Chelsea v Dynamo Kiev Preview (Champions League) – 4th November 2015

Chelsea face a make or break clash in their Champions League group, with Dynamo Kiev heading to the Bridge. After taking a point in the last meeting between the two sides, the Blues are third behind Kiev in the table. They need a win here to make the last 16, but the Ukrainian side will come here confident that they can pick up a point.

Jose Mourinho showed how good he is at grinding out results in that game in Kiev, while his side put on a strong defensive display. They came close to taking the win on a few occasions, but the 0-0 draw left them sitting outside of the top two at the half way stage. An improvement is needed, and the Blues realistically need to win their last three matches to top this group. Can they kick that off with a win, or will their hopes be in tatters after yet another poor result?

The team don’t really have the same fear factor as they did at this stage last year. They were blowing teams away then, now they can barely create a chance unless Willian is taking a set piece. It’s clear that Mourinho will have to take a new approach for this game, but can he inspire his side to victory?

The manager likely knows how Champions League results in 2012 cost Roberto Di Matteo his job. The club were struggling to make the top two, so Roman Abramovich moved to sack a boss who was loved by the fans after winning the European Cup just six months earlier. It seems nothing can save a manager from the sack if they can’t get the team past the first hurdle in Europe.

The good news for Jose is that his team should be close to full strength in this game, with Branislav Ivanovic set for a return. The only absentee will be long term doubt Thibaut Courtois, who should be back in December. Both Pedro and Diego Costa picked up injuries, but neither seem to be a major doubt for the Kiev game.

Expect Mourinho to go a little more attacking with his selection this week, after fielding a defensively minded team in Ukraine. There are enough options up front that Mourinho has real competition for places, which should force some of that talent to kick on. With Costa up front, in form Willian behind him and the creative talents of Cesc Fabregas or Oscar, you’d fancy Chelsea to get that much needed win.

While it won’t be easy, we see the Blues getting the job done here. So far, the Champions League performances have been pretty solid, they’ve just been unlucky with results. With their backs to the wall, the team should do enough to turn things around, and get back into the qualifying spots.

LCN Verdict: Chelsea to win 2-1

Chelsea Player Wanted Over Canadian Sex Assault

A young forward player on Chelsea’s books is wanted in connection with an alleged sexual assault in Canada, along with his Brazilian team mate.

Lucas Piazon, currently on loan at Reading, and his Brazilian team mate Andrey de Silva Vetura, have had an arrest warrant issued in their names over an incident that is believed to have taken place during the Pan-Am games in July.

The claimant is a 21 year old woman who the pair met in a nightclub in Toronto on the 25th of July this year. Police said that the two Brazilian players met the victim and a friend before accompanying them back to a residence. A spokesman said, “It is alleged that…they socialised with the victim and accompanied the two women to a Toronto residence. The victim, once she arrived at home, went to sleep. They entered her bedroom and sexually assaulted her. She awoke and both of them left the residence”.

Mr Ventura is the goalkeeper for the Brazilian Serie B team Botafogo. The alleged assault happened on the day that the pair played in Brazil’s 3-1 win over Panama, with Piazon scoring a goal and Brazil winning a bronze medal in the competition. So far this season he has scored two goals in eight games for Reading in the Championship.

Both Chelsea and Reading have confirmed that they are aware of reports regarding the alleged assault, though they have both declined to comment on the matter any further.

Chelsea v Liverpool Match Preview (Premier League) – 31st October 2015

Jose Mourinho faces a massive 90 minutes of his Chelsea career this weekend, as Liverpool head to the Bridge. Jurgen Klopp’s side will be after a win, and they’ll be confident of getting one given the Blues’ recent form. After their struggles, can they get back on track in this one, or will the pressure on Mourinho’s shoulders grow yet greater?

