Chelsea v Southampton Match Preview (Premier League) – 1st December 2013

Chelsea face a stern test at Stamford Bridge on Sunday as Southampton come to town. It will certainly be a sterner test than that offered by Basel on Tuesday night in the Champions League, but the Swiss side still managed to get the better of the Blues by a 1-0 scoreline.

Jose Mourinho’s men put in an impotent display in which they failed to produce even a single shot on target, and many of the players looked as though they were in need of a rest, which is far from ideal given the hectic Christmas schedule is just around the corner.

Given Chelsea looked jaded and devoid of attacking ideas on Tuesday it is a mystery why Mourinho decided to leave Juan Mata on the bench as an unused substitute once again. The Spaniard was Chelsea’s best player last season – and one of the best in the Premier League – and his creative guile could be just what the Blues need at the moment. But the Special One will apparently not be moved, and though Eden Hazard and Oscar possess undoubted talent, Mata could certainly add something to the side.

They will certainly need a spark of creativity on Sunday when they face the meanest defence in the Premier League. Mauricio Pochettino’s men are not one-trick ponies, though, and have a good deal of attacking intent to go with their exceptionally hard-working and well organised midfield and defence. In Adam Lallana, Rickie Lambert, Jay Rodriguez and Gaston Ramirez, the Saints have a group of players capable of mixing it up in attack, playing it on the ground or in the air and this has allowed a combination of directness and patient build up which has undone many a side this season.

Having already beaten Liverpool (who are currently in second place in the Premier League table, ahead of Chelsea on goal difference alone) at Anfield as well as earning a well deserved point at Old Trafford against champions Manchester United, the Saints will be fancying their chances ahead of their trip to the Bridge, especially if they watched how West Brom came so close to victory there before the international break.

On that occasion Mourinho’s men were very lucky to escape with a point after an injury time penalty was awarded to the home side (and converted, much to the relief of Blues fans). Chelsea will need to put in a much more rounded performance on Sunday as Southampton are better organised and more skilful than the Baggies. In some ways a home draw might not be a bad result, and we expect a close encounter as both sides battle for supremacy but ultimately cancel one another out. Given that 11 of the Saints’ 12 league matches this season have produced two goals or fewer, we don’t anticipate a goalfest, and a 0-0 or 1-1 draw could be on the cards.

LCN Verdict: Chelsea 1-1 Southampton

Basel 1-0 Chelsea Match Report (Champions League) – 26th November 2013

The good news – the only good news according to Blues boss Jose Mourinho – is that Chelsea have qualified for the Round of 16 of the Champions League. The bad news is that they were beaten 1-0 in Switzerland by Basel and qualified for the knockout stages as a result of Schalke’s inability to get a win when they visited Steaua Bucharest (with whom they played out a 0-0 bore draw).

Basel’s victory over Chelsea means they have beaten them home and away in Group E, much to Mourinho’s chagrin. And – despite there being just a single goal in it – Basel were worthy victors: they had the majority of the possession and created far more chances than the visitors. In fact Mourinho’s men failed to get a single shot on target, something that will be a major concern to the manager and fans alike.

Mohamed Salah – who scored the first in Basel’s 2-1 victory at Stamford Bridge in September – was the sole scorer on Tuesday. The Egyptian got free of Branislav Ivanovic before latching on to a ball from Fabian Schar and beating Petr Cech. A point against Schalke in their final group match will now be enough to see Basel through to the knockout stages.

To make matters worse for the Blues, Samuel Eto’o was carried off with a groin injury late in the first half, and though he was replaced by Fernando Torres – himself returning from injury – the Spaniard looked devoid of energy and lacked any bite or creativity. Why Mourinho let the free-scoring Romelu Lukaku go to Everton for the season is still anyone’s guess!

Despite losing to Basel twice in the group stage, Chelsea are still top of Group E on nine points, one ahead of their conquerors, and two ahead of Schalke. As such a draw in their final match against Steaua Bucharest will be enough to see Chelsea finish as group winners if Basel fail to beat Schalke, but we would expect the Blues to hammer the Romanians at the Bridge given they won over there by an emphatic 4-0 scoreline.

Prior to that though Chelsea have some key games back in the Premier League, starting with a tough-looking home match against a Southampton side who have confounded pundits with their fantastic form this term. Following that there are two eminently winnable away matches against Sunderland (who the Blues will also meet in the League Cup quarter-final on 17th December) and Stoke, but either of those could be potential banana skins too if Chelsea don’t raise their game from the level of performance they showed in Basel.

