Early Doors

How much does pre-season form matter?

Early Doors

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Is there a worse time to be a football fan than now, during the round of pre-season friendlies when the season is still more than two weeks away?

You enjoyed the initial break at the end of the last campaign, which (most likely) ended in another year of disappointment for your team. You perhaps welcomed the diversion of the summer tournaments (Copa America, European U21s, Women's World Cup), but they were never really something into which you could put your heart and soul. You may even have found new and exciting ways to spend those Saturdays in which you suddenly find yourself at a loose end.

But now you're bored. You've become reacquainted with your family, and remembered why you spend so much time trying to avoid them. There are only so many trips around DIY stores/National Heritage sites/county fetes you can make before you go round the bend. You need football.

And that's where pre-season friendlies come in. They know you don't really care, but equally they know that you will watch given half a chance out of desperation and stubborn faith. Like the fourth or fifth instalment of a tired Hollywood action franchise, everyone involved is complicit in a conspiracy of mediocrity, getting a meagre placebo hit while we all wait for the good stuff.

And so - once we are all full to bursting with the veritable feast of London 2012 build-up, with the Games now exactly one year away - it is today that we turn our attentions to the Asia Trophy in Hong Kong, which features Premier League trio Chelsea, Aston Villa and Blackburn Rovers and the island's champions, Kitchee.

Under normal circumstances, this would not be much cause for excitement, but Chelsea getting a run-out gives everyone another chance to watch Fernando Torres struggle in front of goal.

The £50 million striker has so far drawn blanks against Portsmouth, Malaysia XI and Thailand All Stars in the build-up to the new campaign, after only scoring one competitive goal since moving to Stamford Bridge in January - and that was assisted by a puddle.

But - guess what? - Torres revealed he is still confident that he will come out firing at the start of this season, despite all evidence to the contrary.

"I'm 27. Don't worry I don't forget to score goals... I will score," said the World Cup-winning Spain international. "It's going to be a big season. My form is ok, it's time to be fit and ready. We're trying to get into the best form. We have got big expectations and I can see the winning mentality we have."

Chelsea captain John Terry also stuck up for his Iberian team-mate ahead of today's game against Kitchee, while manager Andre Villas-Boas gave another masterclass in the polite, positive and headline-unfriendly quotes that are rapidly becoming his trademark when he said: "We are focusing a lot on one player. For us it is not focusing only on one player. We are trying to create relationships between the players so they can perform better as a group."

Torres did score against Wycombe in Chelsea's first pre-season match, but for some reason because that goal came in a behind-closed-doors game at their Cobham training ground no one seems to be counting it.

It does beg the question of just how significant pre-season matches are, and how much that depends on the fact that you can watch virtually all of them nowadays. Once upon a time, a warm-up game would only require a small box in the back pages, a three-line story stating simply the opposition, the location and the scorers. Such a nugget of info was enough to warrant an aside that so-and-so scored again to the person next to you, and that would be it.

Now, however, with club's own official channels broadcasting live games, and footage of every goal popping up on blogs and video sites all over the place, every 45-minute run-around with the express aim of regaining fitness can be analysed to the Nth degree.

In Arsenal's recent 2-1 win in Cologne, Gervinho scored two goals in half an hour and Carl Jenkinson beat his own keeper with a spectacular sliced volley, but no one believes that come the season proper the Ivorian striker will bag six a game or the young defender will quickly best Richard Dunne and Jamie Carragher's respective hauls of own goals - so perhaps it is wrong to be writing the epitaphs for Torres's career just yet.

It doesn't matter if he scores today, or in Saturday's 'final'. It matters if he scores at Stoke on August 14, then against West Brom on August 20... and so on.

- - -

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "Having worked in television for many years, with the BBC, I know exactly what was done last Friday and I was disgusted with their editing of the pre-Hearts press conference. Last season was a difficult one for the Scottish game and I think it is important we all get back to focusing on football." - Rangers manager Ally McCoist reacts to a BBC apology after a report of a press conference last week was edited to show him smirking while audio was played of a reporter asking about the behaviour of supporters at Old Firm matches. Still, he has something else to worry about now following his team's 1-0 home defeat to Malmo in the first leg of their Champions League third qualifying round clash.

FOREIGN VIEW: "As we have seen the last few years there are only two teams that have a chance of winning La Liga. The gap between Barcelona and Real Madrid and the rest is going to get bigger and bigger. This is doing great damage not only to the other clubs that are not Real Madrid and Barcelona but also to our league. In the long term we are hurting our league because there will be less interest and it will generate less TV revenue." - Real Betis president Miguel Guillen believes that Barcelona and Real Madrid's growing control of La Liga is causing serious damage and their dominance of television revenue must be addressed. Well, duh.

COMING UP: You can follow live the two aforementioned Asia Trophy matches - Aston Villa v Blackburn Rovers (11:00) and Kitchee v Chelsea (13:30) - as well as live scoring of all of this evening's Champions League third qualifying round clashes.

Plus Jim White will be dropping by with his latest column as the big kick-off to the Premier League season draws ever closer.

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