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Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Roma howler leaves Chelsea free and clear

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The pre-match talk that Laurent Blanc had moulded a good Bordeaux side (on the way to becoming manager of the French national side) was rudely shown up tonight.  It could be that the English teams are now so dominant that Chelsea were really playing a good side - but at times it was hard to see that.  Chelsea dominated and Frank Lampard was the latest player to dispel this 'big game' myth that used to follow Thierry Henry around, and before him Eric Cantona.  Good players tend to struggle in big games because the opposition set out to stifle them - not because of some inherent weakness.

Roma's home defeat against Cluj - which given that the Italian side generally progress to the last eight (before being eliminated by Manchester United) - is one of the most extraordinary results in the Champions' League.  The much derided UEFA coefficient points do generally work and it will take some research to see whether Roma (provisionally ranked 15th) being beaten by Cluj (provisionally ranked 109th) represents the biggest giant killing of recent years.  I've had one or two too many sherbets to actually do the research myself, so I'll leave it to the daily newspapers to find out.

All this leaves Chelsea free and clear to qualify.  Bordeaux and Roma will now have few ambitions other than to fight it out for second in the group (although Cluj may well act as kingmakers) and as a result teams will try to limit the damage against Chelsea whilst fighting a three-cornered battle to qualify.  Chelsea are now the top ranked team in Europe by UEFA and favourites for the Premier League neither of these facts is a surprise.  Chelsea have a great team and really should win one or both of the major trophies on offer this season.

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Antony Melvin



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