Chelsea Complete £32m Signing of Willian from Anzhi Makhachkala

WillianChelsea have completed the signing of 25 year-old Brazilian star Willian from Anzhi Makhachkala, beating Premier League rivals Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool to his signature. Despite ongoing interest from Liverpool, a move to Tottenham seemed inevitable after rumors confirmed Willian was having a medical, but it was Chelsea who secured the Brazilian’s services, coming out of nowhere to snatch him from under the nose of Spurs.

Willian moved from financially struggling Anzhi - a surprise considering they are from Russia, a multi-billionaire invested country - to Chelsea on a five-year deal for a massive fee of £32m. Chelsea acted quickly and forked out the fee before the medical at Tottenham ever occurred, with Willian later admitting the the Blues had always been his first choice. Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich made a personal call to Anzhi and fellow Russian Suleyman Kerimov to get Willian, and had to smooth over the deal and get Kerimov to sell Willian to the London-based club. Albeit, Chelsea’s offer was higher than that of Tottenham Hotspur’s, which was the reason why the Blues managed to sign him.

Willian spent his youth career at Corinthians and later went on to play for the first team. In his one season playing first team football in Brazil’s top tier, the Brasileirão, Willian made a total of 16 appearances for Corinthians and scored two goals at the young age of only 18. After the first season of his senior career, the Brazilian completed the move to Ukrainian club Shakhtar Donetsk in 2007. Willian managed to bag 140 appearances for the Ukrainians, scoring a total of 20 goals. Shakhtar Donetsk were crowned Ukrainian Champions four times during his five-and-a-half year spell at the club, with Willian being a major factor in their domestic success.

In January of 2013, Willian was signed by Russian side Anzhi Makhachkala, where he went on to make only 13 appearances and score one goal for the club yet continuing to attract interest from big clubs. Willian made three appearances in the Russian Premier League in the beginning of the 2013/14 season prior to his move to Chelsea, failing to score but gathering three assists, showing that he is a creative player. Aside from that, his brief spell at Anzhi was a step back for the midfielder, and as such was focused on a move to the Premier League this summer.

WillianWillian hasn’t yet managed to break into the Brazilian first team, but he is still only 25 years-old, which shows he has time. He has only made two appearances for Brazilian national team but hasn’t got regular performances in the team. Maybe this is because of the league he has been playing in; the Premier League will test him and let him develop more as a person and as a player. Maybe he can develop enough and improve enough to become the quality Brazil need to win the World Cup and other major national silverware in the future. Willian was certainly happy with his move to Chelsea, and insisted that it had always been his dream move:

“I’m very happy to be here, it’s been a dream of mine to come and play here. Chelsea was always my first choice. Chelsea are one of the best clubs in the world, and now I’m going to play for one of the best managers in the world, so I’m very happy and looking forward to it. When the offer came, I never gave a thought to anybody else, I said to myself that I would run here, and I’m happy to be here now.”

Only time will tell if Willian will get his first team place at Chelsea with the high quality of attacking midfielders in Mata, Oscar, Schurrle, and Hazard, but Mata is out of favor under Mourinho, so Willian could get his first team chances. Willian could become a world beater if he is developed properly, and many fans are excited to see him play against the best teams in Britain. Eden Hazard suffered an Achilles injury on international duty for Belgium, and is likely to be ruled out for some of Chelsea’s future matches. Mourinho doesn’t exactly have lack of depth in the department Hazard comes from, but Eden will be a massive miss to the team.

Willian has yet to make his debut for the Blues, but when Chelsea play Everton in their next Premier League game on 14 September, Jose could opt for the Brazilian to start his first game for the Blues. Willian’s selection could only raise more speculation about Juan Mata’s future, but he seems to be a good replacement for Hazard. There is no doubt Willian will be excellent for Chelsea, but the only question is when will he play his first game for Chelsea? Jose could opt for the Brazilian or play Spaniard Mata instead; only time will tell.

