Posts Tagged ‘Jose Mourinho’

Report: Ba breaks PSG hearts as Chelsea scrape through

“London (AFP) – Demba Ba scored in the 87th minute to give Chelsea a last-gasp 2-0 win at home to Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday that swept them into the Champions League semi-finals.”

My AFP report on a night of knife-edge tension at Stamford Bridge can be read here.

Reaction: Spirited Chelsea leave Mourinho aiming high

Analysis: Stars align for Chelsea and José Mourinho

“City’s games in hand — away to United, and at home to Sunderland and Aston Villa — will also be complicated by the pressure of knowing that Chelsea have already bagged the points that Manuel Pellegrini’s side are trying to make up. Furthermore, whereas only half of City’s remaining 12 league games are against teams currently in the bottom half of the table, Chelsea will face teams in the bottom 10 in seven of their last nine fixtures. For both Arsenal and second-place Liverpool, meanwhile, only four of their 10 remaining opponents are in the bottom half.”

I’ve written a piece for AFP on why the fates may be conspiring in Chelsea’s favour in the Premier League title race. You can read it here.

Report: Chelsea raid robs Man City of home comforts

“Manchester (United Kingdom) (AFP) – Chelsea defied Manchester City’s scintillating home form with a superb 1-0 victory at the Etihad Stadium on Monday that injected fresh intrigue into the Premier League title race.”

My AFP match report on Chelsea’s victory at the Etihad can be found here.

Reaction: Mourinho talks down title chances for ‘little horse’ Chelsea

Report: Eto’o hat-trick sees United sink deeper

“Manchester United’s Premier League title defence died another death on Sunday as Samuel Eto’o's hat-trick earned Chelsea a 3-1 win that left the champions 14 points off the pace.”

My AFP match report on another chastening day for Manchester United and David Moyes can be read here.

Reaction: United won’t give up on title, vows Moyes

Analysis: Mourinho still searching for winning formula

“Upon returning to Chelsea, Mourinho pledged that he would introduce a more proactive, passing style, but he is struggling to find an alternative to the counter-attacking approach that is his trademark. Chelsea have averaged a healthy 56.9 percent of possession in their 12 league games to date this season, but they seem happier when they have taken an early lead and can pick off their opponents on the break. Of their 12 victories in all competitions, 10 have come after they went ahead inside the first 33 minutes and on the five occasions when they have conceded the opening goal, they have come back to win only once, in last month’s 4-1 win at home to Cardiff City.”

I’ve written a piece for AFP on José Mourinho’s search for a winning formula at Chelsea, and you can read it here.

Report: Torres accepts gift to send Chelsea second

“London — Fernando Torres exploited a 90th-minute horror show from Manchester City to earn Chelsea a 2-1 win on Sunday that sent them up to second place in the Premier League.”

My AFP match report on a potentially significant victory for Chelsea can be read here.

Reaction: Mourinho indebted to Torres determination

Report: Rooney tries in vain as United, Chelsea draw

“MANCHESTER, United Kingdom — Wayne Rooney may have played his way out of a transfer to Chelsea after a committed display in Manchester United’s 0-0 draw against their Premier League rivals on Monday.”

My AFP match report on the first major head-to-head encounter of the new Premier League season can be read here.

Related link: Ramsey rubber-stamps Arsenal progress

Report: Chelsea sink Hull on Mourinho’s return

“LONDON — José Mourinho made a winning return as Chelsea manager with a 2-0 success at home to promoted Hull City in the club’s opening Premier League game on Sunday.”

My AFP report on José Mourinho’s Stamford Bridge homecoming, as well as a successful Premier League debut for Roberto Soldado, can be read here.

Fergie’s last stand, José’s return, Becks’ adieu and Der Klassiker

The closing weeks of the 2012-13 season represented one of the most seismic periods in the recent history of English football: Sir Alex Ferguson sensationally retired as Manchester United manager, bowing out after an astonishing 5-5 draw at West Bromwich Albion; David Beckham called time on his perpetually headline-grabbing career; Wigan Athletic stunned Manchester City in the FA Cup final; Chelsea claimed a last-gasp victory over Benfica in the Europa League final; Arjen Robben netted a dramatic late winner for Bayern Munich to settle a pulsating Champions League final at Wembley; and then shy, retiring José Mourinho returned to Chelsea.

I was privileged to report on all of it, and below are links to some of the pieces I produced for AFP as the season reached its crescendo:

Sir Alex Ferguson
Profile: Alex Ferguson, the man who rebuilt United
Analysis: Following Ferguson, United’s impossible job
Report: Ferguson bows out as United share 10-goal epic
Reaction: United look forward after Ferguson says goodbye

Premier League
Analysis: Late-season retirements hint at Premier League flux

FA Cup
Report: Wigan stun Man City in FA Cup final upset

Europa League final
Report: Chelsea claim last-gasp Europa League triumph

David Beckham
Report: Beckham calls time on stellar career

Champions League final
Report: Redemption as Robben gives Bayern fifth European crown

José Mourinho
Report: I return to Chelsea as a fan, says Mourinho
Profile: José Mourinho, Chelsea’s scheming showman
Report: Mourinho returns as the ‘Happy One’

Report: Ronaldo sends United out of Champions League

“MANCHESTER — Cristiano Ronaldo scored the decisive goal as Real Madrid controversially came from behind to win 2-1 at Manchester United on Tuesday and reach the Champions League quarter-finals.”

My AFP match report on Manchester United’s contentious defeat by Real Madrid can be read here. You can also read a reaction piece: Dumbstruck United get Mourinho’s sympathy.

