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

Chelsea posted a massive victory on Sunday as they beat Liverpool 2-1 at Stamford Bridge with goals from Eden Hazard and Samuel Eto’o. The victory moved Chelsea up to third in the table, a point behind second place Man City and two behind leader Arsenal.

Jose Mourinho’s men played as well as they have for some weeks as they went toe-to-toe with the Merseyside team, but it was the visitors who struck first blood, Martin Skrtel tapping in a Luis Suarez knockdown with just three minutes on the clock. But the goal seemed only to awaken the Blues who fought well and created plenty of chances. It was no surprise, then, when the home side equalised through a fine strike from Hazard, the Belgian’s eighth league goal of the season. Eto’o then struck after being played in by Oscar and while Liverpool keeper Simon Mignolet could have done better, the lead was deserved.

Chelsea will need to put in a similarly fine performance when they travel to Southampton on New Year’s Day. Despite the Saints having lost five of their last eight in the league – winning only once in that time – they are a dangerous side, as they showed when they gave Chelsea a run for their money at the Bridge despite the home side eventually running out 3-1 victors.

Mauricio Pochettino’s men were narrowly beaten by Everton on Sunday, the 2-1 defeat meaning they drop down to ninth position in the table. But they gave as good as they got for much of the game and they could certainly have enough to trouble the Blues if they are not on top form. It was Chelsea’s on-loan striker Romelu Lukaku who scored the winner for Everton and Pochettino will be disappointed given his side created more chances and had 55% of the possession. But the only stat that counts is the number of goals and Everton did enough on that front to earn the win.

Last season the Saints took four points off Chelsea, winning at St Mary’s and earning a 2-2 draw at Stamford Bridge, so Mourinho would be right to be wary of the threat the south coast club pose. If he’s not and the Portuguese boss decides to rotate his squad, the Blues could be in for a tough game.

There will be the temptation to keep the core of the side who played so well against Liverpool, but then who are we to second guess the Special One? On balance though we think the Blues will have enough to get the three points, though we can’t see it being a walk in the park. We think both sides will get on the score sheet but that Mourinho’s men will just edge it, with 2-1 our prediction here in what could be hard-fought but highly entertaining match – the perfect remedy to a New Year’s Day hangover.

LCN Verdict: Chelsea to win 2-1

Chelsea v Liverpool Match Preview (Premier League) – 29th December 2013

Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho seemed relatively satisfied with his side’s dour 0-0 draw against Arsenal at the Emirates on Monday night and it is clear he set his side up to defend with the hope of nicking a goal on the break. In a match that saw few chances for either side it was Chelsea’s all-time top scorer Frank Lampard who was the closest to breaking the deadlock. His canny run was spotted by the ever-aware Eden Hazard who floated the perfect ball for Lampard to crack on the volley, the ball smashing the underside of the bar before bouncing out to safety.

The point keeps the Blues well and truly in the mix at the top of the table and – prior to the Boxing Day fixtures – they are just two points adrift of leaders Liverpool. But with Brendan Rodgers’ men facing a very tough trip to the Etihad to play Man City (who have a 100% home league record this season) before they head down to Stamford Bridge, victory for Chelsea here could see them claim top spot for themselves or, more likely, second place behind City.

There really is little separating the top sides at the moment with just eight points between the league leaders and eighth-placed Man United. Let’s just repeat that: eighth-place Man United! It’s not often the Red Devils are so low down the division at Christmas, but they – along with the other seven teams at the top – shouldn’t be written off just yet, such has been the topsy-turvy nature of this top flight season.

So can Chelsea get the three points from this one? Yes, of course. But they are also in danger of defeat if Uruguayan hotshot Luis Suarez maintains his outstanding form (19 league goals in just 12 matches so far this term!). If the Blues can (somehow) keep him quiet though, they should have enough firepower of their own (probably from midfield in the form of Hazard and Oscar) to nick the win. Daniel Sturridge and Steven Gerrard will both miss this one with respective ankle and hamstring injuries, and though the likes of Jordan Henderson and Raheem Sterling have stepped up to the mark in their absence, the Chelsea midfield will be able to handle them with relative ease.

