Chelsea v Southampton preview (Premier League) – 3rd October 2015

Chelsea are hoping to get their season back on track this weekend, with Southampton the visitors to Stamford Bridge. After a draw against Newcastle and a defeat at Porto, they’ll need to get back to winning ways, so they’ll be targeting a solid victory here. The Saints are struggling themselves, but they’re a resourceful side so could they put another dent in Chelsea’s season here?

Southampton come into this match on the back of a 10 game winless run away from home in the league, which will surely be a boost to Jose Mourinho. He knows how badly his side need a win, since they’re currently 14th in the table. Given how the south coast team have picked up results at the Bridge twice in the three seasons since their promotion, they could well cause a shock.

Expect to see a few more changes following the Porto defeat. Eden Hazard was dropped to the bench for that game, while Loic Remy and Radamel Falcao weren’t in the squad. After another poor display at the back, it’s likely that something will change in the defence. At this stage, Abdul Baba Rahman surely deserves to take the place of Branislav Ivanovic, who can’t seem to stop making mistakes.

One change we’ll definitely see is up front, as Diego Costa serves the final game of his suspension. It’s likely that Remy will be given the nod up top, he’s had the edge over Falcao so far this season. We should also see a formation change, moving back to the 4-2-3-1 from Tuesday’s 4-3-3. That’ll give Remy a little extra support in the final third. We also expect Mikel to drop out, with Oscar coming back in.

There’s still a question over Cesc Fabregas, who hasn’t been at his best this season. He kept his place for the Champions League game, but will he retain his position in the starting XI here? Given Ramires’ fine recent displays, it looks like the Brazilian will get his chance in the team, as Mourinho really needs to try a new approach. Fabregas looked set for a promising career at Chelsea a few months back, but now his future is unclear.

Fabregas and Hazard – the best players last season – are both out of form while Costa is suspended, so someone really needs to step up and fill that void. Willian has arguable done that with his goals lately, but he’s not yet doing quite enough. Hopefully Oscar can step up given the chance, as he hasn’t really had a run in the team recently. He was a vital part of the highs of last season, but can he reach that level while others are struggling?

This game will once again see questions asked of Mourinho. He seems strangely clam after defeats, which could be a good sign, although it feels a little worrying. The manager needs a response in this game, and he needs to do something to wake his players up. Even grinding out a win would put his side back on track.

LCN Verdict: Chelsea to win 2-1

Porto 2-1 Chelsea Match Report – 29th September 2015

Chelsea’s poor season continued after they lost to Porto in the Champions League on Tuesday evening. The Blues had come into this game sitting pretty at the top of the group, but goals from Andre Andre and Maicon cost them dearly. Willian had hit a late first half equaliser, but they weren’t able to take anything back from the Dragao.

Jose Mourinho sprung quite a few changes ahead of this game, most notably dropping PFA Player of the Year Eden Hazard. John Terry also remained on the bench, but Branislav Ivanovic once again was given another chance at right back. John Obi Mikel, Ramires and Nemanja Matic made up the midfield three, showing that the manager was coming here to keep things tight.

That worked for most of the first half, as the game stayed level, with Chelsea actually having quite a few chances. That all changed with six minutes to go in the half, as the home side edged ahead. Yacine Brahimi glided past Ivanovic on the right, and he hit a shot that was saved by Asmir Begovic. The keeper could only push it into the path of Andre Andre, however, who buried it to score the opener.

The Premier League champions looked set to go into the half time break behind, but that changed on the stroke of the whistle. Willian’s second free kick in four days went the same way as his first, into the opposition net. Straight after it went in, the referee blew for half time. Mourinho remained motionless on the touchline, probably thinking of all the bother he had gone to in planning his half time team talk.

The second half was a little better, but a huge mistake ended up costing the visitors the game. After pushing the hosts and trying to go ahead, Porto caught them out from a set piece. Maicon showed more desire than his opponents, getting to the ball ahead of Ramires and flicking in at the near post. It’s the second time this week that Chelsea have conceded from a corner. That’s not something they can allow to happen.

The Blues had a penalty appeal turned down and saw Diego Costa hit the bar, but they couldn’t get back into the game despite no lack of effort. After the game, Mourinho reassured his squad that they weren’t that bad. “When the game is under control we concede a goal that is ridiculous,” said Mourinho. “They hit the post from a similar mistake. Apart from that the game was balanced. Two ridiculous moments and we were punished.

