Liverpool 0-2 Chelsea (Premier League) – 27th April 2014

Chelsea put a huge dent in Liverpool’s title hopes with a 2-0 win at Anfield on Sunday afternoon and might just have got themselves back into contention for the Premier League crown.

Goals from Demba Ba and Willian helped the heavily rotated Blues to move within two points of the league leaders, and to take control of the title out of the hands of Brendan Rodgers’ side.

Despite dominating the possession and chances, Liverpool couldn’t get the better of the Blues, who scored both their goals from quick counter attacks. The away side soaked up pressure with ease, showing the defensive improvements that Jose Mourinho has implemented.

Chelsea started the game heavily changed from their Champions League game on Tuesday, with seven changes in total. Mourinho had one eye on this Wednesday’s Champions League second leg with Atletico Madrid, but he still wasn’t taking this game lightly. The Blues were set up to defend and frustrate from the start, setting this game up to be on par with Mourinho’s master class at the Etihad earlier in the season.

Liverpool pushed forward early on, but it was Chelsea who opened the scoring on the stroke of half time. Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard slipped while in possession, and Demba Ba latched on the ball, ran through on goal and finished confidently.

Liverpool came flying out of the blocks in the second half but they couldn’t find a way through the resolute Chelsea defence. The side had practice defending deep, having frustrated Ateltico Madrid last Tuesday night, and they showed that by keeping Liverpool out.

The home side pushed hard for an equaliser, but their efforts found no reward as Mark Schwarzer performed well in the Chelsea goal. Gary Cahill was sent on to join the defence after Willian came on for Salah, the former helping keep the home side at bay, while it was Willian who put the game out of sight for Chelsea.

Fernando Torres picked up the ball and took it in to the Liverpool half and – with no defenders there to close him down – the former Liverpool striker charged at Simon Mignolet’s goal, before laying it off to Willian who tapped it into an empty net.

After the game Jose Mourinho refused to say they were back in the title race, but was still proud of the win. “We’re back in nothing. At this moment we are almost third,” Mourinho said. “Now with these three points we need one point to finish third. Champions are only one and the champions will be City or Liverpool.

“It was about winning. We deserved to win, no doubt about it. It’s as simple as this. With the result at 1-0 for 45 minutes, we were always comfortable. We were never in trouble against a team that is a fantastic team, a team that has beautiful players and scores a lot of goals and smashes every team that comes here.”

“Now we have to think about Wednesday, and I would say the game of our lives. To play a Champions League semi-final at Stamford Bridge is something big.”

LCN Man of the Match: Nemanja Matic

Chelsea v Atletico Madrid Preview (Champions League) – 30th April 2014

Chelsea take on Atletico Madrid on Wednesday evening knowing that a win will see them through to the Champions League final. The Blues drew the first leg 0-0 in Spain, so a win on the night sends them to the showpiece in Portugal on 24th May.

That task is easier said than done, with Atletico leading La Liga, and Chelsea could be without a number of key stars. Goalkeeper Petr Cech is out with injury, captain John Terry will likely miss out as well while Eden Hazard is still a doubt. Frank Lampard and John Obi Mikel are suspended, so the back five and midfield almost picks itself.

Mark Schwarzer will replace Cech in goal, just as he did after 18 minutes in the first leg. Cesar Azpilicueta and Ashley Cole will keep their spots at right and left back respectively, while Gary Cahill will be joined at centre half by the returning Branislav Ivanovic.

John Terry has been rumoured to be in line for a surprise return from injury quicker than expected, but since Mourinho ruled him out for the season just last week it is unlikely he’ll be back in time.

David Luiz could come in handy at the back for this one, but there are more pressing concerns in midfield that mean he’ll be needed there. Lampard and Mikel are out through suspension, while Nemanja Matic is ineligible. With Marco Van Ginkel and Ramires the only natural midfielders available, Luiz and his fellow Brazilian are likely to start on Wednesday.

Further up in midfield, Eden Hazard is still a worry. A calf muscle strain has sidelined him since the quarter final win over PSG, and it’s unknown if he’ll be fit for the second leg of this tie. Mohammed Salah is out, he’s cup tied in the Champions League, so if Hazard doesn’t make it, Andre Schurrle, Oscar and Willian will start, with the latter a yellow card away from missing the final, should Chelsea make it.