Intriguingly – and frustratingly for many Blues fans – Juan Mata was left on the bench as an unused substitute on Tuesday, and given the side lacked spark, invention and guile, surely now is the time to bring the Spaniard back into the fold? But then who are we to make such a suggestion to the Special One?

Basel v Chelsea Match Preview (Champions League) – 26th November 2013

Jose Mourinho was well satisfied with his side’s 3-0 victory at West Ham on Saturday in a match in which they dominated and were rarely troubled. He will hope for more of the same as the Blues travel to Basel on Tuesday looking to avenge the home defeat they suffered at the hands of the Swiss side back in September.

On that day Basel came back from a goal down (scored just before half time by Oscar) to win the match 2-1 thanks to late goals from Mohamed Salah and Marco Streller. But – despite a few hiccoughs – Chelsea have come on since then and should have more than enough to get the result that will ensure they finish at the top of Group E and hopefully secure an easier tie in the next phase of the competition.

Basel are currently top of the Swiss Super League, having lost just once in their 15 matches. They were beaten at home by Schalke in the Champions League in October, however, and given Chelsea made short work of the Germans both home and away (winning 3-0 on each occasion) we certainly think Mourinho’s men will win this one comfortably. With a potentially tough home match against Southampton on Sunday the manager would probably like to have this one sewn up early in order to have the luxury of withdrawing key players in the second half. As such we expect the Blues to start fast and build on the confidence gained from the win at West Ham.

Frank Lampard scored twice against his former club at the weekend, and the club’s leading all-time scorer could be given another chance to shine on Tuesday. Whether Juan Mata is given another chance to prove his worth to the Special One remains to be seen of course, but either way the Blues will have more than enough creativity and attacking prowess to get the better of their Swiss opposition.

Fernando Torres is unlikely to be fit for this one, but Samuel Eto’o appears to be finding his feet and – despite not being exactly prolific having scored just four goals this term – he should be given the nod ahead of Demba Ba.

When Chelsea visited Basel last season in the Europa League they won the match 2-1, with goals from Victor Mosses and David Luiz. We envisage at least as good a result this time around given Chelsea have been imperious in the Champions League since fluffing their lines against Basel, winning three, scoring 10 and conceding none. But we have a sneaking suspicion the home side might catch the visitors on the break once or twice and so wouldn’t be surprised to see them grab a consolation goal. Overall though this match should be an easy three points for the Blues as they march on to the Champions League knockout stages once again.

LCN Verdict: Chelsea to win 3-1

West Ham 0-3 Chelsea Match Report (Premier League) – 23rd November 2013

Chelsea put in a solid display when they took the short hop across the capital to visit West Ham on Saturday, with Frank Lampard grabbing a brace against his former club on the way to a 3-0 victory.

Jose Mourinho’s men never looked in any serious danger of conceding, as much an indication of the Hammers’ lack of attacking options as Chelsea’s solidity. And after a confident start the Blues got the breakthrough after Oscar was brought down by West Ham keeper Jussi Jaaskelainen in the area after a poor back-pass from Guy Demel. Lampard duly converted from the spot against the club at which he made his name but whose fans never really appreciated his talents (fools!).

Oscar and Eden Hazard, with decent support from Lampard, were pulling the strings in the centre of the park and it was Oscar himself who made it 2-0 after 34 minutes when his drilled strike went into the bottom corner.

Hammers boss Sam Allardyce obviously gave his side something of a rollicking in the dressing room at half time as they emerged after the break showing more fight and desire. But they still fell way short of their visitors in the quality stakes and managed to muster only a single shot on target in the whole match.

The Blues, meanwhile, played with an assurance that will have pleased Mourinho, and after they created a number of goal-scoring opportunities it was left to Lampard – already Chelsea’s all-time highest scorer – to put the icing on the cake in the 82nd minute when an initial shot from Hazard was blocked and fell to Lamps who made no mistake from the edge of the box.

Another West Ham old boy, Demba Ba, who came on for a cameo minutes before his side’s third goal, had a goal disallowed for offside late in the game, but on another day the marginal decision could have gone the way of the Blues. But overall it was a dominant display, and while Chelsea were expected to win they still had to do the business on the pitch, and they did it without needing to overexert themselves.

The win moves the Blues up to third in the table, level on 24 points with Liverpool (who drew 3-3 at Everton) and four points behind leaders Arsenal, who themselves put in a solid performance as they beat in-form Southampton 2-0 at the Emirates.

