El Centrocampista



With one round of group games left in this year’s edition of the Champions League, there seems little doubt as to who the strongest two sides are.

Real Madrid and Barcelona both secured top spot in their respective groups this week, leaving them with meaningless ties in their remaining games in two weeks time.

The stats make ominous reading for the rest of Europe; Mourinhos’s side have yet to drop a point having scored 16 goals on the way to five comfortable victories.

Barca on the other hand have only dropped two points, in their 2-2 draw against Milan on matchday one, and have also struck 16 times.

At the other end of the pitch, their defences have been equally impressive with a miserly two and four goals conceded respectively.

The dominant performances of Spain’s big two should come as no surprise of course, Barca are the reigning European champions and Real Madrid have been imperious in La Liga this season.

What has been more surprising however, is the stuttering displays of their closest rivals over the past few years.

The Barclays Premier League has provided finalists in six of the previous seven seasons, but going into the last group games, only one English side, Arsenal, have secured qualification.

Last season’s beaten finalists, Manchester United have looked far from convincing and sit second, facing a winner-takes-all against Swiss side Basel at Old Trafford.

Chelsea on the other hand have been worryingly disjointed at times in Group E.

The Londoners must avoid defeat at home to Valencia in he final game to limp into the knock-out stages.

Of more interest is the showing of this seasons run-away leaders, Manchester City.

Roberto Mancini’s side have already lost two games and sit third in their group behind Bayern Munich and Napoli.

If the Italian side win at Villarreal on 7 December, Mancini’s big spending blues will be left playing Europa League football after Christmas.

That is a distinct possibility, as the Yellow Submarine have been woeful in Group A this season, losing every game.

Their performance in Europe has been in complete contrast to the dominance they have enjoyed domestically, although considering they had only ever played two games in Europe’s top club competition before this season, they may be forgiven somewhat for struggling to find their feet.

It should be of more concern that the established sides of United and Chelsea, both hugely experienced in continental football have struggled in, what has to be said, fairly routine-looking groups.

No disrespect to Swiss football, but Ferguson’s side should not be facing a crunch game against Basel in the final rounds of football.

Despite that, it seems likely they will take their place among the other 15 sides come the draw for the knock-out round.

The situation at Stamford Bridge is far more intriguing however.

Surely Chelsea must be favourites, after all they have home advantage, but this side has taken on a whole new dynamic since the arrival of Andre Villers-Boas in the summer.

Can you imagine Chelsea losing four games out of seven when Jose Mourinho was at the helm?

No, neither can I.

Their opponents, Valencia in contrast have been in sublime form as of late.

They fell to an largely undeserved 3-2 defeat to Real Madrid last weekend but bounced back in style last night, walloping a hapless Genk side 7-0 at the Mestalla.

Despite a fairly bright start by the Belgian champions, a devastating attacking performance, led by hat-trick hero Roberto Soldado, eventually blew them away.

In reality it could have been far more than seven.

Unai Emery has proven a wily old fox yet again this season after losing another of his key players over the summer.

Juan Mata’s departure, ironically to Chelsea, could have left a huge void in the Valencia side but, as he did following the loss of David’s Villa and Silva, Emery has again found the perfect blend in remoulding the new faces that have come into his squad.

Obviously it helps that Soldado is probably the hottest striker in Europe at the moment, but he is being ably assisted by players such as Tino Costa, Jonas and Pablo Hernandez.

In fact Jonas must represent one of the bargains of the year as his arrival from Brazilian outfit Gremio in January cost los che just €1.25 million.

Add to this list the likes of Artiz Aduriz, Daniel Parejo and Pablo Piatti, and it is clear Emery has a wealth of attacking options; something he utilised to great effect last night.

Chelsea have been defensively less-than-convincing in recent times, with the ageing John Terry and the sometimes comical David Luiz looking worrying porous.

The 5-3 home defeat to Arsenal being a case in point, and if Valencia produce the sort of attacking display we witnessed against Genk, Chelsea could be in serious danger of defeat.

But Valencia are not just about attack – they have a fantastic defence this season – reminiscent of the days when they had the meanest backline in Europe.

French international Adil Rami has been the best defender in La Liga so far this season and has formed a wonderful partnership with Victor Ruiz, who came in from Napoli.

They are also blessed with two fantastic left-backs in Jordi Alba and Jeremy Mathieu.

Seen as rivals for the position, Emery has recently started playing them in tandem with one in a more advanced role.

It has been a master stroke, as their overlapping runs have caused chaos to their opponents.

There can be no doubt that los che will travel to London in two weeks time full of confidence, and why not.

Remember also, they are doing this without the services of key midfielders Ever Banega and Sergio Canales.

It is sure to be a night of high drama and it is difficult to predict a winner but if English fans believe Chelsea will stroll in to the next round, they may have a very rude awakening.



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  1. Pingback: CHELSEA STAGGER – Will Valencia inflict the final blow? | Blue Meanie .me

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