David Luiz is also in that boat, and with his habit of over enthusiastic tackling, and in a defensive midfield position, he’s at massive risk of ruling himself out of a potential final.

Up front, Samuel Eto’o is out with a knee injury, meaning former Atletico striker Fernando Torres is set to start against his boyhood club once again. Demba Ba looks to be back on the subs bench, despite his good showings against PSG and Swansea earlier this month.

Chelsea are heavy depleted, especially at the back, which makes things harder to ensure Atletico don’t find that elusive away goal. Chelsea’s blank in the 1st leg means they will have a mountain to climb if they concede at Stamford Bridge. Hopefully the makeshift back four can repeat the heroics of the ones that finished the 2-2 draw with Barcelona two years ago, and who then went on to win the final.

LCN Verdict: Chelsea to win 2-1

Liverpool v Chelsea preview (Premier League) – 27th April 2014

Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho has threatened to field a heavily rotated side for their trip to Liverpool ahead of their Champions League semi final second leg three days later.

The Blues travel to the league leaders on Sunday, with their return game with Atletico on Wednesday night. With Petr Cech and John Terry out through injury, and John Obi Mikel and Frank Lampard out of the Atletico game through suspension, Mourinho is restricted in terms of selection in both games.

Mourinho had wanted the game moved to Saturday to give his side a longer breather between the two games, but that was rejected by Liverpool. Mourinho can’t afford to lose another player, especially in defence, so it’s likely that big changes will be made for Sunday’s game.

Of course, the side that Mourinho picks will still be strong, due to the depth of Chelsea’s squad, but there may be problems in defence. Hilario will likely start in goal as they can’t afford an injury to Mark Schwarzer given Cech is out injured. Daivd Luiz will be needed in midfield on Wednesday, so Azpilicueta, Cahill, Ivanovic and Cole are the only available, experienced defenders.

That could see the likes of Christensen and Kalas feature on Sunday. Of course, the situation is close to the one that occurred during Chelsea’s Champions League run in 2012. In between the two legs of the semi-final Roberto Di Matteo made eight changes to the side that went to Arsenal, with that team securing a 0-0 draw.

They also fielded a weakened side at Anfield later in the season, which they went on to lose 4-1. This team should have enough experience in it to keep things tight, with the midfield of Matic, Lampard and Mikel costing the club close to £60million in transfer fees.

While the league is no longer a priority for Mourinho and Chelsea, they’ll still be hopeful of a result at Anfield, as a win would close the gap between the teams to just two points. The team selection would likely have been a lot closer to the first 11 if they hadn’t thrown away their title hopes with a 2-1 loss against Sunderland last weekend.

With all eyes now focused on beating Atletico on Wednesday, this game seems little more than a distraction to many. But, it is worth noting that Mourinho made similar threats earlier in the season, when they were forced to play Manchester City at home, before travelling to Arsenal in the Capital One Cup two days later.

The Chelsea manager said he’d be playing the club’s youth players, but ultimately decided to play a strong side and won the game 2-0. While Liverpool are a tougher opponent and Wednesday’s game is massive, don’t rule out seeing a few senior players on the pitch on Sunday.

Likely 11: Hilario; Ivanovic, Kalas, Christensen, Cole; Lampard, Mikel, Matic, Schurrle, Salah; Ba

LCN Verdict: Chelsea to grind out a 0-0 draw

Atletico 0-0 Chelsea (Champions League) – 22nd April 2014

Chelsea ground out a 0-0 draw with Atletico to put themselves in charge of their Champions League semi-final with the La Liga leaders. That result did come at a cost, with four players now ruled out of the return game through suspension or injury.

John Terry and Petr Cech picked up injuries that will rule them out of the rest of the Premier League season at least, while Frank Lampard and John Obi Mikel both picked up bookings that put them out of the second leg.

Despite conceding much of the possession to Atletico and losing Cech with just 15 minutes gone, Chelsea kept an important clean sheet. That puts them in control ahead of the return leg at Stamford Bridge, but they’ll need to be just as resolute in defence with an away goal for Atletico liable to change things completely.

