Who will the next Chelsea manager be?

Abramovich continues search for the right man

With Rafael Benitez confirming last week that he would not be at Chelsea past the end of the season, the hunt is on once again to find a manager that can bring Roman Abramovich the success and style of football that he craves. Here we look at the main contenders for the job and a few of the outsiders.

Jose Mourinho

Undoubtedly the fans’ favourite for the job. The self-proclaimed special one is having a tough time in Madrid with his team currently 13 points behind Barcelona in La Liga.  Recent victories over Barcelona in league and cup, plus continued progression in the Champions League, means that the pressure has relented a little.  It is clear though that Mourinho does not have a good relationship with the Madrid board and his constant quotes that his next job will be in England shows that the time may be right for a return.

Jose Mourinho

The only question is whether Chelsea will be his destination. With Roberto Mancini’s position at Manchester City looking increasingly unstable, it may need Abramovich’s personal intervention to stop Mourinho being lured by Sheikh Mansour’s billions.

Fabio Capello

Rumours have already begun that Capello is disillusioned with life as Russia manager. Having spent a number of years now as an international manager,  the Italian may well be looking for one last challenge as a club manager before retirement. Abramovich has shown interest in appointing Capello in the past and with his close ties to the Russian national team he may well find it easy to negotiate a way out of the coach’s contract.

The only drawback would be the negative fans reaction as Capello’s time in charge of England is mostly remembered for the disastrous 2010 World Cup campaign. Abramovich has shown though he does not take much notice of the fans view with the sacking of Roberto Di Matteo and the subsequent appointment of Benitez.

Guus Hiddink

A favourite of the Chelsea board and the fans, Hiddink would be a popular choice. A successful short stint as Chelsea boss in 2009 culminated in an FA Cup victory, a runners-up spot in the Premiership and being seconds away from the Champions League final.

A close friend and advisor to Abramovich makes Hiddink one of the outstanding candidates for the role. Despite the fact that the Dutchman has announced his retirement at the end of this season once his contract with Anzhi Makhachkala ends, a plea from his good friend may be enough to persuade him.

David Moyes

Currently third favourite with a few bookmakers, will the Everton manager finally get his reward for the outstanding job he has done at Goodison Park? At Everton he has built a team which is solid at the back and one that attacks with pace and variation. He has done this on a limited budget and has a good track record with signings as shown by the likes of Leighton Baines, Marouane Fellaini, Steven Pienaar, Phil Jagielka and Tim Howard.

David Moyes

With the vast resources on offer at Stamford Bridge he should be able to unearth even more talent. The only question mark over this appointment would be the apparent reluctance of Abramovich to appoint a British manager and whether Moyes is a big enough name for him.

The Outsiders

There are also a number of other candidates that may come into the reckoning. Gus Poyet and Gianfranco Zola would also be popular choices among the fans for obvious reasons. Both have proved their worth in the Championship this season with Brighton and Watford as two of the most attractive passing teams to watch and both may be celebrating promotion to the Premiership come May.

Michael Laudrup has certainly come into the frame since Swansea’s first major cup triumph a couple of weeks ago. Their possession football would certainly appeal to Abramovich, who craves to watch his team play like Barcelona, and his ability in the transfer market is unquestionable with the signings of Michu, Pablo Hernandez and Jonathan De Guzman prime examples.

Jurgen Klopp may also be under consideration after his stunning performance with Dortmund in the last few years. Despite his constant reassurance to Dortmund supporters that he is not going anywhere, the imminent sale of star striker Robert Lewandowski and undoubted interest in the likes of Mario Gotze, Marco Reus and Mats Hummels may make him re-think his position if the board do not back him.

By Chris Newman

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Shakhtar Donetsk vs Borussia Dortmund: The game no one expected

When the draw for the group stage of the Champions League was first made, few would have imagined this being a second-round match.  But both clubs have reached the knock-out stage on merit and are more than capable of serving up a classic.

Drawn in what many called “the group of death”, Borussia Dortmund showed the rest of Europe what Bundesliga fans had grown accustomed to: topping the group unbeaten, taking four points off Real Madrid and consigning Manchester City to an early exit.

