Offshore drilling, UEFA Champions League: at Juventus 3, Chelsea 0

Leave a comment

It was Juventus’s best performance of the season, enough to not only vault the Italian champions to second place in Group E but leave the defending champions on Champions League’s precipice after defeating Chelsea 3-0 win in Turin.

Controlling the match from the opening whistle, Juventus converted their advantage into a lead in the 38th minute when Fabio Quagliarella deflected a Andrea Pirlo shot past Petr Cech. Second half goals from Arturo Vidal and substitute Sebastian Giovinco gave Juventus a deservedly decisive win, their second in a row after starting the tournament with three straight draws.

Chelsea, three points behind already-qualified Shakhtar Donetsk and two behind Juventus, need a Juve loss on matchday six to have a chance at advancing to the knockout round.

Man of the Match: Arturo Vidal probably deserved more credit than he’d received coming into the match (as James Horncastle noted). Tuesday’s performance might put the Chilean international on more English-language radars, even if his most valuable contributions were subtle. Scoring Juventus’s second goal, Vidal will get plenty of credit for his attacking contribution, but at the right apex of Juventus’s midfield triangle, the 25-year-old provided needed support to disrupt play Chelsea’s attacking midfielders use to break down opposing defenses. On the ball, Vidal completed a team-leading 64 passes at 94 percent of his passes (also a team high).

Threesome of knowledge: What we learned

Juventus has woken up.

It took four rounds of group play before Juventus recorded their first victory of Champions League. Even then, it was at home to lightly-regarded Nordsjaelland, a result that did little to dispel the notion that something was wrong. For all the success the Old Lady’s had domestically, they’d been unable to replicate that form in Europe.

That changed today. Not only did Juventus beat reigning the European champions, they controlled the match. True, they needed fortunate bounces to beat Petr Cech on two of their goals, but Juventus was playing well enough to generate other goals had they not been bless was a little luck (and on Fabio Quagliarella’s goal, the luck was their own doing). It was, by far, Juventus’s best performance of the tournament.

Perhaps they needed the wakeup call of being drawn in Denmark. Or maybe this improvement would have come on its own. Regardless, Juventus lived up to their billing on Tuesday.

With Torres, without – it’s all the same.

Roberto Di Matteo made the change many predicted, benching striker Fernando Torres. What made the choice more compelling was the absence of Daniel Sturridge, Chelsea’s other (and as it turned out, injured) striking option. That pushed Eden Hazard in from the left, the Belgian resuming a role he often played last year with Lille.

Torres’ absence wasn’t noticed. With defender Cesar Azpilicueta starting as a right winger, Chelsea’s attacking threat remained the same – Hazard, Oscar, Juan Mata, and little else.

At West Brom? That’s good for a goal. In Turin, you’re probably going get shut out.

It’s an area Chelsea needs to improve, but three months into the season (and 23 months into his Chelsea career), we know Torres is unlikely to supply that improvement.

Chelsea’s swoon continues.

We’ve talked about it before. Chelsea’s hit a rough patch, just as they’ve done each of the last two autumns. There’s little to add to the story other than note (a) the slide continues, (b) Roberto Di Matteo needs to find a solution, because (c) it would be a mistake to assume the club’s early-season form is more informative than last year’s results (results that left them outside of England’s top four).

Oh, and (d) Roman Abramovich.

Packaged for takeaway

  • Juventus outshot Chelsea 13-2 in terms of tries on frame. Overall shots: 25-11.
  • Ramires is a fine player. So is John Obi Mikel. Together at the base of midfield, it’s an adequate but (for Chelsea’s standards) not good enough solution, hence Chelsea’s recent defensive record: 21 goals allowed in 10 games. Injuries are forcing Di Matteo to use the duo, though it would have been nice to have somebody like Raul Miereles around.
  • Juventus got a strong day from their three central defenders — Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci, and Giorgio Chiellini — though Chelsea helped. Juan Mata, starting on the left, spent much of his night playing closer to the middle, while Azpilicueta never provided a credible threat.

Xabi Alonso denies Spanish accusations of tax fraud

Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The list of players pursued by Spanish authorities crying tax fraud is starting to resemble a pretty good team,

Call it The Longest Yard: La Liga.

[ MORE: Alonso, Pedro support Morata ]

Xabi Alonso is being accused of not paying taxes on his image rights while a player at Real Madrid, joining Radamel Falcao, Neymar, Lionel Messi, Luka Modric, and Cristiano Ronaldo as World XI-caliber players who’ve faced legal troubles in Spain.