Written by Luke Taylor

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Borussia Dortmund 3-0 Shakhtar Donetsk: Comfortable Win Sees Dortmund Advance

Borussia Dortmund 3-0 Shakhtar DonetskAfter a tight draw in the first leg, Shakhtar set out to Germany to try and get back the away goals they had conceded and turn things around. Unfortunately for them, however, the BvB Stadion Dortmund is one of the hardest places in Europe to play at when you’re trying to get things back!

The German hosts went into this game on the back of a comfortable win against Hannover in the German Bundesliga the previous weekend, and although Hannover weren’t as tough as Shakhtar were expected to be, the win was a very encouraging one. Shakhtar, in the same manner, had earned a great victory over Volyn Lutsk in the Ukrainian Premier Liga the previous weekend, and so they were also in high hopes for their trip to Germany.

The hosts had, no doubt, the upper hand going into this game because of the 2 away goals they had managed to score in the first leg of this match, meaning that even if they would set out to defend, they had themselves a spot. Jurgen Klopp, however, is not one to opt to play the underdog in any game. In this situation, he didn’t even plan a defensive game.  Mircea Lucescu, in the same manner, planned to give double of what he had given in the first leg, knowing that this would be the decider for his side.

For the first half of this game, the hosts were more in control as they tried to get an early lead over their opponents. In as early as the 12th minute, they had their first good chance from a Lewandowski effort, but Pyatov was there to save the day to Shakhtar’s delight.

13 minutes later, however, Pyatov was defeated when Felipe Santana delivered the hosts’ first one of the night with a fine header from a Mario Gotze corner; this was his fourth assist for his side in their European campaign this season.

Borussia Dortmund 3-0 Shakhtar DonetskBut they were still not satisfied just yet! Just 4 minutes later, Gotze was almost part of another assist, but it didn’t work like they wanted.

On the 37th minute, however, Mario Gotze got a chance to score one himself and took it well! 2-0 for Dortmund, and even before halftime, it seemed to be all over for Shakhtar, who had their heads down at this point. The man of the half for Dortmund was certainly Mario Gotze. On the Shakhtar side, it had to be Kucher, because of his evident hard work.

Mircea Lucescu now had to score three goals in just 45 minutes to get his side through on away goals, but Dortmund weren’t about to let him even try! He took off Taison, who’d been above average for his side, for Douglas Costa at the half to see what he would contribute to his side, and almost immediate impact was seen as he had an attempt just two minutes later.

The whole Shakhtar team was buzzing to score and try to get something back, playing faster in the second half, but Dortmund were still very strong. 59 minutes in, Pyatov had a bit of trouble keeping the ball, and the hosts had their third of the night, courtesy of Błaszczykowski! 30 minutes to now score 4 goals was simply not enough!

Douglas Costa kept shining while trying to look for some sort of consolation for his side, but it was all in vain. Dortmund goal-keeper and captain, Roman Weidenfeller, was as determined to keep a clean sheet as his side was to get a win. The last 20 minutes of the game saw the visitors trying to get something, but before long, Damir Skomina blew the final whistle and Dortmund were comfortably through to the Champions League Quarter Finals and deservedly so!

Borussia Dortmund 3-0 Shakhtar DonetskStatistic-wise, the hosts had 3 more chances over their visitors and had more possession overall. Both teams had very good chances, but Dortmund took theirs better and were undoubtedly the better side. Shakhtar Donetsk were the squad to pick up the only yellow card issued during this game. No players were sent off during this match.

Jurgen Klopp and Mircea Lucescu lined up the following squads:

Borussia Dortmund Starting XI:

Weidenfeller (c), Subotic, Piszczek, Felipe Santana, Schmelzer, Gotze, Reus, Bender, Gundogan, Błaszczykowski, Lewandowski

Subs: Langerak, Letiner, Bittencourt, Schieber, Grosskreutz, Nuri Sahin, and Kehl

Shakhtar Donetsk Starting XI:

Pyatov, Kucher, Rat, Rakitskiy, Fernandinho, Teixeira, Srna (c), Hubschman, Taison, Luis Adriano, Mkhitaryan

Subs: Kanibolotskiy, Kryvstov, Kobin, Gai, Eduardo, Douglas Costa, and Stepanenko

Final Score: Borussia Dortmund 3-0 Shakhtar Donetsk (Agg: 5-2)

Felipe Santana 31′, Gotze 37′, Błaszczykowski 59′

Quarter Finals

Having eliminated Shakhtar Donetsk, Borussia Dortmund are through to the Quarter Finals. Their opponents will be announced at the draw on March 15th in Nyon.

