Man of the Match: Chelsea got good performances from all of Petr Cech, Frank Lampard, and Ramires, but for the second time in four days, their main man is Didier Drogba. While some expressed surprise he was chosen over Torres – particularly after playing late Sunday – Drogba again showed why he has to play every important game. His first half goal was the match’s only score, while his holdup play gave Chelsea’s defense their only reprieves. In the end, Drogba dropped back and joined his teammates, helping see out the last minutes from his own end.
Packaged for takeaway:
- Want to relive it? Here’s PST’s play-by-play.
- Omnipotent? At times. Perfect? No. Lionel Messi’s giveaway led to the match’s only goal, with Frank Lampard playing a quick, precise ball wide to Ramires to spring the game-winning counter.
- You’re going to hear a lot of “Barça were the better side.” Maybe, but I don’t want to hear it. Chelsea executed their plan to perfection, and although Barcelona had a number of chances to get on the scoresheet, it’s not like they bombarded Chelsea. The Blues deserve the credit for a result that played out exactly as they’d planned, even if that plan doesn’t always pan out.
- Some numbers: Barcelona had 72 percent of the possession, outshot Chelsea 24-8, played 13 shots on target to Chelsea’s three, and completed 782 passes to Chelsea’s 194. Clearly, the Catalans were capable, but going into the match, Chelsea both would have guessed the numbers would have played out this way and would have been willing to take their chances.
- It was clear early on how Chelsea wanted to play this. John Obi Mikel played in front of the defense, behind a line of four more than willing to collapse to the edge of their own box. Didier Drogba was left stranded, a gamble that paid off for the Blues.
- Barcelona has to look at Alexis Sanchez, who missed two easy opportunities, and Cesc Fabregas. Fabregas had a good game creating for others, but the couple of chances he had (while not as easy as Alexis’s) could have given Barcelona a goal.
- Petr Cech’s performance should not be overlooked. There weren’t any saves that will go in his career highlights, but given the sure number of times he was called on to make key saves or come off his line to swallow up through balls, Cech deserves to take pride in his clean sheet.
- For a team with Chelsea’s skill set, this is exactly how you have to play Barcelona. Unfortunately, it’s not a foolproof plan. Barcelona created a lot of good chances but failed to convert. It’s hard to see Chelsea being as lucky next Tuesday; however, with a one goal lead, they’ll be able to pack it in from the opening whistle. Over the last half hour of this match, it was unclear Barcelona had any idea of how to break them down. Will they figure it out, given 90 minutes?
- Getting Gerard Piqué healthy may be crucial. Tonight, they could have thrown him and Carles Puyol into the box over the last 15 minutes and tried to knock something down for Messi and Andrés Iniesta. If times get desperate next week, we’ll probably see Guardiola resort to it.
- Chelsea has six days to plug the hole between Gary Cahill and Branislav Ivanovic. Barcelona was able to create a number of their chances through that channel. Up one goal at kickoff next week, you could see Frank Lampard play deeper in an attempt to plug it.
- It’s a great day for Chelsea, but they still have to be considered underdogs. If this match plays out again on Tuesday, Barcelona likely goes through. Chelsea has to play slightly better, but after one leg, they’re more than half-way home.
Alan Pardew knows why Crystal Palace was failing when he got fired, knows he could’ve fixed it, and seems pretty bummed he’s not there any more.
Pardew emerged to make the comments after Sam Allardyce helmed another upset win for Palace, a 2-1 win over Liverpool which joins defeats of Arsenal and Chelsea.
The win moves Palace 12th, and the Eagles have a legitimate shot at a top-half finish despite their poor start to the season. But Pardew wants fans to know it was about a personnel mistake, and that Palace dropped into the relegation zone after he was fired.
[ PL PREVIEW: Chelsea vs. Southampton ]
The Northeast Chronicle says Pardew aimed to bring former Newcastle left backs Davide Santon and Paul Dummett to Palace, but couldn’t get the moves over the line. Then Pape Souare was hurt in a car accident and Palace was in trouble.
Over to you, Pards (From the Chronicle’s Lee Ryder):
“We were kicking ourselves not to have any left-footed cover. We were playing right-footed players there and things were exploiting that situation. We became one dimensional.