Jose Mourinho even had to travel to Spain earlier this season to face accusations from a Spanish court. Those found guilty have found punishment other than jail time.

Alonso denies any wrongdoing, according to Sky Sports:

Prosecutors say he defrauded the Spanish state of £1.75m between 2010 and 2012 and called for the same sentence to be applied to Alonso’s financial advisor Ivan Zaldua Azcuenaga and the administrator of consultancy shell company, Ignasi Maestre Casanova.

Iraq hosts friendly tournament after 3-decade FIFA ban

AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda
Leave a comment

BAGHDAD (AP) Iraq is hosting a friendly soccer tournament this week, with Syria and Qatar.

It comes just days after FIFA lifted a three-decade-long ban on Iraq hosting international competitions.

[ MORE: Best PL summer buys ]

An Iraq-Qatar match is to start Wednesday evening in the southern city of Basra.

FIFA lifted the ban on Monday for Iraqi cities of Basra, Karbala and Irbil, considered to be the safest in Iraq – but not the capital, Baghdad, which still sees frequent militant attacks.

Iraq’s minister of youth and sports, Abdul-Hussein Abtan, congratulated the Iraqi people following FIFA’s move and said it would change how Iraq is viewed in the region and beyond.

While the ban was in place, Iraq was still able to host friendly games and tournaments.

$280m? Who cares? Salah is the rare “unsellable” player


The gossip reports are out there, with lofty claims that Real Madrid and Barcelona are willing to pay as much as $280 million dollars for Mohamed Salah.

Normally that figure triggers something in my brain that screams, “Sell! Sell! Sell before they realize what they’ve offered!”

[ MORE: Best PL summer buys ]

That’s not happening with Mohamed Salah.

This isn’t an inflated fee for a young English player like Ross Barkley or John Stones, nor is it a club throwing a lofty and desperate figure at a very good but supremely overvalued player like Philippe Coutinho. Even Raheem Sterling, who I advocated selling, has proven replaceable.

In the case of Salah, his Golden Boot figure is likely to dwarf any in the Premier League era. He’s at 28, three behind Luis Suarez’s 31. Cristiano Ronaldo has bagged 31 once Alan Shearer and Andy Cole hold the modern record with 34.

Salah needs six to tie Shearer. Here’s Liverpool’s run-in: Crystal Palace (A), Everton (A), Bournemouth (H), West Brom (A), Stoke City (H), Chelsea (A), Brighton and Hove Albion (H).

Five of those teams absolutely hemorrhage goals. Would you bet against Salah?

By the way, Salah has 10 assists, too. Sure Jurgen Klopp deserves credit for buying and deploying the Egyptian wizard, but

When Klopp argued that Liverpool was not a selling club, this is the exact example to follow. Selling Coutinho — again, not trying to poke the bear that is ornery overvaluing fan — is fine in a world where your club has Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane, and Mohamed Salah

But selling one of Europe’s leading scorers is almost never okay for a club challenging for a Champions League crown and with the clear caliber of a Premier League title hunter.

I’d argue that for this club, one who has sold Coutinho and Suarez, there is not a fee that meets Salah straight-on.  He’s 25 and living in the air just below Lionel Messi and Neymar.

The Messi comparisons I keep reading are fun but still unbelievably premature by every stretch of the imagination. By the time Messi was Salah’s age he had league seasons of 34, 31, 50, and was en route to a 46-goal mark. He posted 68 combined assists over those four seasons.

If this is somehow an aberration, and Salah cannot find this form ever again, well, that’s bad luck and a risk worth its weight in standard setting.

There is not a replacement player.

There is no fee.

Say it again now.

Dangerous playmaker Silva joins Montreal Impact (video)

Photo by Marcelo Endelli/Getty Images

Alejandro Silva’s got a creative mind, and that’s something Montreal will welcome with open arms.

The Uruguayan signed with the Impact this week, joining Ignacio Piatti and Saphir Taider as playmakers in Quebec.

[ MORE: Top PL summer buys ]

Silva, 28, is a right-sided and forward-playing attacker who can also play right back if necessary.

The Impact lost two of three to start the season, winning this weekend’s 401 Derby versus Toronto FC to put a number in the win column.

Lanus has been a fertile ground for Major League Soccer clubs in recent years, with Lucas Melano (Portland Timbers) and Miguel Almiron (Atlanta United) making the move to North America.

The South American club has also sent Gustavo Gomez to AC Milan and Oscar Benitez to Benfica.