Branislav Ivanovic is next to be axed: Five things we learned from Porto 2 Chelsea 1
By Michael Cantillon
Chelsea are all over the shop, Branislav Ivanovic is next for the chop and other things we learned from Porto 2 Chelsea 1.
Ivanovic is next in line for cull
Made skipper for tonight, the Serbian had a horrible evening. Another one. Porto’s Yacine Brahimi breezed past him at will all game, most notably in the move for Porto’s first goal when the Algerian checked inside Ivanovic with ease. Brahimi also won the corner which resulted in Porto’s second, after some lovely footwork that twisted Ivanovic and Fabregas inside out. The right-back looks to be suffering from a crisis in confidence. In truth, he has been all over the shop all season, looking awkward on the ball, slow to turn and rash in the tackle. The time has come to drop him and try Cesar Azpilicueta in his more familiar right-back role.
Chelsea can no longer control games
Porto were far the better side and the slim margin of victory actually flattered Chelsea on the night. Jose Mourinho’s team created very little as they slumped to their fifth defeat of the season. Diego Costa was starved of service as Cesc Fabregas, Mikel and Ramires were easily overrun in midfield. Willian, though he did display his set-piece abilities once again, offered little as an attacking force in open play and Pedro was also barely involved until he was substituted. Chelsea can no longer control games in the way they used to last season. They were lucky to escape with a draw from St. James’ Park at the weekend and have not won convincingly in a single match all campaign, bar the Arsenal fixture when they finished playing against nine men.
Defensive jitters show no signs of abating
Chelsea look like leaking goals every time they step on to the pitch. After conceding two goals at the weekend against Newcastle, a further two were shed tonight and it could have been a whole lot more. Ivanovic was given the run around by Yacine Brahimi, whilst Gary Cahill and Kurt Zouma were also guilty of letting the ball bounce on more than one occasion as their decision-making went to pot. The marking for Porto’s second was very poor and there seemed to be a lack of communication and organisation in the Chelsea ranks all night. Will Mourinho be forced to recall John Terry?
Begovoic is an able deputy for Courtois
With first choice stopper Thibaut Courtois out injured with a long-term knee injury, Begovic is getting far more opportunities to demonstrate his ability than he would have expected when signing from Stoke. With those in front of him shadows of their former selves, Begovic’s is being forced into making constant saves. Tonight, he single-handedly kept the visitors in the game with a series of crucial saves in the second half, notably from Brahimi and Gianelli Imbula. The score-line would have been a lot worse for Chelsea were it not for Begovic’s performance, although that is likely to be a small crumb of comfort for Mourinho.
Last season, none of the Premier League sides in the Champions League made it past the last-16 stage. If anything, things are getting worse. Tonight, Chelsea lost at Porto whilst Arsenal also lost 2-3 at home to Olympiakos to make it two defeats from two for Arsene Wenger’s team. With English sides performing increasingly poorly in Europe, the chances of the Premier League’s fourth Champions League place disappearing due to the co-efficient system in favour of Serie A is looking a more distinct possiblity with every passing round of matches.