May 082013
 

He’s off again. The Portuguese manager (not him, the other not so special one). As Chelsea prepare to welcome Tottenham to Stamford Bridge tonight, there is a great deal at stake. Perhaps that is why Andre Villas-Boas seems to be suffering from verbal diarrhoea, especially when it comes to talking about Chelsea.

Whoever wins the game tonight will take a huge step towards a top four finish and the Chammpions League football it entails. There are quite a lot of bragging rights on offer as well, such as being the best of the London clubs, with Arsenal still in the race, and doing the double over Spurs. What is likely to get the Chelsea players really going, though, is the sniping of the former manager.

Not only has he criticised the way we play, with some stupid remarks about having a style, he criticised Frank Lampard for not supporting him when he was in charge. The same `super` Frank Lampard who he hardly played and tried to force out of the club, you know, the one on the verge of becoming the Blues’ all-time record goalscorer. AVB suggested that Chelsea were not playing football in the right way and were only concerned about winning.

“In the end, it’s brought them success and sometimes success is what matters in football- independent of the style,” he croaked.

“I have a different opinion. I think if you don’t have a style it makes you invisible in football. Only teams with style succeed. But in the end, success normally is what matters in modern Europe.”

Well yes, mate, until they introduce goals and points for artistic integrity. What a clown! Chelsea won the Champions League and FA cup last season and have outperformed his Spurs team in every competition this season. A draw tonight would leave us three points ahead of them with two games to play, but a win would prove once and for all who the better team is.

Apr 052013
 

With a mammoth and congested fixture list stretching out in front of them, Chelsea and Rafa Benitez will be glad of the opportunity to rest a few key players if necessary in the second leg against Rubin Kazan. Chelsea were easily the better side against Rubin Kazan at Stamford Bridge last night as they cruised to a 3-1 victory.

The Russians only got on the scoresheet because of a poor decision by the referee to award a penalty for a handball by John Terry. The Chelsea captain had his hands by his side and did not move towards the ball, in fact he would hardly have been able to given the speed it was struck at him. Apparently, Terry has less than a quarter of a second to react so it was a very harsh call.

One man who will be very happy with the game is the Spanish striker Fernando Torres. He scored two goals and looked dangerous all night, which is a huge boost for him and his team mates. With Demba Ba doing the business in the Premier League, Benitez can rotate his strike force nicely, so that is one less area to worry about.

Ryan Bertrand showed some great skill filling in for Ashley Cole at left back, while Victor Moses scored a fantastic goal and, with Benayoun, gave Oscar and Hazard a well deserved break. With Sunderland visiting the Bridge on Sunday, Chelsea can play a strong side to avoid any new manager shocks from Paolo Di Canio’s first game.

The next big test will be against Manchester City in the FA cup semi-final next weekend, and the option to rest some key players on the Thursday could be vitally important.

Apr 022013
 

There was just one thing that put a negative on yesterday’s win over Manchester United. With the mammoth fixture list facing the club, the sight of Ashley Cole limping off holding his hamstring was the last thing we needed. The injury is not as bad as first feared, however, and the England left back should return in a couple of weeks.

It seems unlikely, though, that Cole be able to take part in the next FA cup game, against Manchester City at Wembley stadium on Sunday April 14th for a place in the final. Gary Cahill is also likely to miss that match, but both players should be back around that time or soon after.

We must pray for no more injuries now, especially not to Ryan Bertrand. The 23-year old is a capable replacement at left back and is used to pressure situations, making his Champions League debut in last season’s final. Bertrand has already made 20 starts and 12 appearances as a substitute this season, but if anything happened to him we could be in trouble.

The Premier League game against Tottenham has been postponed because of the FA cup game, which means that Cole and Cahill should be available for that. It could be a huge game in the race for the top four and next season’s Champions League, so having those two players rested and fresh could be a blessing in disguise.