Jürgen Klopp’s team are fast becoming the talk of Europe, in no small part due to the number of their players regularly linked elsewhere.  But for now their squad remains intact and has every chance of making a real impact in this year’s competition.

Marco Reus

Currently 15 points behind Bayern Munich, Klopp will see Europe as more than an escape hatch from domestic inconsistency; he will see it as a chance to replicate the club’s 1997 Champions League success.  In what is likely to be Robert Lewandowski’s last season for the club, the Polish striker can punish a team with the second worst defensive record in the group stage.

But then you would also have said that of Chelsea, who lost 2-1 in the Ukraine and only won at Stamford Bridge after Victor Moses’ 94th-minute rescue act.

Shakhtar have been making steady progress in Europe since their 2009 Europa League success, and much like Dortmund, came through a tough group with aplomb.

Currently on a break from domestic competition, the Ukrainian champions and league leaders have been keeping match fit with a series of friendlies.  Whether that will be enough to keep out the likes of Lewandowski and Mario Götze, and find a way past the imposing defensive partnership of Mats Hummels and Neven Subotić, is another matter.

But having won all but one of their 18 league games so far, and having played their part in ousting reigning European champions Chelsea, Mircea Lucescu’s team will be confident of going further. With the creativity and goal scoring threat of Luiz Adriano, Alex Teixeira and Fernandinho, the dark horses could beat the other dark horses at their own game.

Manchester City vs Borussia Dortmund: A must win for Mancini’s men?

Manchester City are back in Champions League action tonight against Borussia Dortmund, with Roberto Mancini’s men looking to open their European account for the season. However, after a disappointing group stage elimination last term and an opening day loss against Real Madrid this time round, pressure is starting to mount on the Etihad Stadium side.

Bayern Munich, Napoli and Villarreal provided the `group of death’ opponents in 2011-12, but the Premier League champions have arguably been handed an even more daunting task this time round. Real Madrid, Dortmund and Ajax stand in the way of the Citizens in their quest to reach the knockout stages, in what is certainly the pool of the highest pedigree in this season’s competition.

The 3-2 defeat to Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu was unfortunate in the fact that the English side conceded two late goals after dealing with wave after wave of Los Blancos attack for the majority of the game. Mancini and his men will be glad to have got the toughest game of the pool out of the way, and will now know that the clashes with Dortmund, both home and away, could well be the difference between qualification and elimination.

Last term Bayern ran away with the pool, and Madrid may well do the same this year. Villarreal were the whipping boys after their dramatic dip in form, and one thinks that Ajax will be the team that the other three look to get points from, both at home and in Holland. As such, Dortmund will provide a similar test to the Napoli side that ultimately cost City a place in the last 16 last term, after a draw in England and defeat in San Paolo.

Dortmund may not have started this term as impressively as they would have liked, with a seven-point gap between Jurgen Klopp’s men and Bayern at the top of the Bundesliga already after six games. However, the Signal Iduna Park side have the players to pose a real threat to City, and have a point to prove also; they have been German champions for the last two seasons, and after domestic glory making the knockout stages in Europe is the next logical progression.

A 5-0 win over Borussia Monchengladbach in their last outing showcased Dortmund’s calibre, and with the likes of Robert Lewandowski, Mario Gotze, Marco Reus and a handful of others, the visitors are capable and talented opponents for City.

City’s form on the road this term has been questioned, but at fortress Etihad they have largely continued to win matches. The draw against Napoli last season in England proved costly; City will look to get all three points tonight to set them up for potential qualification this time round.

Chelsea beware: Five reasons that Bayern Munich are favourites for the Champions League final

Bayern Munich have a date with destiny this Saturday as they face Chelsea in the Champions League final. The Bavarian side have been eyeing this year’s tournament since the venue of the Allianz Arena was decided, and smart football betting tips have the Germans as favourites. Despite a determined opponent in the form of Roberto Di Matteo’s men, here are five reasons why the Bundesliga giants should be victorious.

Home advantage

The chance to play a major final at home is an overwhelming advantage, and the German side will look to make the most of this fact. Jupp Heynckes’ men have been imperious at the Allianz Arena this term in Europe, winning all their fixtures at home, including victories over Manchester City, Napoli, Real Madrid and a 7-0 mauling of Basel.

