PAT NEVIN: TESTS NOT RESTS
Having watched the team's unsuccessful attempt to secure silverware in Japan, ex-Chelsea winger Pat Nevin considers the fortnight to follow…
I have to admit to being really disappointed that Chelsea supporters are not today calling themselves world champions. I really thought that having watched the Club World Cup semi-finals that player for player Chelsea were far the best side. Sadly however Corinthians had a very good game plan and they were fired up right from the start of the final.
It is often said that this competition is not as highly regarded in Europe (or England anyway) as it is in South America, which is no doubt true. But I feel the players though keen to win were in general just a little less desirous than their opponents at key moments in the game. Having said that, had Fernando scored when he should have near the end, who knows what could have happened. Even the opportunities for Gary Cahill and Victor Moses could have totally changed the complexion of the game had they gone in earlier on, but they didn't and there can be no complaints about the result.
There might however be a complaint or two about the sending off or at least the coverage of it. At the BBC where I was covering the game live for Match of the Day, they were reliant on the pictures coming from the host broadcaster. Amazingly, stunningly and dimly the locals didn't think it necessary to send down the different angles to show what really happened when Gary Cahill saw red. Try as we might the broadcaster thought it was more important to show 10 minutes of FIFA suits pointlessly shaking hands with all and sundry in front of a vast array of advertising rather than clearing up what was a very contentious issue. I wonder who was paying for the coverage Mr. Blatter?
Anyway we move on and more importantly move back to the reality of Leeds United in the League Cup. Is there anything the team can bring back in their suitcases from Japan other than some duty free, a fare dose of disappointment and some pretty unpleasant jet lag? Well Rafa Benitiez will know the players better personally, he will know that Frank Lampard has got as good an attitude as any player playing the game today, and that just as many of us have said for months and indeed years David Luiz might one day be one of the finest deep midfielders in world football.
His performance in the game against Monterrey was colossal. I have to say I was disappointed that he didn't start the final in midfield as he was clearly the best player on the park a few days previously, but clearly he was needed at the back. Our Brazilian playmaker was awarded the silver trophy at the tournament, Cassio the Corinthians keeper edging him out for the gold, but it was clear to anyone watching that David Luiz was a class apart from all the other outfield players on show throughout.
With JT ready for his return imminently, it is another clear option and one that will be hard to resist when push comes to shove in the critical games this season. I will admit I did get a few quizzical looks when I was so positive on the Beeb about David Luiz even before the first game. I don't think that certain areas of the media respect his achievements and his ability; I will continue to try to rectify this!
Leeds United however is the focus for now and for tomorrow and there is no doubt that it is going to be difficult for the lads to overcome all the effects of the jet lag. They often say that the difference in most games is usually only one or two per cent, well it is easy to drop those levels when suffering from jet lag, no matter how much time you try to spend in your bed, or how positive your mental attitude. The manager will be looking at the players and not only trying to figure out the best team for a tricky tie, but just as importantly who is managing to recover best. I suspect he will leave the team selection as late as possible to gauge just that.
With Bradford, Aston Villa and Swansea being what stands in the way of more silverware for the Blues if we can win against one of our greatest historical rivals, this is an opportunity no one wants to miss.
I suspect we will discover a lot over the festive period, Aston Villa, Norwich, Everton and QPR wouldn't usually seem like the hardest run imaginable but each are doing pretty well in their own way. Villa are on a great run after a slow start with Benteke up front arguably the sharpest striker in the league at the moment. He is certainly a player with immense promise so he must be watched.
Norwich are also on a great run with only one defeat in eight at home in the league which included wins against Arsenal, Spurs and Manchester United. Carrow Road will be a very difficult trip as will Everton simply because it always is at Goodison. No defeats in eight for Davie Moyes' team at home tells the story succinctly enough.
Even QPR have steadied the ship under Harry Redknapp, finally winning a league game at the weekend and not having lost since 'H' came in. So no rest on the horizon and no easy games either for Chelsea. Thanks goodness JT is nearly ready and Frank is back looking reinvigorated. There is no doubt that we will need their talent and their leadership if we are going to hang on to a spot in the top four.
Last week the quiz question was, could you tell me who was the first African player ever to score for Chelsea? A few went for Celestine Babayaro, others went further into the past and suggested Paul Canoville (he actually isn't African at all) and one or two clever clogs even plumped for Roy Wegerle. Long before these players Ralph Oelofse played for the Blues in the early Fifties for a brief period but he never managed to actually score a goal for the first team. So the right answer was Derek Smethurst, a South African player who was at the club in the great era of the early 1970s.
The randomly chosen winner was Akram R. Hasanov, originally from Tajikistan now studying in New York, who enters every week and almost always gets the answer right….actually there are quite a few of you who do that. Anyway an early Christmas present is on its way to him.
This week the question is a Brazilian affair. Corinthians beat Chelsea but can you name a player who has played for both Chelsea and that other great Brazilian side Santos? The lucky randomly chosen entrant with the right answer who emails me at firstname.lastname@example.org will win a Kings of Europe book, signed by one of the players.
Good luck with that and just a last thought, well done to all those Chelsea fans from home and abroad that made it to Japan. Carefree wherever you may be, even if it is on the other side of the planet.