Chelsea have been labelled the strongest team in Europe by Aston Villa boss Martin O’Neill.
O’Neill watched his side humbled by a power-packed Chelsea and the man who won the European Cup with Nottingham Forest was full of praise for Jose Mourinho’s side.
Goals from Frank Lampard, Andriy Shevchenko, Michael Essien and Didier Drogba sent Villa packing from the Carling Cup and Chelsea into the quarter-final draw.
Chelsea’s display had everything – guile, passion, power and finishing – and the awesome combination was not lost on O’Neill who likened them to the Brazil side of 1982 in terms of quality and strength.
O’Neill said: “They can also play as well but there is nothing wrong with being a very strong side.
“They are the strongest team in European football. But they have also got a lot of class players. One of the best sides that didn’t win the World Cup back in 1982 were Brazil. Italy won it but Brazil were by miles the best side.
“The Brazilian players were so, so good and strong as well. There is nothing wrong with that, absolutely. Essien’s very strong, these players are very strong and they are very good.”
Villa took 6,000 fans to Stamford Bridge but the club could find themselves in hot water with the Football Association after a plastic bottle was thrown in the direction of Chelsea goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini.
The bottle was collected by referee Mark Halsey and passed to the fourth official. It is almost certain to be included in his report to the FA.
It was an incident which O’Neill accepted had no place in football following on from the coin-throwing antics at the weekend.
O’Neill said: “I did ask the fourth official what had happened and he said a plastic bottle had been thrown.
“That’s really not what we want. He wasn’t hurt but absolutely it is not what we want from our fans. Absolutely not.”
O’Neill also had much sympathy with captain Gareth Barry, being tipped for an England recall in Friday’s squad, who went off injured in the first half with a back injury.
He will have a scan today to assess the damage and O’Neill added: “I would not know what is in Steve McClaren’s mind about his squad.
“But he has been playing very well for us this season and I am looking at it from a club point of view – he will be a big loss for us if he is out for some time. But I don’t know yet.
“His least effective game for us this season was, unfortunately, when Steve was watching. But he has been excellent for us this year.”
Meanwhile Chelsea coach Jose Mourinho continues to insist that he is determined to win the Carling Cup as well as continuing his feud with referee Graham Poll.
Mourinho was unhappy with Poll’s performance in their 2-1 defeat to Tottenham in the Barclays Premiership last Sunday and he has since agreed to meet referees’ chief Keith Hackett to discuss a “number of issues”.
Mourinho was unhappy that Poll, who was also criticised last night after sending off Everton’s James McFadden at Goodison Park, disallowed a goal by Drogba and red-carded captain John Terry for two bookable offences and expressed surprise that the official was “happy” with his performance.
The Portuguese coach said: “Mr Poll was happy with his performance, but when you say no to a perfectly good goal like Didier’s, when you send off the England captain and no one knows why and when you are the centre of attention in a game of high-quality football, I don’t know why.”
But on the subject of the Carling Cup, Mourinho made sure there was no misunderstanding.
He added: “We are taking the Carling Cup seriously. Of course it is not a major trophy like the Premiership or the Champions league, but we will be looking to win it.
“This is a good competitive year. We have no easy options. In the UEFA Champions League the third-seeded team has been Werder Bremen.
“In the Premiership Manchester United are playing better and Arsenal, even with last weekend’s result, are playing better.
“In the Carling Cup we have drawn Blackburn and Aston Villa at home. It is competition to enjoy, to be focused on and if we continue to give our best we can be winners again.”