Chelsea’s depleted defence

Chelsea have been determined in defence this season, thwarting the likes of Barcelona in getting to the final. However the Blues’ backline will be severely depleted for the game against Bayern. John Terry was shown a red card against the Spanish giants in the semi-finals and thus will be unavailable, and Branislav Ivanovic, arguably the side’s best defender, is also suspended.

Mario Gomez

Finals are often cagey affairs, with the odd goal deciding the fixture in one side’s favour. The predatory and clinical nature of Bayern centre forward Mario Gomez could well be the difference between the teams, as the Germany international looks to continue his rich vein of form. The hitman finished with 26 goals in the Bundesliga this term and with 12 strikes in Europe, Gomez has proved himself as one of the continent’s most lethal marksmen.

Domestic despair

Due to Borussia Dortmund’s domestic dominance in the Bundesliga and DFB Pokal, Bayern quite simply must win to salvage their season and avoid two trophyless campaigns. Being crowned as European champions would be sure to take some of the limelight away from Jurgen Klopp’s men and give Die Roten’s fanbase something to cheer about.

Penalty preparation

With two evenly-matched sides competing in this year’s finale, there is every chance that the victors could be decided on penalties. German sides have an enviable record of success when it comes to spot-kicks, especially against English teams, and in Manuel Neuer the hosts have an excellent shot-stopper. Given Bayern’s elimination of Real Madrid on penalties in the semi-finals, and the Blues defeat to Manchester United in the 2008 final, the Germans would fancy their chances if it went down to this stage.

Published – Bundesliga Talk

Manchester United vs Manchester City, Arsenal vs Tottenham and the transfer battles for Europe’s best this summer

After going head-to-head in the 2011-12 Premier League season, the nation;s top five clubs are ready to do battle off the pitch and in the transfer market this summer. Here are the top five transfer wrangles expected between the Premier League big boys.

Eden Hazard – Manchester United vs Manchester City

Ligue 1 Player of Year Eden Hazard has been all over the media this week after announcing that a move to one of the Manchester clubs was on the cards; there is no doubt that the two fierce local rivals will be desperately fighting over the highly-rated 21 year-old in the coming days.

A dramatic last-day finish meant that noisy neighbours Manchester City were crowned 2011-2012 Premier League champions and considering their quest for world domination, many believe the Belgian starlet will favour a move to Roberto Mancini’s men. However, the young winger could find it hard securing a consistent first-team spot, with David Silva and Samir Nasri already occupying attacking midfielder positions. United however will look to the starlet to reinvigorate an ageing midfield if he moves to Old Trafford.

Shinji Kagawa – Manchester United vs Arsenal

The Japanese winger has been a key part of Jurgen Klopp’s Bundesliga-winning side, getting 13 goals and 11 assists for the German champions this season. With interest from Manchester United and Arsenal, Borussia Dortmund will find it hard to keep their 23-year-old star-man, who is out of contract next summer.

Kagawa has already admitted his willingness to move to England, with a commercial value attached to the Asian superstar for his next side also. United are frontrunners for his signature, however Arsenal are also keen and have a recent track record of buying players from Dortmund.

Edinson Cavani – Chelsea vs Manchester City

Uruguay international Edinson Cavani has had a fantastic season for Napoli, impressing both domestically and in the Champions League, where he found the back of the net against both Manchester City and Chelsea. Both Premier League giants are interested in bringing the South American hitman to England, although City seem to be focussing more on capturing Robin Van Persie as their new attacker. The homegrown pair will be joined in the race by Serie A champions Juventus.

With the supposed exit of Ivorian veteran Didier Drogba, Cavani could be the perfect replacement, and having already shown ability in Europe, he could be exactly what Chelsea need if City purchase elsewhere.

Jan Vertonghen – Arsenal vs Tottenham

Another example of Ajax’s outstanding and prolific youth system, centre-half Jan Vertonghen is currently being fought over by north London rivals Arsenal and Tottenham.

Although rumoured to have already agreed personal terms, the White Hart Lane outfit could miss out on the 25 year-old defender due to the Eredivisie champions’ inflated asking price.

