FC Chelsea Training And Press Conference

As it happened: Barcelona vs. Chelsea


As we did last week, PST live blogged today’s UEFA Champions League semifinal between Barcelona and Chelsea. Here’s how it happened:

Score: Barcelona 2 (2) [Busquets 35′, Iniesta 43′], Chelsea 2 (3) [Ramires 45+1′, Torres 90+2′]

Final: An amazing day for Chelsea. Their captain got himself ejected. Their other central defender left early with injury. A brilliant finish from Ramires in the first half put them back in front, and Fernando Torres sealed the victory. Chelsea is on to Munich, and Barcelona’s title defense is over.

90+2′ – Torres intercepts a ball along the left but has it taken from him. Xavi tries a ball into the box but it’s intercepted, with Cole punting it deep. Torres is the only person near the center line. He dribbles in on Valdes, gets around him and puts Barcelona away. Chelsea will go on to Munich.

90′ – Messi tries a chip for Sanchez, but Ivanovic heads it out. Mascherano collects and takes a crack, forcing Cech to push it out of play. Corner from Xavi targeting Puyol comes to nothing.

88′ – Torres intercepts a Messi pass on the right. Mascherano takes it off him with a nice tackle, brings it back in only to be taken down by Meireles. Raul spends too much time arguing (stalling), and is shown yellow.

87′ – Barcelona wins, takes a corner, but nothing comes of it.

85′ – We’re getting into not again territory here for Chelsea fans. Any score will be heartbreaking. They can be encouraged by Barcelona’s reluctance to shoot despite scaring Cech with a Messi long try a few seconds ago.Messi, in particular, is playing one pass too many.

83′ – Messi finally decides to have a crack and he puts it off Cech’s left post. Replays showed Cech pushed it onto the woodwork.

82′ – Goal for Barcelona, but it’s waved off. Messi’s ball to the right for Alves finds the Brazilian off side. Thought the next touch from Sanchez was in the back of the net, the score remains the same.

81′ – Chip by Messi for Keita into the left of the area goes out for the goal kick. Barcelona has no intention of shooting the ball.

80′ – Drogba, who was just seen exhaustedly walking back to his left-flank’s role, is off. Fernando Torres is on. Chelsea is out of subs.

79′ – This is frustrating to watch. Barcelona just wants one too many pass. Messi, instead of taking a speculative shot from 23 yards, tried to play to a teammate, allowing Chelsea to intercept and clear the ball.

78′ – As  base, Chelsea has Lampar, Mikel and Miereles playing in front of a back four, Kalou and Drogba defending wide.

77′ – Also (and this happened a couple of minutes ago) Barcelona brought Tello from the right to the left flank, seemingly allowing Iniesta to play in midfield.

75′ – Keita is playing as a center forward along with Sanchez. On their last entry into the box, Barcelona tried to loft a ball for him at Cech’s right post. Drogba tracked back to head it clear.

74′ – Fabregas is off. Seydou Keita is on.

73′ – A lot of Barcelona possession within 25 yards of goal, but everything’s so congested, they’re looking for something that isn’t there. It’s unclear what they’re waiting for. They’re got to start putting the ball ito the box, be that via shots at Cech or by sending it in and hoping for the best.

72′- Lampard slides into Fabregas, brings a second leg through, and sees yellow.

71′ – As Barcelona tries to increase the pressure, every player by Mascherano is in the final third. Three (Alves, Busquets, Puyol) sit right on its edge. It will be interesting to see when Puyol gets sent farther forward, possibly to attack Ramires.

69′ – Drogba is down but gets up relatively quickly only to see the referee come over and say something that agitates him.

68′ – Chelsea with some possession on their right flank before Lampard lofts a ball into the box for Kalou, who forces Valdes to come and weakly punch into midfield, where it’s cleared.

67′ – Cuenca, who has had a good match, comes off. Cristian Tello is on.

66′ – Barcelona backs all of Chelsea’s players into their box but still got a ball over most of them before Ramires heads it into touch. The corner’s played out into midfield, another ball is sent in, and Ramires heads it out.

64′ – Chip from the left flank gives the crowd pause as Drogba’s trying to run onto the ball. Barca plays it out for a corner, and when Frank Lampard swings it in, Valdes can’t get to it before Ivanovic puts a head to it. Ball goes out, but Chelsea always had another.

63′ – Drogba is just running around to where he’s needed. Five minutes ago he was deep on the right. Over the last two minutes he’s been deep on the left, and whenever the ball is dead, he makes his way back to a striker’s position.