Chelsea’s next Premier League match will be played on Sunday 1st December when the Saints will visit Stamford Bridge looking to bounce back from that defeat to the Gunners. Prior to that, though, is a Champions League trip to Basel, where Mourinho will hope his side can seal progression to the knockout stage of the competition. If they play like they did on Saturday we think they’ll certainly have a very good chance.

Chelsea Players International Round-Up For November 2013

The World Cup qualifying has ended and we now know which 32 sides will be playing in the World Cup in Brazil next year. Several Chelsea players will feature and many were in action over the double-header of global international friendly games and World Cup play-offs. Here we take a look at how some of Chelsea’s finest got on.

Starting with England and Ashley Cole did his hopes of being first choice left back in Brazil no harm with a solid showing against Germany. Cole was left out against Chile but played the first 53 minutes against the number two side in the world. Frank Lampard and Gary Cahill were unused substitutes. Andre Schurrle played just eight minutes and will need to get more time on the pitch for the Pensioners if he is to force his way into the German squad, such is the quality at their disposal.

It was a good night for the Blue Brazilians though, as Oscar, Ramires, Willian and David Luiz (the only one of the quartet to play 90 minutes) all featured in a 2-1 win over Chile in Toronto.

Spain and Belgium suffered major shocks in losing to South Africa and Japan. Eden Hazard started for Belgium, with Kevin De Bruyne playing for the final half hour, but neither could prevent a 3-2 loss, whilst Thibaut Courtois remained on the bench. Things were no better for Juan Mata who played the final half hour for or so for Spain but could not forge an equaliser, the World and European Champions losing 1-0.

Elsewhere Patrick van Aanholt made his full Dutch debut from the bench in a 0-0 draw against Colombia. Michael Essien was in competitive action as Ghana completed a 7-3 aggregate win over Egypt to book their place in Brazil. Essien played 90 minutes as Ghana went down 2-1 on the night. On Monday both Victor Moses and John Obi Mikel played as Nigeria almost beat Italy at Craven Cottage, the match ending 2-2.

Those Chelsea fans disillusioned with the Three Lions may find supporting Mata and Fernando Torres for Spain, Oscar and co for the hosts Brazil or even Hazard’s dark horses Belgium a more rewarding occupation. One thing is for sure, the World Cup in Brazil is going to be brilliant, and it is going to be Blue!

West Ham United v Chelsea Match Preview (Premier League) – 23rd November 2013

Jose Mourinho may have suggested the spot kick awarded to his side in stoppage time against West Brom last time out was a “clear penalty”, but most would beg to differ. Still, decisions tend to even themselves out over the season and this one definitely went the way of the Blues as Eden Hazard stepped up to calmly convert and make it 2-2, earning a point and extending the Special One’s unbeaten home Premier League record to 66 matches.

Coming on the back of a 2-0 defeat at Newcastle, a home loss against the Baggies (or any side, come to that) would have been unacceptable from a Chelsea point of view. And though Mourinho didn’t quite get the reaction he was seeking, West Brom performing very well, it could prove a valuable point in the race for the title.

The Portuguese boss will know, however, that the Blues will need to despatch teams like West Ham if they are to stride on to Premier League glory this term, and though Sam Allardyce and his men might put up sturdy resistance, we can’t see any other result than a Chelsea win on Saturday at the Boleyn Ground. Apart from their opening weekend win over Cardiff, West Ham have been dour and dire in equal measure, except for an astounding 3-0 victory against Spurs at White Hart Lane that stunned fans of both sides.

The Hammers have failed to follow that fine result with anything other than hard-working football that lacks invention. Their four draws this season (against Newcastle, Southampton, Swansea and Aston Villa) have all ended 0-0, and though West Ham did beat Chelsea 3-1 at home last season we feel their best chance of success here (success being to avoid a heavy defeat) will be to kill the game from the start, packing the midfield and defending in numbers.

Mourinho will of course anticipate this and is likely to send out a highly attacking side given the home side have little in the way of goal threat of their own. Okay, Ravel Morrison has been very impressive for the Hammers, but with Andy Carroll still out injured and Ricardo Vaz Te joining him on the physiotherapist’s couch, there simply aren’t enough goals in the side. Joe Cole and Kevin Nolan are not the players they once were and there appears a lack of adventure in the side, Morrison aside.

As such we fancy the many attacking options at Mourinho’s disposal, along with his demands for improvement from recent league performances, will see the Blues to victory on Saturday. Chelsea’s 3-1 win at Norwich in early October could be a good indicator of the way this match will go. Except we can’t see the Hammers having enough ammunition to upset a generally sturdy Chelsea backline. As such, while it might take a while to get the first goal, we think a relatively comfortable Chelsea win is on the cards.

