Paris Saint Germain v Chelsea Match Preview (Champions League) – 2nd April 2014

Chelsea head in to their Champions League quarter final against PSG looking to erase memories of their defeat at the weekend. Their 1-0 loss at Crystal Palace delivered a possible knock-out blow to their title hopes, and could leave morale low before their trip to France.

The hosts are slight favourites going in to this one, but despite Chelsea’s poor away record of late they’re not to be ruled out. The Blues have performed better in the big games, and with Jose Mourinho at the helm they’ve got a manager capable of changing a game with a well-worked game plan.

There is already guaranteed to be an edge to this game, due to off the pitch incidents. PSG are reportedly making moves for Oscar and Eden Hazard among other Blues stars. Mourinho has already slapped a £300million asking price on the two playmakers, while PSG seem to be trying to turn the players’ heads with players coming out and talking up the transfers. This is sure to add a fascinating subplot to the game and it will be interesting to see how the pair perform.

Despite that, both players remain committed to the club and Hazard has been talking about just how they need to go about their meeting with the Parisians. The Belgian compared them to Arsenal, saying, “PSG are a bit like Arsenal – they like to dictate the play and if we’re ready, if we close them down and go for their throats straight away, things will become a bit more difficult for them.”

A 6-0 mauling along the lines of the Arsenal game may be unlikely, but Hazard is clearly up for this match, arguably his biggest since he joined the club. Mourinho may not want to attack PSG quite like the Belgian does, but this should be a good contest between two well matched sides.

PSG come in to this game having won nine games on the trot, and they’re likely to go out and try to make a statement against Chelsea on Wednesday. Having beaten Bayer Leverkusen 6-1 on aggregate, and pushing Barcelona all the way in last season’s quarter finals, PSG are showing a lot in Europe but they need one big result to show they’ve really arrived.

With both sides having an array of talent, you feel that the difference could well come from the touchline. Mourinho will be up against former France boss Laurent Blanc, a man who was well down PSG’s wish list after ex Blue Carlo Ancelotti left last summer.

Mourinho will enjoy a battle like this, especially as he looks to win the one trophy that escaped him in his first spell at the Bridge. Blanc’s last role saw his side fail to make their mark on Euro 2012, and with Mourinho’s big game pedigree the tactical battle could just win this tie.

LCN Verdict: 2-2 draw

Crystal Palace 1-0 Chelsea (Premier League) – 29th March 2014

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho ruled his side out of the title race after they lost 1-0 at struggling Crystal Palace on Saturday.

An own goal from captain John Terry sent Chelsea on their way to a second consecutive league defeat away from home, stealing all of the momentum from last week’s thrashing of Arsenal.

Palace started the game much better, playing quick, physical football against the sluggish Blues. Many looked to have one eye on the clash with PSG in mid week as they never really got back into the game.

Palace seemed to grow in stature as the contest progressed, with the hosts threatening a few times in the first half. Yannick Bolasie fired wide while Petr Cech was forced in to making a few good saves as Palace bossed the first half. They could have even had a penalty when Gary Cahill went in to Cameron Jerome late in the half.

Oscar’s substitute appearance for the second half did little to get the Blues firing, with Palace still in control of the game. The home side made their pressure count after 53 minutes when John Terry headed the ball past his own keeper under pressure from Joe Ledley.

Eden Hazard would have levelled but for a good save from Julian Speroni, but Palace didn’t stop there and Jason Puncheon shot just wide, while an effort from Jerome hit the post and bounced out. Chelsea pushed for an equaliser but a total of 21 shots and just two on target shows just how close they came to picking up a point.

After the game, Jose Mourinho ruled out his side’s title chances and blamed the defeat on complacency in the squad. “Now it’s impossible to win the title. When you depend a little it’s possible, when you depend a lot I don’t think it is possible. Mathematically it is still possible but one thing is mathematics and another is reality.”

When it came to the result, Mourinho was quite open about what caused the defeat, saying, “Clearly we have some players who because of their profile they find it difficult to perform in some profile of matches.

