Antonio Rüdiger

Getty Images

Rudiger injured, as Chelsea prepare for UCL return

Leave a comment

After a season away, Chelsea return to UEFA Champions League action on Tuesday as they host Valencia at Stamford Bridge.

Frank Lampard spoke of his pride ahead of his first UCL game as a manager, and the Blues will be in a confident mood after thrashing Wolverhampton Wanderers 5-2 at Molineux on Saturday.

Speaking in a press conference ahead of their group stage opener, Lampard confirmed that Antonio Rudiger is out injured again after aggravating a reoccurring groin injury on his return to action at the weekend.

“Toni is injured. He’s bothered a small groin problem that he’s been carrying for a few weeks and will have a scan later today,” Lampard said.

Whether or not Rudiger’s injury forces Lampard to ditch the 3-4-3 formation which served his side so well at the weekend remains to be seen. Kurt Zouma, who has struggled so far this season, could slot right in for Rudiger.
Whoever he picks, it is clear he will continue to put his faith in the young trio of Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount who all scored at Wolves.

Abraham has seven goals in his last three games, including a hat trick at Wolves, and having three players under the age of 21 who came through Chelsea’s academy playing pivotal roles has given everyone at the west London club a warm feeling.

“I just believed in him and trusted him,” Lampard said about Abraham. “I know a lot was made of the ban giving opportunities for young players but I felt now was his time. He is in a good place and can improve even more.”

It will be intriguing to see how this young Chelsea side cope with the demands of European and Premier League action.

Tomori, Abraham and Mount were emotional at the final whistle on Saturday as their journey through the academy and eventually into the first team is complete.

But this is only the start. Lampard is correct to acknowledge Chelsea’s transfer ban from FIFA forcing their hand in playing youngsters this season, but he was also correct in saying that Abraham was ready for his chance.

Chelsea’s youngsters now have to deliver week in, week out to justify the rising optimism at Stamford Bridge.

In years to come we may be talking about “The Class of 2016” reshaping Chelsea’s future. That is still some way off, but there have been enough promising signs so far for Chelsea to be excited about these young prospects, especially when Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Callum Hudson-Odoi return from injury.

Chelsea defender Rudiger to undergo exploratory knee surgery

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Maurizio Sarri may be rueing a risk he took with Chelsea battling for a Champions League place.

Antonio Rudiger is reportedly in Rome to undergo exploratory surgery to discover the extent of a knee injury he suffered over the weekend against Manchester United, and there are concerns his season is almost certainly over. The fear is meniscus damage, which could see him sidelined for around eight weeks.

Rudiger had been out with a knee injury after coming off 40 minutes into the 2-0 loss to Liverpool in early April. The German international was subsequently sidelined for the Europa League matchup against Slavia Prague plus the ensuing Premier League match against Burnley, but Sarri decided he needed Rudiger for the run-in to the Premier League season with Champions League play on the line, bringing him back for the game at Old Trafford.

The defender made it through 65 minutes before collapsing in real pain, and now goes under the knife with just three weeks remaining on the campaign. It would be tough to see Rudiger return unless the results came back overwhelmingly positive, at the very least missing this week’s Europa League semifinal against Eintracht Frankfurt plus the weekend’s league meeting with Watford.

That leaves Andreas Christensen as the partner to David Luiz at the back, with Sarri potentially forced to bring Gary Cahill back into the fold on the bench. Cahill has been a complete afterthought all season, playing just 23 Premier League minutes back in late September. The other option is 18-year-old academy product Ethan Ampadu who joined from Exeter City’s youth setup two years ago.

Chelsea extremely fortunate in comeback v. Cardiff City

2 Comments
  • Camarasa gives hosts lead
  • Azpilicueta scores offside equalizer
  • Controversial non-red before Chelsea winner

Controversial poor calls marred what could’ve been a wonderful day for Cardiff City, as Chelsea came back to win 2-1 in Wales on Sunday.

Cesar Azpilicueta scored an offside goal and Ruben Loftus-Cheek nabbed a winner moments after Chelsea was absolved a pretty obvious red card for denial of a goal scoring opportunity.

Cardiff City manager Neil Warnock stood in front of the referee Craig Pawson’s maligned unit to applaud fans after the match.

Victor Camarasa put Cardiff ahead just after halftime, and Cardiff was unlucky not to take three points (let alone one).

The Bluebirds remain five points back of safety, while Chelsea moves level on points with fifth place Arsenal. The 60-point total is one fewer than Spurs and Manchester United.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

As expected, Chelsea had most of the early play, but Lee Peltier did hit Kepa Arrizabalaga with a strike just after the half hour mark.

And the Blues paid for their sleepy first half moments after the start of the second, with fine first touch passing leading to Camarasa’s side-footed wonder.

Harry Arter chopped down substitute Hazard in the 54th minute to give the Blues a prime free kick from the left, but Chelsea was unable to convert the opportunity.

Sean Morrison looked set to deny Chelsea its equalizer with two timely interventions, but the Blues went level off a corner when Azpilicueta nodded past Neil Etheridge.

Antonio Rudiger was shown a yellow card after taking down Kenneth Zohore in what seemed to be a clear denial of a goal scoring opportunity.