Written by Ange Marline

Champions League Round of 16 Preview: Part 2

As I mentioned in my previous post, the Champions League Round of 16 will be filled with 8 dramatic and exciting fixtures that I can’t wait to watch. Here is part 2 of my Champions League previews;

Arsenal vs. Bayern Munich

Jack WilshereBayern Munich sorely lost out on the Champions League trophy last year. Conceding late goals in a cup final can never be pleasing, especially if it’s happened twice already! Bayern will obviously go out with the intent to brush Arsenal out of the way and advance to the next round. This point will be even more reinforced as it will be Bayern boss, Jupp Heynckes’, last year in charge of the four-time European Champions. He will most definitely be looking to go out with a bang.

With this in mind, will Arsenal be able to hold off the likes of Schweinsteiger, Ribery, and Mario Mandzukic?

Arsenal has quality, yes, but does the team possess the winning mentality it once had in the past. Arsenal can beat Bayern, but their top players will have to perform. If the likes of Wilshere, Walcott and Podolski (playing against a previous club) can lead by example, they can do it.

Key players

This may come as a surprise to you, but I see Bayern’s main threat coming from Phillip Lahm. Lahm has excellent composure and can take players on with ease down the flanks. He will certainly be attacking, the main threat being his deadly balls into the box. Mandzukic will have a field day in the air if Lahm isn’t stopped.

Arsenal’s main threat has to be Jack Wilshere, no doubt about it. Even at such an adolescent age, Wilshere is already showing signs that he can be a leader and carry his team through the storms of hard battled games. If Wilshere can maintain focus, Arsenal will have a big chance of advancing to the next round.

Prediction

I’m going for an Arsenal win at home and a Bayern win at the Allainz. I can see this tie going to extra time, but I’m afraid Bayern Munich will come out on top. Sorry Arsenal.

1st Leg: Arsenal 3-1 Bayern Munich
2nd Leg: Bayern Munich* 3-1 Arsenal (4-1 AET)

Shakhtar Donetsk vs. Borussia Dortmund

Marco Reus and Mario GotzeBorussia Dortmund’s league form has dramatically dropped since last year. With losses to rivals Schalke and Bayern, and with a 12 point gap separating the two German Giants, it seems the title is slowly slipping away. Therefore I believe the ‘group of death’ champions will be looking for a positive cup run to soften the hurt of the long-gone title race.

In contrast to Dortmund, Shakhtar have been enjoying their time in the Ukraine Premier League. With a 13 point gap with second-placed Dnipro, Shakhtar Donetsk look set to win their eighth title in the Ukraine.

Key players

Dortmund’s attacking approach to the Champions League has often gained them praise. I mean, why wouldn’t they attack with the forwards they have? That’s why I believe Dortmund’s main threat will come from the Reus, Gotze and Lewandowski trio. Having scored 25 goals in Germany between the three already, I see them as the main threat to Shakhtar’s chances of advancement.

This man needs no introduction to the threat he imposes. With interest from many top teams such as Tottenham and Arsenal, he will most definitely become a big deal in world football. That player is none other than Willian Borges Da Silva, or Willian to many.

With two goals against European champions Chelsea, the threat he poses to Dortmund will be duly noted by their coach, Jurgen Klopp.

Prediction

I believe Dortmund have far too much attacking quality for Shakhtar to withstand. That’s why I am going for a Dortmund win in both ties.