Apr 012013
 

Chelsea are still on course for a Europa League and FA cup double, after an absolutely outstanding piece of magic from Demba Ba produced the only goal of the game against Manchester United. The Blues will now fave Manchester City on Sunday April 14th at Wembley for a place in the final.

We know that Rafa Benitez has had selection issues with the number of games recently and throughout the season, so it was not that surprising that Chelsea were controlled and organised rather than all guns blazing. Juan Mata seemed to be having a rare off day, but you can’t keep a good man down. Early in the second half he received the ball in the United half and produced a fantastic ball that got Ba behind the United defence. Ba took it above waist height over his shoulder and guided it past the hapless De Gea.

Petr Cech produced a fantastic reaction save to stop Hernandez leveling with his head soon afterwards, but Chelsea were fairly comfortable from then on. Van Persie blazed a chance over the bar, but we fully deserved the win. The only downside was an injury to Ashley Cole that will keep him out for around two weeks. Hopefully he will be back for that semi-final.

Apr 012013
 

Rafa Benitez is not exactly the most popular Chelsea manager ever, but the fans have relented a little on him recently. His comments and statement that he would definitely be leaving the club at the end of the season have drawn an uneasy truce, but if Chelsea go out of the FA cup against Manchester United today after resting key players and losing to Southampton, he will get dog’s abuse.

Some good news for Chelsea is that Ferguson has dropped Wayne Rooney from the side, he is not even on the bench. After being dropped for the Real Madrid game, it seems clear that the England striker’s days are numbered at United. Hernandez and van Persie are good players, but the Dutchman is ion a scoring drought and Rooney is much harder to play against than the Mexican.

Demba Ba will lead the line for Chelsea, with Juan Mata back from illness alongside Eden Hazard and Oscar in a very attacking and creative line up. Lampard and Terry are on the bench, and will be great to bring on to steady the ship if needed. It is vital that we start well and don’t let United get too comfortable, making the most of home advantage in this crucial game that could define the season.

Mar 312013
 

Chelsea began the hugely important and potentially pivotal run of six games in 16 days in the worst way yesterday with defeat away to Southampton. Rafa Benitez made a number of changes to his starting line up, obviously with one eye on tomorrow’s FA cup replay against Manchester United. There would have been no problem if the Blues had won, but Benitez is now facing more anger from Chelsea fans who feel that he is prioritising winning a trophy to put on his c.v.

“We had to manage the squad,” said Benitez.

“We didn’t have many options in some positions. We had the players we had.

“You have to approach every game like it is the most important and we thought with these players we would be fine.

“I think you could see that in the first half we didn’t have the intensity we were expecting.

“We improved in the second half, made more chances, but still we didn’t make the right decisions in the final third.”

The Spaniard also pointed out that we still have a game in hand on Tottenham, and plenty of games left until the end of the season. We also have a game against Spurs and a better goal difference, which still makes us favourites to finish in the top four. The problem is that a defeat is not good for form and confidence.

If Chelsea beat Manchester United tomorrow in the FA cup, everything will look good again. If we go out however, the questions about whether Benitez should have played his very best team in the Premier League will resurface.

Mar 292013
 

The Chelsea manager Rafa Benitez has been speaking about his captain John Terry, and has revealed that the 32-year old defender has overcome his recent fitness problems. Chelsea have a very heavy fixture list and some vital games coming up, so the availability of Terry will be a huge boost.

Tomorrow’s trip to Southampton is the first of six games for the Blues in 16 days, and these include FA cup and Europa League games and a possibly crucial encounter with Tottenham in the Premier League, so Benitez is going to have to do some of the tinkering that he is infamous for.

“He was training with us this week and he was doing well,” Benitez said of Terry. “He is training every day and improving his fitness.

“It is just a question of how many games you can play. We will four games in nine days, it is the same for everyone.

“You can’t play all these games and be 100 percent- not just him, everyone.

“We have toi ensure that we have a competitive team against Southampton and a competitive team against United. We have to manage the squad carefully.

