Chelsea make unwanted Champions League history, Torres is back (!), Sagna to leave Arsenal & Zenit want Fellaini

Comment & analysis round-up

Quote of the day: “I’m sure that, playing at this level, we can do whatever we want. But we have to show that in the next game. More than the win was the way we won: the character, attitude, intensity, chances created. They had a job to do and they accepted the responsibility. They couldn’t change things that had happened from previous weeks. It was out of our hands. But everything I have seen from the players is positive. They are progressing. They are improving. So I have to be pleased.” – Rafa Benitez.

Runner-up: “It means the world to me. Obviously, I’m a young manager in my first year in the Champions League so to qualify and qualify with ten points? I’m very proud of the players – they have performed a miracle. No-one gave us a prayer coming into this group but we have qualified and deservedly so. We didn’t play great anywhere near as well as we can in the first half tonight but in the second half we had control of the game and deserved to win it.” – Neil Lennon.

“No Italian club could afford him. Balotelli is as valuable as the Mona Lisa. And City have been very clear – they don’t want to sell.” – Mario Balotelli’s agent Mino Raiola.

Chelsea crash out the Champions League

Chelsea are haunted by ghosts of Munich as holders crash out of Champions League (Matt Barlow, Daily Mail) Even as the goals flew in, there was a chill in the air and eerie feel to Stamford Bridge as Wednesday night unfolded. Like someone, somewhere had walked over a Champions League grave. The place was subdued, seats were empty and shivering fans wondered whether to cheer or jeer, pay attention to the match or follow the Juventus game on their phones. By the time the final whistle went, most of them knew the score and plenty were on the way home, trying to dodge the disruption to tube services at Fulham Broadway.

Chelsea’s victory fails to apply balm to their Champions League wound (Richard Williams, Guardian) The team built with an investment of a billion pounds walloped a side that cost no more than a million on Wednesday night but a 6-1 victory over Nordsjaelland failed to apply balm to the wound that opened up as Chelsea achieved the unenviable distinction of becoming the first winners of the Champions League to take their defence of the trophy no further than the group stage. They closed their ill-fated campaign with a flourish but, although a series of party-piece goals gave them the only respectable result for a Premier League side in the closing round of group matches, it was just so much useless beauty.

Roman ruined his own empire (Steven Howard, Sun) The first Roman empire lasted 400 years. The second a little less — some 200 days. Just 200 days between Roman Abramovich’s Chelsea winning the Champions League in Munich in May and surrendering it last night. Yes, the Blues took their leave by hammering no-hopers Nordsjaelland — Fernando Torres even scoring twice after a near 10-hour drought. But nothing should be read into the destruction of a side that conceded 22 goals in six group games. The hard facts are that Juventus’ 1-0 win over Shakhtar Donetsk in Ukraine has consigned Chelsea to the Europa League just six months after the greatest night in their history.  

Fernando Torres is back – how did that happen? (Thom Gibbs, Daily Telegraph) On target twice, but the best goal of the forward’s night was a lob that was ruled out for offside. Needed a healthy slice of luck for his first goal, but the second showed pleasing movement – the attribute at which Torres is still absolutely fantastic, according to every television commentator in gainful employment. Missed a couple of one-on-ones, as is his current style.

Chelsea v FC Nordsjælland: five things we learnt (Jason Burt, Daily Telegraph) There was a smattering of boos as he emerged from the tunnel but Rafael Benítez was largely ignored by the Chelsea supporters. There were the now obligatory placards and the chants of “One Di Matteo” but there wasn’t the bear-pit atmosphere of his past two home games. Maybe that was because of this flat Champions League occasion. Maybe the anger aimed at Benítez is subsiding. He will desperately hope it’s the latter.

Manchester United lose at home to Cluj

Pull yourselves together: Fergie fears it could be curtains for United in derby (David Anderson, Daily Mirror) Sir Alex Ferguson has called on his senior Manchester United players to “get their act together” ahead of Sunday’s derby. Ferguson claims United’s defensive worries remain after they conceded their 33rd goal this season to lose, embarrassingly, 1-0 at Old Trafford to Romanian minnows Cluj. Fergie exonerated the young players in his much-changed line-up and told his senior players to sort the problem out. “The young players did quite well,” said the United boss. “Their commitment and composure was good, but they’re young. That is without doubt and it doesn’t solve the issue of defending. “Hopefully that’s in the future and the experienced players who have been playing have got to get their act together. It’s as simple as that.”