And as sure as Cardiff boss Warnock berated the fourth ref, Chelsea scored its winner moments later through a clever Loftus-Cheek header.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Chelsea players Luiz, Azpilicueta, Rudiger open up on Kepa defiance

Getty Images
1 Comment

Chelsea players all over the pitch tried to play mediator as goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga shockingly refused to be substituted towards the end of the Carabao Cup final on Sunday.

While Kepa shocked manager Maurizio Sarri with his act of defiance, others looked to calm the situation. Defender David Luiz was first on the scene, approaching Kepa during the confusion and speaking in his ear while the goalkeeper looked to the bench.

[ WATCH: Kepa clashes with Sarri by refusing sub ]

“I told him to respect the decision of the coach,” Luiz told the media after the match. “But, I don’t know if the coach wanted to change him because he was feeling pain or it was his [tactical] decision. I think the coach he wished to do the substitution because of the injury, he didn’t understand that [Kepa was ok].”

Fellow center-back Antonio Rudiger was on hand as well to calm Sarri as the boss looked to have angry words with his goalkeeper during the break before penalties. However, he wasn’t in a sharing mood after the match as the media looked to get his view of the events.

[ MORE: Sarri, Kepa explain Carabao Cup “misunderstanding” ]

“This is something the coach and the player have to speak about,” Rudiger said. “I cannot say much about it. I think, for sure, the coach and the goalkeeper will speak about it and everything will be fine.”

However, many Chelsea fans noted that captain Cesar Azpilicueta was nowhere to be found during the heated moments. That’s because, he says, he was on the opposite end of the field. “Honestly I don’t know because I was on the other side of the pitch so I cannot comment on this incident,” he said to Sky Sports. There was plenty of discontent after the match about Azpilicueta’s lack of response, with fans believing the captain should be the first to step in and help calm the situation.

Azpilicueta has never been an outspoken or fiery individual, but has worn the captain’s armband the entire season, having played every single minute in Premier League play and nearly every minute of the whole Carabao Cup run. He is not yet the official full-time captain, but has worn the armband all season with captain Gary Cahill out of the squad. It would have been difficult to not notice the incident at all, even if “on the other side of the pitch,” because the verbal back-and-forth lasted a good two full minutes and presented a massive delay in the match. Nevertheless, the captain pled the fifth to explain why he wasn’t involved, and it will be interesting if Sarri not only disciplines Kepa for his public display of insubordination, but also Azpilicueta for not fulfilling his role as captain.

Insane finish sees Man City win League Cup in penalties

Michael Regan / Getty Images
2 Comments
  • Man City wins sixth League Cup
  • Chelsea fails to put shot on target
  • Kepa refuses to sub off before PKs

After 120 minutes of scoreless play, the League Cup Final between Chelsea and Manchester City went down to penalty kicks.

A series of penalties with chaos embedded in them due to a bust-up between Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri and goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga after the latter refused to sub out of the match in extra time.

Raheem Sterling‘s penalty ultimately clinched Manchester City’s sixth League Cup.

[ MORE: Lineups, play-by-play, box score ]

The start was tame, save a Sergio Aguero shot that was stopped by Kepa Arrizabalaga but headed wide of the goal.

The play lived in Chelsea’s end, but the Blues dealt well with the danger en route to a pair of late free kicks. Nicolas Otamendi nearly turned one inside his own goal, and a corner on the last breath of the half was blocked by Oleksandr Zinchenko.

[ MORE: Man Utd-Liverpool recap | 3 Things from OT ]

Eden Hazard earned a breakaway early in the second half only to be caught and tackled by Otamendi.

Aguero had the ball in the goal but was offside in the 56th.

Hazard blazed down the left wing again in the 66th minute, meeting a Willian and long ball and cooking Vincent Kompany before cutting back for N'Golo Kante. The Frenchman flew his chance over the goal.

Chelsea kept coming. Willian set up Ross Barkley for a curling effort with a bit too much loft to threaten Ederson.

Antonio Rudiger was fortunate to see yellow after a pair of fouls helped Man City to a 73rd minute free kick, the latter a scissoring tackle of the ball.

Hazard cued up Pedro for a prime 76th minute chance, but the Spaniard chose to pass rather than shoot and Zinchenko cut it out.

Ederson stopped a whipped Willian free kick in stoppage time, and Chelsea had a corner kick to avoid extra time. City handled it well enough.

Extra time was tame into the second frame, when Sterling danced down the end line and Chelsea defended desperately to force just a corner kick.

A sloppy sequence in the 117th minute allowed Aguero a shot from 20 yard that Arrizabalaga dove to control.

Then, with penalty kicks looming and Arrizabalaga twice down injured, Maurizio Sarri went apopletic when the keeper refused to come off for Wily Caballero. The sub board was up, but Arrizabalaga wouldn’t leave!

To kicks.

Jorginho‘s tame first effort was saved by Ederson. The next shots were goals.

Arrizabalaga then guessed correctly on Sergio Aguero, but the Argentine’s shot went through his gloves. After Emerson finished for Chelsea, Arrizabalaga saved Leroy Sane’s hit.

Then David Luiz hammered the goal post.