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Chelsea vs Fulham – Match Preview

 

It has been quite the whirlwind for Claudio Ranieri over the past couple of weeks.

First, he is recalled to the cut and thrust of the Premier League as he was installed as the new Fulham manger and this weekend, he already goes up against one of his former employers.

That’s because this Sunday sees the West London derby take place at Stamford Bridge as Chelsea play host to Fulham. Two Italians will be going head to head in the technical areas, the question is just which one will come out on top?

Hosts Chelsea will be looking to bounce back after being bested by another London based outfit last weekend as Tottenham made incredibly light work of them at Wembley. A defeat that sees Maurizio Sarri lose his unbeaten start as a Premier League manager.

While Fulham will make the short trip across the capital with their tails up after returning to winning ways last weekend when they got the better of fellow strugglers Southampton. A win that just makes sure that they are not cast adrift at the bottom of the table.

Chelsea last outing was undoubtedly their worst performance of the season so far, although perhaps that does Tottenham a disservice after such an excellent display in front of their own fans. Whichever way you want to look at it, it was a very costly defeat in terms of any title aspirations.

Going into the start of the weekend, Chelsea find themselves seven points behind league leaders Manchester City. A figure that could be as high as ten, should Pep Guardiola’s men get the better of Bournemouth on Saturday afternoon.

Should that happen as expected then it will only put the pressure on Chelsea even further, especially when you consider that City and Chelsea then square off next weekend. By then the Blues could be cast well adrift in the race for the title.

Belgian star Eden Hazard has already intimated that Chelsea’s pursuit of a second Premier League title in three seasons may have come to an end after that defeat to Tottenham, with the aim solely being on a clinching a top four finish and a return to the Champions League the following season.

The thought of European football for Fulham is merely wishful thinking, they quite simply have to make sure they finish 17th and stay in the English top flight and are not sent back down to the EFL Championship at the first time of asking.

Their win over Southampton highlighted that they can be more of a handful in attack, but even in victory over Mark Hughes’s men they still showed that they are susceptible to the old defensive lapse.

That is something that new boss Claudio Ranieri is going to have to work on, as a return to Stamford Bridge is going to provide a real test for him and his Fulham players.Unfortunately for them though, Chelsea will earn the local bragging rights by earning all three points this Sunday.

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Chelsea vs Crystal Palace – Match Preview

 

Chelsea’s unbeaten start to the Premier League season continued last weekend as they made light work of Burnley at Turf Moor, while this Sunday they will look to make it 11 games without a league defeat as they play host to Crystal Palace.

It was another day to forget for Sean Dyche’s men as they shipped four goals without reply to a Chelsea side that was missing Eden Hazard due to a back injury. A result and a performance that sends ominous signs to their nearest title rivals.

That win in East Lancashire means that come the end of the game week Chelsea once again found themselves two points behind both Manchester City and Liverpool at the top of the table, and should the latter drop points against Arsenal then Maurizio Sarri’s men will look to take advantage.

If they are to do so then they will need to get the better of a Crystal Palace side who play their second London derby in as many weeks, not only that but they will look to build on the point they earned at home to Arsenal last Sunday.

It was a much improved Palace side who put Arsenal under pressure throughout the full ninety minutes and if it weren’t for sharper finishing from both Andros Townsend and Wilfried Zaha they could well have earned all three points.

And although they found the net twice last weekend, the fact that neither were from open play will be of some concern for manager Roy Hodgson. They had to rely on the ice cool nerve of Luka Milivojevic as the Serbian international netted a pair of penalties at Selhust Park.

However, this is not a tactic that the Eagles can rely on each week. Especially when you consider that the same Milivojevic missed a spot kick to put them ahead against Everton a fortnight ago, a fixture that they then went on to lose late on after conceding twice in the dying minutes.

They are only making a short journey across the capital, but the trip to Stamford Bridge will not be an easy one come Sunday. Chelsea are firing on all cylinders at the moment and more importantly have goals throughout their squad.

