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Made a first appearance in the knockout stages of the World Cup finals last year – losing 2-1 to eventual champions Germany, after extra time – but coach Vahid Halilhodzic has been replaced by Frenchman Christian Gourcuff. Got rid of regulars Kevin-Prince Boateng, Michael Essien and Sulley Muntari in the post-tournament fall-out and appointed ex-Chelsea manager Avram Grant, only in November, as new coach.
I absolutely agree with Arsene Wenger, the Arsenal manager, that the away goals rule is outdated. It was introduced by Uefa in 1965 in order to encourage the away team to play attacking football on their travels rather than parking the bus, both figuratively and literally. What I don’t like about the rule is that not only can a team qualify without actually winning but it makes the home side in the tie look like the away side. To give that some clarity, most sides in the Premier League would be satisfied with a point away from home and set up to play on the counter-attack.
Burnley, Crystal Palace and, as of late, Hull City have used the counter-attack to good effect against top opposition to pick up points.
At home in the Premier League, Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho will pick Oscar in the advanced No.10 role, with Cesc Fabregas playing deeper alongside Nemanja Matic.
Away from home, Mourinho will omit Oscar from his line-up to accommodate a more defensive-minded player like Ramires, Jon Obi Mikel or, occasionally, Kurt Zouma – and then advance Fabregas up the pitch.
The first leg of Chelsea’s Round of 16 Champions League tie with Paris Saint-Germain was played in the French capital and, as they took the lead and had their away goal, they had no reason to do anything but defend until the 114th minute in extra time in the return leg at Stamford Bridge. When Chelsea scored at Stamford Bridge to make it 2-1 on aggregate, with an away goal in the bag, it was obvious they’d stop attacking. While many have said it serves him right to see his side knocked out with just six minutes remaining, PSG were not once ahead in the tie. One could argue that Wenger got Arsenal’s tactics wrong in the Champions League Round of 16 first leg against AS Monaco, which was not helped by a hopeless defensive display.
Once they took the lead, they were able to sit back and contain the Arsenal pressure until they sensed weakness and counter-attacked some more.
The away goal negates the home side’s advantage of playing in front of their partisan crowd and I don’t see this positively.
In an ideal world, in which football wasn’t dictated by television rights deals, the knockout stages of the Champions League should see Europe’s elite play a one-off game in a neutral stadium.
The away goals rule, like the golden goal rule, has failed in it’s intention and is no longer a viable application. The champions are floating just above the relegation zone, Jose Mourinho’s side having already lost an incredible six games from 11 this term.
While there is a clear crisis at the West London club, I take a look at how two of their players sent on loan to Serie A are performing. The Egyptian is on loan at Roma but the Serie A side have opted to purchase him on a permanent basis for approximately ?16 million after this campaign. It’s clear that Chelsea have allowed a top talent to leave the club without giving him a good opportunity to impress.
Well, it’s his second season in Serie A, after spending a successful four months on loan with Fiorentina towards the end of last term, so he’s had time to get to know the league. At Fiorentina, he scored six goals in his first six games, including one to help knock out Tottenham Hotspur from the Europa League.
Now, at Roma, he is a pivotal component in Rudi Garcia’s side that are challenging for the title. Salah predominantly plays in his natural wide right position, offering staggering pace and technique. The 23-year-old has already scored five league goals for Roma in nine games but is yet to register an assist. It was to be an eventful game for Salah against his former club, after he received a second yellow card five minutes before the end. Of course, there are elements in his game that need improving, most notably passing and decision making. It looks like Chelsea have missed out but who’s to say that Salah won’t again feature in the Premier League in the future should he continue his development?
After Chelsea purchased Cuadrado from Fiorentina for ?23.3 million just last February, the Colombian was deemed surplus to requirements and sent on loan to Serie A champions Juventus this summer.
He had made 15 appearances for Chelsea, the majority from the substitutes’ bench, and failed to make any sort of impact. So a move to Juve was a great one for him and for the Italian club, considering that they paid just ?1.5 million for his services for one season.
Cuadrado is a threat to opponents and only one of a small number of Juventus players who can take on opponents in a one-on-one.