In his interviews after the draw at Arsenal, Mourinho suggested he is happy with the possession and passing side of his team’s performances but that he wants to see more chances (and half chances) being converted into goals. With Swansea the visitors to the Bridge before Liverpool, the home side might well get the chance to find their scoring boots, but against Liverpool we predict a low-scoring affair in which a single goal might well decide the result. Whether that goal goes to Chelsea or Liverpool will depend on whether Suarez can be kept quiet. And we think he can… let’s face it, he’s due an off day!

LCN Verdict: Chelsea to win 1-0

Chelsea v Swansea Match Preview (Premier League) – Thursday 26th December 2013

Chelsea and Swansea do battle on Boxing Day and whilst most of the nation will be recovering from a serious food and drink hangover, the players of these sides will be focused on this crucial game.

Christmas is no time to be a football player, least of all in England where the games come thick and fast, often in freezing weather conditions. A good rest, let alone endless days of feasting and stuffing oneself beyond the point of nausea, would be a welcome Christmas present for most Premier League stars but try not to feel too sorry for them of course, they do have the other 360 days of the year to spend their millions on Champagne, fast cars and faster women, and can buy themselves the sort of presents us mere mortals can only dream of dreaming about!

Anyway, to the game at hand. Chelsea are due to play away at Arsenal just three days prior to this one whilst the Swans will host Everton a day earlier, giving them a whole four day rest ahead of this one! The results of those games will have an impact on the outcome here and in fact the mere physical exertion of the preceding clashes is sure to be telling here.

Chelsea’s squad is clearly better equipped to deal with these tests than that of Swansea, and as hard as the Blues’ trip to the Emirates is, the Welsh side are sure to be tested as much, if not more, by Everton with the pressing, harrying style that has helped them prosper under Roberto Martinez. With both teams playing yet again just a few days after this, conserving energy could be crucial and rotation will be essential and so all in all we have to be confident the Blues will get the job done here.

Their form at the moment is far from convincing and their strikers just aren’t finishing the chances that are coming their way. That said, their form at home in the league remains superb, their only dropped points thus far being the 2-2 draw with West Brom. They were knocked out of the League Cup last week at Sunderland and went down 3-2 at Stoke in the away game prior to that but they have won their last three at home and with 22 points from 24 at Stamford Bridge they will be confident of getting a result.

Swansea have enjoyed a stuttering campaign as they have struggled to adapt to the requirements of playing Europa League football and their already weary squad may find the festive fixture overload a step too far. Michael Laudrup’s men have lost away at all three top 10 sides they have faced without scoring a goal and with just one win in six (prior to the Everton game) we think they could get overpowered here.

A relatively comfortable home win looks the order of the day and if the home strikers can find their shooting boots it could even be three or four.

LCN Verdict: Chelsea to win 3-0

Arsenal v Chelsea Match Preview (Premier League) – 23rd December 2013

Either of these sides could be top at Christmas (depending on whether Liverpool get a result against Cardiff on Saturday) and it will also go some way to influencing whether either of these sides will be there in May. In what promises to be a hard-fought encounter in which festive cheer is far from the players’ minds, there’s all to play for as both Arsenal and Chelsea seek to strike a significant blow in the race for the Premier League crown.

Chelsea’s last visit to the Emirates was a successful one: their 2-0 victory in the League Cup. It’s hard to read too much into that though as neither side was at full strength (by design rather than necessity). The downside of that victory for the Blues, however, was that they have had less time to prepare for this league clash as their “reward” was a trip up to Sunderland in the next round, a match they lost 2-1 after extra-time.

Jose Mourinho was again left bemoaning his side’s wastefulness in front of goal in a match they controlled in the large part. Although he rested a couple of first-teamers, the fact the match wasn’t decided one way or the other within 90 minutes will no doubt add a level of irritation as his players will need to be in tip-top condition when they face an Arsenal side who have had since last Saturday to prepare physically, tactically and mentally.

