Mar 302013

Chelsea travel to St Mary’s for today’s Premier League match against Southampton, with one eye on Monday’s FA Cup quarter-final against Premiership runaway leaders Manchester United.

Chelsea manager Rafael Benitez has declared that the Southampton match has to be his priority, with Champions League qualification crucially important for the club.

He also conceded that his Man United counterpart had the advantage of being able to rest key players for their PL tie with Sunderland (currently being played).

“We can’t do that. The difference between them and us is that they are 15 points ahead,” Benitez said.

“It is not an excuse. The reality is that their position in the table gives them an advantage and they are out of the Champions League. Their priority will be the FA Cup.

“We have to pick a very competitive team for Southampton. If we can beat Southampton we will be keeping an eye on Manchester City.”

Benitez admits he has tough decisions to make over the coming days over first-team selections, with under 45 hours recovery time between the Southampton and Man United matches.

“It is not easy to make a decision because it is impossible to be fully fit for the second game,” he added. “The day after a game you feel tired, two days after you feel even more tired. That is the reality. The second day will be really tough for everyone.

“All of them they can play [both games in 48 hours] but at what level? Sometimes you can do it if you are not 100% but it depends on each position and each player.”

Predicted line-ups:

Southampton: Boruc, Clyne, Yoshida, Hooiveld, Shaw, Schneiderlin, Cork, Rodriguez, Ramirez, Lallana, Lambert

Chelsea: Cech, Azpilicueta, Ivanovic, Luiz, Cole, Mikel, Lampard, Oscar, Mata, Hazard, Ba

Prediction: Chelsea to win 2-1. I predict a tough tie against a very strong home side in Southampton FC. Ricky Lambert seems to find his best goalscoring boots in important fixtures and I fancy him to score their sole goal. I also predict the Chelsea midfield to dominate this game, and put us in the driving seat for all three points. Come on you Blues.

Jan 162013

John Terry’s return to the Chelsea line-up has been put on hold, with the Chelsea captain struggling for match fitness.

Terry made his return to action as a late substitute in Chelsea’s 4-0 win over Stoke on Saturday, and had been expected to start tonight’s Premier League match against Southampton.

Chelsea interim boss Rafa Benitez has revealed that Terry is still not fully recovered.

Rafa said: “John is fine. He was training yesterday and today, doing normal sessions.

“But still the fitness is not the same as we would like. For match fitness you have to play games. Every session will help but he needs more time.”

Benitez went on to add his thoughts on why Chelsea’s home form has dipped of late, adding: “At home, the other teams play deep and you have less space. We’re still creating chances, but we have to be more clinical.

“We need to take our chances and, if we do, it’ll be totally different. Teams will have to be more open and we’ll have more space.

“But it’s down to football reasons. When you play away and you have space, the players we have can make a big difference.

“Against 11 players behind the ball, you have to find the space, so you have to practise and prepare, but I do not believe it is harder for us at home. We have confidence we can do well. We did against Aston Villa and Nordsjaelland.

“What we have to do is improve and learn how to play these games against 11 behind the ball.

“We have to keep winning games, doing well and scoring goals. We are scoring a lot of goals and conceding not too many. That’s the balance we were looking for. Let’s see where we are in a few weeks.”

The Spanish manager is a good rival for Arsene Wenger when it comes to excuses, but anybody would have to admit that we had the better of the game against Swansea as well as QPR of late. We missed a host of goalscoring opportunities, which eventually cost us the game.

As for Terry, we need our captain back. I cant help but think we would not have lost those 2 crunch games, if Chelsea had his experience on the pitch. We will need him back fully for the second leg of the cup.

Jan 142013

Chelsea no.1 Petr Cech has refused to accept that Frank Lampard has no chance of being offered an extension to his contract, despite reports suggesting he has been told to leave.

Lampard has been in fine form for the Blues in recent weeks, scoring 5 goals in his last 7 games.

Despite his recent form, reports emanating out of the Bridge suggest the England veteran’s future has already been decided, with Roman Abramovich more than happy to let the 34 year-old go.