1st Leg: Shakhtar Donetsk 1-3 Borussia Dortmund
2nd Leg: Borussia Dortmund 2-0 Shakhtar Donetsk

Written by TheFootballSupplement

Defending Champions Chelsea are Eliminated from Champions League

Juventus sealed their spot in the Champions League Knockout Round Wednesday as they defeated Shakhtar Donetsk to top Group E. Meanwhile, Chelsea played a phenomenal game against Danish Champions Nordsjaelland, which ended in a 6-1 victory with 2 goals Fernando Torres, who has been considerably dormant for much of the season.

Chelsea vs NordsjaellandBut despite their efforts to move on, the Ukrainians just edged the European Giants, making Chelsea the first reigning champions ever to be eliminated in the group stage of the league. The final count sees Juventus on top of the group with a total of 12 points, Shakhtar Donetsk and Chelsea with 10 apiece, and Nordsjaelland sitting at the bottom with only 1 point.

Shakhtar barely won the head-to-head tiebreaker with Chelsea. The 2 teams were virtually equal in the first 3 criteria in settling a tie, but the Ukrainians finally prevailed in the 4th, which requires a:

“Higher number of goals scored away from home in the group matches
played among the teams in question.”

Shakhtar did indeed score more goals at Stamford Bridge than Chelsea did at Donbass Arena, and holding a 2-1 advantage over the English in this criteria, they just managed to squeeze into the knockout round.

But despite the Champions League elimination, interim Chelsea manager Rafael Benitez overcame a spectacular milestone: He finally guided Chelsea to their 1st win in 7 games and their 1st ever win since Di Matteo’s sacking.

Chelsea hammered Nordsjaelland and won 6-1, but Benitez had no control over the other game happening in Group E. Chelsea knew that if Juventus got 1 or more points in that match, it was over for their Champions League run, and as the Italians clinched a 1-0 victory of Shakhtar, that is exactly what had happened.

The Chelsea locker-room following their final game of this year’s Champions League was filled with emotions, none of which were happiness or joy. Rafael Benitez said:

“I think always when you win it is a positive. When it is at home it is even better. The way we won, we had 32 attempts and 18 on target, is really good. When you win you have to be happy but at same time we are disappointed as we didn’t progress.”

But Chelsea’s competing at the European stage this season is all but over. Now that they are into the final 32 of the Europa League (3rd placed teams in each Champions League group get direct entry into the Europa League Knockout Round), Chelsea still have a hard battle to fight if they want to be crowned champions of that league. But despite a chance at redemption in the Europa League, without a doubt, the Champions League is more popular and is valued much more highly.

Fernando TorresRafael Benitez also hopes to reignite the old Fernando Torres, the one we saw win the Golden Boot Award at the Euros just 5 months ago. He has scored only 4 goals in the Premier League thus far, but his 2 goals in the Chelsea-Nordsjaelland game could possibly be his “turning-point” in the 2012-2013 season. Taking about Torres in the press-conference following the game, Benitez also said:

“He has to score. He was playing well and the team was helping him. If we create chances he will score goals.”

Now that the Champions League is no longer a burden Chelsea has to deal with, they must set their focus completely on the Premier League. The first few months of this year’s Premier League saw Chelsea thrive, standing atop the table undefeated. But their success began dwindling after their loss to Manchester United near the end of October. Ever since that game, Chelsea has not won a single domestic match and has only picked up 4 points from their last 7 games in the league.

But not only are they trying to top the Premier League, they are desperately grasping at a chance to qualify for next year’s Champions League, in which they hope to have more success. Had they not won the Champions League last year, they would not have qualified this year, ending in 6th place in the Premier League last year. Similar results will not push them to the Champions League, though, now that they won’t be crowned champions this year.

The Premier League table sees Manchester United on top with 36 points, while Manchester City is in a close 2nd with 33 points. Chelsea sits 10 points behind the league leaders with only 26 points. The Blue Lions are tied with Tottenham (4th) and West Bromwich Albion (5th) in terms of points, but their goal difference places them into the top 3.

Chelsea must close their gap with United and City if they want a chance at gaining Premiership this season, and although the season is nowhere near over, it must begin with a win over 17th placed Sunderland this Saturday.

Written by FutbolPulse