“You can find things in common with every match we lost this season — to Stoke City, Everton, Newcastle away and at West Brom where we dropped two points.
My four defenders, phenomenal performance, as always. The others I’d prefer not to analyse individually.

“You have Terry, Ivanovic, Cahill and Azpilicueta and they perform in the sun, the rain, small pitches, big pitches, aggressive teams, possession teams. They perform every game from day one to the last day.”

The Blues next game is away to Paris Saint Germain on Wednesday night in the Champions League. Given they are now two points adrift of Liverpool in the Premier League and just two points clear of Man City having played two games more, European glory may be their best hope of silverware this term.

LCN Chelsea player of the match : Branislav Ivanovic

Crystal Palace v Chelsea Preview (Premier League) – Saturday 29th March 2014

Chelsea take on Crystal Palace this weekend looking to consolidate their place at the top of the Premier League table. After their outstanding 6-0 win over Arsenal last week, the Blues come in to this game full of confidence as they look for their first league title since 2010.

That hammering of the Gunners was Jose Mourinho’s biggest ever win as Chelsea boss, and it was Chelsea’s fourth win in five games. If they can keep up that sort of winning form they’ll be confident of lifting the title, but they know it’s out of their hands at the minute with Manchester City’s games in hand.

Chelsea are currently on a poor run of form on the road, having won just one of their last five away trips. That one win did come in London, in a 3-1 win just down the road at Fulham. The Blues have lost two (at Aston Villa and Manchester City) and drawn two (Galatasaray and West Brom) of their last five away games in all competitions, and they really need to turn that form around in the title run in.

With a good run of eminently winnable matches coming up in the Premier League for Chelsea, starting with Palace, this could be a great chance for Mourinho’s men to stamp their authority on the title race. They beat Palace 2-1 in the meeting at Stamford Bridge earlier in the season; Fernando Torres opened the scoring before Marouane Chamakh equalised, before Ramires scored the winner.

Ramires won’t be available to score the winner at Selhurst Park, with the Brazilian serving the second game of his suspension after his sending off at Villa Park two weeks ago. Aside from that Chelsea’s only potential absentees are injury concerns Ashley Cole, who has been displaced at left back after the great form of Cesar Azplicueta, and Samuel Eto’o. The Cameroon forward scored against Arsenal, but he limped off after 10 minutes.

Willian, who was also sent off at Villa Park, returns from his suspension and is in contention for a return to the side. It’s hard to see Mourinho changing much following the 6-0 win over Arsenal though. Eden Hazard, Andre Schurrle and Oscar all scored, so it might seem a little harsh for any of them to make way for Willian. Torres will likely replace Eto’o as he did on Saturday.

The only reason that there may be changes would be rotation ahead of the trip to Paris on Wednesday night for the Champions League clash with PSG. With that game in mind Mourinho may look to rest a few players. Mohammed Salah could replace one of the attacking midfielders if they are rested, as he impressed after coming off the bench against the Gunners and even managed to find his first Chelsea goal.

This game will have fond memories for Mourinho, with his first ever away match with Chelsea coming at Selhurst Park back in 2004. That was the Portuguese’s second game in charge of Chelsea, after a 1-0 win over Manchester United at Stamford Bridge just a few days before, and his side won 2-0. We fancy the same again this time around.

LCN Verdict: Chelsea to win 2-0

Chelsea 6-0 Arsenal (Premier League) – 22nd March 2014

Chelsea landed a hammer blow to Arsenal’s title chances after they ran out 6-0 winners in Arsene Wenger’s 1000th game in charge of the Gunners. That rout has put seven points between Chelsea and Arsenal, and maintained Chelsea’s lead at four points.

Arsenal conceded twice in the opening seven minutes, first to Samuel Eto’o and then to Andre Schurrle after two perfectly executed counter attacks. A penalty from Eden Hazard extended that lead to three after Kieron Gibbs was bizarrely sent off despite Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain conceding the spot kick with an obvious hand ball.

Brazilian playmaker Oscar scored either side of the half time break to inflict further misery on Arsenal, then substitute Mohammed Salah completed the rout after some terrible Arsenal defending.

