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Throwback to the all-English CL final in 2007/08 between Man United and Chelsea

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Throwback to the 2007-08 CL final between Man United and Chelsea

The 2018-19 UEFA Champions League final contested between Liverpool and Spurs turned out to be a rather one-sided encounter, as the Reds, managed by Jurgen Klopp, romped home with a comfortable 2-0 victory and in doing so, claimed their sixth European Cup title.

It was also Liverpool’s first Champions League victory since the ‘Miracle of Istanbul’ way back in 2004-05 when Rafael Benitez inspired the Reds to a penalty shootout victory over AC Milan in the final.

Both Liverpool and Spurs progressed to the final with dramatic victories over their opponents in the semi-final clashes. While Klopp’s side successfully overturned a 3-0 deficit from the first leg at Camp Nou against Barcelona, Spurs found themselves 3-0 down on aggregate at the halfway mark in the second-leg against Ajax away from home, yet managing to book their berth in the final.

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Liverpool fell agonisingly short of Man City in the Premier League title race and finished the season as runners-up in the league, while Mauricio Pochettino also guided Spurs to a 4th-place finish in the league following a few hiccups towards the end of the campaign.

Both teams had promised a lot throughout the season without winning any trophies and the 2018-19 Champions League final was a golden opportunity for them to end their drought for silverware.

Jurgen Klopp’s side were pretty much the underdogs in the 2017-18 final against Real Madrid but they went in as the outright favourites this time around.

Moussa Sissoko, who had been so good for Spurs all season, turned into a villain in the final. The Frenchman’s handball incident inside the box just a few seconds into the game was deemed worthy of a penalty and Mo Salah converted from the spot to give Liverpool a 1-0 advantage.

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Spurs retained most of the possession in the first half but they struggled to create any clear-cut scoring chances, whilst Liverpool continued to threaten on the counter. The rest of the first half was anything but eventful, although Spurs did make an attempt to up the ante in search of an equaliser after the interval.

Both managers made some key substitutions in an attempt to alter the balance of the game, with Klopp bringing in Divock Origi in place of Robert Firmino, whereas Pochettino opted for Lucas Moura in place in of Harry Winks.

Spurs pressed higher up the pitch and attempted several shots on goal in the last twenty minutes or so, leaving themselves vulnerable to Liverpool’s devastating counter-attacks.

Divock Origi, who was the comeback hero for Liverpool at Anfield against Barcelona in the semi-finals, struck in the 87th minute, taking advantage of some sloppy defending from the Lilywhites. The Belgian’s goal sealed the win for Liverpool and Klopp lifted his first ever trophy as the manager at Anfield.

Well, the 2018-19 season was the first time in history when both the major European finals were contested between teams from the same nation, with Arsenal and Chelsea fighting it out for the Europa League crown.

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That hadn’t happened before but as a matter of fact, the 2007-08 UEFA Champions League final was the last time when two English teams fought it out for the bragging rights in Europe’s top-flight.

It has been 12 years since that final in Moscow between Man United and Chelsea but shades of that fateful encounter still loom large in the memories of the fans each time the two heavyweights of English football lock horns in the Premier League.

From a neutral point of view, the 2007-08 Champions League isn’t one to forget and it has to go down as a Champions League classic, not only because it was an intriguing contest decided by a penalty shootout, but also for the tears, smiles and the completely different set of emotions that it evoked amongst both the sets of fans.

With that in mind, let us now open the vault and revisit that rainy night in Moscow when Avram Grant’s Chelsea and Sir Alex Ferguson’s Man United went head to head at the Luzhniki Stadium in what was the first ever all-English final in the history of the Champions League.

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The build-up to the game

Chelsea

The 2007-08 season witnessed the end of Jose Mourinho’s illustrious reign at Chelsea and the Blues would eventually go on to finish runners-up to Man United in the Premier League.

Also, defeats in the Community Shield and the League Cup final meant that the Champions League final was the last opportunity for Chelsea to get their hands on silverware.

Chelsea were drawn in Group B along with Schalke, Rosenborg and Valencia and the Blues progressed to the round-of-16 as the undisputed winners of the group without suffering a single defeat.