62′ – Barcelona catches Ramires too narrow, plays it out to Cuence who has a shot from seven yards out. Cech some down and makes another great save.

61′ – Reminiscent of how Jose Mourinho used Samuel Eto’o two years ago, Didier Drogba was just seen on the left of  a six man defensive line: Ramires-Ivanovic-Lampard-Bosingwa-Cole-Drogba.

59′ – Cech has picked up a  yellow card, possibly for time-wasting, as he was warned in the first half (and the card seems to have been given during the process of taking a goal kick).

58′ – Kalou is on for Mata.

56′ – A near embarrassing moment for Valdes. Drogba bring the ball out of his own end, plays it past Puyol at half way and then fires at goal. Valdes has to dive to keep the ball out.

54′ – Barcelona with another good chance that goes (as they say) wanting. Alves bursts down the right and puts a ball far post, but Sanchez can’t head it home.

50′ – Now Iniesta finds his way into the book, fouling Drogba.

48′ – In there, Branislav Ivanovic picked up a yellow card. If Chelsea makes it to Munich, he’ll be suspended.

48′ – Lionel Messi steps to the ball and … unbelievable! It’s off the bar! Chelsea is still in front as Messi against misses a golden chance, this time from the spot! Cech had guessed the right way but had no way of stopped that, were it a ball length lower.

48′ – We’ve got a penalty. Drogba brings down Fabregas after being dispossessed. Barcelona is set to go up again. The play was way to the right of the box, but there was little hesitation.

46′ – Welcome back. Barcelona is now moving from right to left in your head.

Halftime: Total passes (I believe this is Opta): 349-89, Barcelona.

Halftime: As seen on Twitter, Xavi has 59 completed passes in the first half. Chelsea: 61.

Halftime: I suppose this goes without saying: If Chelsea makes the final, Terry won’t play. David Luiz has yet to return to health, and Gary Cahill went down in the first half.

Halftime: Possession: 72-28, Barcelona; Shots: 9-4, Barcelona; Shots on target: 3-1, Barcelona.

Halftime: An incredible last 10 minutes saw three goals and a red card, though essentially, we’re right back where we started. Chelsea is still en route of Munich, even if the score looks a little different. There’ll be no penalty kicks, as Chelsea takes a 2-2 “edge” into intermission.

45+1′ – We’re headed to injury time, and Chelsea desperately needs halftime … wait – Lampard plays a through ball for Ramires and Valdes is eight yards off his line. The chip is in the back of the net. It’s now 2-2 and Chelsea, thanks to their away goal, is in front! (Originally put Drogba as the scorer … bad reflexive response, I guess)

44′ – Ramires picks up Chelsea’s second yellow.

43′ – It just got a lot worse for Chelsea. Alexis squares for Messi, who plays into the left of the area for Iniesta. It’s a cool finish on a shot we see missed more than make. Just inside the lower-right corner, Barcelona is in front.

43′ – UEFA is reporting a collision between Valdes and Pique is what prematurely ended the defender’s night.

42′ – Chelsea defense is actually Ramires-Ivanovic-Bosingwa-Cole. Mikel stays in midfield.

40′ – Terry’s dismissal will force Mikel into central defense and, seemingly, has left the Blues with two hopes: Drogba and penalty kicks.

37′ – Amazingly dirty play. As the ball is on the right flank, John Terry takes his right knee and puts it into the small of Alexis Sanchez’s back. The assistant most have saw it, because after a brief pause, the official didn’t hesitate to produce red.

37′ – John Terry has been red carded.

35′ – We are tied up! Barcelona wins a corner and targets Puyol with the restart. Chelsea heads it clear but Alves is there to bring it back in and play it out to the left for Cuenca. He puts it across the face, along the six for Busquets, who has an open goal to left-foot the equalizer home. It’s 1-1, people.

34′ – Drogba and Busquets collide again. This time, Drogba gets up checking his mouth for blood.

33′ – For the first time we see Iniesta making an attacking move from the left. The ball from Fabregas to him goes into touch. On the goal kick, the official talks to Cech about taking too much time. Cech obliges and restarts.

33′ – Possession: 72-28, Barca. Shots: 6-2, Barca. Shots on target: 1-0, Barca.

31′ – Long ball from Drogba (goal kick) flicked on for Mata running behind. He has a step on Puyol and forces Valdes to punt it into touch for a throw. Within seconds of the restart, Chelsea’s given the ball back, and Mikel has to take down Sánchez to prevent a break. First card.

30′ – I can’t help but think Barcelona didn’t think out the Piqué substitution. As we saw some work from them on their right you see Cuenca’s presence completely blocks Alves. Alves has a killer right foot and could be valuable in other ways, but I can’t help but wonder if Adriano wouldn’t have been the better choice.