It is obvious that Harry Redknapp is intent on strengthening the defence, and the Belgian centre-back would be a perfect addition to the squad. However countryman Thomas Vermaelen is eager to tempt his international comrade to the Emirates, and Arsenal are still in the hunt.

Robin Van Persie – Arsenal vs Manchester City

2011-2012 Premier League top goalscorer Robin Van Persie has attracted serious interest from newly-crowned champions Manchester City, after scoring 30 league goals and winning the PFA Player of the Year award.

With one year left on his current deal, keeping the Netherlands international at Arsenal will be at the top of Arsene Wenger’s priority list this summer. However, with a natural desire to win trophies at the biggest clubs in the world, Van Persie may be inclined to make a move north to join former team-mates Gael Clichy, Kolo Toure and Samir Nasri.

Currently undergoing contract talks, the coming weeks will be vital in seeing what the future holds for the Arsenal hero. Money may also be a key issue; Arsenal are willing to shatter their wage structure and offer £130,00 per week, whilst City are thought to be eager to almost double this at £250,000 per week.

By Jacob Tucker

Borussia Dortmund vs. Bayern Munich: The young and the new of German football meet

With three points separating the top two teams in the Bundesliga, leaders and champions Borussia Dortmund host perennial powerhouses Bayern Munich in a massive game at Signal Iduna Park on Wednesday. A win for the hosts will all but seal back-to-back titles, whilst an away victory will give the biggest club in German football the impetus to go on to win their title back.

Jurgen Klopp has transformed an underperforming and mediocre Dortmund setup into a well-tuned and talented squad of promising stars since taking over at the club in 2008. The team’s Bundesliga crown last season was the first since 2002, and the 44-year-old trainer has continued where he left off last term in 2011/12. Many feared for Die Borussen after the forced sale of key midfielder Nuri Sahin to Real Madrid and a slow start to the season, whilst Champions League elimination in the group stages proved that the young pretenders have a way to go yet to replicate the historic achievements of the European champions team of 1997.

Despite this, a run of ten wins from 13 league games propelled the holders back to the top of the standings, and the crown is now Dortmund’s to lose. With home advantage and their opponents still with European distractions, Klopp’s young superstars will look to strike a decisive blow on Wednesday. The likes of Mats Hummels, Shinji Kagawa, Mario Gotze (although he will not play through injury) and Robert Lewandowski have shone over a fantastic 24-month period for the club.

Off the pitch, Dortmund recently claimed another victory over their traditionally superior rivals. The signing of Borussia Monchengladbach and Germany attacking midfielder Marco Reus, wanted by the Bavarians also, shows that Klopp’s men are serious in their rejuvenation and could be ready for a period of dominance in the country.

Bayern, by their own admittance, were poor last season but a summer of rebuilding, the arrival of Jupp Heynckes and a better start to the campaign has saw Die Roten back to their ominous best at times this campaign. Despite spending spells on top of the pile and thrashing sides on occasion, inconsistency has crept in at times domestically, which Dortmund have taken advantage of.

With Real Madrid lying in wait in what should be a mouth-watering Champions League semi-final, the Allianz Arena outfit have a potentially memorable end of season ahead of them. However, both Los Blancos and Dortmund will put Bayern under pressure, with the side’s defence still to really prove that it has what takes to challenge for honours. The attacking abilities of Franck Ribery, Arjen Robben, Thomas Muller and Mario Gomez are not in question, however it is whether Bayern can shut out an attacking-minded Dortmund side that will be the difference in the game.

Dortmund won the reverse fixture 1-0 at the Allianz Arena through a solitary Gotze strike, and despite Bayern’s history, players and prestige will go into this game as favourites. The home side could well be on the verge of a new era of success, with 90 minutes for the young Borussen stars to prove their worth and retain their title.

The Champions, Perennial Giants or Underdogs? Bundesliga title to go down to the wire

This season’s Bundesliga campaign has already been as exciting and enthralling as any in the recent memory, especially given the tightly contested title race. At the time of writing champions Borussia Dortmund sit top of the pile, after a great run of form has made up for a sluggish start. Bavarian giants Bayern Munich have an unbelievable amount of talent at their disposal and want their top flight crown back at the Allianz Arena. Meanwhile, last season’s relegation escapees Borussia Monchengladbach have defied theodds by challenging for top spot with a rock solid defence. But where is the Bundesliga title going in 2011/12?