LCN Verdict: Chelsea to win 2-0

Top 10 Chelsea Players Of All Time

Okay, here we go, a list that can never please everyone and is sure to have at least some of you shouting, looking on in wonder or pure disbelief and questioning why your favourite player hasn’t made the grade. If you don’t agree make your own list and then you can pick who you want! In no particular order I give you…

  1. Frank Lampard – Let’s start with an easy one. Frank has won trophies galore as a Blues player, has scored a club record 205 goals at the time of writing (from midfield!) and has more than 100 caps for England. Legend.
  2. Petr Cech – Like Frank he has won a huge number of honours and was the best goalkeeper in the world for a couple of seasons when Chelsea were dominating the Premier League. His iconic head gear – donned after a career-threatening head injury – makes him instantly recognisable, but he still dives in where it hurts.
  3. Ron Harris – Okay, maybe not the best player but he was as hard as nails, a Chelsea youth product and captain who would have done anything for the club. Chopper won the FA Cup and European Cup Winners’ Cup and made 655 appearances for the Blues. Again: legend.
  4. Gianfranco Zola – About as far from Harris as you could get, Zola was one of the first foreign imports to the Premier League and remains one of the finest to have graced these fair shores. A gentleman with unrivalled vision and awareness and also a role model for Blues youngsters.
  5. Didier Drogba – A forward of a totally different stature and nature to Zola but none the worse for it, Drogba was a beast and was genuinely world class at his best. Power, pace, great finishing and that amazing knack of scoring goals when it really, really mattered (nine goals in nine finals says it all).
  6. Peter Osgood – Another striker and another in a different mould, Ozzy also had the ability to score in the big games, including three consecutive cup finals, the 1970 FA Cup, 1971 Cup Winners’ Cup and the 1972 League Cup (which Chelsea lost!). More than 100 goals for the Blues, he is sadly missed.
  7. Peter Bonetti – Probably controversial to include two keepers but there you go… my list! Bonetti, AKA, The Cat, made 729 appearances for Chelsea and although he has a World Cup medal he would have had a hell of a lot more England caps (he won seven) had it not been for the brilliance of Gordon Banks.
  8. Bobby Tambling – Chelsea’s top scorer until Lampard overtook him, Tambling notched 202 goals for the Pensioners and remains the top league goal-getter.
  9. Jose Mourinho – Let the shouting REALLY begin. Mourinho isn’t a player. Even when he played he wasn’t really a player but he certainly never played for the Blues. Winning the league after a 50 year wait got him near the list, winning it again the following year and throwing in a few cups got him on it. He’s done more than most Chelsea players to bring success to the club, so let’s just say he is an honorary player for the purposes of this list.
  10. Roy Bentley – Bentley was the first Chelsea skipper to hold the league championship trophy over his head. Eight years at the club, top scorer in every one of them and nine goals in 12 for England. And a very nice chap too.

Chelsea 2-2 West Brom Match Report (Premier League) – 9th November 2013

Jose Mourinho maintained his unbeaten Premier League home record when West Brom were the visitors on Saturday, but only just. His side relied on a controversial late, late penalty (which was imperiously converted by Eden Hazard) to earn a point against a spirited and powerful Baggies side who battled bravely and almost got the rewards for a solid and well-organised display.

The Blues went in to the break 1-0 after a close range effort from Samuel Eto’o, but the visitors came out fighting in the second half with goals from Shane Long and Stephane Sessgnon in the 60th and 68th minutes. Although the Baggies’ goals represented two thirds of the total number of their shots on target, their performance was all about containment, which they did exceptionally well, with two lines of four which the home side appeared to find impenetrable at times.

Mourinho was getting increasingly frustrated on the touchline as his players failed to find the inventiveness required to weave their way through West Brom’s rearguard action, and the points looked to be going back to the West Midlands before referee Andre Mariner awarded a penalty in the fourth minute of injury time.

Clearly the Portuguese boss agreed with the decision and his former protégé Steve Clarke took the opposing view, but there was clearly contact between defender Steven Reid and Ramires. Whether that contact was sufficient to send the Brazilian sprawling, or indeed whether it even constituted a foul, is open to debate; but it was given, duly converted, and Chelsea’s blushes were saved.

The Baggies won at the Bridge exactly 30 years before this match (a 1-0 triumph in the League Cup), and they last won in the league there in 1978, but it wasn’t to be this time as the visiting players and manager felt robbed of what would have been a famous victory.