28′ – Not seeing many ill effects of Cahill coming off. On the last exchange (started with a cross from Cuenca), Ivanovic made a nice read to drop into the box as Xavi tried to chip for Fabregas.

26′ – Piqué has had to come off. It’s unclear what happened, but he’s going straight to the locker room. It seems like an aggravation of the leg injury he has suffered from throughout the month. Dani Alves is on – not Adriano. Will Busquets drop into defense? Or will Alves play a traditional defender’s role?

25′ – For all the talk of Barcelona needing depth, they’re creating enough chances by going straight down the middle. Intricate passing, running until they can’t anymore. Typical Barcelona.

22′ – Drogba and Busquets collide contesting a long ball. Neither go down. This really should be the headline.

22′ – Long chance from Mascherano goes just over the bar. The game’s really picked up over the last four minutes.

20′ – We’re seeing enough from Barcelona to know breaking down the defense won’t be the problem. As has been the case for most of the year, finishing will be the issue. Messi (Messi!) has already failed to convert two very good chances.

19′ – Another great chance for Barcelona, this time requiring Cech to be at his best. A ball played to the left of goal gives Messi a chance from eight yards out. The ball’s heading for the far corner but Cech gets a leg to it. What a save.

19′ – Sometimes, you have to love modern technology. We’re back.

12′ – Finally, it happens. Bosingwa is on for Cahill. Di Matteo decides not to take any chances.

11′ – Early, Barcelona has 74 percent of the possession (the UEFA possession, not Opta’s)

10′ – Just as the board had been prepared to announce the sub, Bosingwa sis back down.

9′ – Cahill’s back on the pitch, but it still looks like Bosingwa is going to come on. Later in the game we could have expected Bosingwa to come on for Mata and play right midfield. Obviously, that won’t happen should Bosingwa come on.

7′ – Barcelona’s fans boo, suspecting early time-wasting. Nice. Cahill’s now up and running along the goal line, testing his leg. Bosignwa is taking off his warm ups. If he comes on, Ivanovic will play centrally.

6′ – Barcelona with another entry into the area as Fábregas slips a ball into the Invanovic-Cahill channel. Sánchez is in behind but is closed down quickly by Lampard. Nothing comes of it besides Cahill doing down. He’s tweaked his left hamstring, and it doesn’t look good.

4′ – Early we see a benefit to Pique beyond his height. He’s perfectly comfortable stepping into midfield and handling the ball. Here he swings it out to Cuenca on the right, who plays it in before Ivanovic sends it out for a throw.

3′ – Brilliant chance for Barcelona. Ball rolled to Messi’s feet. Touch to Sanchez, back to Messi, freezing John Terry. Right-footed shot from 14 yards goes into the outside of the side netting.

3′ – Barcelona with their first real foray forward sees a chip from Xavi go over Terry and Messi, bouncing into the arms of Cech.

2′ – Messi with a giveaway, ball to Drogba ho holds up play before playing wide to Ivanovic, who is fouled. Restart is quickly given back to Barcelona.

1′ – Early Ramires and Ashley Cole break down the right of Barça’s defense. Cole rolls a ball toward the six but Drogba can’t get to it before Valdés swallows it up.

1′ – Game on! Barcelona needs a goal. Chelsea needs time to speed up.

0′ – Chelsea will be moving from right-to-left on your imaginary screen. They’ll also be kicking off.

[LIMBO] – Anthem is sung and the handshakes are done. We’re moments away.

[LIMBO] – Players are finally walking out. The crowd, having just finished singing, will undoubtedly discard their typical golf clap celebrations for more a full-voiced approach. And just in case you were wondering, the officials are wearing lavender.

[LIMBO] – Sky Sports just featured a Braveheart, 300-esque rallying cry from somebody I can only assume is Gerard Butler’s second choice voice double. Teams are lining up in the tunnel.

[LIMBO] – We’re now in the middle of that nether region between advertised start time and kickoff. We should be about 10 minutes away. For Barcelona and Chelsea fans, may as well be an hour.

4′ – Sky Sports just showed the replay of John Terry’s miss in Moscow. I’m assuming this was both obligatory and not at the request of Chelsea supporters.

6′ – Jamie Redknapp, commenting on di Matteo, with a possibly unintended vicious backhand to André Villas-Boas: “I think [di Matteo’s] shown common sense.” I suppose I should be used to this. I’m not. It’s still very amusing.

