They may be champions of Europe, but Chelsea’s International players have struggled to make an impact in the Champions League this week.
Petr Cech and Raul Meireles both started for Czech Republic and Portugal respectively, with Fernando Torres coming on off the bench for Spain. Rumoured Chelsea transfer target Gregory van der Weil also started for Holland.
Cech has received a lot of criticism for letting in four goals against Russia, but I feel that it’s a bit harsh. He showed his usual awareness in general play and it was only the third goal that he could have done better against.
Awful defending allowed Alan Dzagoev to rifle Russia’s first goal in, while Roman Shirokov snuck in at the right hand post to score the second. Where the Czech’s left back was is anyone’s guess. Vaclav Pilar pulled one back for the Czechs on 52 minutes, but a second from Dzagoev, followed by a great strike from substitute Roman Pavlyuchenko sealed it for the Russians.
Meireles suffered slightly less during Portugal’s match against Germany.
Meireles was asked to play on the left side of a defensive three, and he was alert and well-disciplined while doing his defensive duties. While not asked to do much to contribute to the attack, his short passes out of defensive midfield were also very good. He showed exactly why he was favoured to start next to Mikel over Lampard and Essien in so many games for Chelsea.
Unfortunately for Meireles and Portugal, Gomez scored in minute 72 to seal the victory for Germany.
A quick note on one of Chelsea’s reported transfer targets, van der Wiel. He played 85 minutes in Holland’s 1-0 loss to Denmark and looked like a Dutch Bosingwa. It was the first time I’ve seen him, and I wasn’t impressed at all. From what I’ve heard about him, it doesn’t get much better.
Word is that a deal for him should be signed after the Euros, so I’ll continue to report on him and hope that he improves and shows me that he is good enough to challenge Branislav Ivanovic for Chelsea’s right-back spot.
Torres and Mata were both left on the bench, as Spanish manager Vincente Del Bosque made the bizarre decision to field six midfielders but no striker. It came back to haunt him because Spain showed no cutting edge going forward and seemed to literally be trying to pass the ball into the net.
When Antonio Di Natale scored just five minutes after replacing Mario Balolelli, it took Cesc Fabregas just three minutes to manage to put the ball into the back of the Italian net.
Torres replaced Fabregas on 74 minutes and straight away Spain looked better. With Torres leading the line Spain looked deadly, and it was only a couple of examples of great goalkeeping from Gianluigi Buffon that stopped Chelsea’s main man from taking all three points for the Spaniards.
Tomorrow sees the start of the campaign for Chelsea’s English contingent, now only John Terry and Ashley Cole, against France’s and Chelsea’s Florent Malouda.
This time next week we will also know the final standings from Cech and Meireles’ groups, and hopefully Torres and Mata will have forced some more game time for themselves in the very competitive Spain squad.
I’ll be back here the same time(ish) next week, and with any luck I’ll have some better news to report.