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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?

Back in Action

Chelsea takes on Seattle Sounders FC tonight

Chelsea returns to the pitch tonight for a preseason friendly in their first match since winning the Champions League in May.  Although several players will be missing due to post-Euro 2012 vacation and/or impending Olympics duty, it will be fun to see the Blues knocking around the leather again.  It’s also a great opportunity to see some of the club’s youngsters play.

Speaking of youngsters, Oscar the Brazilian Wonder Kid (as I’ve decided to call him for now) supposedly passed his physical with the club, but Di Matteo still won’t confirm or deny any deal.

Florent Malouda will be joining Chelsea in the U.S. in a day or two, but it may be a short visit.  Rumor is he may be headed to a South American team.  I’ve always liked Malouda, but the time is probably right to let him go.  His play has deteriorated since Chelsea’s 2009/10 EPL title-winning season.  He didn’t contribute much with France at the Euros this summer either.  He will be missed, but the club probably needs to free up his roster spot.

Chelsea’s mega-deal of the summer so far has been the signing of Eden Hazard.  Now it sounds like they may be interested in Eden’s 19-year-old younger brother Thorgan.  If that were to happen, Thorgan would instantly inherit the title of awesomest name on the team.  Thorgan currently plays for Lens in France’s Ligue 2.  I know nothing about him except that he’s a midfielder and that anyone with “Thor” in his first name is bound to be a cool dude.

Chelsea’s ongoing attempt to purchase every Brazilian soccer player on the planet has apparently hit a snag as Ukrainian club Shakhtar Donetsk rejected their bid for Willian.  I don’t know much about Willian either, but he does have his own website, aptly named “willianwebsite.com”.

Former Chelsea manager-turned-Avenger Andre Villas Boas wants to foil Chelsea’s quest for Brazilian domination by trying to capture Hulk for Tottenham.  For much of the summer Chelsea has been rumored to be nabbing Hulk.  If AVB is successful in making Hulk a Hotspur, Thorgan can breathe easy that his awesomest name title is safe.

“What we need is more Brazilians!”

By the way, since the Brazilian Olympic soccer team is now in London, Chelsea might as well just bid for the entire team.  Perhaps they could save money by buying Brazilians in bulk.

Here is some footage of Chelsea’s training session at CenturyLink Field yesterday evening.  Kudos to Sounders FC for their Chelsea coverage this week, and kudos to Sounders fans for making their club one of the best supported in MLS.  The Sounders and their fans deserve to get friendlies like tonight’s against Chelsea!

Thoughts on these latest deal rumors?  Feel free to share below…