That task will be even harder without Cech and Terry, who will only feature again this season if Chelsea reach the Champions League final on 24th May in Lisbon. That is a possibility, given their great performance in Madrid.

The Blues made it clear from the start that they were going to keep things tight. Lampard, Mikel and David Luiz lined up in midfield, while Willian and Ramires played out wide. That five played very deep, blocking Atletico at every opportunity and taking few risks going forward.

Chelsea suffered a blow early on, when David Luiz shoved Raul Garcia while defending a corner, and the forward clattered in to Cech. The goalkeeper landed awkwardly, and suffered a dislocated shoulder. Mark Schwarzer, who was at fault for one of the goals in the weekend defeat to Sunderland, came on to play the remaining 70 minutes.

Despite giving Atletico almost 70% of the possession, the Spaniards didn’t really produce any opportunities of note. Chelsea had very few chances, with Fernando Torres left isolated up front on his return to his hometown club.

John Terry went off after 73 minutes after a collision with Luiz, but up until then the captain had a very good game. He, along with Gary Cahill, kept Chelsea target Diego Costa quiet. The hosts rallied when Terry went off, Arda Turan missed a good chance and Gabi sent a free kick into the arms of Schwarzer. Chelsea held out, and they know they’re a home win away from a Champions League final.

After the game Mourinho confirmed their injury problems, and said that he may play a weakened team in this weekend’s clash with Liverpool. “When the Premier League decide to put that Liverpool game on Sunday, when Liverpool refuse to play on a Saturday, it is a decision I have to make with the club, if the club wants to go with everything in direction of the Champions League I am ready for that.”

“The Premier League should [fight for our match to be played on Saturday]. We have a big match on Wednesday that can give Chelsea another Champions League final, we ask, ask and asked again to play on the Saturday. I know what I would do, but I’m not the club. I have to speak with the club.”

LCN Man of the match: Gary Cahill

Chelsea 1-2 Sunderland (Premier League) – 19th April 2014

Chelsea’s chances of winning the Premier League this year are all but over after they suffered a shock home defeat to bottom of the table Sunderland.

Despite taking the lead through Samuel Eto’o, Chelsea conceded a soft goal from Connor Wickham to level the scores. Referee Mike Dean didn’t make things any easier for the Blues when he gave a very dubious penalty, which was dispatched by Fabio Borini to score the winning goal.

Chelsea started the game without their first choice goalkeeper Petr Cech, who was ill. In stepped Australian veteran Mark Schwarzer, making his league debut for the club. Eden Hazard was still missing through injury, while Samuel Eto’o replaced in-form Demba Ba in the starting line up.

And it was Eto’o who struck first in the game, volleying in from a corner. After taking that lead Chelsea looked in control of the game. The three points that would put them top of the league seemed within their grasp.

But, with some lax defending from the home side, Sunderland got themselves back in the game. The ball came out to Sunderland left back Marcus Alonso from a corner, whose long range shot was spilled by Schwarzer, with Wickham on hand to tap the ball home.

Chelsea looked to have given themsevles the lead again, when John Terry volleyed home from Nemanja Matic’s knock down. The goal was disallowed for a foul by the Serbian, but it looked like Jack Colback went down very easily. Despite piling on the pressure late in the first half, Chelsea went in at the break on level terms.

In the second half Mourinho made several changes to spark a response from his side. He brought on Demab Ba, Fernando Torres and Andre Schurrle in an attempt to find a winner, but none was forthcoming. As Chelsea looked forward, they became open at the back. Cesar Azpilicueta stuttered on the ball, lost it to Jozy Altidore and then chased the American in to the box. He went down easily again, and Dean pointed to the spot.

Ex Chelsea man Fabio Borini fired home to put the away side ahead. Chelsea then had two penalty shouts turned down by Dean, with the man from the Wirral strengthening Liverpool’s hold at the top of the table.

Chelsea continued to press forward, but they couldn’t find a goal. After the game Mourinho, who had just suffered his first home league defeat in charge of Chelsea, refused to answer any questions from the press. Instead, he “congratulated” Dean and the referee’s union for their part in the title race.