The result goes down as Jose Mourinho’s biggest ever Premier League victory, but the build up to this game was all about his opponent Wenger. After 18 years at the club the Frenchman was managing Arsenal for the 1000th time. He was looking to celebrate that by beating Mourinho for the first time, and end the Portuguese’s unbeaten league record at Stamford Bridge.

Those hopes took a blow very early on in the game. Oliver Giroud saw his goo1d chance saved by Petr Cech, and then Chelsea broke away and took the lead from a neat finish by Eto’o with just five minutes on the clock. Two minutes later Schurrle latched on to Nemanja Matic’s through ball and doubled the lead.

Oxlade-Chamberlain then pulled off a save that any keeper would have been proud of to block a shot from Hazard, even though it was going wide. Referee Andre Marriner strangely sent off Gibbs instead, getting the two mixed up. Hazard stepped up and slotted the penalty home, effectively wrapping up the points.

Chelsea weren’t done though, with Oscar tapping in a Fernando Torres cross three minutes before half time. Oscar also scored the 5th, with Wojciech Szczesny at fault after the Brazilian’s long range shot slipped past him. Mohammed Salah beat the offside trap before slotting home.

After the game Mourinho was delighted with the performance, but he still refused to call his side title favourites.

“We came to kill and in 10 minutes we destroyed them. The way we started, the way we pressed them and recovered the ball, it was fantastic. Everyone in the stadium felt it would be an easy Chelsea win after only 10 minutes and it was then easy and comfortable.”

When asked if they were favourites for the Premier League crown Mourinho replied, “No. Obviously not. We go match after match. We play Crystal Palace next and after that we go to Paris. It’s a different situation to Arsenal. It’s a different situation to Liverpool, and Manchester City are also not in that situation. We are happy to be in that situation.” We bet you are, Jose!

LCN Man of the match: Oscar

Chelsea 2-0 Galatasaray (Champions League) – 18th March 2014

Chelsea eased through to the last eight of the Champions League on Tuesday as they recorded a comfortable 2-0 win over Galatasaray – and returning hero Didier Drogba – at Stamford Bridge which gave them a 3-1 aggregate victory.

First half goals from Samuel Eto’o and Gary Cahill ensured that Chelsea wouldn’t fall to the same fate as Manchester City and Arsenal, who both crashed of the Champions League last week. The hosts dominated the game throughout, completing a straightforward win that could well have been by an even greater margin.

The Blues had 20 shots in all, but despite having marginally less possession they controlled the game, with their Turkish visitors not even managing a single shot on target in the 90 minutes. Eden Hazard was a thorn in the side of the Galatasaray defence throughout, and he probably deserved a goal.

Drogba’s return to Stamford Bridge rightly dominated the news agenda ahead of this tie, just as it did in the build up to the first leg. Just before kick off the stadium united in appreciation for the Ivorian striker, but once the game began Chelsea made sure there would be no fairytale return for the former fan favourite.

Eto’o gave Chelsea the lead after just four minutes when he latched on to a pass from Oscar, and fired past Galatasaray keeper Fernando Muslera for his 30th Champions League goal. The Cameroon striker was good value for the goal, starting the game well and looking sharp.

Chelsea continued to press and Frank Lampard, Willian and John Terry all wasted good chances to double the lead for the Blues. However, with half time looming Terry got on the end of a Lampard corner, forced a save from his header and Cahill fired home the rebound.

That goal from Cahill effectively wrapped up the game for Chelsea but they could have recorded an even bigger win. Hazard continued to threaten in the second half and the Belgian forced a good save from Muslera, while Oscar, Lampard and Willian all had good chances. Drogba had the chance to score a consolation goal in stoppage time but he uncharacteristically missed the target.

Jose Mourinho was delighted with the win over Galatasaray, and even managed a parting shot at Rafa Benitez in his post match press conference.

“To come from the Europa League to the quarter-finals of the Champions League is important for the club, important for the players. We are a Champions League club and now we are among the best eight, the best clubs in the world, and we are there. The players deserve to be there.”