For Chelsea, an improvement is certainly called for if they are to challenge for the title. After just one point earned from their last two matches (after their 2-0 defeat at Newcastle prior to this one) there is the sense that Jose still doesn’t quite know his most effective side. The international break will give the Special One time to take stock and then it’s West Ham away on 23rd November – eminently winnable, but then so too looked Newcastle away and West Brom at home.

Chelsea v West Bromwich Albion Match Preview (Premier League) – Saturday 9th November 2013

Chelsea put their awful performance against Newcastle last weekend behind them with a comfortable 3-0 win against Schalke on Wednesday. That result has helped them recover their position at the top of Champions League Group E and they now have a great chance of progressing. They will be looking to get their domestic fortunes similarly back on track here with a solid win at the Bridge and few would bet against them so doing.

Aside from a blip against Basel in the Champions League when they lost 2-1, their home form has been stellar. Five wins from five in the Premier League, including a vital 2-1 triumph over Man City have kept them in the hunt for the title and whilst their away form in domestic football has been patchy Jose Mourinho has maintained his sensational home league record.

The Portuguese boss managed a spell of 150 games without suffering a defeat in the league at home, spanning spells at Porto, Chelsea, Inter Milan and Real Madrid. Currently on a run of 36 unbeaten, including 27 wins and four draws at Real and five wins this term, Mourinho’s indomitable spirit and will to win mean losing isn’t an option.

Last weekend’s 2-0 defeat at Newcastle and the poor performance of his team clearly stung the Special One and he got the required response against Schalke and will demand more of the same here.

West Brom are currently down in 11th, having taken 13 points from their opening 10 games and given they have won just once on the road thus far they will not be travelling with too much optimism. That win came at Old Trafford, however, and with a draw at Everton too, the Baggies have proved they are not afraid of travelling to the top sides.

Last season they won at Anfield and drew at Spurs whilst the game at the Bridge was a narrow home win, the match ending 1-0. Mourinho will be well aware of these warning signs and will know his players need to produce the goods to avoid any chance of an upset.

The Blues will again be without Fernando Torres, the Spaniard still suffering from a leg injury but he is the only real concern as Mourinho has all his top players available. Whether he chooses to reinstall Eden Hazard to the squad remains to be seen. Hazard was left out for the Schalke game having reportedly been late for a training session. If the Belgian is punished further, which seems unlikely, Juan Mata could start, although Andre Schurrle seems likely to play on the left instead, with Oscar continuing behind the striker, in this case – most probably – Samuel Eto’o who scored a brace on Wednesday.

The Baggies are without a number of players, with Billy Jones out, Ben Foster and Zoltan Gera both also injured and doubts over former Blues Nicolas Anelka and Scott Sinclair. Whilst the Baggies have some decent players there is a clear gulf in class here and we expect another solid home win and perhaps another Eto’o goal.

LCN verdict: 2-0 to Chelsea

Chelsea v Schalke Match Report (Champions League) – Wednesday 6th November 2013

Chelsea took another large step towards the Champions League knockout phase with a comfortable 3-0 home win over Schalke last night.

Given the Blues had won in Germany by that same score two weeks earlier, the victory was hardly a surprise, although the fact that all three goals came from strikers may have had many in the stands rubbing their eyes with disbelief.

Having been recently rocked by the news that first choice forward Fernando Torres will be out for a while due to a leg injury, Jose Mourinho started with Cameroonian Samuel Eto’o up front and the striker repaid his faith with two goals.

The home side didn’t have things all their own way though and in fact Schalke started the better of the two sides, with wunderkind Julian Draxler and Adam Szalai both having decent chances in the opening stages.

Chelsea’s goal came just after the half hour and Schalke keeper Timo Hildebrand will not want to see it ever again. He dallied on the ball and Eto’o was able to close down quickly as Hildebrand went to clear, the ball deflecting into the goal.

Schalke again continued to press and had further opportunities either side of the break, Petr Cech denying Draxler on 52 minutes. The game could have turned on that moment and two minutes later it did, as Eto’o finished smartly after decent work by Willian to really finish the visitors off.

The victory was complete after 83 minutes when Demba Ba, on for the goalscorer, collected a pass from Frank Lampard before applying a nice finish with a volley on the turn as the ball looped over the defence.

3-0 slightly flattered Mourinho’s side but they dominated the game statistically and certainly deserved the win, a result that leaves them three points clear of Schalke at the top of Group A and in pole position to qualify.