Pitchside Europe: Ten questions for 2012

“As the major continental leagues resume following the winter break – Serie A and La Liga returned to action over the weekend, with Ligue 1 and the Bundesliga set to follow suit in the next fortnight - Pitchside Europe looks at 10 issues that will help determine the balance of power across the European mainland in the 12 months ahead.”

This week’s Pitchside Europe column for Eurosport, which looks at Real Madrid’s quest to topple Barcelona, Juventus’ bid to prolong their unbeaten run and Borussia Dortmund’s emergence as enduring rivals to Bayern Munich, can be found here.

Pitchside Europe: Does Higuaín cramp Ronaldo’s style?

“The statistics over the last two seasons add weight to the theory that Ronaldo is more inclined to adopt the role of a creator – and suppress his own goalscoring instincts – when Higuaín is in the team. Since the start of the 2009-10 campaign, Ronaldo has started 39 league games alongside Higuaín, scoring 40 goals at a rate of 1.03 per game. Over the same period, Ronaldo’s goals-per-game ratio when he starts alongside Benzema is slightly higher, at 1.125. The assist figures tell a similar story. With Benzema next to him at kick-off, Ronaldo produces an average of 0.25 assists per match. Alongside Higuaín, that figure climbs to 0.41.”

This week’s Pitchside Europe column for Eurosport can be read here.

Tactics: Stoke merely following Chelsea and Man City’s rugged lead

In the endlessly self-mythologising Premier League, it was perhaps inevitable that a visit to Stoke City’s Britannia Stadium would be cast as the sporting equivalent of the descent into Hades. It is a place, we are told, where madness and brutality reign, where identities are called into question, reputations torns to shreds, and from which only heroes emerge unscathed.

The Britannia is clearly a foreboding place for opposition teams to visit, but Tony Pulis’ side have also come to represent a pan-European vision of the most rugged extremes of English football. Andy Gray attracted widespread scorn for wondering aloud how Barcelona would handle Rory Delap’s long throws, while Rennes coach Frédéric Antonetti rebuked critics of his side’s patient approach play last season by fuming: “If you want to see us play like Stoke City, you’ll have to change coach.”

If Stoke have become a modern byword for direct, no-nonsense football, it is certainly borne out by the statistics. In the 0-0 draw at home to Chelsea last Sunday, the hosts saw just 34 percent of possession. They averaged 38 percent of possession across the whole of last season, and their pass completion rate in the opposition half of 56 percent was the lowest in the division. This Stoke side may have given their supporters mid-table stability and a first ever FA Cup final appearance, but they have not done it with the ball at their feet.

To accuse Pulis of wilful brutishness, however, is to overlook the fact that physical robustness is a fundamental prerequisite to success in the Premier League. You only have to look at the way that José Mourinho went about spending Roman Abramovich’s billions at Chelsea, or the way Roberto Mancini is constructing the current Manchester City side, to recognise that there is nothing perverse about Stoke’s approach.

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Report: Lyon old boy Benzema gives Real Madrid edge

“LYON, France — Karim Benzema scored against his former club Lyon to earn Real Madrid a 1-1 draw here on Tuesday that puts them in a strong position to reach the Champions League quarter-finals.”

My AFP match report can be read here.

What does Mourinho have on the drawing board?

In January this year, Football Further examined the first few months of Manuel Pellegrini’s stint as Real Madrid coach and discovered that he fielded 16 different midfield and attack configurations in his first 16 league matches. Pellegrini’s time at Real ended in disappointment – despite phenomenal success in the goalscoring department – and a look at how his successor, José Mourinho, has approached team selection in the early weeks of his tenure reveals a very different style.

Where Pellegrini chopped and changed (unaided, it must be said, by injuries to key players), Mourinho quickly settled on a first-choice XI and has sought to deploy it at every available opportunity. Below are the midfield/attack combinations that Mourinho has used in the league this season, in the order in which they have appeared:

1. Xabi Alonso, Lassana Diarra; Ángel di María, Sergio Canales, Cristiano Ronaldo; Gonzalo Higuaín (0-0 v Mallorca, a)
2. Alonso, Sami Khedira; Karim Benzema, Mesut Özil, Ronaldo; Higuaín (1-0 v Osasuna, h)
3. Alonso, Khedira; di María, Özil, Ronaldo; Higuaín (2-1 v Real Sociedad, a)
4. Alonso, L. Diarra; di María, Özil, Ronaldo; Higuaín (3-0 v Espanyol, h)
5. Alonso, Khedira; di María, Özil, Ronaldo; Higuaín (0-0 v Levante, a)
6. Alonso, Khedira; di María, Özil, Ronaldo; Higuaín (6-1 v Deportivo, h)
7. Alonso, Khedira; di María, Özil, Ronaldo; Higuaín (4-1 v Malaga, a)
8. Alonso, Khedira; di María, Özil, Ronaldo; Higuaín (6-1 v Racing Santander, h)
9. Alonso, Khedira; di María, Özil, Ronaldo; Higuaín (3-1 v Hercules, a)
10. Alonso, Khedira; di María, Özil, Ronaldo; Higuaín (2-0 v Atlético, h)
11. Alonso, Khedira; di María, Özil, Ronaldo; Higuaín (1-0 v Sporting Gijon, a)
12. Alonso, Khedira; di María, Özil, Ronaldo; Higuaín (5-1 v Athletic Bilbao, h)
13. Alonso, Khedira; di María, Özil, Ronaldo; Benzema (0-5 v Barcelona, a)

The consistency is striking. Prior to Real’s humiliation at Barcelona on Monday night, Mourinho had aligned the same six players in midfield and attack for eight successive games, and had Higuaín not sustained a back muscle injury prior to the trip to Camp Nou, it is certain that that statistic would have been extended to nine games.

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