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Miami Blues

Chelsea ends U.S Tour with 1-0 loss to A.C. Milan

Saturday evening Chelsea looked like a team that was withering after two weeks in the American summer heat.  You can hardly blame them since the past two weeks have been packed with travel, two-a-day training sessions, loads of publicity appearances, and of course four heavily hyped friendlies.

After starting the U.S. tour with that promising 4-2 defeat of Seattle Sounders, things have gone downhill a bit, with a draw against Paris St. Germain, followed by losses to the MLS All-Stars and A.C. Milan last night.  Yes, it’s only preseason.  Obviously the important thing on these tours is team preparedness and bonding – getting as ready as possible before the games really count.  The tour has certainly been successful from a marketing standpoint with each of the stadiums mostly full and Chelsea fans turning up in droves for every match.  Still, ending the tour with consecutive losses must have at least a small negative psychological effect.  You like to see those engines fully revved in preseason, but there’s still time to get ready.

Considering all that the Blues have been through on this tour, it’s hard to be too disappointed or critical about losing to A.C. Milan.  It’s not like Milan dominated or anything, in fact, Chelsea controlled large portions of the match.  But if there was one minor alarm that went off for me last night, it’s that Chelsea’s play was eerily similar to the way they played much of the first half of last season.  That is, controlling most of their matches without actually scoring.  Possession without points.  Chelsea has a very strong midfield, but they’ve got to produce more goals this season.

Fortunately, the team has a few more weeks to work out the kinks.  The biggest readiness test will be that August 12 Community Shield match against Manchester City.

I want to thank everyone for stopping by the blog during the past two weeks.  You’ve brought record readership to the site during Chelsea’s American tour.  I sincerely appreciate your clicks and I hope you will swing by again often during this season!

Your thoughts on Chelsea’s performance against A.C. Milan?

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Yellow and Black Attack

Chelsea unveils 3rd kit

Chelsea trained in Miami for the first time yesterday evening in preparation for their final U.S. preseason game against A.C. Milan Saturday night.  The Blues will undoubtedly be antsy for a win after tying Paris St. Germain in New York and losing to the MLS All-Stars in Philadelphia.  Should be a fun one against A.C. Milan.

Yesterday Chelsea unveiled the all-important (not really) “third” kit – an interesting yellow and black number inspired either by Tron or 80s big-hair metal band Stryper.  I’m not sure which…

I’m not a big fan of this 3rd kit, though there are far worse jerseys to be featured in the Premier League this season (for proof check out this and especially this).  Chelsea has also had worse 3rd kits in the past, although I liked last season’s 3rd (which has sentimental value as the kit worn in that historic win at Barcelona to reach the Champions League final).  Generally, I prefer jerseys that aren’t too busy, and this new kit has a little too much going on for my taste (particularly those ab-highlighting lines).  But the 3rd is usually just a cameo jersey, so we probably won’t see it very often.

As a side note, Chelsea wore their new away kit for the first time against the MLS All-Stars the other night and I thought it worked well.  The previously bashed sash on the jersey didn’t bother me that much.

Some Blues-related news I’ve seen today includes Benayoun possibly being loaned to Fulham, and Marseille possibly selling defender Cesar Azpilicueta to Chelsea.  I like Benayoun, but at 32-years-old, I don’t expect Chelsea will keep him this season.  Fulham would probably be a good gig for Benayoun.  As for Azpilicueta, I don’t remember much about him from watching Marseille in the Champions League last season, but I welcome the signing of another defender.

What do you think of Chelsea’s new 3rd kit?

Post-All Star Game Thoughts

MLS All-Stars beat Chelsea 3-2

They’re still in preseason.  They’re still in preseason.  They’re still in preseason.  That’s what I’ve had to keep telling myself about Chelsea since the loss last night to the MLS All-Stars in Philadelphia.  Actually, it wasn’t a poor Chelsea performance.  And the All-Stars weren’t particularly starry.  It was a decent game with a decent number of scoring chances for both teams.  Still, I’d rather Chelsea have won.

Michael Essien was on fire last night.  He looked like the pre-2011-injury Essien (which is a good thing).  Perhaps he is just now fully recovered from the knee injury that wrecked half of last season for him.  Or, perhaps he was just a man on a mission to show Di Matteo that he can still take care of business in midfield.  Regardless, he looked great and made a tremendous case for himself.  His was aggressive and fast on defense.  His passes were back to their old accuracy.  It was great to see.

For all the talk about Chelsea’s supposed youth revolution this summer, look who scored the Blues’ goals last night – Terry and Lampard.  These guys just keep on ticking.  I don’t know how many more seasons they’ve got left in them, but as long as they keep contributing like this, it’s hard to think about replacing them.

New Blues Marko Marin and Eden Hazard didn’t quite click with the team last night.  Marin held onto the ball a little too long in the box on several occasions when a quicker shot or pass might’ve been the better option.  Unfortunately, Hazard simply didn’t get many opportunities to show his stuff when he came on in the second half.

Lukaku’s effort was decent.  I’d like to see him pull the trigger on shots more often.  He could be a little more selfish with the ball in front of goal.  And we still haven’t gotten a good look at his heading ability.  But overall he had a better game than he did against PSG.

One of the trickiest aspects of Di Matteo’s job this summer will be figuring out what the best combination of players is, particularly in midfield.  That job is even harder with some key guys like Mata and Sturridge currently busy at the Olympics.  I thought the first half offensive group (Lampard, Essien, Benayoun, Ramires, Marin, Lukaku) significantly outperformed the second half group (Mikel, Meireles, Hazard, Piazon, Malouda, De Bruyne).