“The team played well and there were good reactions from the goals we conceded. We had chances to equalise and had desire. When you feel everything is going against you it is disappointing. The team tried until the end so I have nothing to say against them.”

LCN Man of the Match: Asmir Begovic

Mourinho: We Were Minus One Out of Ten

Jose Mourinho has reflected on his team’s 2-2 draw away at Newcastle and said, “In the first half, from 0-10, we were minus one. It was that bad”.

The defending Premier League champions went to St. James’ Park on the back of a 2-0 win over Arsenal in the league, though they were without the services of Diego Costa after the controversial front man was banned by the Football Association for striking the face of the Gunners’ defender Laurent Koscielny.

Despite having their tails up and hoping they’d be able to get themselves back into the mix at the top of the table, it was Newcastle who started the better of the two teams. Chelsea couldn’t get into the game in the first half and it was not against the run of play when Ayoze Perez gave the Magpies the lead after 42 minutes.

Things went from bad to worse in the second half when Georgino Wijnaldum doubled Newcastle’s lead with a stooping header and it looked as though the Geordies were going to secure their first three points of the season. Mourinho said, “We were so poor, so bad. At half time I said I was sorry I only had three subs as I wanted to change six… In the second half we played very well”.

The Blues were the better team in the second half and two goals in eleven minutes from Ramires and Willian allowed last year’s runaway winners to get themselves back into the match and come away with a point. Mourinho said, “Ramires and Willian moved the game. They brought more intensity, were much more dynamic. Newcastle could not cope with it”.

The manager was unsure what caused his side’s lethargic display in the first half against a team that was knocked out of the League Cup during the week by Sheffield Wednesday. He said, “I have to try to understand why they can play so bad in one half and so well in the other. We were bad in every aspect of the game in the first half. Too many poor individual performances and it was impossible to be a competitive team”.

With Manchester City shocking everyone in the league by losing 4-1 away at White Hart Lane Jose Mourinho will be glad that his team have been able to catch up with the team who had been at the top of the table by four points in the last two weekends. The Blues will need to be hitting ten out of ten in the coming weeks if they wish to retain their Premier League crown, however.

Mourinho Criticises Wenger? Probably

Jose Mourinho appeared to take a swipe at Arsene Wenger last week when he made reference to ‘the king’ who is ‘privileged’.

Mourinho has long had a rivalry with Arsenal manager Wenger and in the past has called him a ‘specialist in failure’ and suggested that he might be a ‘voyeur’ who likes to ‘watch other people’.

Now the self proclaimed ‘Special One’ has appeared to take a pot shot at Wenger in the wake of the Gunners’ boss criticisms of Diego Costa, though he has avoided calling him by his name. Mourinho said, “He can speak about referees, push people in the technical areas, can cry in the morning and afternoon, nothing happens. Cannot achieve, keep his job, can still be the king, it is privilege”.

Wenger was forthright in his criticism of Chelsea striker Costa, who appeared to goad Gabriel Paulista before the Arsenal defender lashed out at him and received a red card in the North London derby last week. That came after the Brazilian born Spanish international raised his hand and arm to the face of Laurent Koscielny, an offence that earned Costa a suspension from the Football Association last week.

Mourinho said, “In this country only one manager is not under pressure, every other manager is under pressure. Manuel Pellegrini, Brendan Rodgers, Steve McClaren. We cannot lose matches, we cannot be below expectations”.

Mourinho was asked by a journalist who it was that he was referring to and he responded by saying, “You know”.

In the press conference prior to Chelsea’s game against Newcastle at the weekend, a game the Blues drew 2-2-, Mourinho was asked whether he was frustrated that he had not received the reason for Costa’s ban in writing. He said, “You question is clear, you don’t need my answer. It is not normal but nothing more to say. If I answer I am going to be suspended. I don’t comment because in the rulebook it says some managers can speak about the referees before and after the game and others cannot. I am in the ones that are punished if they do. I have to stick with that rule book”.