Chelsea have enjoyed a decent run of league results at the Emirates in recent seasons, winning three and drawing one of their last five there, and they did the league double over the Gunners last term. But this season’s Arsenal side are a cut above those of the previous few years, with Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud showing a marked improvement in form and the likes of Mesut Ozil, Theo Walcott and Santi Cazorla all capable of both creating and taking chances, even against the tightest of defences, of which – let’s face facts – Chelsea’s is not.

Away form has been a struggle this season for Mourinho’s men with defeats at Everton, Stoke and Newcastle and draws at Spurs and Man United, the last of which seemed a reasonable result at the time but – with the benefit of hindsight – appears more like a missed opportunity. But Arsenal have had their fair share of disappointments too. Aside from their anomalous opening day home defeat to Aston Villa, losses at both Manchester clubs (and especially last week’s 6-3 hammering at City) will have rocked their belief, and this is something Chelsea must take advantage of if they are to get a result.

An early goal for the visitors and we could see the home side crumble under the pressure. But given the Blues’ lack of form in front of goal of late we think the more likely result is the draw, with Liverpool likely to nick top spot in time for Christmas.

LCN Verdict: Draw 1-1

Sunderland 2-1 Chelsea Match Report (League Cup) – 17th December 2013

Chelsea were knocked out of the League Cup on Tuesday night by a battling Sunderland side who clinched victory in extra-time. Gus Poyet’s side weathered the storm against a generally dominant Chelsea and now progress to the semi-final of the competition despite being rock bottom of the Premier League.

Jose Mourinho’s men were once again victims of their own profligacy in front of goal, a recurring problem that has begun to concern the Portuguese boss. “The quality of football we produced is amazing,” Mourinho said after the match. “We never lost a match because we didn’t play or that the opponent was stronger, it’s just we don’t kill opponents and we give them life.”

In fact the Blues were unable to score a goal of their own after Lee Cattermole’s own goal gave them the lead in the 46th minute. After a late strike from Fabio Borini took the match to extra-time it was the Black Cats who appeared in the ascendancy and it was no great shock when Ki Sung-Yueng hammered in the winner sending the Stadium of Light into raptures and Chelsea out of the League Cup.

No doubt with Monday’s trip to Arsenal in mind, Mourinho opted to rest Fernando Torres (who has at least been showing vague signs of form recently) and start with Samuel Eto’o up front. The Cameroonian was generally ineffectual, however, and though Willian and Andre Schurrle had their moments in attack, none of the three could muster a goal. Eden Hazard and Demba Ba were introduced in the second half but they too struggled to make an impact against a determined and robust Sunderland side.

We have long been suggesting Mourinho may have to dip into the transfer market to buy a little more potency in the striking department, but he has denied he will be going down that road, in January at least. But with Torres having scored six goals from 17 appearances, Ba hitting three from 13 and Eto’o just four from 15, the Special One will be well aware his strikers will need to improve their goals to games ratio if the Blues are to have a realistic chance of challenging for the title.

While the side have been able to paper over the cracks in many of their matches so far this season thanks to goals from midfield (Hazard has notched eight thus far, Shurrle three and Oscar six), they could find themselves exposed at the Emirates on Monday. And with Liverpool and Southampton coming up on the 29th December and 1st January respectively, if things don’t go well over the festive period we could yet see Roman Abramovich dipping into his pockets in the New Year.

While being knocked out of the League Cup might actually be a blessing in disguise when it comes to the Premier League and Champions League later on, the fact that Chelsea failed to win the match from a position of apparent dominance is an issue that simply must be addressed if Chelsea are to enjoy success this term, and Mourinho will put all his efforts into doing just that, ideally before the Arsenal game.

Champions League Draw Gives Chelsea Great Chance of Making the Quarters

The draw for the last 16 (I won’t call it the Round of 16 for love, money or even a promise that the Blues will win the Champions League!) has been made and Chelsea have been rewarded for topping their group with a relatively easy tie against Galatasaray.