The Blues faced Greek giants Olympiacos in the last 16 of the competition. A resounding 4-0 victory at Stamford Bridge in the second leg was enough to progress to the quarter-finals after the first-leg in Athens had ended 0-0.

The quarter-final tie against Fenerbahce proved to be a much tougher one for Chelsea, as the Blues lost 2-1 away from home in the first leg. However, goals from Michael Ballack and Frank Lampard guided them to a 2-0 victory at Stamford Bridge and booked the Blues’ place in the last four with a 3-2 aggregate scoreline.

Chelsea faced Premier League rivals Liverpool in the semi-finals, with the first leg at Anfield ending in a 1-1 draw. The second leg at Stamford Bridge finished 3-2 in favour of Chelsea after extra time, as a brace from Didier Drogba sent the Blues through to their first ever UEFA Champions League final.

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Man United

Having won the Premier League in the 2007-08 season, Man United were high on confidence and Sir Alex sensed the opportunity to complete the double.

As a matter of fact, United went into the Champions League final without losing a single game, registering victories over Lyon, Roma and Barcelona in the knockout stages. 

En route to the final, United won nine and drew three of their 12 matches, eclipsing their record of four wins and six draws in the 10 games they played to reach the final in 1999.

Brief Review of the Game

Sir Alex went into the game with his preferred 4-4-3 system, with a back four of Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic, Patrick Evra and Wes Brown protecting Edwin van der Saar in goal.

Carrick and Scholes formed the double pivot in the midfield with Owen Hargreaves and Cristiano Ronaldo operating on either flank. Carlos Tevez and Wayne Rooney started up front.

Chelsea manager Avram Grant made a surprise decision by fielding Michael Essien at right-back alongside the likes of John Terry, Ashley Cole and Ricardo Carvalho.

Claude Makelele started in a holding role in front of the back four with Lampard and Ballack operating in a more advanced role. Didier Drogba was complemented by Joe Cole and Florent Malouda up front.

Following a relatively lacklustre opening 20 minutes from both the teams, Paul Scholes and Makelele clashed in mid-air, prompting the referee to dish out a booking to both of them, with Scholes leaving the field to receive treatment for a bloody nose.

The opening goal didn’t take long to come though, as Wes Brown’s cross from the right was met with a well-timed header from Ronaldo, who put the ball past Petr Cech to make it 1-0.

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Rio Ferdinand’s headed clearance towards his own goal in the 33rd minute almost evaded the reach of Van der Sar but the Dutchman pulled off a brilliant one-handed stop, thus saving United the blushes and denying Chelsea an equaliser.

United were clearly the dominant side in the first half and they could have had a couple of more goals, only for Petr Cech to deny Carlos Tevez and Michael Carrick with his sharp anticipation.

Chelsea did, however, find the equaliser just at the stroke of halftime. Michael Essien’s pile driver from range, which deflected off both Vidic and Ferdinand, found Lampard, who sored with an easy finish to make it 1-1. The goal was a lucky one but it handed Chelsea the momentum heading into the interval, nevertheless.

With momentum on their side, Chelsea caught the game by the scruff of its neck following the restart and it was all one-way traffic in the second half, with the Blues keeping Man United on the back foot with some impressive attacking play.

Didier Drogba’s attempted finish from just outside the box struck the post in the 77th minute before the Ivorian came inches close to turning Joe Cole’s cross home for the winner four minutes from time.

With the scores tied at 1-1 at the end of regulation time, the game went into extra time and both the teams had a few golden opportunities to score the crucial second goal.

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Frank Lampard’s shot came back off the underside of the post, while Ryan Giggs saw his effort cleared off the line by John Terry. However, the tension and the pressure of the final finally had a negative impact on the proceedings late in the second half of extra time.

Ballack and Terry were apparently annoyed with Tevez over a throw-in incident and what started as a confrontation between three players ultimately turned into a melee involving all the 22 players on the pitch.

In the midst of all the pandemonium, Droga received a red card for slapping Vidic on the face, whilst Ballack also received a booking.

United though, didn’t have the time to exploit Chelsea’s numerical disadvantage and with both the teams still locked at 1-1, a penalty shootout was required to decide the fate of the final.