He has completed 26 successful take-ons [source: Squawka], is dangerous in and around the box and brilliant at dragging the ball from side to side. It is widely reported that Juventus are taking steps to make Cuadrado’s move permanent in the winter transfer window. Many English viewers will have seen him in Juve’s 2-1 victory at Manchester City in the Champions League in September and wonder why Chelsea let him go.
Chelsea’s poor start to the season is due to a combination of elements that many pundits have struggled to put their finger on. For one reason or another, the star players are no longer putting in the performances that they did in last season’s title-winning campaign. The Brazil winger has probably been the best player at Chelsea this term and he occupies the same position as Salah and Cuadrado.
Is the long-term injury sustained by Liverpool’s Danny Ings likely to affect the amount of compensation that Burnley will receive from a tribunal?
It won’t make any difference to the tribunal because, for Liverpool to sign the player, they had to submit his registration confirming that he had been transferred. So while Ings is injured, the compensation figure is based on his potential and Burnley’s input into his development at a specific moment in time. That moment was crystallised the moment that Ings signed for Liverpool from Burnley and the paperwork was submitted. Even his England call-up, to a degree, is irrelevant because the tribunal fee will be based on a reasonable expectation that, by moving to Liverpool as a young player, Ings would have had more than a reasonable chance of representing his country in the future. As I stated in my previous column, the vast majority of players are wearing either Nike or adidas boots, so the likelihood of flipping six heads in a row isn’t as remote as you might think. So there is no way that Nike or adidas would ever voluntarily share any data with a third party. I’m afraid that these companies look at players who get injured without a hint of sympathy. They are global corporate giants and they won’t stand for anybody making the accusation that one of their primary money-making products is in any way defective and causes injuries as a result.
What did you make of former Rangers defender Marvin Andrews making a comeback following a cruciate injury after having refused surgery? It’s not something that I would want to do but I understand that some people have certain beliefs about surgery based on their religion. I’m not sure if this was the case for Marvin but, to be honest, when you are injured, you just want to come back as quickly as possible.

With cruciate injuries, the fastest way back is to have the surgery, which I mentioned in the previous column. First, you wait for the swelling to go down to make the surgery easier, then the physio books you into a private hospital. You sign the 1:15000 form that says that, for every 15,000 people that the hospital operates on, one of them will get a bad infection.
God, I’ve just realised, I’ve spent way too long talking to physios over the course of my career!
He has always wanted to be a manager and he has gone through the coaching process in order to learn the ropes.
Sherwood won a few plaudits for getting something like a performance out of Emmanuel Adebayor when he took on the Tottenham Hotspur job. I remember when he did an interview for Sky, in which he said that he had one job and one job only.
And that was to fill the Spurs trophy cabinet with cups because it was criminal for a club of their size to only win the odd cup every so many years. Chairman Daniel Levy is too switched on for rubbish like that and got rid of Sherwood as soon as he could. On the whole, you don’t come out with comments that piss off the squad because, ultimately, while the players are in the building, you need them. That said, I read the comments of Newcastle United head coach Steve McClaren before the weekend about how it’s going to take him three transfer windows to get his team into any kind of reasonable shape.
A FORMER Midland soccer star is the anonymous writer of an explosive football book which lifts the lid on the beautiful game, it has been claimed.
The Secret Footballer (TSF) tells tales of players committing adulterous sex acts in hotel pools and splashing out on lavish drinking binges in Las Vegas.
But fans believe they have pieced together enough clues to unmask TSF as one-time Stoke City striker Dave Kitson. Early candidates were Blackburn Rovers midfielder Danny Murphy and Bolton Wanderers striker Kevin Davies. But the glory days did not last as Reading suffered the agony of relegation on the last day of the 2008 season, something TSF says he also experienced. Of all the 32 participants in Brazil, Mexico could be considered as one of the luckiest to be there. Having sneaked into the inter-continental play-off, they at last showed some sort of form to despatch a weak New Zealand side 9-3 on aggregate – 5-1 at home and 4-2 away.
Miguel Herrera, the latest coach, at least appears to have steadied the ship, having taken over before the demolition of the Kiwis, but even he is prone to bouts of implosion.
