Cardiff 1-2 Chelsea (Premier League) – 11th May 2014

Chelsea wrapped up their season with a win after coming from behind to beat Cardiff City in the Welsh capital on Sunday.

Second half goals from Andre Schurrle and Fernando Torres secured the win after Craig Bellamy gave Cardiff the lead in the first half. The Blues have finished the season in third, four points off Premier League winners Manchester City.

Last weekend’s draw with Norwich meant that Chelsea were out of the title reckoning on the final day, which led to a rather subdued atmosphere at the Cardiff City Stadium given the Bluebirds also had nothing to play for after already having been relegated. Jose Mourinho made several changes, with young defender Tomas Kalas coming into the back four.

Chelsea started off the stronger, and could have been ahead but for Steven Caulker blocking an early shot from Torres. It was the home side who struck first, with Craig Bellamy’s effort deflecting off Cesar Azpilicueta and going past Mark Schwarzer.

The Blues certainly didn’t deserve to be behind at half time, and they changed things after Andre Schurrle came on for John Obi Mikel. The German got them back on level terms, volleying in after David Marshall had saved Azpilicueta’s effort. Chelsea took the lead three minutes later, with Torres slotting home from six yards.

Mourinho brought on some young talent as the game went on, with Nathan Ake replacing Mohammed Salah and John Swift making his debut in place of Eden Hazard.

Cardiff pushed forward looking for an equaliser, but to no avail. The Welsh side were already relegated, and finished bottom of the table, and that looked deserved on this performance, as they couldn’t live with the glimpses of class shown by the visitors.

After the game Jose Mourinho reflected on the season and also looked ahead to his side’s transfer business this summer. “We deserved it, we played well, especially for an end-of-season game, when a team is playing for nothing apart from pride and evolution,” he said. “The boys found the right approach, that we couldn’t find against Norwich. From the first minute we played well, we created chances.”

“The result at half time was a contradiction because we had all the play, all the chances, and Cardiff were winning the game. In the second half they pushed even harder, Andre was an extra man in attacking areas and we really deserved the victory.”

“We don’t need a new spine, the structure is there. We need a couple of players to help the team get to a certain level immediately. After that, if somebody wants to leave, somebody has to come but basically our work in the summer isn’t a big amount. It’s about the right choices and trying to be successful.”

Blues fans will hope “the right choices” include a couple of top-class strikers given Torres, Samuel Eto’o and Demba Ba just haven’t cut the mustard this term. But whether they can land a real game-changer remains to be seen. If they do they will challenge for the title next season, if not they could struggle to make the top four.

LCN Man of the Match: Nemanja Matic

Cardiff City v Chelsea (Premier League) – 11th May 2014

Chelsea are looking to wrap up their season with a win against Cardiff, despite having nothing to play for on the final day of the Premier League season.

After Man City’s win over Aston Villa on Wednesday the Blues are now unable to win the Premier League title, but they finish second if Liverpool lose at home to Newcastle. We can’t see that happening, however, so it looks like both sides will be playing for pride in this one now that Cardiff are definitely down.

The Bluebirds’ fate was sealed last week as their defeat at Newcastle, and Sunderland’s win at Old Trafford, ended their one-year stay in the Premier League. The Welsh side have looked like relegation candidates ever since they sacked Malky McKay, but they’ll be hoping to finish the season on a relative high of beating Jose Mourinho’s men.

Chelsea would still be in title contention, had they not slipped up to another relegated side, Norwich City, last week. That draw was symptomatic of Chelsea’s season, failing to break down a resilient but less talented team. Mourinho has said Chelsea need to invest in a striker before next season, but they’ll have to make do with what they have for their trip to South Wales.

Demba Ba led the line against Norwich, but he drew a blank and put in another forgettable performance. Fernando Torres scored in his last start, and Mourinho is likely to pick the Spaniard ahead of Samuel Eto’o for this one. If speculation is correct, this could the final chance any of Chelsea’s three strikers get to line up for the Blues.

Oscar and Ramires are the only players missing in midfield, while Eden hazard could make his first league start in over a month. John Obi Mikel, who Mourinho said could move from Stamford Bridge this summer, could be making his final Chelsea appearance.