It’s hard to say what exactly is and isn’t a good tie but Jose Mourinho will probably be glad to have avoided both Bayer Leverkusen and AC Milan and, with the advantage of playing the home leg second, the Pensioners have a great chance to progress.

Gala are no mugs and have some top players, not least of course a certain Didier Drogba, with whom Mourinho got his wish to be reunited here. It will be no easy task to win through to the quarter finals but on balance the extra experience and class of the Pensioners should be enough to see them ease past a side that somehow finished ahead of Juventus in Group B.

The bookmakers make Chelsea firm favourites to see off the Turks, with Mourinho and co priced at 2/7 to advance, compared to 7/2 for Drogba and his colleagues. That looks about right and given Real Madrid beat Galatasaray 6-1 in Istanbul and 4-1 in Spain it should be relatively comfortable for the Blues.

Mourinho will be sure to guard against complacency but all Chelsea fans will fully expect their side to get the job done, despite the stuttering nature of the campaign thus far. The sides met in this competition in 1999 at the group stage, Chelsea winning 1-0 at the Bridge and a highly impressive 5-0 in Istanbul and whilst such a comprehensive victory seems unlikely here it would be a major surprise if the Blues were eliminated.

Elsewhere, Man United got the best draw of the lot, David Moyes’ side set up to play Olympiakos, whilst Arsenal and Man City were duly punished for failing to top their respective groups, earning daunting ties against Bayern Munich and Barcelona respectively. The draw is completed by AC Milan v Atletico Madrid, Bayer Leverkusen v Paris St-Germain, Schalke v Real Madrid and Zenit St Petersburg v Dortmund.

The draw has had relatively little impact on any side’s overall prospects of winning the Champions League and whilst the Blues have a great chance of making the next round, to win the tournament they are still going to have to beat at least two and possibly three of the top, top sides in Europe.

Bayern Munich are probably a step ahead of the rest, with the Spanish giants Real and Barca behind them and then a group of around six teams who will all need to improve and probably have a good slice of luck too if they are to deliver. Of course, any team in the competition has a chance to win it but by the quarter finals we are likely to have seven great teams (and Man United!) left and making the semis is going to be tough, even for a side that can boast Mourinho’s great record in Europe’s premier competition.

Sunderland v Chelsea Match Preview (League Cup) – 17th December 2013

Chelsea visit Sunderland for the second time this month as the sides battle it out for a place in the League Cup semi-final. In the last encounter (on 4th December) the sides played out a thrilling match which the Blues edged 4-3, but Jose Mourinho will be hoping for a much more controlled display from his side at the Stadium of Light this time around.

Two goals from Eden Hazard, one from Frank Lampard and an own goal from Phil Bardsley were enough to get the three points for the Pensioners against Gus Poyet’s men, despite the home side grabbing goals through Jozy Altidore, John O’Shea and Bardsley, who was swift to make amends for putting it in his own net.

Sunderland have enjoyed home draws in the three previous rounds of the League Cup, beating Milton Keynes Dons 4-2, Peterborough United 2-0 and Southampton 2-1. Chelsea, meanwhile, have been drawn away in the two previous rounds, winning both 2-0 at Swindon and – more impressively – Arsenal.

Chelsea moved to within two points of table toppers Arsenal (whom they visit in their next league match on Monday 23rd December) as they narrowly beat a plucky Crystal Palace side at Stamford Bridge on Saturday. The Gunners, meanwhile, lost 6-3 in an amazing match at the Eithad, a result which blasts the title race wide open.

The Blues had the lion’s share of possession against Palace, but Tony Pulis has got the Eagles playing well and the visitors showed courage and determination as they kept attacking Chelsea. Had the home side taken all the chances they created in the first half, they would have had the match won by the break, as has been a recurrent scenario of late. But goals from Fernando Torres and Ramires were enough to get the three points despite Marouane Chamakh volleying a decent goal for Palace.

While Mourinho would clearly prefer to win the Premier League or Champions League, he wouldn’t be averse to picking up the League Cup again (after winning it with Chelsea in the 2004-05 and 2006-07 seasons). And though his side were run close on their last visit, we think they will do a lot better this time around.

