad/

chelsea-stamford-bridge-coronavirus-locked-scaled-e1585155904390-1024x682.jpg

It has been less than two weeks since the coronavirus outbreak shut down the Premier League, but it already feels like a century ago.

All over the world, football has been forced to make a jarring transition to the fringes of public life and Chelsea, like many other top clubs, are still adjusting to this new reality.

Even if you were able to take an idle walk past Stamford Bridge or the club’s Cobham training ground, there wouldn’t be much to see. Both sites are now populated only by essential maintenance and security staff – “key workers”, in accordance with the latest UK government guidelines. All other club personnel are working from home, where the players have been for some time.

Callum Hudson-Odoi’s positive test was announced on March 13. The rest of the first-team squad and staff were immediately told to stay away from Cobham and self-isolate as a precaution. That requirement formally ended on Monday – 14 days after Hudson-Odoi was first instructed to stay at home after displaying cold symptoms – but social distancing is still the order of the day.

But how do footballers work from home?

Chelsea acted quickly to establish a new daily routine. Exercise bikes of the type found in the gyms at Cobham were delivered to all players at their homes, together with a GPS watch that logs their physical activity. Skipping ropes and weights were also sent out. Fitness programmes are tailored to each individual, as they would be at the training ground, and staff monitoring the results provide daily online feedback.

Workout schedules consist of two sessions per day. They are intense and not limited to work on the bikes. For players who live in houses out of London near Cobham, the garden is the new training pitch: they are instructed to do sprints, as well as extra exercises designed to maintain core strength. Those in apartments closer to Stamford Bridge have been instructed to find quiet outside space for running. Communal gyms are now out of bounds.

Healthy diet and nutrition remains a key emphasis during self-isolation. Some players have also been sent packages of fresh fruit and vegetables. With so much uncertainty around the date of football’s return, Chelsea are determined to ensure that standards of fitness and conditioning are kept as high as possible in the interim.

Frank Lampard and his backroom staff are in regular contact with the players, and not simply to make sure they are doing the work required. There is also a desire to check in, to chat, and above all to make sure that every member of the squad feels personally supported throughout what is an hugely unprecedented and unsettling situation.

The training measures have been met with no complaints, and the players are doing their best to face their new restrictive circumstances in good spirits. For the foreign players with particular family concerns, the club are dealing with travel requests on a case-by-case basis. Willian was allowed to fly home to Brazil to be with his wife and young daughters, while three Chelsea Women players have been granted leave to return to Scandinavia.

Boredom is the main enemy for most. Players everywhere are having to get creative in search of light-hearted ways to fill their time. The #StayAtHomeChallenge, featuring kick-ups with a roll of toilet paper, has proved popular, while Emerson Palmieri posted a video on Instagram of him playing a tambourine to traditional Brazilian music. Most unexpectedly, it seems club captain Cesar Azpilicueta has taken up jigsaw puzzles.

Others are taking an opportunity to help those less fortunate. Christian Pulisic announced earlier this week that he has donated to Feeding America, a charity in his native USA that runs food banks aimed at providing access to meals for people in difficulty. Mason Mount, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Billy Gilmour are participating in a FIFA 20 charity stream to raise funds for those affected by coronavirus.

 

At club level, Chelsea’s community work continues, stretching beyond Roman Abramovich’s high-profile decision to make the Millennium Hotel attached to Stamford Bridge available to NHS staff working in hospitals across north-west London. The old and vulnerable are also receiving regular phone calls, newsletters and video messages from the club’s foundation coaches and well-being staff.

Mindful of the fact that schools across the UK have been closed indefinitely, the Chelsea Foundation are working to make an online resource available to pupils, parents and teachers, and are setting up virtual classrooms. Coaches are also preparing football skills sessions for children that are specifically designed to be done in the garden.

The two-year foundation degree in coaching and development, run by Chelsea Foundation in collaboration with St Mary’s University, is moving online. So too are the entrepreneur and start-up programmes launched in 2018 to educate those thinking of self-employment and starting their own business.