We could see a few of Chelsea’s young defenders on show at Cardiff, with Tomas Kalas impressing in his debut at Anfield. With no title to push for, Mourinho may rotate his usual back four. Ashley Cole, who is out of contract at the end of the season, will likely play as it doesn’t look like he has a future at the club. Mark Schwarzer will continue in goal, with Petr Cech still injured.

Despite having little to play for, the Blues should still be looking to add three points to the board. Mourinho, who ruled out Chelsea’s title chances earlier in the season, said his aim was to finish as close to the top as possible, after all.

A third placed finish, and automatic qualification for the Champions League group stages, was secured last week in that draw with Norwich. Chelsea aren’t playing for anything other than pride, although for some this will be a final appearance in Chelsea blue so we would expect at least one or two players to put in a good performance which should be enough to scrape the three points.

LCN Verdict: Chelsea to win 1-0

Chelsea 0-0 Norwich (Premier League) – 4th May 2014

Chelsea’s title hopes look very much dashed after a disappointing goalless draw at home to relegation-threatened Norwich on Sunday afternoon. The Blues had the chance to jump to the top of the Premier League table with a win, but their limp performance means that they stay third, and will be officially out of the title race if Liverpool beat Palace on Monday evening.

In truth they’re out of the running anyway, as they trail favourites Manchester City by a point and have played a game more than the 2012 Champions. The Blues can’t have any complaints, as they didn’t do enough for the win and the creative problems that have plagued their season were in evident for most of the game.

The Blues started the game without Eden Hazard. Depending on who you listen to, the Belgian was either omitted because of his lack of match fitness, having just recovered from injury, or due to his performance and outbursts from midweek.

Either way, Hazard was sorely missed in the first half as Chelsea gave a tepid and lifeless performance. They failed to threaten Norwich and could have found themselves behind, with John Terry lucky not to given away a penalty for his tackle on Martin Olsson.

The first half was quite a dull affair, and that saw the introduction of Hazard and David Luiz after the break, with the latter coming closest to breaking the deadlock. Luiz’s shot from 25 yards curled beyond John Ruddy, but cannoned off the crossbar.

Chelsea pressured Norwich but failed to create a real chance of note, with the blame for this game falling on all their so-called creative players and not just the oft-blamed strikers. Norwich could have stolen it at the end, with Gary Cahill’s tackle stopping Robert Snodgrass who was through on goal.

In the end the draw suited neither side, with Norwich now on the verge of relegation. The game had shades of the defeat to Sunderland in the last home game, and it showed that Chelsea just haven’t been good enough against the smaller sides.

In the end, Mourinho blamed the midweek Champions League exit for the result. “I think when you lose a Champions League semi-final and you know that you are not realistically in the title race, I think especially the mental energy disappears, the focus disappears,” he said.

“You start thinking more about what next than on what you have to do now and that was reflected in the first half. The first half was the consequence of that state of mind. It was a lazy first half. Slow, no pressure, with the midfield never arriving to press an opponent. The passing was very slow.”

“In the second half, we were much, much better – enough to win, but we didn’t.”
The Chelsea boss added: “The second half was a bit of a contradiction. They needed a win to survive and they didn’t try and we needed one point to finish third and we risked everything.”

“We know we needed one point but at the same time, we wanted to finish by winning at home. We wanted to give the fans a better feeling by finishing the season winning and in the second half, we deserved that.”

LCN Man of the Match: Gary Cahill

Chelsea v Norwich Preview (Premier League) – 4th May 2014

Chelsea host Norwich on Sunday knowing they have a chance to win the Premier League title, but they need other results to go their way.

The Blues trail Liverpool by two points, and they lead Man City, who have a game in hand, by a point. With the season almost over, Chelsea are big outsiders for the trophy. Jose Mourinho has ruled out their chances of winning the title, but he’ll be expecting his side to finish strongly and win their last two.

Mourinho ruled out their title hopes after the Liverpool game, but said they still had a good season. “We are not in it,” said Mourinho. “The champions will be Liverpool or City. We have nothing to celebrate.”