Tevez sent Cech the wrong way from the first penalty kick before Ballack shot powerfully past van der Sar. Carrick and Belletti also converted their respective attempts before Ronaldo’s shot was kept out by a diving Cech, giving Chelsea the advantage in the shootout.

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Lampard, Hargreaves, Cole and Nani all found the net and it was up to skipper John Terry to seal the deal for Chelsea. As both sets of fans watched on with anguish and nervousness, Terry lost his footing on a rainy night, and despite Van der Sar diving the wrong way, his scuffed effort went out off the crossbar.

Chelsea failed to grab their moment and Van der Sar kept out Nicolas Anelka’s penalty in sudden death, thus securing United’s third European Cup crown.

Terry and Drogba were in tears, as were most of the Blues fans in the stands, and the ecstasy amongst the Man United players and supporters made it all the more difficult for them to digest the defeat.

Indeed, it was agony for one and joy for another, but the 2007-08 UEFA Champions League final, the first-ever all-English final, proved to be an intriguing game of football.

Arsenal

Arsenal? Manchester United? – Which of the big clubs will achieve a top-4 finish in the PL this season?

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Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham, Man United- who will miss out on top four?

The 2018/19 Premier League title race went down to the wire, with Manchester City beating Liverpool to the crown by just a point. The team that followed them were Chelsea, Tottenham, Arsenal and Manchester United respectively.

The new season is just two games old and Liverpool and Arsenal are the only teams to have enjoyed a 100% record thus far, after Manchester United dropped points in the 1-1 draw with Wolves at Molineux on Monday.

We saw an entertaining battle between Manchester City and Tottenham end in a 2-2 draw at the Etihad last weekend, with VAR’s intervention denying the champions a late winner. These are early days but the Premier League table is shaping up very well.

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Manchester City, Liverpool, Tottenham, Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal have comprised the table’s top six in each of the previous three seasons.

Considering City and Liverpool are set to battle it out again for the Premier League title, which two teams amongst Chelsea, Tottenham, Arsenal and Manchester United will make it to the top four this time? Let’s have a look.

Chelsea

Just two games into the new season, Chelsea manager Frank Lampard is already under pressure to find some tactical answers as he is still seeking his first Premier League victory.

After the opening day mauling at the hands of Manchester United at Old Trafford, Chelsea’s performances improved in the UEFA Super Cup defeat to Liverpool and the 1-1 draw with Leicester City at the weekend, although Lampard’s men were lucky to escape with a point.

The Blues’ transfer window embargo meant Lampard couldn’t strengthen his squad in the summer. The 41-year-old had to be content with the squad set up by Maurizio Sarri but without Eden Hazard, who joined Real Madrid.

Hazard contributed directly to half of Chelsea’s league goals last season, and their attack was almost totally reliant on him. The Belgian’s departure has left a huge void and that coupled with the exits of experienced defenders Gary Cahill and David Luiz, Lampard’s Chelsea are set for a long season.

Prediction: There have been more negatives than positives in Chelsea’s first two league games and while Lampard will take time to give his side a fixed style of play, it’s difficult to see the Blues making it to the top four.

Tottenham

Against all odds, Tottenham reached the Champions League final last season only to fail at the final hurdle. A combination of their European exploits and a failure to make new signings saw their Premier League form suffer.

However, Spurs spent heavily this summer, signing players like Tanguy Ndombele, Giovani Lo Celso and Ryan Sessegnon.

Pochettino’s side have started the new campaign well, taking four points out of a possible six. Despite the departures of Kieran Trippier, Fernando Llorente and Vincent Janssen, Tottenham have been boosted by their new signings and can better last season’s finish.

Prediction: If Pochettino can keep Harry Kane fit throughout the season and get the best out of his new signings, Tottenham can threaten to make it a three-horse title race this time around.

Arsenal

There is a real buzz at Arsenal because of the arrival of new faces at the Emirates and the rollicking start they have made to the new campaign.

Victories over Newcastle and Burnley means that the Gunners have enjoyed a perfect start, although a trip to Liverpool beckons at the weekend. Considering their recent visits to Anfield, it could be all doom and gloom for the North London giants.

