05.01.07

The Special One Puts His Shevy Up On Blocks

Posted in Football at 1:26 am by

There’s been no shortage of sensational soccer storylines for yours truly to ignore, miss the boat on, etc. Some of wild highlights of the past several days :

a) the former Metro Stars haven’t allowed a goal this season.
b) Leeds United took their relegation to League One in style.
c) Even Bob Huggins is surprised at Sam Allardyce’s resignation from Bolton.
d) Nantes might’ve lost the services of their Jay Glazer-lookalike goalkeeper.

However, I’ll go with “e” as my fave, in which Chelsea manager Jose Mourniho has benched his £30 million underachieving striker Andrei Shevchenko (above, right) on the eve of their Champions League semi-final 2nd leg visit to Liverpool. The Independent’s Sam Wallace explains.

The repercussions for Mourinho’s relationship with Roman Abramovich over Shevchenko are likely to be serious, but in the meantime the manager is understood to have the full backing of the other senior players in his squad. Shevchenko became aware on Sunday morning that he was not part of Mourinho’s first XI plans for tonight and reported yesterday at their Cobham training ground with what the club have officially described as a groin strain.

Shevchenko was not at the training session at Anfield yesterday evening. Mourinho’s decision to drop him may go right to the heart of the club’s politics but it would certainly be justified by recent form. There was no outcry when the player was substituted at half-time against Bolton on Saturday, after a half in which he had barely made an impression.

However, it is unlikely that Abramovich will see it that way. The treatment of Shevchenko by Mourinho has been a major sticking point between the Russian billionaire and his manager and this latest episode seems to have the potential to cause another serious rift between the two men. It is not even clear whether Abramovich will be at Anfield tonight, especially after he learns what has taken place in the last two days.

It was telling that in his press conference yesterday, Mourinho did not even mention Shevchenko or the notion that he was injured. While Shevchenko was not discussed, Mourinho was in one of his more sullen moods yesterday although the same could not be said of Rafael Benitez who, uncharacteristically went on the attack against the Chelsea manager. Mocking Mourinho’s injury worries he also said that the decision by the Portuguese to rest key players against Bolton on Saturday had “cost” him his chance of the Premiership title.

“Carvalho’s loss is not a big difference for them,” Benitez said. “They have Essien as an option. Who is better, Carvalho or Essien? In January [when Essien played], I think they didn’t have ‘the best defender in the world’. That was Terry. Now they ‘don’t have the best defender in the world’. That is Carvalho. Each time they have some problems.”

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