7′ – One thing Roberto di Matteo has going for him, as it concerns his prospects for a permanent position at Chelsea: The Blues have a recent history of success with managers sporting caterpillar eyebrows.

9′ – As far as prematch news goes, it’s been pretty slow, a reflection of everybody pretty much knowing what’s about to come. Can Chelsea hold out for 90 minutes? Potentially worrisome news, Sam Wallace (@SamWallaceIndy) just asked about rumors of a ruckus outside the Nou Camp between Chelsea supporters and Barcelona’s faithful.

14′ – As implying by tactical savant Michael Cox on Twitter (@zonal_marking), Pep Guardiola’s selection leaves him with a ton of options. Guardiola could go with four across the top with Iniesta, Messi, Sánchez and Cuenca and still have Fábregas coming from deep. You could drop Iniesta into midfield and play 3-4-3. You could move Fábregas up and play … let’s just start the game already.

Point: Barcelona’s got a ton of interchangeable parts.

-18′ – Good line here from SI’s Georgina Turner, via her Twitter (@georgina_turner): “I’m not suggesting Sky have overhyped Barca v Chelsea, but if the teams don’t emerge in solid gold gladiatorial armour, I’ll be disappointed”.

-27′ – Now, Chelsea’s selection, unchanged from Stamford Bridge:

G – Petr Cech
LB – Ashely Cole
LCB – John Terry
RCB – Gary Cahill
RB – Branislav Ivanovic
LM – Ramires
CM – Raul Meireles
CM – John Obi Mikel
CM – Frank Lampard
RM – Juan Mata
F – Didier Drogba

Subs: Turnbull, Bosingwa, Essien, Malouda, Torres, Kalou, Sturridge

Though there was some post-match debate as to what the formation was exactly last week, reviewing the tape certainly seemed to show a 4-5-1/4-1-4-1 though most of the game. Up 1-0 at kickoff, we may see the same, only with the midfield sitting even deep at the match’s onset.

-29′ – The consensus seems to be Alves was dropped because he was at fault for the goal at Stamford Bridge, something with which I disagree. The tactic was the problem at Stamford Bridge. Guardiola’s move today is less an indictment of the player as it is the approach.

-34′ – Barcelona’s lineup first, with one major surprise:

G – Victor Valdés
D – Gerard Piqué
D – Javier Mascherano
D – Carles Puyol
M – Sergio Busquets
M – Xavi Hernández
M/F – Andrés Iniesta
M/F – Cesc Fábregas
F – Alexis Sánchez
F – Lionel Messi
F – Isaac Cuenca

Subs: Pinto, Alves, Alcántara, Keita, Adriano, Pedro Rodríguez, Tello

Amazingly, Dani Alves has been benched. Where many thought Barcelona would have to do a better job or stretching out Chelsea’s defense, their best wide player is out of the XI.

The other change from last week: Gerard Piqué is in, Adriano is on the bench.

This looks like it will play as a 3-4-3, with Sánchez and Cuenca possibly playing wide attacking roles. But, we’ll have to wait and see.

-36′ – Welcome back. I missed you. Did you – not, you don’t have to say. We’ll get the lineups up in a minute and then update you on all the latest pregame news. In the interim, you can check out

LIVE: Man City, Stoke, Everton face second-tier teams in League Cup quarters

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Three of the four Capital One Cup quarterfinals take place on Tuesday with three Premier League teams facing second-tier opposition.

“What’s that, did somebody say banana skin?”

[ MORE: Follow League Cup scores live

Manchester City host Hull City at the Etihad Stadium with Manuel Pellegrini‘s side hoping to have David Silva back in the starting lineup but Joe Hart is still out injured so Willy Caballero will continue in goal. Steve Bruce‘s side drew 1-1 at the Etihad last season when they visited City before being relegated from the Premier League. The Tigers are fighting for instant promotion back to the big-time and knocked out Leicester City on penalty kicks in the last round.

Everton face a tricky trip to the Riverside Stadium as Roberto Martinez and the Toffees play Middlesbrough. Aitor Karanka’s side lost in the play-off final to Norwich last season but are looking good for promotion this term as they sit second in the second-tier and knocked out Manchester United on penalty kicks in the last round. Can Everton sort out their defensive frailties?

A third PL club has a tricky test coming up on Tuesday as Stoke City’s reward for beating Chelsea on PKs in the last round is a home game against Sheffield Wednesday. This will be no stroll in the park for Mark Hughes‘ side as the second-tier Owls comfortably knocked off Arsenal in the last round and this game has “cupset” written all over it.

Below are the fixtures for Tuesday as you can click on the link above to follow all the games live.