Nevertheless, Unai Emery will be happy with the start and would expect things to get better. On loan from Real Madrid, Dani Ceballos made quite an impact on his full debut against Burnley, while the fans also saw glimpses of quality from star man, Nicolas Pepe.

But the Gunners still look defensively shaky and that was visible in the game against Burnley.

David Luiz’s acquisition from Chelsea on the transfer deadline day was a coup but his track-record of clumsy and erratic defending will hardly fill Bernd Leno with confidence.

Then there is the error-prone Shkodran Mustafi, an ageing Sokratis Papastathopoulos and a not-yet-fit Rob Holding in central defence.

Prediction: While Pepe has given a different threat and dynamism to the Arsenal attack, Emery’s defence could again plot his downfall. They’ll miss Aaron Ramsey’s midfield vigour and big-game performances. Frankly, the Gunners won’t make it to the top four this season.

Manchester United

Despite a frustrating transfer window, Manchester United brought three new players in Daniel James, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Harry Maguire. And all three of the new signings have made an impact in the first two weeks of the new season, helping the Red Devils bag four points out of a possible six.

Ever since Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013, Manchester United have only made the Premier League top-four twice. This shows just how far they’ve fallen from grace.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer wants to bring the glory days back at Old Trafford by promoting young players and playing relentless attacking football.

United were defensively shambolic last season and Solskjaer strengthened his backline with the additions of Maguire and Wan-Bissaka. They lacked natural width as well and Solskjaer addressed it by bringing in the explosive Daniel James, who is also direct in his style of play.

The United boss has let go of Romelu Lukaku to Inter but didn’t sign a replacement. This seems like a plan to promote academy starlet Mason Greenwood.

Prediction: Going by the first two games, the Red Devils look more composed and secure at the back. Solskjaer’s army looks weak in the midfield and an injury to either Paul Pogba or any central midfielder could see them sweat.

Genuinely, though, the players seem sharper and fit, attacking with pace and hitting opponents on the counter. Despite some obvious weaknesses, the Red Devils’ immediate objective of steady improvement and a return to the top four seems possible.

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Chelsea

5 Talking points from Premier League gameweek 2 including VAR drama and Norwich masterclass

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Five talking points from Premier League gameweek two

Week two of the new Premier League campaign is now over, with Wolves and Manchester United settling for a 1-1 draw.

A victory for the Red Devils would have seen them become only the third side to record two straight victories this season so far, with Liverpool and Arsenal currently boasting a 100% record after champions Manchester City dropped points at home to Tottenham on Saturday.

Elsewhere, Frank Lampard is yet to win his first game as a Chelsea manager as his side were held to an exciting 1-1 draw by Leicester City at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.

Here, we take a look at five talking points from the second week of the 2019/20 Premier League season.

1. Norwich 3-1 Newcastle United:  Teemu Pukki grabs the headlines

Teemu Pukki was a revelation in the Championship last season, guiding Norwich City to top-flight promotion. And he has taken the Premier League like a duck to water, scoring four goals in two games thus far.

The Finland international scored a fantastic hat-trick against Newcastle United at the weekend, which also involved a rasping pile-driver from inside the box that Martin Dubravka had no chance to keep out.

The 29-year-old has shown what he is capable of doing and Daniel Farke will expect his marksman to keep delivering the goods consistently.

2. Manchester City 2-2 Tottenham: VAR denies Man City a late winner

The battle between Manchester City and Tottenham produced some late drama once again, courtesy of the VAR.

For the second time in four months, City saw a decisive stoppage-time goal against Tottenham snatched away by VAR, leaving them with a 2-2 draw rather than a 3-2 victory.

VAR disallowed Gabriel Jesus’ goal two minutes into stoppage time after a hand-ball earlier in the move by Aymeric Laporte.

Given the stakes are high in the Premier League, these two dropped points for Pep Guardiola could be pivotal come May.

3. Southampton 1-2 Liverpool: Sadio Mane comes back to haunt the Saints

Liverpool seem to have a new talisman this season in Sadio Mane, who came back to haunt Southampton at the weekend.

After helping the Reds add the European Super Cup to the Champions League, Mane got the ball rolling for Jurgen Klopp’s men with a superb goal in first-half stoppage time before Roberto Firmino scored in the second half to hand the visitors a two-goal cushion.