The question is how much rotation will we see from the side that was in Champions League action in midweek (losing 3-1 to Atletico to exit the Champions League). Mourinho made seven changes for the trip to Liverpool, and we could see some more stars rested after Wednesday’s game, despite the Blues’ elimination from European competition.

Tomas Kalas’ impressive debut has increased their options in midfield, as has the return of Ashley Cole. With the heavily changed side managing a 2-0 win at Anfield last Sunday, Chelsea have the strength in depth to change things and still beat Norwich.

Frank Lampard, John Obi Mikel, Nemanja Matic and Mohammed Salah could all return after missing the Atletico game through suspension or ineligibility. This is Chelsea’s final home Premier League game of the season, so there should be a strong line up on show.

With Samuel Eto’o not featuring against Atletico, he could well make a return against Norwich, with Mourinho preferring him to the other strikers over the course of the season. After Wednesday night’s more defensive line up, Chelsea should name a more attacking side against the Canaries as they look to put on a show against doomed-looking Norwich.

Brazilian midfielder Ramires continues his suspension that started last weekend. He won’t feature in the Premier League again this season after his lash out during the defeat to Sunderland landed him a four game suspension. The return of John Terry in midweek was a massive boost, but he’s unlikely to be risked against Norwich.

Norwich come in to this game in desperate need of points, having dropped in to the relegation zone. They lost 4-0 at Old Trafford and offered up very little against Ryan Giggs’ side. They face Arsenal on the final day of the season, so their survival chances are looking slim to say the least.

Chelsea won this fixture 4-1 last season, and they’ll expect a similarly resounding win to wrap up the season, even with changes. Chelsea have been in great defensive form in the league, conceding the fewest goals in the division, and that should continue here with another clean sheet.

LCN Verdict: Chelsea to win 3-0

Chelsea 1-3 Atletico Madrid (Champions League) – 30th April 2014

Chelsea were knocked out of the Champions League after a sloppy home defeat to Atletico Madrid.

Despite taking the lead in the first half, the Blues saw their hopes of a third consecutive European final dashed as uncharacteristic defensive mistakes saw them lose out.

Former Atletico Madrid man Fernando Torres gave the hosts the lead, before goals from Adrian, Diego Costa and Arda Turan sealed an all-Madrid final on May 24.

Chelsea started the game with John Terry back in defence and Eden Hazard back on the wing. Terry, who was injured in the first leg, had been expected to miss the rest of the season through injury. Hazard had been out injured since the last Champions League game at Stamford Bridge, and their return was a huge boost to the side.

The opening stages of the game were as cagey as expected, with both sides knowing the first goal would be huge. It was Chelsea who opened the scoring, after Willian pushed through the Atleti defence, he played the ball to Cesar Azpilicueta, who was playing in a wide midfield role, and his cut-back was fired home by Torres.

But, with just a minute of the first half to go Atletico put themselves in the lead overall, after some poor defending gave Adrian an open goal to shoot in to, and handed Atletico a precious away goal.

Samuel Eto’o came on in the second half to play up front with Torres as Chelsea pushed for a second, but the forward’s clumsy tackle gave the away side a penalty. Costa dispatched the penalty to put the Spaniards ahead on the night, with Chelsea needing two goals to go through.

The Blues pressed for a way back in to the back, but Atletico hit them on the counter attack and sealed a place in the final when Turan’s header came off the bar, bounced in front of him and he had an easy tap in to make it 3-1.

Chelsea continued to push for a goal but Atletico weren’t letting them through. That result sets up an all-Spanish final, and the first ever final between two sides from the same city.

After the game Jose Mourinho praised Atletico’s on loan Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, saying the young Belgian changed the game. “One minute in the second half decided everything,” said Mourinho. “A minute where the Atletico goalkeeper makes an impossible save to a John Terry header then the penalty that kills the game.

“After that there was only one team with morale high, knowing with half an hour left they had control. For about 60 minutes, we had the game, but semi-finals and important matches are made of details and this was a very important detail. Congratulations to them because they are a very good side and what they are doing in the Spanish league is fantastic.”

LCN Man of the Match: Azpilicueta