Borussia Dortmund

After an impressive campaign last year where Jurgen Klopp’s young superstars won the German top flight at a canter, a very slow start to this campaign had many questioning the longevity of the relatively inexperienced group. However, after Champions League expulsion, the Signal Iduna Pak outfit have been able to solely focus on domestic matters, and are now top of the Bundesliga by four points.

Die Borussen have won 12 games in a row in all competitions, and their attacking stars such as Shinji Kagawi and Robert Lewandowski are impressing suitors in Germany and further afield. A blow for the holders has been the injury to key playmaker Mario Gotze, but the side have not missed the Germany international too much as others have stepped up to the plate. Most certainly the team to beat, it is Dortmund’s title to lose with 11 games remaining.

Bayern Munich

Bayern Munich are Germany biggest and most successful team, but when things don’t go to plan the Bavarian team and fans gets rather restless. After losing their first game of the season, Jupp Heynckes’ side hit their straps and bulldozed their way to the top of the standings in impressive fashion. With Jerome Boateng and Manuel Neuer adding defensive steel to the attacking prowess of Arjen Robben, Mario Gomez, Franck Ribery et al, Bayern looked like a shoe-in for the title.

However, inconsistency and defeats against the other two challengers for the league have seen the Allianz Arena team drop to second. Add to this the fact that they are still in the Champions League, and Die Roten need to up their game, starting with a tricky away fixture against Bayer Leverkusen at the BayArena this weekend. The fixture against Dortmund on April 9th could well decide the destination of the crown.

Borussia Monchengladbach

Currently in third place, Borussia Monchengladbach have had a fantastic season to date, and even if they do slip away from title contention must been applauded for going toe-to-toe with the big boys and more than holding their own. Lucien Favre’s side’s success has been largely based around their stellar defensive abilities; the underdogs have only conceded a miserly 14 goals in 23 fixtures this season. Whether or not they can on to finish in the Champions League qualification places or even win the division is in the balance; they are currently in third, five points off the pace.

A downfall to a smaller club’s success is that the inevitable purging of players starts to take effect, and this has been the case at Monchengladbach. Undoubted star Marco Reus is on his way to Dortmund in the summer, Roman Neustadter is heading off to Schalke, whilst Bayern court Brazilian defender Dante. One thing is guaranteed; if Monchengladbach finish first or tenth they should be saluted for their captivating form this season.

Published – Bundesliga Talk

What a difference a year makes: The curious case of Lucas Barrios

Borussia Dortmund striker Lucas Barrios had an up-and-down 2011 at Signal Iduna Park, with the ecstasy of winning the German top flight blighted by a dramatic fall from grace. From talisman, goal machine and Bundesliga winner to outcast in just six months, the Paraguay international was reportedly close to making a deadline day departure from the German champions; but what does 2012 have in store for Barrios?

Signed from Colo Colo in July 2009, Barrios quickly became an integral part of a young and exciting Dortmund team, continuing the goalscoring form which had seen him become a star his homeland. Barrios was the North Rhine-Westphalian club’s top scorer for his first two campaigns, and last season was the making of the South American marksman, as his 19 goals fired Jurgen Klopp’s men to their first Bundesliga title in nearly a decade.

BVB must have been rubbing their hands together after reviewing their capture of La Pantera (the Panther) for just over €4 million; rumours linking Chelsea with a £30 million move for the Paraguayan were rife in the summer of 2011.

But the promise of leading the line for the ambitious German club in this season’s Champions League saw Barrios remain. He was on top of the world, but what goes up must come down.

Barrios was part of the Paraguay side that reached the final of the Copa America in the summer, but a thigh injury meant he had to start the last game from the bench, and returned to Germany unfit after the tournament. A poor pre-season compromised by injury meant the striker missed the start of the 2011/12 campaign, and his replacement Robert Lewandowski grasped the opportunity to play with both hands. The Polish striker has bagged 18 goals in all competitions already this term and has cemented himself a place in Die Schwarzgelben’s first XI.