Mourinho is sure to rest some of his first team players as he seeks to avoid injuries with a trip to Arsenal looming, but his squad is deep enough to be able to do that and still get the result. Especially as Sunderland have a massive relegation six-pointer against Norwich on Saturday, which could encourage Poyet to rest some of his key players – and they certainly don’t have the depth in their squad for their second string to cope with Chelsea.

Chelsea have beaten Sunderland in each of the last six league meetings between them and we think they will do so again here in the cup. As the Black Cats will certainly give this one a good go we think another goalfest is on the cards, but with slightly more breathing room for the Blues.

LCN Verdict: Chelsea to win 4-2

Chelsea 2-1 Crystal Palace Match Report – 14th December 2013

Chelsea moved second in the Premier League and to within two points of leaders Arsenal but their 2-1 win over Crystal Palace will have done little to appease fans concerned about the performances of their club.

The Blues won thanks to goals from Fernando Torres and Ramires, the pair scoring either side of Marouane Chamakh’s equaliser, with all three goals coming in the first 35 minutes of an exciting game.

Whilst the home side dominated possession (Jose Mourinnho’s men enjoyed 70% of the ball) and 16 shots to Palace’s 10, they were thankful to goalkeeper Petr Cech who made a number of fine stops in the second half to preserve his side’s slender advantage.

Things had looked good for the Blues when they took the lead after just 16 minutes, Torres being left with a simple finish after Julian Speroni could only push Willian’s shot against the post, the £50m striker reacting quickly to tap in.

Branislav Ivanovic had a half chance soon after but shot wide and the Pensioners couldn’t build on this as Palace put up stubborn and well organised resistance. On 29 minutes the visitors were rewarded with an equaliser, a revitalised Chamakh guiding a volley into the corner from Joel Ward’s cross.

The goal stirred Chelsea and Juan Mata, Eden Hazard and Ramires began to exert more control in midfield. Willian and Hazard combined to give Ramires a shooting opportunity and the Brazilian curled a fine effort past the unsighted Speroni.

Willian might have made it three before the break and whilst the home side remained on top they created few real chances. After the interval it was Tony Pulis’s rejuvenated side that started strongly, Cech denying both Jason Puncheon and Damien Delaney.

Sub Yannick Bolasie missed with a header and Delaney the same when both could have done better whilst Cech pulled off a superb save from Stuart O’Keefe’s effort. The home side had swapped Mata for Oscar to try and gain more control but it was the visitors that continued to look the better side and were unfortunate not to score after a scramble in the Chelsea box.

Mourinho’s men did, finally, stir and subs Andre Schurrle and Demba Ba were denied by a fine double save from Speroni after Ramires fluffed a simple chance when through on goal. When the final whistle came the relief amongst the fans and Chelsea staff was evident and whilst another league win keeps the points total growing, yet again the Blues were unconvincing.

There seems to be a lack of cohesion about Chelsea and they appear to possess an inability to produce for the full 90 minutes. The Portuguese boss claims his transition is ongoing but after 16 games many would have expected it to be further on.

Next up is Sunderland on Tuesday in the quarter final of the League Cup, before a huge game at Arsenal where a performance like this is unlikely to go unpunished.

Chelsea v Crystal Palace Match Preview (Premier League) – Saturday 14th December 2013

Chelsea host Crystal Palace in this 3pm kick off and nothing but three points will do against their south London opponents. With Liverpool in action on Sunday at Spurs and Man City hosting Arsenal earlier on Saturday the top of the table could have a different complexion after this weekend and the Blues need the win to make sure they are sitting pretty.

Ordinarily a home game against a side down in 19th place would be about as easy a game as anyone could wish for. However, it may not be the case here and whilst the bookmakers naturally think this one is a foregone conclusion it might not be as easy as they think.

The potential for Chelsea to slip up exists because the Eagles come into this one riding the crest of a wave. The “new manager effect” is still going strong at Palace and after consecutive wins their players and fans may just be starting to believe relegation isn’t the certainty it seemed a few weeks ago.

