Jul 212013

It is no secret to Chelsea fans just what a huge effect Jose Mourinho can have when he takes control of a football club. The special one came to Stamford Bridge back in 2004 and brought immediate success with him, claiming Chelsea’s first top flight title in 50 years, so it is no surprise that the bookies have shortened the odds on the Blues winning back the Premier League title considerably this season.

Despite Chelsea slipping out of contention in recent seasons, with the Manchester clubs United and City dominating the league, the best value with paddypower.com gives you odds of just 23/10 on Jose guiding us back to the very top of English football again this season. That is exactly the same as the current champions Man Utd and just below City. The fact that City have already splurged £100 million in the transfer window this summer is the main reason for them being slight favourites, but there is uncertainty over their new boss Manuel Pellegrini.

As Petr Cech was quick to point out to Sky Sports, Mourinho is as hungry as ever for success, and there is still time for Chelsea to sign a few more top players before the season starts. Jose stated that Wayne Rooney was his only transfer target, but don’t be so sure. You wouldn’t really expect him to show all his cards would you?

The only reason he was so upfront about Rooney, in my opinion, was to leave the England international in no doubt that he would be better off coming to Stamford Bridge. Although the new United manager David Moyes is insisting that he will keep the striker, it is unlikely that the club will want to keep paying his wages of around £250,000 a week when they know he doesn’t really want to be there and so will probably not be at his best. Of course, United will be very reluctant to sell Rooney to Chelsea, because they know that we will be huge rivals for the title this season.

There is nothing they can do about Mourinho, though. I can almost taste that Premier League title already.

May 192013

There are two different stories doing the rounds about the future look of the Chelsea strike force and both cannot be true. It seems to boil down to whether Fernando Torres is still at the club next season. If he is, then it seems as if Radamel Falcao will not be coming to Stamford Bridge, because the Colombian striker does not want to share his duties with Torres.

This season, Chelsea have primarily used the single striker, supported by the creative attacking skills of Juan Mata, Oscar, Hazard and others, so it would be Falcao or Torres or Demba Ba. This might not be the case with the new manager, however, so whoever it is (Jose Mourinho) needs to talk to Falcao.

He probably already has, although the Colombian played a big part in wrecking his chance of leaving Real Madrid on a high this week when Atletico won the Spanish cup final. A Manchester City supporting friend of mine alerted me to this story, which suggests that Falcao could be heading there, although The Sun reports that Torres is going to be sold this summer, for £30 million less than we paid for him. I f that’s what it takes to get Falcao, though, who cares? Roman can afford it.

Torres has done a lot better this year, but still not enough and Chelsea are looking for the Premier League title next season. You could see the difference having a real top class striker made when Manchester United signed van Persie. Chelsea need to do something similar, hopefully with Falcao.

May 052013

Chelsea go into a vitally important two weeks standing on the verge of having either a very good season, or a pretty disastrous one. Having already reached the semi-final stage of both domestic cup competitions, the Blues went one step further this week by reaching the final of the Europa League.

A victory against Benfica in Amsterdam on May 15th will give Chelsea a second successive European trophy in two seasons, but that must be seen as a bonus, according to the man probably most responsible for Chelsea’s recent success, Juan Mata. The Spaniard has been nothing short of brilliant again this season and has helped the new Chelsea players like Oscar and Hazard to settle quickly.

If Chelsea fail to finish in the top four of the Premier League again this season, there is no backdoor through the Europa League and we will not be in the Champions League next season. For the quality of the players at Stamford Bridge, this would be a travesty and would turn a good season into a bad one.

Starting with Manchester United today, followed by Tottenham on Wednesday, Chelsea face two massive and difficult games which could define this season and Mata wants his team mates to give absolutely everything and forget about the cup final for now.

“We have to get in the top four. We have to win these two games,” declared the Spaniard.

“We want Champions League football next season. After that we can try and win another trophy.

“There are two tough games ahead. Playing Tottenham is going to be like a final because both teams will be fighting for the same thing.”

Hopefully, the United players will have taken their foot off the gas because the title is done, but Ferguson will want to get one over on Benitez, so will be urging full effort from them. If Chelsea really give everything, though, and play as we can, I think we will win today. Then it is just the small matter of stopping Gareth Bale, because when he doesn’t score, Spurs don’t win.

Apr 242013

Chelsea have still got eight games to play this season. That includes the Europa League final at the Amsterdam Arena in Holland on May 15th. To get there, the Blues have got to get past the Swiss side Basel that knocked Tottenham Hotspur out in the last round. They are a good side, but Chelsea are better and have got the added bonus of Gary Cahill and Ashley Cole returning from injury.

With those eight games being squeezed into the next three weeks, Rafa Benitez is having to manage the squad very carefully. The Spaniard is well aware that the fans and the club see finishing in the top four of the Premier League as the most important objective, with the Europa trophy being a nice cherry on top. The manager may feel differently, though, as he knows he will be moving on at the end of the season.

We have a game against Swansea at Stamford Bridge on Saturday, so Cahill and Cole will be unlikely to play in both. The centre of defense is not such a problem, with John Terry, Ivanovic and David Luiz doing well. The left back situation is more tricky, although Ryan Bertrand has filled in admirable for Cole. I would prefer to keep Cole for the league games, at least as he is just coming back but expect Cahill to play tomorrow as we try to keep a clean sheet and set up the home leg nicely. That game next Thursday comes just three days before a trip to Manchester United, a game that could have a massive say on the top four, so we do not want to have too hard a game and certainly not extra time.

Apr 162013

The Chelsea players have got to pick themselves up quick. There is no time to feel sorry about missing out on another FA cup final, because there is still the important matters of the Europa League and the race for a top four spot in the Premier League. The fact that there is no time to sit around and mope about the disappointing defeat to Man City on Sunday is probably a good thing, and the team must just focus on the remaining games.

We now have the dates for two rearranged fixtures to put in the calendar. The game against Tottenham, which could be absolutely crucial for which team will be in next season’s Champions League, will now be played at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday May 8th. That is just three days after the away trip to Old Trafford to face Man United. Spurs will have one extra day to prepare after their home game against Southampton. They also have less games to worry about after being knocked out of the Europa League by our semi-final opponents Basel. Spurs seem to be in a bad run of form, though, and the European exit will not help.

The game against Swansea has been moved to Sunday April 28th, because we play Basel in Switzerland that Thursday. First things first, though. We need to beat Fulham tomorrow to go three points clear of Tottenham with a much better goal difference. The top four is the most important thing, but there is no reason we can’t top it off with the Europa League trophy as well.

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

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 142013

The experience of Frank Lampard could be invaluable for Chelsea tonight, as the midfielder will not allow his team mates to take Steaua Bucharest lightly at Stamford Bridge. The Blues need to be especially careful not to concede a goal, because the away goal rule could then cause real problems.

“Steaua are a good team,” said Lampard. “They are technically good on the ball, which most European teams are when you get to this stage of a competition and it will be a tough game, simple as that.

“It was a very difficult pitch out there and our pitch will be better.

“The fact we didn’t score an away goal is going to make it a difficult night, it will be on a bit of a knife edge, but we have to believe we have the character and ability to turn it around.”

The words character and ability could be Lampard’s middle name. According to paddy power, Chelsea are odds on to win the Europa league match against long as Steaua tonight and as long as Chelsea do not take Steaua for granted, then Chelsea should make it into the quarter-finals. The only real concern is that Fernando Torres has another nightmare, but Chelsea have goals in them all over the pitch, and showed their determination as recently as Sunday. The comeback from 2-0 down against Manchester United will have given everyone around the club renewed belief, and Steaua will not know what’s hit them.