Brave Celtic through to the knockouts

Lennon’s sweet 16 (Robert Grieve, Sun) Neil Lennon hailed his “miracle” men after Kris Commons sent Celtic powering into the last 16. Commons smashed home an 82nd-minute spot-kick as the Scottish champions booked a place in the knockout stage for the first time in four years. The former Derby midfielder was later carried off after being caught by Kim Kallstrom’s reckless challenge. Kallstrom was shown a second yellow for the foul, but it was not enough to wipe the smile off Commons’ face. The Scotland international tweeted: “Now THAT’S a dead leg!!! “Worth it to get into the last 16. Buzzin’ is an understatement.”

Manchester City don’t want Jose

Jose? No way! Manchester City chiefs don’t want Mourinho as next manager (David McDonnell, Daily Mirror) Manchester City have sensationally ruled out a summer move for Real Madrid boss Jose Mourinho – even if Roberto Mancini gets the sack. Mancini MUST now retain the Premier League title to safeguard his job following City’s shambolic Champions League campaign, according to senior figures at the club. City failed to win any of their six games in the competition and amassed just three points, missing out on a Europa League spot as they finished bottom of Group D – the worst group-phase display by an English club in the competition’s history. That failure has increased the pressure on Mancini to hold on to the title City won last season, with the 48-year-old Italian’s future once again the subject of fresh scrutiny. But even if Mancini does lose his job, City have ruled out a move to appoint Mourinho – despite the likelihood of the Special One leaving Real Madrid at the end of this season.

Sagna set to leave Arsenal

Sagna heading for Arsenal exit as ‘disrespected’ France right back fumes at club’s offer (Sami Mokbel, Daily Mail) Bacary Sagna looks set to be the next high-profile Arsenal player to walk away from the club. The France right back feels ‘disrespected’ by the Gunners’ offer of a 12-month extension to his deal that expires in 2014. He has told team-mates he expects to leave at the end of the season.

Zenit want Fellaini

Zenit eye Fellaini (Phil Thomas, Sun) Moneybags Russian club Zenit St Petersburg are after Marouane Fellaini.
The Everton midfielder is on Chelsea’s hitlist for next month’s transfer window — and Manchester City are long-time admirers. Now big-spending Zenit, who splashed £32million to sign Fellaini’s fellow Belgian Axel Witsel from Benfica in September, are also keen. Coach Luciano Spalletti wants Fellaini, 25, to form the heart of his midfield, with Konstantin Zyryanov, 35, and Sergei Semak, a year older, nearing the end of their careers. 

How much for Darren Bent?

Yours for £18m: Villa put Bent up for sale but want to recoup what they paid for him (Neil Moxley, Daily Mail) Aston Villa have slapped an £18m price tag on Darren Bent as they seek to recover most of the money they paid Sunderland for the forward’s services. The decision-makers at the Birmingham club, owner Randy Lerner and chief executive Paul Faulkner, have accepted that the striker is out of Paul Lambert’s plans. To that end, they are willing to listen to offers but have set the price at the original figure they paid to the Black Cats for the forward just two years ago.

Hailing Borussia Dortmund

Dortmund raise the bar after Champions League group stage success (Sean Ingle, Guardian) After last year’s failure in the Champions League, when Dortmund finished last in the group stage, Klopp also added a 4-3-3 formation to his armoury, giving his side a third defensive midfielder and accepting that against the very best teams a strong core is essential. But that doesn’t mean Dortmund’s fundamental principles have altered. They are still a thrill to watch. And they are learning, building and tweaking all the time. Most of the squad have a decade at the top ahead of them. If they stay at Dortmund, who knows what the club might achieve.

Stuart Hall

Stuart Hall is charged with sex attacks on young girls: It’s A Knockout host facing claims dating back decades (Jaya Narain, Daily Mail) Veteran TV and radio presenter Stuart Hall was last night charged with indecently assaulting three girls. The former It’s A Knockout host and BBC Radio 5 Live commentator was arrested by police during a dawn swoop on his £1.5million detached home yesterday. The 82-year-old was then taken to a police station where he was questioned for several hours over accusations of indecent assault. Last night he was charged with indecently assaulting three girls – one as young as eight – in alleged attacks dating back to 1974.