There are doubts over the fitness of Diego Costa after the forward went off against Stoke with a rib injury. He could return in time to play, but he’s likely to face an uphill battle to start in this one. Branislav Ivanovic still doesn’t appear to be ready to return, so it’s unlikely the back four will change from the one that faced West Ham.

Liverpool head down to the capital on the back of three draws in their manager’s first three games at the helm. Klopp has yet to taste victory in the Premier League, and he’ll know a win here would delight his new fans. Both Southampton and Crystal Palace have managed victories here already this season, but can Chelsea produce a display like the one against Arsenal and pull off a big triumph of their own?

There have been rumours that a defeat here could cost Mourinho his job. While that may be a little bit of an exaggeration, a loss in this game would certainly do him no favours. Klopp will be eyeing the top four, and given how well Arsenal and the Manchester clubs are doing, it’s Chelsea’s spot that the Reds are looking to steal. Lose this, and Chelsea will be miles off the top four pace, with plenty of other sides beginning to eye it up. That would probably be enough for Abramovich to act.

So, Jose can’t really fathom losing here. The good news for him is he’s set to be back on the touchline despite his sending off last week. He’ll be hoping that will help his team bounce back, which is something they desperately need after losing at West Ham and going out of the League Cup. Their season seems to be falling apart all around them, losing their manager for the game might have been a blow too far, or an excuse too many.

There’s certainly unrest that Liverpool can take advantage of, but there are question marks over their team as well. They’ve not made the best start, and Klopp’s changes haven’t really suited them yet. This isn’t a bad time to play Liverpool, as they’re likely to be much stronger in a few months.

It could also be that the team need this big a fixture to refocus their minds. This is the kind of game that Mourinho’s teams specialise in, so maybe old habits will kick in and the team will click. It’s hard to know just how this one will go, but it could end up being a decisive point in the season, and the manager’s future.

LCN Verdict: 1-1 draw

Mourinho: Players Made Critics Look Stupid

Under fire Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho has hit out at former players working as pundits in the media and suggested that his current crop of players made them look ‘stupid’ after the Blues’ loss in their penalty shoot-out against Stoke in the League Cup.

Some pundits have suggested that the self-proclaimed ‘Special One’ has lost the dressing room, with some players no longer playing for the manage. Mourinho hit back at that notion and said, “What the players did tonight is face the people that write and say, ‘you are stupid. You think the players did not give everything to win the game? That is really sad”.

Chelsea played much better against the Potters than they have in recent games, though they couldn’t make their numerical advantage count when Bardsley was sent off for Stoke towards the end of normal time. The Blues went a goal behind when Jonathan Walters gave the home side the lead after 52 minutes and it seemed that the holders were destined for an early exit from the competition. Logic Remy scored an equaliser on the stroke of 90 minutes, however, sending the game into extra time.

Chelsea’s 11 men couldn’t find a way through the resolute defence of Stoke’s 10 men and the game went to a penalty shoot-out. Nine of the penalties were flawless before Eden Hazard saw his spot kick saved brilliantly by Jack Butland in the Stoke goal. It meant that Chelsea lost the game 5-4 on penalties despite having 59% possession and managing 24 shots on goal with nine of them on target.

Mourinho spoke to the media for the first time since Friday as he has refused to do so after his side’s 2-1 defeat to West Ham on Saturday and he also declined the opportunity before the League Cup game on Saturday. He used the opportunity to say, “For me it would be a fantastic situation if the players are against me, I can say, you don’t have results because the players are against me. What some people write and say is really bad for the players. Most of the people that do that used to be players. I think they think my players are like them when they were players. Maybe they were able to do that. My players tried everything”.

The result wasn’t the only bad thing to come out of the night for Mourinho either. He was also disappointed to see Diego Costa limp off the pitch after just 33 minutes with an injury. The Spanish international went to hospital with a suspected rib injury, meaning he might be unavailable for the defending Premier League champion’s game at the weekend. Mourinho said, “He is in hospital – but I don’t know what the situation is. Is he a doubt to face Liverpool? I don’t know. How did the injury happen? I think he punched himself”.