He also said that they have no preference about who they play in the next round, “All the big teams are there. All the big candidates to win the competition are there. And we would welcome any one of them. It would be very good for our evolution as a team and very important for us to play one of the best. We wait for the draw. It doesn’t matter who. They are all welcome.”

Chelsea v Galatasaray Match Preview (Champions League) – Tuesday 18th March 2014

Chelsea face Galatasaray in their Champions League last 16 game that will no doubt be overshadowed by Didier Drogba’s return to Stamford Bridge. The Ivorian will play at the Bridge for the first time since hitting the winning penalty in the 2012 Champions League final, but will he return to break Chelsea hearts?

Drogba’s return will no doubt be an emotional one for Blues fans, much like Jose Mourinho’s return against Hull at the start of the season. But, in the midst of all that there is a Champions League quarter final place up for grabs. This is the most undecided tie of the round, with the first leg finishing 1-1 in Turkey. It’s not a result Chelsea can, or should, cling on to at home. They need a win.

Chelsea come in to this having lost 1-0 to Aston Villa at the weekend, a result which once again throws the destination of the Premier League title up in the air. Chelsea lead by four points from Liverpool, who have a game in hand, and they’re six points ahead of Manchester City, who have three games in hand.

A Champions League victory is exactly what is needed around Stamford Bridge to bounce back from the weekend’s defeat so Drogba’s return is hardly ideal. What should be a focused job will be interrupted by the return of a club legend. Despite that, Drogba’s return will be welcomed all round as it’s a sight few thought they’d see again, even though he’s not wearing blue.

Gala did manage to make last year’s quarter finals, going down to Jose Mourinho’s Real Madrid, so they’re far from a walkover for the Blues. They’re on a 12 game unbeaten run, and they’ve got a proven match winner up front in Drogba. Chelsea have already lost once at home in the Champions League, a 2-1 defeat to Basel, and they’ll need to avoid another defeat if they’re to make it any further in Europe this season.

Chelsea have won 10 of their last 11 home games, and that record should go on here; Mourinho has unfinished business with the Champions League from his first spell at the club, and he knows he needs a result to get things back on track after ending the game against Villa with just nine men.

Chelsea may not be the favourites to win the Champions league but this squad, and Drogba, know that it’s not always Europe’s most talented team who are crowned kings of the continent. With two-time European Cup winner Mourinho in charge, Chelsea will be a threat for the trophy, and they should certainly do enough to progress to the next round.

LCN Verdict: Chelsea to win 3-1

Aston Villa 1-0 Chelsea (Premier League) – 15th March 2014

Chelsea’s title hopes took a huge hit after losing at Villa Park on Saturday, in an ill-tempered game that saw two players and manager Jose Mourinho sent off.

Chelsea, who had a goal disallowed for offside late in the first half, went reduced to 10 men when Willian received a harsh second yellow card. Villa midfielder Fabien Delph hit the winner after a breakaway before Ramires and Jose Mourinho were sent off in added time.

The Blues boss was sent to the stands after coming onto the pitch during the fracas following a two-footed challenge by Ramires on Karim El Ahmadi. Chris Foy has now sent off six Chelsea players in the last eight games he’s refereed for them, plus Mourinho.

After that defeat Mourinho’s side sit six points ahead of Manchester City, who have three games in hand and are now favourites for the title following their 2-0 win at Hull. It means Mourinho’s claims before the game that they weren’t really league leaders look even more true now.

The game started as a quite drab affair, with little happening before Nemanja Matic was denied what would have been his first Chelsea goal in his second spell at the club after he handled the ball before finishing.

Chelsea’s attacking trio of Oscar, Willian and Eden Hazard were brighter after the break, until Willian tripped Delph and received his second yellow card. Chelsea continued to press with their 10 men but they were hit on the break with just eight minutes to go. Marc Albrighton sent a low cross across to Delph, who managed to back-heel the ball past Petr Cech and into the bottom corner.

Chelsea’s day got even worse when Ramires saw red during stoppage time for an ugly lunge on El Ahmadi. After that, tensions boiled over on the pitch as both benches ran towards the ref. Mourinho, who has now not won in five visits to Villa Park, was sent to the stands for his part in it.