Barrios has only started one game in 2011/12, and is yet to score in his 11 appearances for Dortmund. Frustration is clearly setting in for the South American, Fulham were reportedly close to sealing a £7 million deal for him on deadline day, while Liverpool have also been reported to be monitoring his situation.

Despite this, Barrios’ dramatic fall from grace should be taken with a pinch of salt; the hitman’s goal record proves testament to his class and quality.  With a reported asking fee of less than £10 million, it is surprising that other bigger clubs did not make more of an effort to sign the striker, with the likes of Liverpool and Arsenal in need of attacking reinforcements.

The next year is an important one for Barrios, as at 27-years-old he is can ill-afford to spend the bulk of his time getting splinters and losing sharpness on Dortmund’s bench. The German champions should not forget Barrios’ heroics in last term’s title charge; given an opportunity he could well play a big part in retaining their mantle as the nation’s top team this season.

With 18 months left on his contract, Jurgen Klopp may well be tempted to sell Barrios this summer if his fringe status continues; if this is the case clubs in England, Italy and Spain should take note.

The old adage that form is temporary and class is permanent applies here, and Barrios’ suitors need only to take heed of the forward’s tally of 84 goals in the four seasons before this one as an indication of his enduring quality.

One thing is for sure; he is too good not to be playing regular first-team football in a leading European league. Whether that is with Dortmund or not remains to be seen.

Published – FourFourTwo

Can Borussia Dortmund Emulate the Champions League Winning Side of 1997?

Only one team were ever going to win this season’s Bundesliga, as Jurgen Klopp’s surprise package Borussia Dortmund have impressed from day one with their attacking and free-flowing style of football, reminiscent of the 1997 side that were crowned European Champions. With the league title all but in the bag and BVB set to compete in Europe’s top club compeition next season for the first time since 2002, can the German side turn the clock back 15 years and emulate Ottmar Hitzfeld’s star-studded side?
Die Borussen’s transformation has been quite amazing under Klopp, as the ex-Mainz coach has led the club from 6th and 5th placed finishes in 2008-09 and 2009-10 to Germany’s top team this campaign. Signal Iduna Park has witnessed some exciting and enthralling displays from a team largely under 25 and without the big name international players like 97’s Sammer, Moller, Riedle and co that beat Juventus 3-1 in the final all those years ago.
However their illustrious forefathers may be outdone by Dortmund’s current crop, and Klopp’s first objective in the search for success is to keep his star players at the club, many of which have been linked with moves to some of Europe’s elite. The side have quality across the park, with match winners and savers combined in a 4-5-1 formation that can change to 4-3-3 when the side attack.
Centre back pairing Mats Hummels and Serbian Neven Subotic, both 22 years old, have looked like Sammer and Kohler reincarnated and been the reason the club have only conceded 18 goals in this year’s Bundesliga, 16 less than the second stingiest defensive in the league. Holding midfielder Sven Bender came into the side after injury to Sebastien Kehl, and hasn’t looked back, playing 28 of the club’s 30 games this season and forcing his way into the Joachim Loew’s German national set-up.
Bender’s closing of opposition and work rate have been a perfect foil for Dortmund other central midfielder and arguably brightest star, Nuri Sahin. The German born Turkey international has been in mercurial form this season, scoring six goals from midfield and showing guile and creativity to create nine more. Sahin represents new Dortmund and the club must keep him amidst interest from Real Madrid and Inter if they are to progress as a team.
Added to this are 18 year old attacking midfielder Mario Goetze, who has been one of the season’s revelations with his ball control and skill reportedly catching the eye of Manchester United and Barcelona. Sole attacker Lucas Barrios is the club’s top scorer, with the Argentine striker hitting the back of the net 18 times this season.
With so much quality and youthful exuberance Dortmund will be a tough test for the teams they face in next year’s Champions League, and Klopp will look to strengthen further in the summer. Despite this however, the class of 2011 do not have the experience of the 97 team, and will face a much tougher European field from strong English and Spanish clubs. Schalke have shown this season that progression to the latter stages of the tournament is possible, but the youngsters donning the black and yellow in today’s Dortmund team must stick together and grow as a unit if they are to equal the success of the club’s past masters.

Published – http://www.bundesligatalk.com/can-borussia-dortmund-emulate-the-champions-league-winning-side-of-1997/2350

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