“I will not wait for your questions. I can say everything I want to say,” Mourinho said. “First I congratulate my players. Secondly congratulations to Sunderland – it doesn’t matter how or why they won, but they won. Thirdly I want to congratulate Mike Dean. Fantastic performance. And finally congratulations to Mike Riley, the referees boss.”

LCN Man of the match: Mike Dean (according to Jose!)

Chelsea v Atletico Madrid: The Last Three Meetings

Chelsea are just 180 minutes away from their 3rd Champions League final, as is manager Jose Mourinho. Standing between the 2012 winners and a trip to Lisbon are La Liga leaders Atletico Madrid.

The Spaniards knocked Barcelona out in the last round, a result which has been called an upset but really isn’t. Atletico are a very good side, who will pose Chelsea a major threat over the two legs. Many pundits have put Chelsea as comfortable favourites, but the Blues have got a massive job to do at the Vincente Calderon on Tuesday night. So, ahead of this crucial game, here is a look back at the three previous meeting between these two sides.

Chelsea 4-0 Atletico – Wednesday, October 21, 2009.

The first ever competitive meeting between these two went rather well for Chelsea, who ran out 4-0 winners and topped their Champions League group, finishing 11 points ahead of third placed Atletico.

Soloman Kalou opened the scoring late in the first half here, and then he doubled the lead seven minutes in to the second half. Frank Lampard put Carlo Ancelotti’s side 3-0 up before a Luis Perea own goal completed the rout. A repeat of this in the next meeting at Stamford Bridge is very unlikely.

Atletico 2-2 Chelsea – Tuesday, November 3, 2009.

The return fixture also had four goals, but they were shared as Atletico picked up one of the three points they managed in that season’s competition. The game was deadlocked after an hour, until a certain Sergio Aguero gave the hosts the lead.

This was back in the days when Chelsea had a world class striker, and it was Didier Drogba who got them back in the game. He equalised with eight minutes left, before putting Chelsea ahead on 88 minutes. Aguero scored a late equaliser for the hosts, and the points were shared.

This was the last time these two sides met in the Champions League, and fans of omens will enjoy what happened later that season. Chelsea won the Premier League on the final day of the season, while Jose Mourinho won the Champions League, beating Bayern Munich in the final. How Chelsea fans would love a repeat of that.

Chelsea 1-4 Atletico – Friday, August 31, 2012.

The last meeting between these two came on the back of Chelsea’s 2012 Champions League win. Atletico had won the Europa League the season before, and they faced the Blues in the UEFA Super Cup in Monaco.

Chelsea were expected to win in their first Super Cup appearance, but it didn’t quite work out that way. Atletico’s Falcao, now plying his trade at Monaco, scored a brilliant hat-trick to win the game for the Spaniards.

Things didn’t start well for Chelsea when Falcao put his side ahead after just six minutes. The Colombian added a second with barely 20 minutes gone, and then completed his hat-trick just before half time.

Miranda popped up with a 4th for Atletico, ensuring this was a game to forget for the Pensioners. Gary Cahill pulled a goal back for Chelsea, but they were never really in this game. Most of Chelsea’s current squad were around back then, so you really have to hope that doesn’t play on their minds going in to this game. Falcao may have gone, but Atletico have another dangerous threat up front in the form of Diego Costa.

Atletico Madrid v Chelsea preview (Champions League) – 22nd April 2014

Chelsea go in to this Champions League semi-final first leg knowing their main priority is to stifle La Liga leaders Atletico Madrid.

The Blues are playing in their seventh Champions League semi in 11 years, and with the second leg at Stamford Bridge their aim will be to keep things at least level going in to the return fixture. Jose Mourinho will be looking to frustrate Atletico, especially since they’re such a tough side to play at the Vincente Claderon.

Mourinho has lost at this stage with Chelsea before, but both of those ties were against Liverpool, and both had Chelsea away from home in the second leg. The Blues showed against PSG that they can beat one of Europe’s best at home, and they’ll be extremely confident of going through if they could get a draw in Spain.

In terms of team news, Chelsea will be without their two January signings Nemanja Matic and Mohammed Salah, who are both cup tied in this competition. Mourinho is likely to go for the more defensive pairing of Ramires and David Luiz in holding midfield positions, to break up play and frustrate the opposition.