Having stormed to the Premier League title virtually unopposed last time out Chelsea have stumbled repeatedly during this campaign. Last night signalled their eighth loss in sixteen matches so far this season, whilst in the league they are in 15th place – 11 points behind leaders Manchester City.

Many of the national newspapers have claimed that Mourinho will be under huge pressure if Chelsea lose to Liverpool at the weekend, with the Daily Mirror reporting that some senior players are already expecting his departure in the near future. The 52 year old Portuguese boss said, “A few months ago I won a few matches and I was champion. People were saying there are things more important than results. Now, people say results are the most important thing. It’s a contradiction”.

Stoke 1-1 Chelsea (5-4 on penalties) Match Report – 27th October 2015

Holders Chelsea crashed out of the League Cup in the fourth round after losing to 10-man Stoke on penalties. Jon Walters had scored what looked like the winner early in the second half, before a late Loic Remy equaliser. Phil Bardsley was sent off just before the final whistle, but the Potters held on through extra time and progressed on penalties.

Jose Mourinho clearly knew what his side were up against here, as he named a very strong team for this game. Diego Costa started up front, with Willian, Oscar and Eden Hazard behind him. The back five wasn’t changed from the defeat at West Ham, while Ramires and John Obi Mikel were the shield in front of that defence. Asmir Begovic made his return to the Britannia Stadium, after joining from Stoke in the summer.

Costa’s appearance at Stoke lasted just over half an hour, as he went off with a rib injury. That brought Remy on to the field, and we had thought he would start in this game anyway. The first half was a quiet enough affair, and the two sides went in goalless at the break, not a bad 45 minutes for Mourinho and his men given how things have gone recently.

The game completely changed in the second half when Walters was given too much space at the edge of the area. He was allowed to turn, and his shot curled in and went into the net after coming off the crossbar. That gave the hosts the advantage, and the Blues looked set for an eighth defeat in their last 16 games.

Mourinho threw attacking players on, pushing for an equaliser, but his team just couldn’t break Stoke down. With the game almost over, there was late drama, as Remy was there to fire the ball into the roof of the net after Willian’s corner. Seconds later Bardsley was shown red for his second booking, and that left the Potters going in to extra time a man light, when they were just a minute from a victory.

That goal gave Chelsea the momentum, and they had the better of extra time. It was Jack Butland, Begovic’s replacement, who was the hero. He kept out an effort from substitute Kenedy with his side on the ropes. The keeper’s performance was enough to deny the Blues a winner, and that forced penalties.

The teams traded nine perfect spot kicks, before Eden Hazard stepped up to take the final kick, knowing he had to score. After an awful season for the Belgian, it wasn’t too much of a surprise when Butland saved his spot kick, sending Mark Hughes’ team into the quarter finals.

The amount of fight shown in this performance was encouraging, but that’s happened before and nothing has come of it. We’ve seen several disappointing results after good displays, so Mourinho has his work cut out against Liverpool on Saturday.

LCN Man of the Match: Willian

West Ham 2-1 Chelsea Match Report – 24th October 2015

Jose Mourinho and Nemanja Matic were both sent off as Chelsea suffered another defeat on Saturday. The Blues lost 2-1 at West Ham after goals from Mauro Zarate and Andy Carroll for the home side, leaving the Blues now sitting 15th in the table having amassed only half the number of points of Man City or Arsenal. Gary Cahill had equalised for the 10-man visitors, 10 minutes after his manager was dismissed for comments made to the referee at half time, but it was an uphill battle and Carroll’s 79th minute strike settled it.

The team picked for this trip was unchanged from the one which drew with Dynamo Kiev. Matic and Ramires lined up in central midfield as a defensive-minded pairing, with Cesc Fabregas in the number 10 role. Once again there was no Branislav Ivanovic, with Kurt Zouma continuing at right back. Marco Amelia was on the bench after joining on a free to add goalkeeping cover.