Ross Barkley continues to earn the plaudits as he has now scored in his last three Premier League outings, goals against Southampton and Manchester United were then added to as he scored Chelsea’s second against Burnley last weekend.

His prolonged upturn in form could be integral in Chelsea mounting a real title challenge this season, one that in fairness many did not think would happen so early under the reign of new manager Maurizio Sarri.

That said the transition has been a seamless one since he replaced Antonio Conte in the Summer and the football that is being offered up this season is a stark improvement compared to that of 12 months ago.

If Chelsea can turn it on again, something that they are more than capable of doing then it could well be a long afternoon for Crystal Palace. The Blues are heavy favourites for this one and rightly so, this has all the signs of a routine home win.

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Chelsea quietly winning games in the Premier League

 

While Liverpool top the Premier League table going into the first international break of the campaign, Chelsea have also won all four of their top-flight games under new head coach Maurizio Sarri.

On Saturday afternoon, Sarri’s team recorded a 2-0 win over Bournemouth through second-half goals from Pedro and Eden Hazard. No doubt the Blues were not at their best, but they are quietly picking up the points.

Italian boss Sarri has a very specific style of play labelled by the press as ‘Sarri-ball’. It was highly successful at Napoli, helping the club from Naples push perennial champions Juventus close for the Scudetto in recent years.

Sarri has stated in the past that it may take time for his players to get accustomed to his system and for him to instil his ideas into the Blues squad. Considering his players are not accustomed to his system, they have been picking the points up anyway.

Chelsea may not have been that convincing this season, but good teams win even when they are not playing well. In fact, the cliché goes that good teams win if when are playing poorly.

The international break may have come at a bad time for the team from the capital, as they have built up some momentum, results-wise anyway.

Sarri’s team face Cardiff and West Ham in their next two top-flight games before a potential testing home game against title-rivals Liverpool at Stamford Bridge. The Italian head coach was brought in to get Chelsea back into the top-four, then attempt to challenge for the Premier League title.

However, if the Blues continue in their current vein of form, they may mount a realistic title challenge in his Sarri’s debut campaign. The former Napoli boss may not win the title in his debut campaign like his predecessor, but the Blues definitely seem like a bigger threat to reigning champions Manchester City this season.

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Chelsea vs Arsenal – Match Preview

 

Saturday seems to be the day for London derbies this weekend with not one but two cross capital clashes taking place.

On the undercard is Tottenham vs Fulham at Wembley, but it is fair to say that the main event will be taking place at Stamford Bridge.

That is because it plays host to the titanic clash between Chelsea and Arsenal, however it is also one that signifies the start of a new era for both clubs. In recent times it has been whatever Blues boss has been flavour of the month going up against the legendary Arsene Wenger.

But now after both clubs have made managerial changes over the course of the Summer we are stepping into something of the unknown. In the blue corner we have former Napoli boss Maurizio Sarri while in the red corner we have former PSG boss Unai Emery.

Sarri would have been pleased with Chelsea’s performance away at Huddersfield last weekend, as they strolled to a 3-0 win. Not only did it get them off the mark in the Premier League with maximum points, but it was also a marked improvement on their Community Shield showing.

While in terms of Emery, it was perhaps not the best opening weekend showing that he could have hoped for. That said his Gunners side were paired against Manchester City, a start that could have not been any tougher.

However, there is a feeling that Emery somewhat played into the hands of Manchester City with his tactics that saw Arsenal struggle to play out from the back. Part of you has to think the new Gunners boss should be admired for sticking to his tactical principles, however at the same time maybe he should have been brave enough to mix up his system also.

It will be an interesting clash of styles on Saturday evening as Sarri likes to play a possession based 4-3-3 formation, one that squeezes the opposition. Whether this means Emery can again try to play out from the back remains to be seen.

And even though it is only the second weekend of the season, this game already takes on an additional level of performance. That is because Arsenal can ill afford a second successive Premier League defeat.

