West Ham v Chelsea Preview (Premier League) – 4th March 2015

Chelsea return to Premier League action on Wednesday night, as they cross the capital to face an out of form West Ham side. The Hammers are sitting well in the top half after an excellent season, but a loss to the Blues over Christmas was part of a poor run for them, and that’s continued on in the first two months of 2015. Despite that, this will still be a tough game, with the league leaders missing players and having to come in to this on the back of a cup final, albeit one they won.

Chelsea will of course be missing Nemanja Matic for this one, as he serves the second and final game of his ban for his red card at Burnley. The Serbian is a big miss for the Blues, especially with his stand-in John Obi Mikel also likely to miss out. Without a recognised defensive midfielder, this will be a tough game, as West Ham have a physical side and enough pace to worry any opposition.

So far this season, West Ham have beaten Liverpool and Manchester City at home, so they pose a threat to the league’s top sides at Upton Park. The league leaders do represent a very different task though, especially given how Sam Allardyce has seen his side’s good start to the season collapse in recent weeks and months.

The Hammers are without a win in their last six games, while they’ve managed just one league victory since losing 2-0 at Stamford Bridge on Boxing Day last year. Goals from John Terry and Diego Costa sealed that win, a comfortable one, which was the last game at the Bridge in 2014.

After the League Cup final, there are also league and Champions League commitments for Chelsea to fulfil over the coming weeks. The return leg of the last 16 clash with PSG takes place a week after the trip to Upton Park, and Jose Mourinho will be hoping to have the majority of his squad available and fighting fit for that game against the French champions.

We know Mourinho isn’t usually one for rotating these days, he prefers a settled team and it’s hard to imagine we’ll see too many changes at Upton Park. We may see the odd change from the League Cup final, possibly with the centre halves and in the attacking midfield positions, but the central midfield options are too restricted to see many changes. It is hard to imagine the same side playing the League Cup final and then starting against the Hammers just over 72 hours later.

While the final showdown with Spurs will be the big game of the week, the club can’t afford to drop their focus in the league, as they look to keep Manchester City at bay as we head in to the final stretch. After this game we’ll have just 10 left in the league, which is when things get really serious.

LCN Verdict: Chelsea to win 2-0

Chelsea 2-0 Tottenham (League Cup Final) – 1st March 2015

Chelsea won their first trophy of the season with a 2-0 victory over Spurs at Wembley in the Capital One Cup final. Goals from John Terry and Diego Costa, the latter helped by a deflection from Kyle Walker, helped the Blues on their way to silverware, as they controlled the game despite early pressure from Spurs.

The big news pre match was Jose Mourinho deciding to start the game with five defenders, with both Nemanja Matic and John Obi Mikel both unavailable for the game. Kurt Zouma was picked to play in defensive midfield, and he played alongside Ramires in the middle of the park. Oscar was left on the bench, as Cesc Fabregas took up the number 10 role behind Costa.

Costa was the most involved Chelsea player in the early stages, but it was Spurs who dominated this period of the game. It looked like Mourinho’s midfield gamble had backfired through most of the first half, but then John Terry made the difference. The ball fell to him at a corner kick, and his shot deflected in to give the Premier League leaders the advantage at half time.

Mourinho’s side took control in the second period, and 10 minutes in they doubled their lead. Fabregas played in Costa, who pulled in to space and fired home, putting the Blues ahead. It took a huge deflection off Walker, leaving Hugo Lloris helpless in goal.

Spurs looked to be paying the toll for their game in Italy on Thursday night, as they lost a Europa League tie with Fiorentina. After Mohammed Salah scored in that game, they were probably sick of the sight of Chelsea forwards, but they had a few to contend with in this contest. In the end, they couldn’t match up to Mourinho’s side, who made their class pay.

With Manchester City losing at Anfield in the early game, that capped off a fantastic day for Chelsea. They are now five points clear at the top of the table with a game in hand, with some silverware now in the cabinet. That was the Blues’ first trophy since May 2013, when they won the Europa League.

It was also a first trophy for Mourinho after almost a three-year wait. His last win came in 2012 as Real Madrid won La Liga, and the manager called this his most important final to date. He’ll surely be happy with the victory, getting back to winning ways and giving his side a huge morale boost before the title run in and latter stages of the Champions League.

After the game, the manager said, “My players strategically were fantastic, I have a certain concept about the final and obviously we cannot win every final but finals are not to play they are to win. We had a team not everyone was expecting but we had a team with a great balance, very compact in midfield, we pressed them very well. We didn’t have problems, they had a couple of chances. The free-kick (with which Christian Eriksen hit the bar) and nothing else, we controlled the game really well. We knew we would be dangerous on the counter, I was expecting more, but I think we played like we should play a final.”

LCN Man of the Match: John Terry