“I was really disappointed I didn’t get to the window because Sam Allardyce followed me and the results didn’t really improve until the new players got bedded in and they made a big difference.”
Allardyce brought in Patrick Van Aanholt from Sunderland and Jeff Schlupp from Leicester to shore up the left side.
The story is made more amusing by the fact that Allardyce has not hesitated to make Palace’s return to form almost exclusively about his influence, while Pardew bleeds the very same blood.
Who’s on first?
LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) Atletico Madrid officials are at sport’s highest court to appeal against a FIFA transfer ban that will prevent the club from signing youth players from overseas during the coming offseason.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport is hearing the appeal Monday, but says a verdict is not expected immediately.
Atletico and FIFA previously agreed to seek a CAS verdict by June, before the summer trading period opens.
[ MORE: Griezmann’s advisor speaks on future ]
FIFA imposed a one-year ban on registering new players as punishment for Atletico breaking rules introduced to prevent child trafficking and luring youngsters from their home country.
Atletico denies wrongdoing, though it agreed not to sign players in January while its appeal went ahead.
Spain’s soccer federation has been criticized for its role in player registrations, with Barcelona and Real Madrid also having served FIFA transfer bans.
- Chelsea won 2-0 on Oct. 30
- Saints won fixture 3-1 last season
- Chelsea 13W-2L at home this season
- Blues lead all-time 40W-28D-28L
Chelsea aims to stack some wins following a momentum-restoring weekend win when Southampton visits Stamford Bridge on Tuesday (Watch live at 2:45 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).
The Blues have lost two of four inside the Premier League — home to Crystal Palace and at Manchester United — but beat Spurs 4-2 in a thrilling FA Cup semifinal this weekend, extending their season to a May 27 final against Arsenal.
Saints are coming off their first loss in four outings, a 3-0 home beatdown at the hands of Manchester City. Now to the road, where Southampton has the eighth-best record in the Premier League. And Saints boast Manolo Gabbiadini, who Chelsea boss Antonio Conte says has one of the world’s best left foots.
What they’re saying
Chelsea’s David Luiz on Antonio Conte: “He’s a fantastic person before a fantastic manager, so we talk a lot, every day, because we have a great relationship,’ he explained. We try to give our best for our club and he tries to help me with his intelligence for football to improve my football so I am very happy to work with him. He did an amazing job in this game.”
Southampton’s Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg on facing Chelsea: “Of course, you say every game is important, but somehow, when you play against number one, it gets a little bit more important. I saw the game they lost against Manchester United, and now they are a little bit under pressure, and we also want to continue getting good results. Chelsea away is, of course, maybe the toughest game this year, but I think that we have the possibility to get the result.”
Rested Southampton provides a real test, but one which Chelsea finds a way to pass thanks to a relatively rested Costa and Hazard. This is Costa’s day, with a brace in a 2-1 win.
Antoine Griezmann has maintained a desire to stay at Atletico Madrid, but his advisor says the French striker has five realistic destinations for next season if he doesn’t stay at the Vicente Calderon.
Speaking on the French outlet Telefoot, advisor Eric Olhats says the 26-year-old Griezmann is limited by his $109 million release clause.
[ MORE: Zlatan’s comeback vow; Mata close ]
Griezmann has 25 goals and 11 assists this season, slightly lighter on the goals and a step up in helpers with Atleti alive in two competitions this season. He’s still played centrally and wide right, and Yannick Carrasco is starring on the left.
From Sky Sports:
“There is an unavoidable €100m clause so that restricts the number of candidates. You have United, City, Chelsea, Barcelona and Real Madrid.
“United were the first to come and see us and the most concrete in their wishes.”
Griezmann to the Premier League is a move many would love to see, or at least a new challenge for the fantastic attacker. With respect to Barcelona and Real Madrid, we’ve seen plenty of top La Liga talents move within the division.
Of course, there would be something special to both Diego Simeone and Griezmann winning the UEFA Champions League and defending it at Atleti. Something tells us their fate in this year’s semifinal against Real Madrid may tip the scales for both men, or at least Griezmann.