Newcastle 2-2 Chelsea Match Report – 26th September 2015

Chelsea missed the chance to close the gap on the Premier League leaders, despite fighting back from two goals down at St James’ Park. The champions found themselves trailing after Ayoze Perez and Georginio Wijnaldum put Newcastle on course for their first win of the season. Ramires and Willian scored in the last 11 minutes to save a point, but they couldn’t find a late winner.

Loic Remy was the man selected to replace Diego Costa, who served the second game of a three match suspension. The usual supporting cast returned to the team following the rotated side at Walsall. John Terry was on the bench once again, with Gary Cahill and Kurt Zouma together at the back.

That team was expected to keep up the Chelsea revival, especially after Manchester City’s heavy defeat to Tottenham earlier in the day. This was a perfect opportunity for the visitors to cut the gap on those at the top, and really boost their title hopes. Despite that, they made a horrific start to the game, producing an awful first half display that saw them go in trailing at the break.

Minutes before half time, Newcastle sent the ball in towards the box, with Zouma inexplicably not clearing the ball as it came to him. It then fell to Perez, who pulled off a fantastic touch and finish to put the hosts ahead. In truth, Chelsea were lucky to only be 1-0 down at half time, after their woeful performance.

That luck ran out after an hour, as Wijnaldum headed in from a corner. Cesc Fabregas let the Dutchman roam free in the box, and he took advantage of that to head home to double the lead. Willian was introduced right after that goal, with Ramires to follow soon after. Those two changes went on to alter the course of the game.

The breakthrough came when the visitors upped the tempo. Zouma sent a long pass out to Eden Hazard, and his touch took him free of his marker. He teed up the substitute Ramires, and the Brazilian smashed home a great effort from distance. With 11 minutes left on the clock, suddenly all was not lost for the Blues.

Pedro failed to equalise when he was put through on goal, but they had another great opportunity minutes later. Willian had a free kick from the left hand side, and his inswinger baffled Tim Krul, after none of his defenders got a head to the ball. The effort sailed through, levelling the scores.

Chelsea went pushing for the winner after that, but the third goal just wouldn’t come for them. They left St James’ Park which just a point, which means this is another two points dropped for the champions. They now trail leaders Manchester United by eight, leaving them with a massive task to reclaim their title.

LCN Verdict: Ramires

Porto v Chelsea Preview (Champions League) – 29th September 2015

Chelsea head to Portugal on Tuesday night as they look to build on their winning start to their Champions League campaign. The trip will be a big one for manager Jose Mourinho, as the boss heads back to his former club. With the hosts sitting pretty at the top of the Portuguese league, can they beat the Premier League champions and get their first win of the group?

Porto have made a great start domestically, including seeing off their main rivals Benfica last weekend to stay top of the table. They’ll have ambitions of topping their Champions League group too, which makes this game a must win for them. Mourinho will come here expecting a tough game, which makes him likely to adopt a defensive approach, as he tends to do in big Premier League games.

Expect to see a midfield with Nemanja Matic playing alongside either Ramires or John Obi Mikel, giving the visitors a strong foundation, and restricting space to the Portuguese side. That makes the Blues tough to break down, and it gives them a platform from which to launch counter attacks, which will surely be crucial. The big question remains over the defence, which has been a little too vulnerable so far this season.

Adding a second deep lying midfielder worked well against Arsenal, and it should be very helpful again here. Expect Kurt Zouma to be back in the team for this game, possibly alongside the experience of John Terry. It’s going to be a night for the old heads, so Cesar Azpilicueta and Branislav Ivanovic will likely start. They have the knowhow when it comes to edging games like this.

Diego Costa may have been banned by the FA, but his suspension thankfully won’t carry over to this game. A dominant physical presence like his will be needed in this game, as the forward will need to do thankless running and a lot of holding the ball up. There are few in the game who that as well as Costa, and he can be a threat if given the chances.

A win here would be huge for Chelsea, and not just as a boost for the returning Mourinho. It would put them far clear at the top going into a double header with Dynamo Kiev. You’d imagine at that point that qualification would be almost secured. The big challenge will be getting across the line in this game, but this is the kind of game the team have relished for the last few years.

This won’t be a game for the neutrals, it’ll be another fighting Blues display. Porto will try to dominate possession and push the visitors back, but if all goes to the usual plan there will be little space for them to play in. With their backs against the wall, you’d fancy Chelsea to get over the line, and claim three points.