The slightly makeshift defence that Mourinho named struggled from a set piece again, conceding after failing to deal with a corner. It was Mauro Zarate who finished off just before the 20 minute mark, much to the delight of the home support. After wins against Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City, the Hammers fans have seen their team thrive against the big guns.

Recently the Chelsea players’ mentality has seen them crumble when behind in games, and that could have played a part in Nemanja Matic’s dismissal. There wasn’t too much to argue about his red card after two clear bookings, but it clearly infuriated the Blues staff. Mourinho’s assistant Silvio Lauro was then sent from the touchline after his reaction to the decision. Fabregas and Diego Costa were both booked in the aftermath as well.

Mourinho continued his complaints into the half time break, trying to talk to the referee at half time. It brought back memories of the infamous Barcelona game in 2005, and the more recent charge handed to the manager by the FA. With a suspended stadium ban hanging over his head, that was a startlingly careless decision by the Portuguese.

He watched the second half from a directors’ box, the lone Blue in a sea of Claret fans. That’s where he sat to watch Cahill’s equaliser, a goal that came after a cross from Willian. While this has been an awful season for Chelsea, it’s hard to imagine just where they’d be without the Brazilian’s set pieces.

While West Ham have played some neat stuff this season, it was a route one approach that helped to secure them the win. Carroll, who always causes John Terry problems, was the one who popped up with the goal. He’s not seen much action, but he did manage to hit the winner. That result keeps West Ham in the top four, with Chelsea in the bottom half.

Mourinho refused to speak to the media after the game, so questions over his future have gone unanswered. His short term future is simple, a now massive game away to Stoke in the League Cup on Tuesday.

LCN Man of the Match: Willian

Stoke v Chelsea Preview (League Cup) – 27th October 2015

Chelsea head to the Britannia Stadium on Tuesday night as they look to book a place in the fifth round of the Capital One Cup. After a poor start in the league, could retaining the other trophy that they won last season now become a top priority for Mourinho? He rarely shies away from taking on this competition, so expect him to name a strong side here.

After a victory over Walsall in the last round, this game is a huge step up for the Premier League champions. This tie looks a lot harder now than it did when it was drawn, as Stoke are in much better form. The Potters hadn’t won a league game at that stage, and they were sitting near the bottom of the table. Having gone on a four game winning run coming in to this one (prior to the weekend fixtures), they’re now a much more difficult prospect.

Moving in to the last eight of the competition would be a boost for Mourinho, even if the board aren’t considering this as a must win trophy. It would ease a little bit of pressure, especially after two solid results against Aston Villa and Dynamo Kiev. The strong structure shown in the match in Ukraine should help here, as this will be a tough workout for the Blues.

Stoke may not be the huge, lumbering side they once were, but the Britannia won’t be a nice place to come to on a cold Tuesday night. They have a plethora of talented attacking midfielders, but there remains physicality in the ranks behind them too. Mourinho will almost need to match them, given that the Chelsea set-up is a little similar. The seven defensive minded players (including the keeper) are athletic and strong, while there’s a skilful, attack-minded four up top.

Of course, whilst we expect a strong team, we also expect plenty of changes. The manager takes this competition seriously every year, but he still rotates. Expect the back four to remain pretty much the same, given the lack of options back there. Either Loic Remy or Radamel Falcao will probably start up top, while youngsters like Kenedy and Rueben Loftus-Cheek should be in line to start. On top of that, expect to see John Obi Mikel get a rare run out.

This game will certainly be a test for a mixed up team, but it would be huge if they could pull off a result here. Success in the least sought after cup could inspire the squad elsewhere, with a tough league campaign to fight, plus the Champions League group starting to heat up.

