Confed Cup Underdogs: The three participating countries with no relevance to Chelsea at all, by coincidence are also the three sides without any real hope of winning. Tahiti are probably the worst team to ever take part in the competition, with their only professional player/hope of scoring a goal being Ligue 1 veteran Marama Vahiura. Given his shameless riding of the Tahiti bandwagon, making his first caps only this year at the age of 33 however – I honestly hope he doesn’t score. (Call me harsh – I don’t care). Mexico are another side with no real chance of getting out of their group. Since their Gold Cup win in 2011 they’ve been consistently very average; eight of their nine games in 2013 have been draws, with 5 nil-nils. In my opinion, with attacking options like Giovanni dos Santos, Andres Guardado and Javier Hernandez, there is no excuse for Mexico’s scoring record to be so poor. Lastly, probably the only entrant of the eight who could sensibly be labelled ‘underdogs’ are Japan. The team has hardly changed since their Asia Cup win two years ago and if they play well they have both the organisation (and in players like Keisuke Honda and Shinji Kagawa) the quality to control games and perhaps cause some upsets.
Nigeria: Probably the biggest blow to the Super Eagles ahead of the competition is the absence through injury of Chelsea winger Victor Moses, who was key to their impressive ACON win earlier this year. The club made Moses unavailable for selection, informing the Nigerian FA at the end of May he needed to recover from injuries sustained in the last games of the season. It’s often interesting, I find, to watch Nigeria (from a Chelsea perspective) just to see Mikel play in a more creative role, spraying passes to the wing and even occasionally moving into the final third!!! Without Moses or centre forward Emmanuel Emenike however, it’s unlikely we’ll get to see him do much creating – except against Tahiti obviously.
Edinson Cavani: On the one hand, Cavani’s often omission from the Uruguay XI is sort of understandable; Luis Suarez’ international record is the more impressive and Diego Forlan, tactically, is a more natural strike partner for the Liverpool forward, as he tends to stay slightly deeper and more central. On the other hand, Cavani is an absolutely beast and he has to play. His goal against Venezuela last week probably has confirmed his starting place for the next couple weeks.
His versatility and heading ability put the Uruguayan ahead of the likes of Robin Van Persie and Robert Lewandowski for me and only Falcao is in the same league. Objectively I’d say Cavani is just edged by the Colombian, though I think the Napoli striker’s age, more aggressive style and the fact he’ll more than likelihood be moving to a better side than Monaco this summer means that the title of the world’s best #9, may be conclusively his before long.
Chelsea’s interest in the player has been confirmed by Napoli’s president, though Mourinho’s insistence that we aren’t looking to spend big, rather make use of the younger players that have been out on loan, perhaps would suggest otherwise. It has been made clear Napoli aren’t looking to sell and only a bid of £53m would suffice. However, if Chelsea are looking to move on both Fernando Torres and Demba Ba, investment in a centre forward would of course be necessary. The prospect of Cavani moving to a rival should also be a factor in the club’s decision making. If Man City get the Uruguayan, along with Isco, Navas and Fernandinho, the league is surely as good as over before it begins.
Daniele De Rossi: Another player linked with Chelsea in action in Brazil this month is the AS Roma cult hero and Capitan Futuro. At first the idea seems crazy and indeed, De Rossi’s loyalty to the Roman club should never be underestimated. However, the Italian is the highest paid player in the Serie A and with Roma once again failing to qualify for the Europa League, let alone Champions League, his wages are becoming harder to justify. Some reports have suggested they are looking to sell for around 20m Euros, which in spite of his disappointing campaign last year, I’m convinced is an absolute bargain. Though never quite as good as either, De Rossi’s style is a like a mixture of Andrea Pirlo and Rino Gattuso, combining his incredible long passing ability with a physicality that would be perfect for the Premier League. If available I think he’d be a great signing for Chelsea.
Spain: I don’t think there’s much doubt that Spain’s current starting XI is currently the weakest it’s been for quite some time. Their striker situation is becoming more hopeless by the year. The Torres and David Villa of 2009 are gone (probably forever), whilst Soldado and Negredo are never likely to hold down a regular starting position. Also with Xavi relatively out of form and Xabi Alonso injured, though they’re still favourites, Spain are looking more than beatable than ever at this moment in time. How Del Bosque deals with Alonso’s absence is probably what will decide the tournament. If he chooses to use Busquets as the sole holding midfielder and play Juan Mata, then Spain could end up playing the best football of the tournament at the risk of being more open than usual. If he plays Javi Martinez however in a double pivot I think it’s more than likely they’ll end up winning all five of their matches 1-0, boring us to death in the process.
Brazil: The host nation come into the competition finally with a good idea of what their team will look like at the World Cup next year. Contrary to the common cliché of Brazil’s compulsory flamboyancy, the best players in the Selecao currently are the defenders. Thiago Silva is the best CH in the world and the perfect partner for David Luiz. Dani Alves and Marcelo are two of the best attacking full backs in the world and Julio Cesar is still a fine keeper. The most shocking omission from Scolari’s squad without doubt was Chelsea’s Ramires, who apparently is being punished for refusing to attend some sort of team building weekend in England. The ex-Chelsea manger has replaced him with the incredibly similar (though less energetic) Luis Gustavo of Bayern Munich. Aside from Neymar of course (and maybe Silva), Oscar’s place in the XI is as secure as anybody’s. In Brazil’s last two friendlies (against England and France) the speed and the fluency of their play dropped off noticeably when the Chelsea man was subbed off. He knits together the quality of Brazil’s individuals seamlessly and will be vital to his countries hopes of winning in Rio on the 30th.
Andre Schurrle: Finally, today it was announced that Chelsea and Leverkusen had agreed a deal over the transfer of the 22 year old, German forward Andre Schurrle, ending a saga that had began over 12 months ago. Whether or not he’ll be a first team regular is hard to predict, but as a fast and technical inverted winger, it isn’t difficult to see him fitting into a Jose Mourinho, counter attacking side at all. Him and Hazard bombing down the wings, cutting inside and overlapping could be devastating and great to watch.
Personal terms still have to be agreed but the player has been plainly anxious to join Chelsea for over a year. Expect an announcement next week. Welcome to Chelsea, Andre. KTBFFH