Whilst those back to back wins were both at home and came against fellow relegation candidates West Ham (1-0) and Cardiff (2-0) there is no doubt morale in the Eagles’ camp will be soaring. Moreover, with four clean sheets in their last five they could prove a tough nut to crack, not least for a team lacking a clinical nut-cracker up front!

The Pensioners have not scored as many goals as their creative midfield warrants and it must hurt Chelsea fans to see Daniel Sturridge banging them in at Liverpool and Romelu Lukaku doing likewise at Everton. Meanwhile back at the Bridge Demba Ba, Samuel Eto’o and Fernando Torres continue to look poor.

Tony Pulis will no doubt come to west London with a point in mind and as such is certain to set his team out very defensively and given Palace’s playing resources who can blame him? Organisation, commitment and discipline will be the watchwords for the visitors whilst the home side will hope their array of creative midfielders-cum-attackers can unlock the safe.

The teams have played each other on surprisingly few occasions with the last meeting being in the top flight in 2004, Chelsea recording a 4-1 home win that day. At Stamford Bridge the clubs have played each other 16 times in the league and eight of those have ended in draws, with just one Palace win. Whilst most of those meetings are too long ago to really influence this one, the away fans and players could draw further confidence if they are aware of those stats and Chelsea will have to avoid complacency if they are to get the win.

However, Chelsea have won six of seven at home this term, never scoring fewer than two goals and as such we expect them to do more than enough to get the win here. It won’t be as easy as some home fans would want but the three points are all that matters.

LCN Verdict: Chelsea to win 2-0

Chelsea v Steaua Bucharest Match Report (Champions League) – Wednesday 11th December 2013

Chelsea made sure of topping Group E by beating Steaua 1-0 at Stamford Bridge. That result left them with 12 points, two clear of Germans Schalke who beat Basle 2-0 at home to secure their own passage to the next round.

The win was vital to the Blues’ hopes of progression to the final eight as it now means they will avoid Real Madrid, PSG, Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Athletico Madrid in the next round. Those big guns all topped their groups, as did Man United and Borussia Dortmund, the latter pipping Arsenal to top spot in Group F after last night’s games.

Jose Mourinho will be delighted his side have got the job done and also that they kept a clean sheet but after dominating possession so heavily he would have hoped for a more convincing scoreline.

The home side took the lead after just 10 minutes when Demba Ba scored from Oscar’s flick-on. The Blues had started fast and were good value for their goal but it wasn’t too long before the away side created a good chance of their own, Gabriel Iancu wasting Bucharest’s best chance when one on one with Mark Schwarzer, the youngster pulling a tame effort wide of goal.

Overall Chelsea had almost 70% of the ball and with twice as many shots as the Romanians they should certainly have scored more. Both Ba and Eden Hazard missed excellent opportunities to extend the Blues’ lead and their inability to do so will have frustrated The Special One who had called for his side to be more clinical in front of goal. There were further chances for Ba and Hazard, whilst even before the early opener David Luiz or Oscar could have opened the scoring.

However, there were certainly positives for the Pensioners, with a very good performance from much maligned Brazilian, Willian, who controlled the midfield and showed excellent passing range. Equally, the clean sheet will have satisfied the boss after conceding seven in their last three, including three at Stoke last time out and another three at Sunderland prior to that.

Much as Mourinho claimed those goals were down to bad luck rather than poor defending, this clean sheet will give the Pensioners confidence and with a trip to Arsenal looming just before Christmas and a League Cup quarter before that, this result stands them in good stead.

More importantly though, as said, it means they avoid the big boys – as well as Arsenal and Man City – in the next round. Chelsea will face either Bayer Leverkusen, Galatasaray, Olympiakos, Zenit St Petersburg or AC Milan and would feel confident against any of those, especially with Milan down in ninth in Serie A.

Leverkusen, second in the Bundesliga, would be the toughest draw but given Man United beat them home and away in Group A, John Terry and co would still fancy their chances.

The draw for the next round will be made in Nyon, Switzerland, on the 16th December.