Chelsea v Spurs: Water relief for Torres after West Ham strike
THE DOWNPOUR that drenched Stamford Bridge on Saturday may have soaked the players and fans and made the pitch virtually unplayable but, if there has ever been a silver lining to a big, grey cloud, this was it.
As the hapless Fernando Torres took a heavy touch across the waterlogged West Ham penalty box, the ball stopped abruptly, and wrong-footed the covering defender.
It created all the room that the Spaniard needed as he checked, turned and whipped the ball beyond Robert Green to score his first Chelsea goal since his �50million move in January.
It had taken 15 games and 732 minutes, a drought which had delighted football fans across the country and virtually defined ‘schadenfreude’, the German word for taking pleasure in the misery of others.
“It’s been difficult for him,” said his team-mate Frank Lampard. “As a striker he will be judged on his goals. He’s got off the mark and I’m sure he’ll look back at it fondly in a couple of years’ time because he is going to be very prolific for us.
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“It was always going to be a matter of time before he scored. It was a well taken goal and I think now you’re going to see him fly – whether that’s in the remaining games of this season or next.”
It remains to be seen whether Torres’ lucky break against West Ham will transform his Chelsea career, and restore him to the player who led Liverpool’s front line so prolifically in his pomp.
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There is still a suspicion that the Blues have spent �50m on a player who has already passed his peak, hence his ineffective World Cup and a tally of 10 goals in 42 appearances in England this season.
Whatever happens, Torres’ arrival at Stamford Bridge has certainly given Carlo Ancelotti a headache, because it seems that the Spaniard cannot play alongside Didier Drogba – they have started just three out of 14 games together.
The Ivory Coast striker prefers to play in Chelsea’s established 4-3-3 formation, but that system does not suit the new arrival.
A switch to a 4-4-2 formation proved unsuccessful, particularly when Chelsea were eliminated from the Champions League by Manchester United.
And, since reverting to 4-3-3 with Florent Malouda and Salomon Kalou supporting Drogba – and Torres on the bench – the Blues have won their last three games, scoring nine goals.
That has taken Chelsea back into the title race but Torres’ strike has complicated matters again, and Ancelotti is hinting that he will try to fit Drogba and Torres into his starting line-up again.
“We have to use all the time, every training session, to try to find the solution, maintaining balance in the team,” said the manager.
This is certainly a risky time to be experimenting, and Tottenham could be the benefactors if Ancelotti trials a new approach and finds, again, that too many cooks spoil the broth.
The verdict: While Torres has been the centre of attention since January, Chelsea’s �21m signing from Benfica, Brazilian centre-back David Luiz, has proved to be a valuable addition. Meanwhile, Frank Lampard has netted 11 goals for club and country since the turn of the year.
Spurs have not won at Stamford Bridge since 1990 but, lest we forget, this was the season when the Lilywhites’ 3-2 win at the Emirates finally ended their 68-game hoodoo of failing to win a league game away against any of the traditional Big Four.
This weekend’s trip to Stamford Bridge offers Tottenham the chance to do so for the second time in a row, and keep their top-four hopes alive. But, like the 3-3 tie with Arsenal last week, this looks like a draw that suits neither team.
Whatever happens, Spurs will be hoping for a dry day in west London...
Prediction: Chelsea 1 Spurs 1