Football, of course, cannot be played online. The uncertainty around when live sport will be able to resume hangs over everyone at Chelsea, and this unscheduled break is all the more frustrating for the players on Lampard’s previously extensive injury list.

Pulisic, having been sidelined since January 1 with a persistent thigh problem, had just returned to full training and had earmarked the second leg of the Champions League last 16 tie against Bayern Munich on March 18 for his return to action. Hudson-Odoi, as well as making a swift recovery from coronavirus, is also no longer bothered by a previous hamstring injury he aggravated in training earlier this month.

Most tantalising of all is Loftus-Cheek, who was finally on the verge of making his first-team return after spending nine months battling his way back from a devastating achilles rupture. He also looks in excellent physical condition now, but has been forced to accept the fact he doesn’t know how much longer he will have to wait to play competitive football again.

Chelsea, like several other Premier League clubs ravaged by injury in recent months, have good reason to be optimistic that when football does finally resume, they may well be able to do so with a squad returned to full strength.

In the broader context of world events, however, these are trivial concerns. Until football comes back, all anyone can do is stay fit, stay ready and stay at home.

I was afraid to press play on Pulisic video after his previous one. Pedro is proof that Arabs where on Iberian peninsula once.

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31 minutes ago, NikkiCFC said:

I was afraid to press play on Pulisic video after his previous one. Pedro is proof that Arabs where on Iberian peninsula once.

Umayyad conquest of Hispania

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Umayyad_conquest_of_Hispania

The Umayyad conquest of Hispania, also known as the Muslim conquest of the Iberian Peninsula or the Umayyad conquest of the Visigothic Kingdom, was the initial expansion of the Umayyad Caliphate over Hispania (in the Iberian Peninsula) from 711 to 788. The conquest resulted in the destruction of the Visigothic Kingdom and the establishment of the independent Emirate of Córdoba under Abd al-Rahman I (ruled 756–788), who completed the unification of the Muslim-ruled areas (known as al-Andalus). The conquest marks the westernmost expansion of both the Umayyad Caliphate and Muslim rule into Europe.

During the caliphate of the Umayyad Caliph Al-Walid I, forces led by Tariq ibn Ziyad disembarked in early 711 in Gibraltar at the head of an army consisting of Berbers from north Africa.[1][2] After defeating the Visigothic usurper Roderic at the decisive Battle of Guadalete, Tariq was reinforced by an Arab force led by his superior wali Musa ibn Nusayr and continued northward. By 717, the combined Arab-Berber force had crossed the Pyrenees into Septimania. They occupied further territory in Gaul until 759.

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'Avram Grant was antisocial, his motivation was sh*t and I didn't learn anything from him' – ex-West Ham man Faubert slams former boss

https://www.goal.com/en/news/avram-grant-antisocial-motivation-sht-west-ham-faubert/ezf1ou2a3zrh14cgesphkb65c

Our best CL campaigns were with Grant and RDM. Which proves that managers are not so important when you have characters like Terry, Cech, Lamps, Drogba...

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54 minutes ago, NikkiCFC said:

'Avram Grant was antisocial, his motivation was sh*t and I didn't learn anything from him' – ex-West Ham man Faubert slams former boss

https://www.goal.com/en/news/avram-grant-antisocial-motivation-sht-west-ham-faubert/ezf1ou2a3zrh14cgesphkb65c

Our best CL campaigns were with Grant and RDM. Which proves that managers are not so important when you have characters like Terry, Cech, Lamps, Drogba...

It was like a tramp given the keys to a Rolls Royce -anyway how can you trust a man whose wife drinks piss ?

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17 hours ago, Fulham Broadway said:

It was like a tramp given the keys to a Rolls Royce -anyway how can you trust a man whose wife drinks piss ?

skål!

VIDEO: Vrouw Chelsea-coach dronk eigen urine - De Standaard MobileWatch out.. here comes Mrs Chelsea | Express Yourself | Comment ...

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