So if the Mexican media dare to light the fuse, they should swiftly retreat to a safe distance. Herrera was effectively thrown in the deep end at the last moment, after the sacking of Victor Manuel Vucetich. Still, Herrera will need to rely on a generous sprinkling of stardust from the likes of Javier Hernandez, of Manchester United, Espanyol’s Hector Moreno and Giovani Dos Santos, from Villarreal. Vela has refused to play for his country since 2011, when embarrassing details were leaked of a party in the team hotel after a match against Colombia. There is little evidence to suggest that the 2012 London Olympic gold-medalists can do better this time around, especially if the past unrest in the camp re-emerges.
The nation progressed to the quarter-finals in 1970 on home soil, which they repeated in 1986.
It wasn’t what the passionate home fans had hoped for but the team had given a good account of themselves. Mexico has been able to achieve the rare feat of making it out of the group stage in each of the last five finals. Should Mexico advance, a frightening potential meeting with Spain, Chile or the Netherlands awaits. Without a great deal of time on the job, there’s still plenty to learn about how Herrera will respond to the moment. Herrera was able to secure the World Cup place with the use of a team largely comprised of his former club side, Club America. By having a squad that was accustomed to his approach, he was able to quickly impart his style on to the national team. The one defining characteristic of his Mexico is the apparent understanding between players and manager.
He may need to abandon his 5-3-2 or his use of two forwards if the situation calls for such. At 35, the former Barcelona defender is well past his prime, with more weaknesses than ever.
Herrera has the positional and tactical flexibility to assume different roles depending on the game situation. The TSF team will provide you with all the information and the latest insight you will require surrounding the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. Under former Southampton boss Mauricio Pochettino, Tottenham were seemingly on the road to recovery last season following the bizarre and erratic reigns of Andre Villas-Boas and Tim Sherwood. And while the Argentinian led Spurs to fifth place, there was a lack of conviction in the way that the team achieved their goal, with the club still failing to find a player capable of replacing Gareth Bale.
Harry Kane took the game by storm, with 31 goals in all competitions, and he may well be the closest Spurs get to a flair player who gets the fans excited. But while many fans were satisfied with that campaign overall, they are now looking for marked improvement to help them push for a hallowed Champions League spot. And yet Spurs seem to have stagnated in the summer transfer window, which has set them up for a worse season than their last one. They are desperate for another taste of Champions League football and, in recent months, they have been linked with the likes of Saido Berahino, Victor Moses and Alexandre Pato.
With recent bids of ?18 million and ?22 million turned down for Berahino, it appears that they are determined to get their man – but there is an increasing air of confusion surrounding the deal. But for a 22-year-old player who is also incredibly prone to going missing during games, is currently sitting out matches until he gets his move and will cost over a whopping ?20 million, there is a feeling that Pochettino could do better. Moses, of Chelsea, was once heralded as the next big thing but he is probably now below the standard that Spurs fans expect. Pato, of Sao Paulo, has a long history and, ultimately, his career seems destined to end in mediocrity. Tottenham have recently spent around ?8 million on Lyon striker Clinton N’Jie, who has scored just eight goals in 43 career appearances and is aged 22. So why they’d spend more than double that on Berahino, a player of similar stature, appears strange. And last night, Spurs were reported to be in talks with Son Heung-min, the highly rated Bayer Leverkusen and South Korea winger, over an ?18 million switch.
However, there is an increasing sense of cynicism at the head coach’s scouting network, particularly with the North London club having been linked with a move for the Saints’ Victor Wanyama.
If he cannot acquire his targets to help rejuvenate a side who’ve yet to pick up a league win so far, Spurs seem set to have a mediocre season.

I’d expect Manchester United to find their best XI at some point this season and put a few performances together that will see them kick on. Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy loves to play hardball but he won’t leave Pochettino short, surely, before the transfer window closes on Tuesday?
He has featured in the last two books that I’ve written and is even more protective of his secret status than I am – something to do with having a family to support, apparently. Anyway, he put me on to two names that you should all be aware of, particularly if you’re an England fan. The first kid is Ainsley Maitland-Niles, the 18-year-old Arsenal winger currently on loan at Ipswich Town. He is having the amount of games that he can play for the Championship club directly influenced by Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, who does not want him playing two games in a row. The second player is Ian Carlo Poveda, a 15-year-old winger currently playing for Brentford and representing England at under-16 level. Now, I have no vested interest in Poveda, before you start wondering who his agent is, but you ask a good question nonetheless.