“It is better to have this problem than be at home watching it on the telly.”

It is certain that Terry will feature more often for the rest of the season, having played just 10 Premier League games so far. It is not just his defensive skills and experience that Chelsea need either, but his leadership on the pitch. For that reason I think he should be saved for the really big games, starting with United in the FA cup on Monday.

Mar 102013
 

There is no doubt that this season has been a disappointment for Chelsea fans. It all started with such optimism, with some exciting new players and the Champions League trophy taking pride of place at Stamford Bridge. It looked for a while as if the Blues would add the Premier League title to the European cup as we won seven a drew one of the first eight league games. The next game saw defeat by Manchester United thanks to some terrible refereeing and the season has gone off the rails ever since.

Now Chelsea are in a battle with Arsenal and Tottenham to qualify for next season’s Champions League, while the FA cup and Europa League are the last hopes for a trophy. With a 1-0 deficit to overturn against Steaua Bucharest and an FA cup to Old Trafford today, David Luiz knows that this week could be the most important in the season, and he is hoping that Chelsea can capitalise on United’s disappointment at being dumped out of Europe by Real Madrid.

“Sometimes when you get knocked out you can be a little bit sad,” said Luiz.

“I hope their guys stay sad until this game so Chelsea win.

“I thought we were unlucky on Thursday. It was a difficult game on a bad pitch, so we could not play like Chelsea love to play, with the ball on the floor and trying some combinations. But now we have the second leg and we can reverse the score.”

His defensive colleague Ivanovic has called on Chelsea to treat today’s game against United as a cup final, because he knows that a poor performance and defeat could have a negative effect on the rest of the season, in the same way that United could be suffering today.

Feb 262013
 

The good news is that Chelsea are still in the FA cup and the Europa League, as well as being in a qualifying position for the Champions League next season. The bad news is that the fixture congestion from the cup competitions is causing serious difficulties, and there are ructions in the dressing room.

Rafa Benitez was not happy with the performance of his players at the weekend as they lost at Manchester City, and his criticism has caused a training ground argument with some senior players, according to stories in today’s papers. The problem for the players is that they are tired, having already played more games than the other Premier league teams. The fixture list only looks like getting worse, however, and one more replay due to a draw at Middlesborough tomorrow could be the tipping point.

Obviously Benitez wants to win something this season, as do the players, but he must also focus on finishing in the top four. So he has got a real dilemma over resting players and judging which games are most important. It might be time to play a second string side in one of the cup games, but you saw what happened when Arsenal did that, it is not good for team morale. Now Arsenal have only the league to focus on and they are just two points behind us, while Tottenham went above us last night.

Benitez is walking a tightrope, and now is the time he wants the team to stick together, but instead he has managed to upset the players and cause a rift. Chelsea need to sort themselves out, and quickly.

Feb 182013
 

The Chelsea manager Rafa Benitez would have asked his players to show commitment against Brentford yesterday, but David Luiz must have realised that his late challenge on the 19-year old substitute Jake Reeves was taking things too far. The Brazilian defender left Reeves concussed after shoulder charging him late in the match, but he went to the away team’s dressing room afterwards to apologise.

Chelsea had already made the game safe before the incident, having showed much more purpose in the second half. The first 45 minutes were uninspiring and goalless and probably drew some harsh words from the Spanish manager. Whatever the reason, Chelsea were a different side after the break, although Luiz was perhaps fortunate to escape with just a yellow card.

The Brentford manager Uwe Rosler seems to have accepted the challenge as part of football, especially after Luiz was big enough to say sorry to the young player.

“Jake is fine. He wanted to continue but our medical staff thought it was better if he didn’t. They said `safety first`.

“I have not seen the situation clearly enough to make a statement now, but the player came into our dressing room and spoke to Jake, which is a fantastic gesture. He apologised.”

Chelsea will now travel to Middlesborough next week, knowing that a win there will probably see them facing Manchester United after that, as long as they do not slip up against Reading tonight.