Mar 032013

After Chelsea beat Middlesborough in midweek, and Rafa Benitez launched into his tirade about the Chelsea fans’ continuing protests about his management, the media turned up at Stamford Bridge yesterday like vultures hoping for a corpse to feed on, but you could sense their disappointment, especially as the soccer betting was predicting that the Spaniard would be sacked!

There were still some banners, and it is clear that the fans will never warm to the ex-Liverpool manager, but his words do seem to have had a calming effect on the Blues’ faithful.

The most important reason for this was not his impassioned rant about his managerial experience and skills, or the ownership of the club, hut his statement that he would be staying until the end of the season and then moving on. With that promise, we can relax a little and concentrate on the team’s success for the rest of the season, without worrying about having Benitez in charge next year.

Despite only beating West Brom 1-0 yesterday, with another goal from Demba Ba, we were always in control, and it should have been by more. The win takes us back above Spurs and five points clear of Arsenal who play each other today, so we will have pulled away from one or both of the clubs challenging us for a Champions League spot. If Rafa can manage that, and a trophy, I will not become his biggest fan, but I might not boo him as loudly!

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 252013

It was the worst possible result for Chelsea against Manchester City yesterday, as it put Roberto Mancini’s men seven points ahead in second place. The worry now for Chelsea is that Arsenal are just two points behind in fifth place, while Tottenham are just one point behind and play their game in hand away to West Ham tonight. If Spurs win tonight they will feel like they have won the jackpot at an online casino and move into Third Place.

I have never wanted the Hammers to win so much in all my life, but Spurs are in a really good spell of form at the minute. The most disappointing thing about yesterday’s game was the lack of passion and drive to get back into it. After Hart saved Lampard’s penalty it seemed to drain some of the resolution from the players and we made it too easy for City to play their game.

There was maybe a case for Hart seeing red after bundling into Demba Ba to give away the spot kick, but the striker was heading away from goal so it was no surprise to see just a yellow. Lampard struck it well, but Hart guessed right and made a fantastic save. That was the closest we came, and Toure was allowed way too much room in the box to pick his spot for the opener, as was Tevez for the second.

We are in a real fight now, and Benitez needs to get the players over that result quickly, with an awayday at Middlesborough in the FA cup on Wednesday, followed by a vital home game against West Brom in the Premier league. Any more slip ups and we risk missing out on the Champions league next season.

Feb 212013

Chelsea will travel to Middlesborough next Wednesday to play for a place in the last eighth of the FA cup. The Blues also have tough away game against Manchester City in the Premier league on Sunday, but Rafa Benitez has insisted that he is fully focused on betting through to the last 16 of the Europa league tonight.

Chelsea have given themselves every chance with a 1-0 victory in the away leg against Sparta Prague, but Rafa says he will not be taking any chances and is taking the competition seriously.

“At the moment the Europa league is the priority because we will play against them tomorrow.

“One game at a time, and this is the most important game we have to play.

“I think it’s an important competition for us, and after we’ll have a massive game at Manchester City. Obviously if we beat them we will be closer. If not we have to carry on.”

After Man City’s recent slips, Chelsea are just four points behind the champions, so will be hoping to stop City widening the gap at the very least. There is still a good chance that we could overtake them and pinch second place. There are also the teams behind to worry about, with Tottenham just one point behind and Arsenal five.

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.

Nov 302012

Romelu Lukaku last week admitted that he would like to stay at West Brom for the rest of the season, and now Josh McEachran has insisted he would like to see out the season with Championship title contenders Middlesborough.

The England U-21 midfielder has a recall clause in his loan contract but hopes Chelsea will allow him to stay and play first-team football.

The Chelsea loanee has received rave reviews for his performances for the northerners, having stared 18 games for the club this season.

McEachran, 19, who can help Boro to the top of the Championship table with a big win at Birmingham tonight, said: “I’ve been at Chelsea since the age of seven and I’ve grown up there.

“It’s always been my dream to play regular first-team football there.

“But I’d like to stay here for the season. We have a genuine chance of going up and I want to be part of it.

“There’s a long way to go and a lot could happen but we have a really good manager and I like the way he wants to play.”

When asked if he was worried that he was yet to open his account in his senior career, he responded: “Sooner or later I will get on the scoresheet.

“I came here to play games and that’s exactly what I’m doing.

“We’re playing two games a week and it’s intensive but it’s improving me as a player.”

It is great to young Josh playing regular football. I’ve been a fan of his since he made his Chelsea debut two years ago in the Champions League, coming on as a substitute, and have high hopes for him in the future.