One other thing Mourinho will get out of this game is a good examination for his squad players. He was recently demanding more from Falcao and Loftus-Cheek, and this is the kind of game they need to deliver in. The young Englishman will face a completely new challenge if he starts at the Britannia, and that will help him for the future.

LCN Verdict: Chelsea to win 2-1

West Ham v Chelsea Match Preview (Premier League) – 24th October 2015

Chelsea head to Upton Park for the last time on Saturday, hoping to avoid becoming another huge scalp for West Ham. After seeing off Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City this term, Slaven Bilic’s side certainly have potential to pull off an upset, but can they hand the Blues another defeat?

The champions returned to winning ways last weekend, beating Aston Villa 2-0 at Stamford Bridge. After a 0-0 draw away at Dynamo Kiev in the Champions League, they are starting to look more like the side of last season. That isn’t enough to put their poor form from this campaign away for good, but we’re hopefully seeing signs of a turnaround, at least defensively.

Finishing in the top four will be Mourinho’s main requirement this season after the nightmare start. Despite lingering near the bottom for much of the campaign to date, his team are now just six points off fourth place. That gives them extra motivation to win this weekend, seeing as the team currently in fourth are their opponents West Ham.

As we mentioned, the Hammers have landed a few massive results this term, winning away to some very big sides. At home, things have been a different story for them. They’ve lost to Leicester and Bournemouth, while they drew with Norwich. That’s not how they want to spend their final season at Upton Park before their move to the Olympic Stadium next year.

The main question is, is their side set up to play better away from home, or are they built to face big sides? They tend to be a counter attacking team, which plays well when they can sit back away from home. It suits them even more to be playing deep against a stronger team, as they can wait for their chance to counter.

While that worked against very attacking sides, it’s hard to see the same thing happening with Chelsea. Mourinho doesn’t tend to go all out away from home, and he certainly won’t in this game after seeing what West Ham can do. Expect the manager to urge his side to sit back early on, trying to coax the Hammers out from their deep positions, and get them out of their comfort zone.

A more defensive central midfield pairing is important to that, so expect Nemanja Matic to keep his spot after a good performance in Kiev. Alongside him will be either Ramires, who started in Ukraine too, or Rueben Loftus-Cheek, who was promised a run in the team by Mourinho. That leaves Fabregas as the number 10, a role which should suit him in this kind of game.

The first goal in this match will be crucial, as it will totally change the contest. If West Ham get it, they can wait for the Blues to push forward and punish them on the counter. If Chelsea get it, then they’ll force West Ham to play in a more attacking style than usual, which hasn’t worked for them this term. Which both sides looking to counter, don’t expect to see many goals on show, with another Chelsea clean sheet very much on the cards.

LCN Verdict: Chelsea to win 1-0

Mourinho: Referee Was As Bad As Joubert

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho has chosen not to limit his criticism of referees to just those employed by the Football Association and has launched a tired against Damir Skomina, the referee for his side’s Champion’s League match against Dynamo Kiev.

The Blues boss was incensed that his side was not awarded a penalty in their away encounter against the Ukrainian team and compared the referee to the South African Craig Joubert. Joubert was widely criticised for his decision to award Australia a penalty late in their game against Scotland during the rugby World Cup.

Mourinho said, “The referee was very good. I’m serious. He made one mistake and, for example in the Rugby World Cup, the referee in the Scotland game was very good. But he made one mistake and because of that mistake Scotland is crying”. World Rugby has confirmed that Joubert was wrong to award Australia a 78th minute penalty that sent Scotland crashing out of the World Cup, so Mourinho’s comments were clearly laced with irony.

The moment the Chelsea manager was refereeing to was when Cesc Fabregas fell down under a challenge from Dynamo Kiev’s Serhiy Rybalka. Damir Skomina waved away their appeals, an act Mourinho felt was wrong. He said, “The decision was crucial for the outcome. A fall in the box is a penalty”.