Cech said: “There is still six months to go until the end of the season and we will see then whether he stays or not.

“If he keeps playing like that then obviously he will keep asking about an extension.

“He’s been here a long time and seen good and times. That shows the loyalty of the player.”

The Czech keeper added: “He might not play every game but when he plays he has been fantastic. At Stoke Frank could have had another two goals.”

Franky could have scored a hat-trick in the weekend’s game away at Stoke, but only managed to net a second-half penalty in another dominant display by the Chelsea legend.

Rafa refused to single out the experienced midfielder for praise, saying: “It’s not fair. I think the rest of the team is doing a great job.

“Frank is a great player but we have to praise the rest of the players at the same time.”

I hope the press are getting this all wrong. I’m glad that I am yet to get word that Lampard’s agent has been in talks with any clubs, which leads me to think that he is concentrated on his football for us. The ideal professional, that Roman would be stupid to allow to leave.

Jan 132013

Chelsea boss Rafa Benitez has claimed his team has improved under his guidance, despite the hostile reception he continues to receive at Stamford Bridge.

The Blues have been in better form away from home of late, and one reason for this could be the Benitez effect, with many Chelsea fans opposed to the current manager in charge.

Rafa was hired in November despite Chelsea’s Supporters Group warning Roman Abramovich that Benitez would not be welcome at Stamford Bridge. The Spanish manager made some enemies at the Bridge whilst managing Liverpool and the Blues fans have not forgiven or forgotten.

Benitez’s side won 4-0 away at Stoke yesterday, following 2 losses in their previous 3 games, prompting the Spaniard to speak out bout the clubs current form.

“The team is doing well, the players are happy,” said the interim boss. “The players are training really well and you can see that they’re trying to perform. All the staff are doing a great job so the atmosphere in the side is really good.”

He added: “When we play the games we cannot control what’s going on outside the pitch but we’ll try to do our best on the pitch and hopefully it will be easier.

“We cannot every week be thinking crisis, not crisis. We’re scoring more goals than in the past, we’re conceding half of the goals that the team has conceded in the past. That means we have more balance and that is the way to sustain the performance of the team at this level.”

Our Chelsea team has not been consistent under Benitez, and have lacked fluency against teams we should be rolling over. Rafa is clearly struggling to keep our side concentrated on the job, with losses in the World Club Cup final, as well as our most recent losses to QPR and Swansea City.

Fernando Torres has continued to be a burden on our side, having failed to score since Eden Hazard gifted Torres a late tap-in against Aston Villa before Christmas.

Roman’s main reason for hiring the Spaniard was to bring the best out of the £50Million striker, and has so far failed in that respect.

Rumours sounding out from Stamford Bridge suggest Jose Mourinho is currently the most likely option to replace Benitez at the end of the season, with reports from Spain suggesting Benitez is a front-runner to take Jose’s job.

Real Madrid fans are said to be unhappy with the current management, as are Chelsea fans, so how about an early swap? Pretty please…

Jan 092013

Rafa Benitez has declared that John Terry could make his long-awaited return in Saturday’s Premier League tie with Stoke City.

The Chelsea captain has resumed full training following a lengthy injury received in the Chelsea-Liverpool Premier League match on November 11.

Benitez said: “The good news is John Terry is back in training and we’re considering playing him on Thursday to give him some minutes with the under-21 team against Fulham.

“At least it is a positive thing because before he was just doing the warm-up and now he has been training, and if he can play he’ll be closer.”

When asked on his chances of a return on Saturday, Rafa responded: “It depends on his reaction.

“Obviously Thursday will be a different kind of game, but we’ll see how he feels and if he can feel okay and train the day after then at least we can start considering it as an option.”

I hope Terry makes it through the U21’s match unscathed, as he has been struggling with this injury for too long now. Our captain was originally expected to be out for 2-3 weeks, and 2 months later we are still waiting. I think Saturday’s trip to Stoke will come to soon for the centre-back to return, and I hope Rafa isn’t going to rush him.

Jan 092013

Chelsea interim manager Rafa Benitez gave the biggest hint yet that Frank Lampard and the other “legends” may be on their way out in the near future.