The Portuguese manager didn’t want to comment on Chris Foy’s perfromance, but he left no one in any doubt about his anger over the sending off. “I prefer not to comment because I don’t want to bring the game into disrepute,” said Mourinho. “I prefer not to speak. If I speak I am in big trouble.”

“I ask, ‘If you can give me just five seconds, Mr Foy?’ [But he said] ‘No.’ So I have to go home and close my mouth.”

The Chelsea manager went on to say, “It’s a big occasion for me to know about the character of Mr Foy, because I want to know what he’s going to write about my sending off. I was two, three metres inside the pitch or four, five metres, but there was like 10 persons there. It was me, my two assistants, Paul Lambert, Paul’s assistants.”

And despite saying he would keep his mouth closed, he didn’t, going on to question the decision: “So if I was sent off because I was on the pitch, I ask why not the others, especially one player that made an aggression on another one, Agbonlahor on Ramires? Agbonlahor came from the dug out, he went to Ramires pulled him from his neck and Agbonlahor was not on pitch he was on the bench.” All in all, it was certainly not a special day for the Special One.

Aston Villa v Chelsea Match Preview (Premier League) – Saturday 15th March 2014

Aston Villa are Chelsea’s next opponents and with Arsenal and Liverpool not in action till the following day – and facing tough trips to Man United and Spurs respectively – the Blues have a chance to extend their lead at the top of the Premier League to an impressive 10 points.

At the start of the season the teams met at Stamford Bridge and the home side narrowly won 2-1. That was a close game and the Villains could easily have nicked a draw but Mourinho’s men have improved since then and, despite this one being away from home, they will fancy they can get the win that would give them that double-digit lead with only eight games (for them) left to play.

On that day back in August it was a Branislav Ivanovic header that won the game after Christian Benteke had made the scores level following an early own goal. It was a controversial game and the visitors left west London feeling aggrieved about a number of refereeing decisions and they are sure to be looking for revenge here.

Benteke was injured shortly after that game and struggled to find form when he returned to first team action but two goals in his last game could prove to be a turning point. On his day the muscular Belgian is unplayable, his combination of pace, power and finishing making him unstoppable, but his days of greatness this season have been far too few. Moreover, Chelsea will feel that their experienced and talented defensive unit can handle him, especially as Villa’s other threats are relatively limited.

Paul Lambert’s men, who are 11th with 31 points, have scored four goals in two of their last three home games but even that still leaves them with just the 14th most potent home attack in the top flight. Allied to the 18th best defence on home soil this has produced an unimpressive set of results at Villa Park and given Chelsea have won the last four league games between the teams by an aggregate of 16-4 they will be confident of taking the three points.

The Pensioners, like their hosts, have no new injury concerns but David Luiz and Fernando Torres remain doubts. Chelsea have an important game at home against Galatasaray just three days after this so The Special One may look to use his squad but overall we feel the Blues will just have too much ability, determination and, after 11 wins and three draws in the last 14 league games, too much confidence for the home team.

Chelsea have the best away defensive record in the top flight and if they can keep Benteke quiet they can keep yet another clean sheet and get the win, with 2-0 our prediction.

LCN Verdict: Chelsea to win 2-0

Chelsea 4-0 Tottenham Hotspur Match Report (Premier League) – 8th March 2014

Chelsea took another significant step towards the Premier League title with an emphatic 4-0 victory over Tottenham at Stamford Bridge on Saturday. The win maintains the Blues’ position at the top of the table and moves them to 66 points from their 29 games, seven points clear of Liverpool and Arsenal (who have each played 28 games), with Manchester City two points further back. But Jose Mourinho is still insisting it is Manuel Pellegrini’s City who are favourites for the title as they have three games in hand on Chelsea and a better goal difference.

Clearly the Special One is trying to relieve any pressure his players might start to feel and there is no doubt he would rather have the points on the board than games in hand (despite him insisting on the contrary view). And the latest victory will give the Pensioners a massive boost as we edge towards the climax of the Premier League season.