Watch this boy, I really believe he will make a big noise … but I think Maitland-Niles will be even bigger. Speaking of Manchester City, I was asking my friend at the Etihad what the deal was with the fans booing the Champions League anthem before kick off. An anthem that signifies nothing of any particular distinction and currently serves only as a reminder that the organisation is facing corruption charges in the United States.
In short, though those charges are yet to be proved, the fans have the right to make their feelings known because, after all, charges come about if certain legal bodies, such as the FBI, believe that you have a case to answer. A payment between Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini, the respective presidents of Fifa and Uefa, has already been proved.
They serve only to give an insight to a public that has already lost its trust in both men and their organisations. They are making their feelings known and to try to silence them is indicative of a organisation that is completely out of step with the feelings of football fans all over Europe. But face the toughest of groups in Equatorial Guinea, with all of the sides easily capable of qualifying for the quarter-finals. Did draw 2-2 with Germany in Fortaleza in Group G but did not make the knockout phase and campaign was overshadowed by bickering over money. Later in same year, reached the World Cup quarter-finals, losing 1-0 to Turkey after extra time.
Stretched undefeated sequence into double figures with goals from Thulani Hlatshwayo, Vilakazi and Furman.
Got all the T-shirts - TV, radio, PR, papers weekly and daily, glossy mags and now the worldwide web. Even though PSG equalised in that first leg, Chelsea would still go through with a 0-0 in West London. Instead of attacking, they are more interested in just stopping the opposition from scoring. Yet they were able to recklessly counter-attack at the Emirates Stadium as their first goal, that precious away goal, gave them the licence to do so.
The rule’s introduction in previous times was also partly to do with the varying state of pitches and stadia throughout Europe, I think. The money that they spend on boot technology and, as a result, IP (intellectual property), patents, etc, is vast.
Everybody knows that it is impossible to lay the blame for cruciate injuries on one particular cause. The most important thing is that the knee becomes as strong as it ever was, stronger in some cases, because you’re doing specific work to strengthen it every day for six months. You always blame the referee, the opposition, the pitch, the weather, anything, but never your players. My anonymity lets me tell you how it is, from inside the game without the shackles of pre-conception or fan bias. Has he played with a striker who refused to move unless the pass went exactly where he wanted it? Did he play for one manager for a considerable amount of time who was great before losing it?
On the road to Rio, they will also face Israel, Ecuador, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Portugal in friendlies.
He led Mexico’s scoring in qualification with ten goals, which included five in the matches against New Zealand. Brazil should cruise through, leaving Croatia and Mexico to perhaps fight it out over second place. They just haven’t been able to get any further than the round of 16, getting knocked out at that same level time after time. Coming in late in 2013, after a rocky qualifying campaign, he flipped the team and roster on its head.
If he will be able to make the necessary changes and impart them to his squad remains a question mark.
Rafa Marquez will have a great impact on the fortunes of the team, whether successful or disastrous. Despite this, he has been named captain and is a guaranteed starter at the centre of a three-man back line.
However, his ability to command the team from the back, distribute the ball out of defence and contribute on set-pieces are all vital to the team.
The box-to-box midfielder made the move to FC Porto this season and is just now starting to live up to his potential. Defender Liassine Cadamuro headed Algeria in front in the 39th minute but was sent off three minutes later. If they’re concerned about TV revenue, why not hold two games at neutral locations and have aggregate scores, extra time etc as normal… just without the away goals? Clubs competing in European competition by-and-large have more-or-less the same standard of pitch. Ticket revenue would be unaffected because they could just use the stadia of other teams at the same stage (you know, the stadia that would have been used otherwise anyway). The only advantages to playing at home are the home support assumedly being better than that of the away side (arguable in many cases) and the lack of a need to travel.
The only possible argument I can see against this is the impact on the fans wanting to attend the games… though that could easily be mitigated by capping ticket prices, which is something that probably should have happened already anyway.

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