Lampard and Ashley Cole’s contracts are due to expire at the end of the season, and have yet to be offered new contracts. It had been reported that Ashley would be offered a one-year extension to his deal, with Frank’s agent claiming that the Blues will not be offering the 34 year-old a new deal. No official stance has yet been given.

John Terry’s contract runs out at the end of next season, and is expected to be another Chelsea casualty when his current deal expires.

Rafa Benitez is only in temporary charge of the team currently, and it is unsure how much influence he has on the players in the long term.

Rafa said: “It’s easy to talk about the legends, and you have to have a lot of respect for them. What they’ve achieved for this club has been fantastic. But you have to have new players, English or foreign, it doesn’t matter, and carry on winning games.

“That’s what the fans are expecting. Everyone knows the legends have been here and what they have achieved, but you have to see new players coming. It’s part of life.

“I cannot talk about the past, but I can see the club is changing things for the future, thinking about being successful again. It’s not just: ‘Oh, we won,’ and that’s it.

“You have to keep winning as much as you can, you can’t think, ‘That’s it, we’ve won now’. You have to keep evolving. That means you have to keep bringing in good new players.

“If you want to keep winning, to have the winning mentality, you need the new generation pushing you. Chelsea are managing this situation because they were successful.

“Every year you have to bring in someone else. The English question is something you have to consider, but this year you have three or four players, you have Hazard, Oscar, Piazon and Marin who came last summer, and they will need some time. That is part of the evolution of the team.”

Chelsea will no doubt challenge for years to come, and I can understand why they would be willing to let Frank go considering his wages, I just wish he could stay. He has done a lot for the club, and has helped deliver many trophies to us. The legends will never be forgotten, and I wish them all the best for the future. Do you have a favourite Franky moment?

Jan 082013

Chelsea interim manager Rafa Benitez has insisted that the Blues are in a season of transition, with the West Londoners hierarchy on the same wavelength.

Rafa said: “The team is a good team, when you have a good squad, you can manage players and you can keep a good team on the pitch, as has been the case at Chelsea in the last few years. This year you can see is a year of transition, with some new players coming in, so it’s different. Before at Chelsea you had a lot of big names, then you could manage a lot of different players. Still, you can see that the team are very strong.”

When asked if the Blues hierarchy needed convincing of this transitional term, the Spaniard added: “I don’t need to convince. You have experience, you can analyse the squad and you can see that new players have come in, while some players are getting older, so it’s normal. We have enough intelligence to analyse this. It doesn’t matter in terms of what we think or what we don’t think – it’s what we have. We have a good team, with young players, and they need some experience in the Premier League. They are carrying on and doing well and the players with more experience have to help them.”

Chelsea’s loss at home to Queens Park Rangers last week has left them 14 points adrift of Premier League leaders Manchester United, with just the one game in hand, leaving Chelsea with a very slim chance of winning the title. They are however on course for a cup treble, with the Europa League, FA Cup and Capitol One Cup all up for grabs.

Chelsea should be able to beat Swansea to qualify for the COC final, against either Aston Villa or Bradford, and should lift the trophy. We also have a great record in the FA Cup and will be expected to go far in that competition also.

I agree that we need a season of transition, but we are still in the hunt for trophies, and will have plenty to look forward to this year. With the majority of the team having gelled somewhat, I expect the team to go from strength to strength, and cut the lead at the top of the league down to under 5 points. Winning it is likely to be too large a task though…

Jan 032013

Rafa Benitez has tweeted that he hopes to see Chelsea’s Petr Cech return to action in the next 2-3 weeks.

Cech was substituted half-way through the Everton game, after sustaining an injury while jumping for the ball, being replaced by Ross Turnball.

The Czech international underwent tests on his groin injury on Monday, and the only report on his injury came from Rafa Benitez’s club tweet.

Rafa tweeted: “Two or three weeks. We are quite optimistic.”

Chelsea will be hoping their No.1 could return for their Premier League tie against Arsenal on January 20, but a more realistic target would be the January 23 second leg of the Capitol One Cup semi-final, away to Swansea City.