Aside from that the only player that Chelsea have any worries over is Eden Hazard, who went off injured in their last Champions League game. Hazard is likely to return, but he may not be fit enough to start the game.

The only real selection question over Chelsea’s team, should Hazard make it, is in the forward position. Demba Ba’s good form could see him start, especially since Mourinho doesn’t like playing Eto’o away from home. Former Atletico man Fernando Torres could make a return against his former club, but his recent form doesn’t really justify a start.

For Atletico, they can select on loan Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, after UEFA ruled that Chelsea couldn’t have any say in the Spaniard’s team selection. There are rumours, however, that Atletico will still not play the Belgian stopper, to ensure they can retain his services on loan next season.

They could also be without Chelsea target Diego Costa, who suffered a nasty injury in their league win over Getafe last week. Costa slid in to the post just after scoring his side’s second, leaving a large cut on his leg. The club have said he should return for this game, but the concern over him suggests this one might be more serious than they admit.

Chelsea are likely to go here with the spirit of 2012’s Champions League winning side. Atletico aren’t the most difficult team left in the draw, but they can be dangerous going forward. There is likely to be a backs-to-the-wall display here, with a counter attacking edge shown in the 1-0 win over City at the Etihad. That kind of defensive display would be great – if it works – and an away goal would be a huge boost. Keeping the Spanish side quiet is still going to be the main aim, and certainly no easy task.

LCN Verdict: Chelsea to grind out a 0-0

Chelsea v Sunderland preview (Premier League) – 19th April 2014

Chelsea face Sunderland on Saturday evening knowing that a win would put them on top of the Premier League table.

The Blues are just two points off league leaders Liverpool, and with a meting with the Reds scheduled for the end of the month, a win here to keep them in the title race is needed. Liverpool are away to Norwich the following day, and even though the Canaries are desperate for points they can’t be relied upon to help Chelsea’s challenge.

Chelsea’s opponents on Saturday are also desperate for points, but the league’s bottom side don’t look to be much of a threat. They seem destined for the drop, a fate that their manager, former Blue Gus Poyet, accepted after their latest defeat.

Home form gives good omens for Chelsea, with a great defensive record at the Bridge of late. Indeed it is there numerous home wins which have kept them in the title hunt up to now, and another one here would put them top.

Of course, this isn’t the only big game Chelsea face. They travel to Madrid to face La Liga leaders Atletico in the Champions League on Tuesday night. Atleti may be having a great season, but Mourinho’s men will fancy their chances of getting to a second Champions League final in two years. The question is, can the squad handle two huge games in four days at this stage in the season?

There is likely to be a lot of squad rotation over those few days, with the recovering Eden Hazard unlikely to be risked. Chelsea’s back five will stay the same as it has done for months now, but there should be a few midfield changes. Nemanja Matic will keep his place in the team from last week’s win at Swansea, since he’s ineligible for Tuesday’s game.

We may see Frank Lampard join him, as Mourinho is likely to be planning on a Ramires and David Luiz partnership for Madrid to keep things tight. Mohammed Salah is likely to play as well, since he’s in the same situation as Matic.

Up front Samuel Eto’o will be pushing for a start, and we know Mourinho likes playing him in home games. Demba Ba will be hoping to hold on to his place, following his decisive goals at Swansea and at home to PSG and the former Newcastle man would surely relish the chance to push Sunderland closer to the drop.

With the Premier League title now within Chelsea’s reach an eighth straight home win is a must. A Premier League and Champions League double is far from impossible, but it will take two good results in two very difficult games this week to get close. With a backs-to-the-wall job likely on Tuesday, Chelsea need a straightforward win at home to basement boys Sunderland.

LCN Verdict: Chelsea to win 2-0

Swansea 0-1 Chelsea (Premier League) – 13th April 2014

Demba Ba reignited Chelsea’s title hopes after following up his crucial Champions League goal against PSG with the winner at Swansea.

Chelsea struggled to break down the Swans, who played most of the game with 10 men. Despite having several chances many were wasted as Swansea defended deep and in numbers hoping to hit the visitors on the break in an attempt to match Aston Villa and Crystal Palace’s victories over Chelsea in recent weeks. Ba eventually scored what proved to be the winner after 68 minutes.

