Champions League: D-day for Chelsea boss Grant

Fenerbahce's Kazim Kazim a homegrown threat to London team's European hopes.

By JEREMY LAST AN AP
April 8, 2008 01:07
4 minute read.
Champions League: D-day for Chelsea boss Grant

avram grant 248 88 ap. (photo credit: AP [file])

It's been an up and down season for Avraham Grant since he took over as Chelsea manager in September last year. On the face of it there have been more ups than downs, considering the team's impressive record in the league and in Europe under his guidance. But every defeat, every wrong move, has been analyzed to the nth degree, with the British media slaughtering the Israeli after any loss. Last week's defeat to Turkish side Fenerbahce in the Champions League quarterfinals saw the Blues give up a one goal lead but also bring home a crucial away goal. The return leg at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday night will make or break Chelsea's European season and a defeat will no doubt encourage even more calls for a replacement to be brought in over the summer. It is still unlikely Grant will be sacked by Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich, especially if he manages to win the Premier League title. Manchester United's 2-2 draw against Middlesborough on Sunday which followed Chelsea's win at Manchester City a day earlier left Grant's team only three points below United in second place in the league. Man United still have to visit Stamford Bridge at the end of this month so there is everything to play for. Chelsea should be confident of beating Fenerbahce, despite throwing away a 1-0 advantage in Istanbul. On Saturday the Blues cruised to a 2-0 victory at City after Grant rested several of his starters, and the likes of Michael Ballack, Didier Drogba, Joe Cole and Ricardo Carvalho should return at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday. "I never know the result before a game; otherwise, I would gamble and become a millionaire," Grant said. "But I know what I expect and what we can do. I have confidence in my team, never mind whether we are playing Fenerbahce or Barcelona." Fenerbahce is five points ahead in the Turkish title race after beating Kayserispor 2-1 and should recall Roberto Carlos and Gokhan Gonul, who missed the first leg. Chelsea faces a homegrown threat in its attempt to overturn the 2-1 deficit and reach the semifinals of the Champions League. London-born winger Kazim Kazim scored the Turkish club's equalizer as a substitute in last week's quarterfinal first leg and is hoping to make the starting lineup for Tuesday's return match at Stamford Bridge. But Kazim Kazim, whose English name is Colin Kazim-Richards, will be happy to play any role that his manager, Zico, wants him to. "It's not about me, it's about the team, about Turkey, about us getting to the final," Kazim Kazim said. "Whatever Zico thinks is best, he is in charge. I am in no position to criticize the manager." And the former Brazil great has done nothing to merit criticism after leading Fenerbahce to victory over the English powerhouse in its first ever Champions League quarterfinal. Chelsea was rated a firm favorite to progress when the draw for the quarterfinals was made and remains one of the contenders for the title, but Fenerbahce sprang a surprise comeback on Wednesday after trailing early in the game. Deivid de Souza scored an own-goal in the 13th minute, deflecting a cross from Florent Malouda into his own net. Kazim Kazim equalized in the 65th - 11 minutes after coming on - and Deivid won it with a powerful shot from distance in the 81st. As Kazim-Richards, he spent a season in the Premier League with Sheffield United, but started just 15 matches before leaving for Turkey when the club was relegated in May 2007. "Of course I'm looking forward to going home," Kazim Kazim said. "I've got a lot of family there. I grew up in London and my family could not have imagined this success." And Kazim Kazim isn't the only familiar face on the Fenerbahce team. Serbia striker Mateja Kezman spent a year with Chelsea before frustration at a lack of first-team opportunities led him to join Atletico Madrid in 2005. He moved to Fenerbahce a year later. Kezman scored in a 3-2 home win over Sevilla in the previous round and said after last week's win over Chelsea that the Blues' coaching change this season was the reason for their weakness. Chelsea replaced Jose M ourinho, who won the Premier League in 2005 and 2006, with Grant after a shaky start to the season and reports of a rift. "Chelsea without Mourinho is not the same," Kezman said. "Under him, they were a machine, working without mistake or any faults. "Now they have ups and downs, and you can see them. There's not the same spirit in the team anymore. It's not the machine it used to be." But Chelsea's only loss at Stamford Bridge in any competition over the past four years came against FC Barcelona in 2006. "Saturday was a very important victory," said Chelsea striker Salomon Kalou, who could play a role against Fenerbahce after scoring against City. "It is important for me to score this kind of goal because it gives me a lot of confidence and helps me believe that I can do it." The Blues had hoped to have first-choice goalkeeper Petr Cech back in the team after he missed nine matches with a knee injury, but Carlo Cudicini is set to continue after Cech suffered facial lacerations in training and required surgery on Sunday. The teams are playing for a semifinal place against Arsenal or Liverpool, with the English clubs poised at 1-1 ahead of their second leg at Anfield.


Related Content

dudi sela
August 31, 2014
Sela steamrolled by Dimitrov

By ALLON SINAI