Last night’s loss was disappointing because you want to see your team dominate in preseason.  But it’s not that big a deal.  There is a still lot of preseason yet to go.  The team is already in Miami for their final U.S. Tour stop where they’ll play A.C. Milan on Saturday.

Your thoughts on Chelsea’s performance last night?

All Star Blues

Chelsea takes on MLS All-Stars tonight

I’m looking forward to Chelsea’s big clash against the MLS All-Stars tonight.  Should be a pretty close game.  Sounds like Di Matteo may let several players go the full 90.  Doesn’t look like Torres will play tonight at all though.  You can hear some of Di Matteo’s and Lampard’s comments about the match and MLS’ development here.

Philadelphia’s PPL Park, site of tonight’s Chelsea v. MLS All-Stars match.

The big player news of the day involves… whom else?  Oscar the Brazilian Wonder Kid of course!  Chelsea has officially confirmed the 18-year-old’s signing.  Increasingly, this is shaping up to be a torch-passing season for Chelsea between the veteran Blues and the brand new youngsters.  Chelsea haven’t played it safe with their signings this summer.  The moves have definitely been made with an eye toward the long-term future.

One of Chelsea’s brand new youngsters, Kevin De Bruyne, may be headed on loan to Bundesliga club Werder Bremen for this season.  De Bruyne showed a lot of life in Chelsea’s first preseason game against the Sounders, though he was less visible in the PSG game.  With so many midfielders to choose from, sending De Bruyne on loan may be the first of many tough personnel decisions Di Matteo has to make over the next few weeks.

Good to see Chelsea has gotten into the spirit of Philadelphia with some Rocky-style training ahead of the big game tonight.  Don’t forget to watch the Blues versus MLS All-Stars on ESPN2!

Who do you hope to see play for Chelsea tonight?

Yo, Fernando!

Torres joins Chelsea teammates in Philadelphia

Fernando Torres returned from his post-Euro 2012 vacay yesterday, getting back to work with Chelsea as they prepare for the MLS All-Star game tomorrow night.  MLS.com has video coverage of Chelsea’s training yesterday and here’s a brief video update from the team’s training today.  Torres is not expected to play until Saturday’s match in Miami against AC Milan.

Today Chelsea officially announced that they’ve signed Eden Hazard’s younger brother Thorgan.  If things work out for these young Blues brothers, we could be making Hazardous puns for years to come.

Oscar the Brazilian Wonder Kid must have an amazing agent because Oscar has somehow managed to be in the headlines for nearly two weeks in a row.  Signs continue to point toward this deal happening, perhaps as early as Friday.

How excited is Philadelphia about hosting the Chelsea v. MLS All-Stars match tomorrow night?  Judging by the Philadelphia Inquirer Sports home page, less-than-thrilled.  Though the game’s a little over 24 hours away, there’s not a single item about it on the home page!

What do you think of the Thorgan Hazard signing?

City of Brotherly Blues

Chelsea head to Philadelphia for MLS All-Star Game

Chelsea tied Paris St. Germain 1-1 in last night’s match at Yankee Stadium.  It was a ho-hum game for the most part – not bad by any means, just a little stuck in lower gear.  PSG was definitely a step up competition-wise from the Sounders game.  Some better finishing might’ve garnered Chelsea the victory, but it was still a good battle back to tie the game.  Today the team travels by train to Philadelphia for Wednesday’s clash with MLS All-Stars.

I still like the promise displayed by Hazard and Marin in last night’s game.  They could make a big impact for Chelsea this season.  I was less impressed with Lukaku and De Bruyne last night than against Seattle.  Hutchinson also looked a little shaky on defense and too hasty with several passes.  I wish McEachran had seen more of the ball when he came on in the second half.  I also wish Malouda would regain his former sharpness in the final third.  He had one of Chelsea’s best scoring opps of the match but smacked it directly at PSG’s keeper.

But these are small criticisms considering it’s preseason with lots of player rotation.  And considering there are so many young players on this tour.  Speaking of – how ‘bout 18-year-old Brazilian Lucas Piazon’s second half goal?  Ramires (also Brazilian!) slipped Piazon the sweet pass that led to the goal.  Earlier in the game I complained aloud about this whippersnapper Piazon who seems to have a penchant for trying to dribble around defenders instead of passing.  Equalizing goals have a penchant for shutting me up.  Piazon’s probably too young to earn a spot with Chelsea this season, but perhaps we glimpsed a bright future Blue last night.

Today’s Oscar the Brazilian Wonder Kid update swings back in the direction of him actually joining Chelsea.  What that means is, nobody really knows for sure.

There are a couple items today about expensive German club players that Chelsea has tried to get – Andre Schurrle of Bayer Leverkusen and Robert Lewandowski of Borussia Dortmund.  That’s the downside of being one of the world’s moneybags clubs, everyone tries to fleece you.

There’s also much chat today about Frank Lampard’s potential MLS future.  I think it’s a non-story.  The guy is committed to Chelsea to the end of his contract.  Sounds like he answered reporters honestly after last night’s game because his future beyond this season really is up to Chelsea.  They may decide not to renew, but I think that would be the only scenario that would send Lamps to MLS.  By the way, if that does happen, FC Dallas wants you Frank!*

*I have no authority to speak on behalf of FC Dallas.  But I’m inviting you to join the club anyway!

Your thoughts on the Chelsea/PSG match last night?