Chelsea went into the game knowing that Liverpool had beaten Manchester City at Anfield, a result which could be highly significant for the Blues’ title hopes. A win would put them just two points off the top of the table, five points clear of City, with a clash against Liverpool to come later this month.

Chelsea went looking for the win with Tuesday’s hero Ba handed a rare start, but he was quiet in the early stages of the game. Chelsea were still without Eden Hazard, who went off injured last Tuesday, and it was his replacement Mohammed Salah who went close early on. The Egyptian saw his effort hit the post from Branislav Ivanovic’s cross after just five minutes.

After just 15 minutes, Swansea were reduced to 10 men when Chico Flores picked up a second booking for a clumsy challenge on Andre Schurrle. Flores had been booked for a cynical foul on Willian just a minute before. Chelsea used this to their advantage, dominating the first half. Salah missed another good chance, but Chelsea didn’t make too many clear cut opportunities.

Samuel Eto’o and Oscar came on after the break, with Ramires and Schurrle making way. The change worked and Ba and Eto’o both went close, but couldn’t find a breakthrough. With time ticking away, Chelsea finally made their possession count. Nemanja Matic, who looked assured in midfield once again, played a long pass through to Ba who controlled brilliantly and fired past Michel Vorm.

Chelsea couldn’t find a second, despite having chances, but they held on to get an unimpressive but vital three points.

Jose Mourinho didn’t appear for the post match press conference, and he sent first team coach Steve Holland in his place. Holland was glad to finally get a win against the Swans, and gave an update on Hazard’s fitness.

“I’ve been here three times with Chelsea without winning before today. Swansea can frustrate you. They’re good at retaining possession.” Holland said.

“The title is still in Manchester City’s hands if they win all their games. We’ve still got a Champions League semi-final to look forward to as well. That’s what Chelsea are all about, playing in the big games.”

On Hazard, Holland said he, “should be fit sooner rather than later, we can’t say for sure when, but a week’s break is good for us.”

LCN Man of the Match: Nemanja Matic

Swansea City v Chelsea Match Preview (Premier League) – 13th April 2014

Swansea host Chelsea in this Premier League clash on Sunday and it is a crucial one for both sides as Chelsea battle to stay in the title race and Swansea try to earn the three or four more points they need to ensure top flight survival for another year.

Chelsea came back from 3-1 down from the first leg against Paris Saint-Germain to win 2-0 at Stamford Bridge and earn their passage to the semi-finals of the Champions League, and that victory will have boosted morale no end.

Prior to that fine display that was full of guts and energy, Chelsea put a comparatively poor run behind them in their last Premier League match when waltzing past in-form Stoke 3-0 at the Bridge but it is their away form that has been the problem, both recently and throughout the season. On home soil they have dropped just four points and remain unbeaten but on their travels they have lost at Palace, Villa, Stoke, Newcastle and Everton, whilst a draw at West Brom was also a sub-standard result.

They have actually lost their last three away from the Bridge in all competitions, winning just one of the last five. That has to offer some hope to the home fans, especially after they won their last game at the Liberty 3-0 against Norwich in fine style. They were unable to build on that though and last time out went down 1-0 at Hull and with just 33 points from their 33 games they still have some work to do to secure their top flight status for another season.

They are unlikely to get the win here and whilst it wouldn’t be the biggest surprise, we think the visitors will continue the momentum they gained from back to back victories. The Blues have to win and we fancy that Jose Mourinho will not tolerate or allow any more slips on the road at so-called lesser clubs.

Earlier in the campaign Chelsea won the reverse fixture just 1-0 and we could see a similar result here. Chelsea have the best defence in the top flight and the home side will find it difficult to score as the Pensioners look to add to their six clean sheets on the road. Mourinho will hope to control the game from the off but that will be hard against a Swansea side who like to keep possession and we think the pattern of the game will be based on Chelsea playing on the break whilst remaining tight at the back.

We feel it won’t all be one-way traffic in this one and the Swans could well nick a goal to give the visitors something to think about. But ultimately we believe Mourinho’s men will have enough to cruise to a win to keep their hopes of a Champions League and Premier League double alive.

LCN Verdict: Chelsea to win 3-1