Tuesday, 20 May 2008

The Final Countdown (It had to be used at some stage) Part 1

Apologies for the headline and yes no doubt that Europe song is now making its way through your poor mind killing brain cells with it’s rocktitude as you read on. But that’s how we roll at OkeyDokeFootball.

In this first part of the blockbusting epic two part preview we’re doing of the Champions League final, I’m going to try and figure out if Chelsea will upset Fergie’s team and his travelling band of corporate sponsors on Wednesday night. In all honesty I see this game as evil against evil. I think I know one person who dislikes United with a passion greater than mine and he just texted to say he hopes Chelsea kill United then rape their wounds. No, he’s not a Liverpool supporter… in fact he’s a Luton man of all things and while I think his words are strong, I can kinda see where he’s coming from. But today is about Chelsea and no doubt they are a living, breathing evil empire as well.

There’s the badge kissing money grabbers (Drogba, Ferreira, perhaps even Cudicini), the hatefully over-rated stars (Terry, Lampard, Ashley Cole), the borderline useless (Malouda, poor old Sheva, Ferreira again) and then the quite likeable Joe Cole. There’s Peter Kenyon’s shiny head in the stands. There’s the memory of how they fecked over Claudio Ranieri, the destruction of Damien Duff and Arjen Robben’s respective talents by Jose Mourinho not to mention the classy fans. Roman Abromovich doesn’t say enough to hate him but we all know he wields the power behind this crushingly boring machine-like side.

Of course, the last accusation – of Chelsea being boring – has been somewhat misleading for certain periods this season. They have played some very decent football at times such as around Christmas and of course at the tail end of this season (usually when some of those players mentioned above were absent). Ballack and Essien being released from their shackles has often inspired the team and Joe Cole generally seems to benefit from the absence of Lamps and Drogba looming over every ball he goes for.

Alas, this Wednesday, the Grant Factor will really come into play. A fully fit squad will most likely see him try the square pegs in round holes route again that sees one of the best central midfielders on the planet (Essien) play at right back, with Solomon Kalou out on the wing. Both moves won’t precipitate disaster (I actually think Kalou is a decent player) but it negates any impact they could have in their preferred positions. Okay, maybe if Grant was playing two up front he should play Anelka ahead of Kalou but the young Ivorian seems to have a better understanding of how Drogba plays which of course comes from time spent on the pitch with him, something Anelka has never had.

These moves also leave Essien with the temptation to go roving into the middle and leave his right hand berth behind. This is fine against Yossi Benayoun or Olympiakos but surely not against the pace of Nani, the wit of Giggs or even the willing running of Park, not to mention whenever Ronaldo switches wing. If he stays at right back there will be no problem, but can you see him resisting the charge into the middle to make a difference? Especially if United take the lead? Nah, thought not.

As for the Essien-less middle, Lampard and Ballack didn’t play well together against Liverpool in the second leg of the semi despite Martin Samuel’s eulogies. I’ve never seen this paring work well together and Ballack can look lost trying to stay in between Makelele and Lampard, unsure whether to make what used to be a trademark run into the box lest he leave his defence exposed. It’s this kind of constrictive problem, along with the two defences on show, and a supposedly poor pitch that makes me think this will be a one-nil encounter.

I hope I’m wrong but I can only think it would be two-one at best. United have conceded a fair few headers this year and maybe we could see same happening against this Chelsea side; Ballack’s ghostly run in behind the defence against United in the league perhaps a sign of the best mode of attack… then again Lamps didn’t play that day did he, so that might just rule that type of run out.

Personally, I hope Chelsea win but fear it’ll be a brutal game due to both managers over-thinking things. Ferguson won’t go out and play an open game as threatened in the past few weeks (‘Man United don’t know how to play any other way’ my arse). He’s too cautious on the big occasions, while Grant was born cautious and his teams only play well when under immense pressure - in fact United taking an early lead is probably our only hope for a decent match. Mark can go through United’s strengths and deficiencies tomorrow and then, quite frankly, we’re both getting hammered during the final.

Prediction: Chelsea 2-1 after extra time (and yes, this time I’m betting on it)


In other news we've been nominated for another award cos we're great! We'd appreciate the votes and there's some very decent competition. Anyway, head over to Football Fancast and vote for us if ya think we deserve the honour of best football podcast in the whole damn town.

Later, JJ

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