He is set to miss the home leg next Wednesday, as well as the FA Cup 3rd round tie at St Mary’s on Saturday and the tough Premier League tie, away to Stoke city.

Ross Turnball appeared in only his sixth Premier League game for Chelsea in last night’a 1-0 defeat to QPR, and is expected to play in Cech’s absence.

Chelsea also have Thibaut Courtois out on-loan at Athletico Madrid, and had the injured keeper been expected out for longer, the Belgian would likely have been recalled.

The 20 year-old keeper is currently being courted by Barcelona, but Chelsea are keen to keep hold of the highly rated youngster. Chelsea are expected to bring the player back to Stamford Bridge in the summer in the hope he can fight Cech for the no.1 jersey.

Petr Cech has been awesome for Chelsea over the years, and excelled in last years Champions League finals. We can survive for 2-3 weeks without him… Surely?

Jan 022013

Chelsea lost 1-0 to Queens Park Rangers at Stamford Bridge tonight, after Rafa Benitez tinkered with his starting line-up, leaving four of Chelsea’s regular stars on the bench.

Benitez opted to start the game against bottom-of-the-table QPR without Ashley Cole, Juan Mata, Eden Hazard and Ramires.

Chelsea had won 7 of their previous 8 games before playing tonight’s West London derby, and had been hoping to move within 11 points of Premier League leaders Manchester United, with a game in hand.

Chelsea dominated much of the game, creating 26 shooting chances, but only managed to get 2 shots on target.

Rafa failed to make any changes until the hour mark passed (as usual), when he brought Eden Hazard on for the disappointing Marko Marin.

Fernando Torres again failed to make an impact, against two ageing centre-backs, with Oscar being kept under close guard.

This was a disappointing loss for Chelsea, with the extra kick in the teeth being an Ex-Chelsea player scoring the winning goal. Shaun Wright-Phillips scored with a drilled shot from 20 yards, after Chelsea tried to clear the in-swinging corner.

Chelsea fans will no doubt be unhappy with losing, after dominating much of the game, limiting QPR to only 1 shot from inside the box.

I cant help but blame Rafa for deciding to leave so many stars on the bench for this game. With a squad rotation your supposed to leave one player out here, and one there, but Benitez decided to drop them all at once.

Well done Rafa, knew it wouldn’t take me long for the hatred to come back. Fat Spanish waiter…

Jan 022013

Chelsea interim manager Rafa Benitez has confirmed the club will be improving their squad this month, with the view to rotate Fernando Torres.

Chelsea have held talks with Demba Ba last weekend, but failed to agree terms, and are expected to negotiate terms again in the near future.

Agent fees are reported to be the largest obstacle for the move, with his wage needing to be negotiated also.

Chelsea have been linked with a host of strikers, and are widely expected to sign 2 forwards this month. Daniel Sturridge is said to be very close to moving to Liverpool, leaving Fernando Torres as Chelsea’s only recognised striker.

“You can always improve things, especially when you have injuries, and we lose two players to the African Cup of Nations,” Benítez said.

“We need bodies but I am really pleased with the squad. They train well, the commitment is there and they are keen to learn.”

When asked about Fernando Torres’ view on Chelsea signing competition for his position, Rafa added: “We are trying to manage the team so when I can change Fernando, I will do it. We will try to manage him and hopefully we can do things properly. He wants the team winning games and, he understands that is the way, so he will accept this.”

He was then confronted with questions about his input into the expected arrivals, the Spaniard responded cleverly: “I will be the manager so I will manage them, I am quite happy. I think we will do our job and hopefully it will be a good job.”

Chelsea will be adding fire-power to the squad this month, and I hope Roman is putting his financial might into recruiting Falcao, who will dwarf Fernando Torres and complete our side.

Torres has been the Blues weak link for much of the season, playing well one game, then playing 2-3 games poorly. This kind of inconsistency would be costing us dearly had our midfield not been amazing, and will no doubt prove to be stumbling block in our title bid, should the situation not be resolved.