It didn’t always look like a match from which Chelsea would get both the three points and a healthy boost to their goal difference as, after a fairly even first half, it was goalless at the break. The deadlock was broken soon after however when Jan Vertonghen slipped and managed only to play the ball into the path of Samuel Eto’o in the 56th minute, who slotted home for the opener. Eto’o was only on the pitch because Fernando Torres sustained an injury in the warm up, and the Cameroonian looked sprightly up top – and he made light of recent jibes about his age from his boss by celebrating his goal like a decrepit old man at the corner flag.

Chelsea found some rhythm after their goal, and when Eto’o was adjudged to have been shoved over in the box by Younes Kaboul, Eden Hazard made no mistake from the spot. Kaboul was also shown a red card for the foul, which was perhaps a little harsh given there were other defenders around who might well have snuffed out the chance.

Demba Ba – who replaced Eto’o in the 76th minute – took just over 10 minutes to make an impact when he pounced on a mistake by Sandro to make it three and Spurs looked spent. There was worse to follow for Tim Sherwood’s men, however, as Kyle Walker tried to head goalkeeper Hugo Lloris’s clearance back to him, only to play it straight to Ba, who gratefully accepted the gift to make it 4-0.

After the match, Spurs’ rookie boss Sherwood all but admitted his side’s hopes of making it into the Champions League spot were blown, and for the first time in his short tenure he looked visibly angry and frustrated with his players.

Mourinho, meanwhile, was clearly happy with the day’s work which – for once – saw goals from not one but two strikers! If Ba and Eto’o can keep knocking them in, Chelsea have to be the big, big favourites for the Premier League crown, however often the Special One pretends otherwise.

Chelsea v Tottenham Hotspur Match Preview (Premier League) – 8th March 2013

The latest massive match for Chelsea comes along on Saturday in the early evening kick off when Tottenham make the short trip across London. Spurs have the best away record in the Premier League, but with the Blues on a 13-game unbeaten run in the top flight and remaining unbeaten at home it is no surprise to see Jose Mourinho’s men as favourites to take the victory.

Last time out Chelsea went round the corner to struggling Fulham and came away 3-1 victors. The scoreline doesn’t tell the whole story though, the Cottagers having battled well in the first half and perhaps having the better of the play. It was goalless at the break but the Blues came out for the second half with a more attacking mindset, Eden Hazard running rings around a tiring Fulham midfield and Andre Schurrle scoring an impressive hat-trick.

Spurs had to dig deep for their victory at White Hart Lane on Sunday against another struggling side, Cardiff City. The match ended 1-0 to the home side thanks to a rare Roberto Soldado goal, but the Bluebirds remained in the match right until the end and had chances to level or even nick the win. But three points is three points and Spurs boss Tim Sherwood will be happy to focus on the Chelsea game and is likely to be optimistic of his side’s chances of getting at least a point.

When the sides met at the Lane in September the match ended 1-1, Gylfi Sigurdsson scoring for the home side in the first half but John Terry levelling for the visitors in the second. Five of the last seven league matches between them have ended all-square and we wouldn’t be surprised to see another draw on Saturday as the Blues take few risks due to Tottenham’s ability to hit teams on the break.

Much will depend on the two sides’ ability to convert any chances they are able to create. Chelsea’s strikers continue to misfire but in Emmanuel Adebayor Spurs have a prolific goalscorer who is high on confidence and playing very well. But Chelsea’s midfield goal threat is potent enough for them to get on the scoresheet and we think overall the home side will edge this one.

Mourinho’s men are currently on 63 points from their 28 games, four points clear of second place Liverpool and third place Arsenal (both of whom have played the same number of games) and six ahead of Manchester City, though the League Cup winners have two games in hand.

With just 10 league matches remaining for both Chelsea and Spurs, we are certainly getting towards the business end of the season, and though Sherwood’s team might have to go for broke a little if they are to close the gap on the sides above them, ultimately we think the Blues will have the tactical nous and experience to get another win under their belts as they get ever-closer to another Premier League crown.

LCN Verdict: Chelsea to win 2-1