The self proclaimed ‘Special One’ also mirrored the language of Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger in his post match comments. Mourinho was incensed when the Football Association punished him for claiming that referees were ‘afraid’ to give Chelsea penalties in the aftermath of their match against Southampton, feeling that his comments suggested bias on the part of the referee. They did not punish Arsene Wenger, however, when the Arsenal manager called Mike Dean ‘weak’ and ‘naive’ when he fell of Diego Costa’s tricks during a fiery London derby.

Mourinho questioned the size of his fine and the suspended one match bad the FA levied on him and made reference to the Arsenal manager’s comments saying, “Afraid costs £50,000. Weak and naive – you can do it”. He then repeated the phrase after the Champion’s League match, saying, “The referee was weak and naive. Big penalty”.

Chelsea had the better chances during the match in Ukraine, hitting the post through Eden Hazard and seeing the ball strike the crossbar after a Willian free kick. They couldn’t find the crucial break through, though, and have now won just one of their past five games in all competitions.

Mourinho remains upbeat, however, and said after the match, “For 70, 75 minutes, we had the control, the initiative, the chances. We hit the post, we had the penalty [turned down]. We had everything but we didn’t score. The result is acceptable because it keeps us in a strong position. We have the game at home. Dynamo plays against Porto so they have to lose points. We are third but we are in a stable position”.

Chelsea sit in third place in Group G of the Champion’s League, having won one, lost one and drawn one of their first three games. They have four points compared to Dynamo Kiev’s five and group leader FC Porto’s seven, but they still have to play Kiev at home and Maccabi Tel Aviv have yet to earn a single point.

Dynamo Kiev 0-0 Chelsea Match Report – 20th October 2015

Chelsea had to settle for a point despite hitting the woodwork twice in a tough night in Ukraine in their Champions League match against Dynamo Kiev. A draw isn’t the worst result for Chelsea, although it does leave them three points behind Porto in the group, and they still trail the Ukrainians by a point.

Jose Mourinho made several changes for this game, with Kurt Zouma starting the match at right back. With Branislav Ivanovic still unavailable, the manager picked the young Frenchman to quieten the threat of Andriy Yarmolenko. Eden Hazard returned to the side, and he looked a lot better after being dropped at the weekend. John Terry played his first Champions League game of the season, alongside Gary Cahill in defence.

From the start the Blues looked much improved at the back, with the defence once again looking settled. Mourinho had Nemanja Matic and Ramires sitting in front of the back four, and that defensive screen helped. The back four did well last term because they were rarely exposed, that being something the manager aimed to repeat.

Cesc Fabregas continued in a more advanced position, and he, Hazard and Willian all did well going forward. The Spaniard had four shots, more than any other Blues player, showing that he’s becoming an influence once more. He also had a penalty appeal turned down early on, another one for Mourinho to rage over.

Both Hazard and Willian came close to breaking the deadlock. The Brazilian hit the post with a free-kick, after scoring from one in the last two games in this competition. A curled shot from Hazard did beat the keeper, but it unfortunately came back off the post, saving Dynamo.

While coming so close is disappointing, this was a good display. The team worked well at the back, and the attacking midfielders all played well. On another day the result could have been different, but Mourinho needs that other day to come in the remaining three matches. With four points from three games, the Blues are third, and they’ll need to win the home ties with Dynamo and Porto, or risk early elimination. An unthinkable prospect for the manager.

Nemanja Matic was up against things in holding midfield, but he produced a great performance, looking close to the player of last season. If that player can stick around it would be a huge boost to the squad. The same can be said for a few other midfielders, who haven’t hit the heights so far.

All in all, it wasn’t a bad point. There are positives, but they are tinged with ifs and maybes. This isn’t a result that takes any of the pressure off Mourinho, but it’s something to build on. A solid foundation for future games, one which needs the skill of Hazard and ruthlessness of Costa to return to past glories.

LCN Man of the Match: Nemanja Matic