LCN Verdict: Chelsea to win 1-0

Walsall 1-4 Chelsea Match Report – 24th September 2015

Chelsea booked a place in the last 16 of the League Cup with a win at League One Walsall. Jose Mourinho fielded a rotated team at the Bescot Stadium, but they still had few problems against their lower league opponents. Goals from Ramires, Loic Remy, Kenedy and Pedro helped the visitors to the win, which sees them meet Stoke in round four.

John Terry returned to captain the side here, over six months since he lifted the League Cup trophy at Wembley. He was joined on the pitch by both Radamel Falcao and Loic Remy, with Abdul Baba Rahman also making a start. Rueben Loftus-Cheek and Kenedy were both handed starts, while John Obi Mikel and Ramires were also brought in to midfield.

Despite the many changes, the Blues came in here as heavy favourites. They still have an expensively assembled squad out, and they couldn’t afford a slip up after their start to the season. With that expectation on their shoulders, it was good that they took the lead within 10 minutes. A cross in from Kenedy found his compatriot Ramires in the box, with the former Benfica man scoring a rare header.

Falcao saw his effort cleared off the line as he looked to double the lead. The second goal came soon after though, with Ramires involved again. He played the ball through to Remy, who finished emphatically to get his first goal of the season.

The tie looked a little shakier moments later, as the hosts pulled one back. Former Blue Milan Lalkovic put in a free kick for the hosts, which fell to James O’Connor. He tapped home to reduce the deficit, giving the League One side a boost just before they went in for half-time. The appearance of Lalkovic could also serve as a warning to Chelsea’s young stars.

Two of those young hopefuls combined for the third goal, as the visitors restored their two goal lead. Mikel found Loftus-Cheek unmarked outside the box, and he played a wonderful first time ball through to Kenedy, and the Brazilian got a deserved goal after a great display. The goal showed the potential of both those players, which will surely put a smile on Mourinho’s face.

The win was completed late on by summer signing Pedro. He replaced Kenedy with 20 minutes to go, and he made sure of the win. After receiving the ball from Falcao, the former Barca player ran at the Walsall defence, before firing in from 20 yards out. The goalkeeper should have done better, but the Spaniard will be delighted to add to his Blues tally.

That win has set up a tie at the Britannia Stadium with Stoke in the next round, with the Pensioners looking to make it back to back wins in this competition. Expect to see the big names back in the squad for the Newcastle game this weekend, but the youngsters will be pushing for starts now after some solid displays.

LCN Man of the Match: Kenedy

Newcastle v Chelsea Preview (Premier League) – 26th September 2015

Chelsea are looking to record back to back league wins for the first time this season when they make the trip to Newcastle on Saturday evening. The Blues got themselves back on track at Arsenal last week, but they face a tough trip to a ground that Jose Mourinho really struggles at. Can they turn around their record at St James’ Park and claim a huge three points?

Mourinho has made five trips to St James’ in his Chelsea career, and he’s yet to win there. The Magpies have beaten his side in three of those five games, including last year when they ended the Blues’ unbeaten start. It’s not just limited to Mourinho’s reign, Chelsea have lost in their last three trips to Newcastle. That’s a record that needs to be turned around fast.

Luckily they face a side who are completely out of form. The Magpies have yet to win a game this season, and manager Steve McClaren already seems under pressure. They spent big in the summer, but they’ve not actually taken any steps forward. Given that their right back seems like their only attacking threat, this has to be a victory for the visitors.

They’re unlikely to be presented with an easier task any time soon, although they’ll have to pull it off without Diego Costa. The forward was charged by the FA after the fiery clash with Arsenal, after unrelenting coverage by every sports programme in the country. Now the Blues will have to rely on either Falcao or former Newcastle man Loic Remy.

We should see Mourinho field a full strength team everywhere else, after making several changes for the game against Walsall. The big question will be over John Terry. Does he make a return to the side, or does Mourinho stick with the Kurt Zouma and Gary Cahill partnership? Newcastle don’t have too much pace in their team, so Terry could play, but the manager might not want to drop the pair who were so impressive last weekend.