A comedy of errors from Adrian in goal gifted Danny Ings his first goal of the season, but Liverpool saw the game out to earn two wins from their opening two matches.

4. Sheffield United 1-0 Crystal Palace: John Lundstram helps the Blades to three crucial points

Any team that takes Sheffield United lightly at Bramall Lane would simply be digging its own graveyard.

Chris Wilder’s men have been impressive in the first two games, earning their first victory of the top-flight campaign against a spineless Crystal Palace side via to a second-half strike from John Lundstram. The Blades also gave a glimpse of how difficult they are going to be at home.

5. Chelsea 1-1 Leicester City: Frank Lampard still waiting for his first win as Chelsea boss

It has been a tough start for Frank Lampard at Chelsea, although the 41-year-old will be encouraged with the displays in the last two games after the 4-0 thrashing against Manchester United.

Chelsea started strongly and were rewarded with an early goal through Mason Mount, however, they couldn’t double their advantage or bury the game in the first half when they had the chances to do so.

That gave Leicester a chance to bounce back in the second half and they did so, equalising through Wilfred Ndidi. The Foxes have only themselves to blame for not taking more than a point out of the Bridge.

Lampard has a lot to improve if his team is to make it to the top-four but for now, he remains without a win.

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Chelsea

3 Chelsea players who would be key under Frank Lampard this season including this 20-year-old rising star

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3 players who would be key for Chelsea under Lampard this season

Former Chelsea favourite Frank Lampard returned to Stamford Bridge in the summer, replacing Maurizio Sarri as manager following the Italian’s departure.

Whilst a return to the club where he spent 13 trophy-laden years as a player may represent a ‘dream job’ for the 41-year-old, Chelsea haven’t had the start they were looking for in the new Premier League campaign.

The Blues were hammered 4-0 by Manchester United at Old Trafford but they gave a better account of themselves in the Super Cup defeat to Liverpool, only losing the contest on penalties. They were held to a 1-1 draw vs Leicester City this weekend.

These are the early days for Frank Lampard but he has to start getting positive results quickly if he is to stay at the Stamford Bridge throne for a long period of time.

The summer exit of star playmaker Eden Hazard to Real Madrid and the transfer ban meant Christian Pulisic was the only new arrival in Lampard’s squad.

But the 41-year-old manager will no doubt turn to the club’s youth ranks and look to bring through some of Chelsea’s young guns. He’ll have to mix youth with experience if the Blues are to have a successful 2019/20 campaign.

That being said, here are three players who would be key for Chelsea under Lampard this season.

1. Christian Pulisic

As mentioned earlier, Pulisic was the only arrival at Stamford Bridge due to the club’s transfer ban.

The young USA international has already shown glimpses of his talent, turning in a solid performance against Liverpool in the UEFA Super Cup. His pace, movement and dribbling skills make him such a threat and he is expected to fill the big void left by Eden Hazard.

Pulisic is the real deal and has what it takes to become a regular for Chelsea. Under the guidance of Frank Lampard and Jody Morris, the American can really flourish and become a star at Stamford Bridge.

2. Mason Mount

Mount is a player who is highly rated by Lampard, having been pivotal under the new Chelsea manager at Derby County in the Championship last season. He had a superb season in the Championship, bagging 11 goals and 6 assists in 43 games for the Rams.

The 20-year-old was a menace for the United defenders at Old Trafford and also did well after coming off the bench in the UEFA Super Cup defeat to Liverpool.

A classy operator of the ball, Mount’s potential is huge and it will be fascinating to see if Lampard can accelerate his development as the expectations increase.

3. Antonio Rudiger

Chelsea have looked sloppy and disorganised at the back so far, conceding 7 goals in three games. Lampard has preferred the partnership of Kurt Zouma and Andreas Christensen due to Antonio Rudiger’s injury.

Rudiger underwent surgery on his knee earlier this year, which ruled him out of the final few games of the 2018/19 season. He was arguably Chelsea’s best defender last season and is expected to be the leader of Lampard’s defence following David Luiz’s departure to Arsenal.

Undoubtedly, the Germany international would play a key role in helping Lampard’s side reach their targets this season.

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