League Cup quarterfinals


Manchester City vs. Hull City – 2:45 p.m. ET
Middlesbrough vs. Everton – 2:45 p.m. ET
Stoke City vs. Sheffield Wednesday – 2:45 p.m. ET

FIFA sponsors demand “independent oversight” of reforms

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LONDON (AP) Five of FIFA’s sponsors have written to the executive committee of soccer’s scandal-battered governing body demanding “independent oversight” of the reform process.

[ MORE: Chelsea’s new stadium plans ]

Sponsors were originally promised places on the FIFA reform committee. But instead of being invited into meetings discussing the overhaul of the organization, they have only been offered seats on an advisory board which is yet to be appointed.

The sponsors’ letter was sent from Adidas, McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Visa and Budweiser brewer Anheuser-Busch to FIFA’s ruling body ahead of meetings this week.

[ MORE: Chelsea, United battle for Muller

The letter, which was obtained by The Associated Press, says it is “clear to us that such independent oversight needs to run long-term through the implementation and evolution of the reform process.”

The reform committee was established following the indictment of soccer officials by American authorities.

VIDEO: Gerrard returns to Liverpool for training in MLS offseason

Liverpool v Sunderland - Premier League
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Steven Gerrard is back at Liverpool.

[ MORE: Chelsea’s new stadium plans ]

The legendary midfielder, 35, has returned to the Reds just six months after leaving his hometown club for a new adventure in Major League Soccer with the LA Galaxy.

Gerrard spent a glittering 17-years at Anfield, guiding Liverpool to the UEFA Champions League title and winning every other major title except for the elusive Premier League crown.

[ MORE: Chelsea, United battle for Muller

After suffering an early exit from the 2015 MLS Cup playoffs with the Galaxy, Gerrard is now back in England and he’s using his time at home to train with Liverpool’s first-team and help out in any way he can as Jurgen Klopp has allowed him to come back into the dressing room he called home for nearly two decades.

“It’s a good situation,” Klopp said. “Everybody had a smile on their face when they saw Stevie. It’s good to have him here and we hope we can help him, and he can help us for sure with being in the dressing room. It’s cool.”

Below are photos and videos from Gerrard’s return as Klopp once again quashed any rumors regarding a loan move for the former Liverpool skipper who will enter his first full MLS season in 2016 with the Galaxy.

French PM says Benzema has no place on national team

Karim Benzema, France
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PARIS (AP) The French prime minister joined in the criticism of Karim Benzema on Tuesday, saying the Real Madrid striker “has no place” on the France team at the European Championship in the wake of a blackmail scandal.

[ MORE: Chelsea’s new stadium plans ]

Benzema is one of France’s key players as it gets ready to host the Euro 2016 tournament, but the forward faces charges of conspiracy to blackmail relating to an extortion scam over a sex tape. He is suspected of having played an active role in pressuring France teammate Mathieu Valbuena, a case that has badly damaged his reputation.

“A great athlete should be exemplary,” Prime Minister Manuel Valls told French radio Europe 1. “If he is not, he has no place within the France team.”

The investigation, centering on wiretap evidence, started when Valbuena took legal action after being contacted by a man claiming to possess an incriminating sex tape.

In a case that could drag on for months, Benzema’s involvement has not yet been fully determined. But investigators who charged him in October believe he was approached by a childhood friend to act as an intermediary and convince Valbuena to deal directly with the blackmailers.

“If a minister was handed preliminary charges, he would no longer be part of the government,” Valls said.

Benzema denies any wrongdoing but his arguments were undermined last week when Valbuena spoke directly about his attempts to pressure him in an interview with Le Monde newspaper.

[ MORE: City now valued at $3 billion ]

The French football federation has also joined the case as plaintiff.

“There are so many kids, so many youngsters in our suburbs that relate to great athletes,” Valls said. “They wear the blue jersey, the colors of France, which are so important in these moments.”

Preliminary charges under French law mean magistrates have strong reason to believe a crime was committed, and allow time for further investigation. The charges may later be dropped. In 2010, Benzema was handed preliminary charges for soliciting an underage prostitute but was acquitted in a case that lasted more than three years and tarnished his reputation.

Benzema’s image was further dented last month when he spat on the pitch after the national anthem was played at Real Madrid’s Santiago Bernabeu stadium in a tribute to the 130 fatalities of the Paris attacks ahead of a match against Barcelona.

Benzema’s action ignited a wave of criticism on social media, prompting his lawyers to issue a statement in which they condemned “the scandalous interpretation” of the incident. Benzema, who has 27 international goals, had posted several messages in support of the victims in the days that followed the attacks.