Either way, Chelsea are going to need an imposing display from their midfield in this one. Without Costa, goals are going to be needed from the supporting pack. Hopefully Eden Hazard can improve following his late goal last week. Pedro hasn’t hit the heights of his debut, another performance like that would be more than welcome. Cesc Fabregas looked good in the two wins last week and hopefully he can carry that form into this meeting.

With City away to Tottenham early on Saturday, there’s a chance they could drop points, and the champions would know that going into this one. No matter what City do, the Blues need to get a win here. Not just to end an awful record against the Toon, but to get more points on the board. They need to start moving up the table, and they can do that with victory on Saturday.

LCN Verdict: Chelsea to win 1-0

Chelsea Doctor Eva Carneiro Leaves The Club

Chelsea’s Eva Carneiro, the club doctor who was at the centre of the controversy surrounding Jose Mourinho after the clubs 2-2 draw with Swansea City on the opening day of the season, has decided not to return to work six weeks after the incident in Chelsea’s opening game.

With the Blues already down to ten men after the sending off of Thibaut Courtois for a foul on Swansea striker Bafetimbi Gomis, Carneiro and Chelsea’s physio Jon Fearn both ran on to the pitch to treat Eden Hazard who was on the turf with an injury. Despite the medical team having been called on more than once by the match referee, Jose Mourinho was furious with them for being “impulsive and naïve”, according to his post match comments. Their decision to treat Hazard meant he had to leave the field of play with just minutes left on the clock, leaving Chelsea with nine men for some of the closing stages of the match.

Mourinho screamed at them to leave the forward alone, reportedly calling Carneiro a ‘son of a bitch’ in Portuguese. This has led the FA to investigate the possibility that the Chelsea manager used ‘foul or abusive language’ towards her that, if found guilty, could lead to a suspension for the Portuguese maestro.

Carneiro was demoted in the aftermath of the game, with Mourinho deciding that she should no longer be on the bench for Chelsea’s matches or attend training sessions, but would still treat the players at the club’s Cobham facility.

Carneiro had not returned to her position at the club and was in conversation with her lawyers. Chelsea wanted the doctor to return to her position but today it has been revealed that she has decided not to and it is believed that she is considering legal action.

Despite his assertion that he has a ‘good relationship’ with his medical staff, the news will come as a blow to Mourinho and Chelsea, especially considering that the Chelsea manager came under a lot of criticism in the aftermath of the incident.

Heather Rabbatts, a Football Association board member and chair of the inclusion advisory board, has expressed her ‘sadness and anger’ that Carneiro has decided to leave the defending Premier League champions. She said, “News of Dr Eva Carneiro’s departure from Chelsea FC makes me feel sadness and anger. Eva was one of the few very senior women in the game, a highly respected doctor who has acted with professional integrity in difficult circumstances and whose skills have been highly praised by her colleagues, the club and governing bodies”.

Though Chelsea have refused to comment on the incident, saying that they “do not comment on internal employment issues”, the press office refused to deny that Carneiro has left the club when contacted by Sky Sports.

Diego Costa Banned For Three Matches

The Football Association has confirmed that Diego Costa will be suspended for three matches after a charge of violent conduct was upheld.

Costa was criticised by Arsene Wenger in the aftermath of Chelsea’s match with Arsenal due to his behaviour that led to the sending off of the Gunners’ defender Gabriel. Wenger said, “He [Costa] can do what he wants, he stays on and everybody else who responds to him has to be sent off. I think it is unacceptable his behaviour. If you look well at the pictures what he does to Koscielny before he pushes him down he hits him in the face and the throat, he always gets away with it”.

In the end, though, Costa has not got away with it as the referee missed the incident in question when Costa appeared to elbow Arsenal’s Laurent Koscielny in the face, meaning that the incident could be put before the FA’s independent panel, which can use video footage to judge different incidents.

Costa had denied the charge but the FA’s decision to uphold it means that he will now miss Chelsea’s next three games against Walsall in tomorrow night’s Capital One Cup tie, Saturday’s evening Premier League fixture against Newcaslte United and the Blues’ home match in the league against Southampton a week on Saturday.

To rub salt into the wounds as far as Chelsea are concerned the FA have chosen to overturn Gabriel Paulista’s red card, which was issued for lashing out at Costa after the forward was seen to stand behind the defender and whisper in his ear, causing him to throw his foot out towards the defending Premier League champion’s striker.