In doing so they would give up a six-point head start on their nearest rivals and although on the flipside they will have played two of the toughest teams, it will only add pressure on their new manager to get off the mark.

Chelsea should welcome back Eden Hazard to the starting eleven after he come off the bench in the 3-0 win over Huddersfield. While Arsenal will have to decide whether to play former blue Petr Cech, after a mixed performance in the defeat to Manchester City.

This will be the perfect opportunity for Maurizio Sarri to lay down a marker and show what he and his new look Chelsea side are all about. An opportunity that he will make full use of as the West London outfit make it two wins in a row.

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FA Cup Review: Wigan dump Bournemouth out, nine-man Chelsea scrape through

Bournemouth became the latest Premier League side to be dumped out in the FA Cup third round, suffering a heavy defeat at the hands of League One side Wigan Athletic, although Chelsea survived penalty drama against Norwich City.

The Cherries had drawn 2-2 at home against Wigan in the initial tie but despite Eddie Howe naming a strong side, they collapsed to a 3-0 loss at the DW Stadium on Wednesday.

Sam Morsy opened the scoring in the first 10 minutes, with Dan Burn and Callum Elder on target after the break – the latter with his first goal for the club – to wrap up a comprehensive victory for the 2012-13 champions.

Bournemouth have been knocked out by lower-tier opposition at the first hurdle two seasons in a row, Howe’s men having gone down 3-0 at Millwall in the third round last year.

Chelsea needed penalties to get through their replay at home to Championship side Norwich City, with Pedro and Alvaro Morata having been sent off.

With VAR in use, referee Graham Scott booked Willian, Pedro and Morata for simulation, with the Spanish pair receiving second yellow cards during a 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge – Morata being dismissed for dissent after he was adjudged to have dived.

Chelsea looked to be cruising into round four thanks to Michy Batshuayi’s goal, only for Jamal Lewis to force an additional 30 minutes by scoring in the fourth minute of added time.

Willy Caballero, Manchester City’s penalty hero in the 2016 EFL Cup final, saved from Nelson Oliveira and the Premier League side converted all five of their kicks to progress, Eden Hazard sending Chelsea through to face Newcastle United in the next round.

Swansea City moved into the fourth round with a 2-1 home win against Championship leaders Wolves.

Jordan Ayew opened the scoring for the Swans and after Diogo Jota levelled, Wilfried Bony struck to set up a trip to Notts County.

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Chelsea announce record turnover and £15.3m profit

Chelsea have announced the club made a record turnover for the year ending in June 2017, as well as a profit of £15.3million.

The Premier League champions recorded turnover of £361.3m – up 9.8 per cent from £329.1m in the previous year – despite not taking part in the Champions League last season.

The club said the Premier League’s latest contracts with TV broadcasters, as well as revenues rising thanks to Chelsea claiming the title, explained the record turnover.

“It is very pleasing we matched significant achievement on the pitch in 2016-17 with a successful year commercially,” chairman Bruce Buck said.

“Our business has continued to grow long-term and to be able to post record turnover figures despite not playing Champions League football during that period highlights this strength.

“Our fans played a major part, by supporting the team towards lifting the Premier League trophy, coming to our matches in large numbers, and our ever-increasing global fanbase has helped important commercial partnerships to be formed. We thank our supporters, partners and staff for a successful 2016-17.”

Chelsea’s revenues are expected to rise again for the 2017-18 financial year due to the club’s return to the Champions League, plus a major new commercial partnership with Nike.

However, Chelsea’s ultimate parent company, Fordstam Limited, reported a consolidated loss of £14.2m for the 2016-17 year.

A club statement said this was “largely due to new stadium planning costs and losses at non-football ancillary businesses”.

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Everton 0 Chelsea 0: Conte´s men fail to make most of dominance

Chelsea failed to make the most of their superiority as they were held to a 0-0 draw at Everton in the Premier League on Saturday, with the hosts extending their unbeaten run to seven across all competitions.

Antonio Conte’s men were looking to open a six-point gap ahead of fourth-placed Liverpool after their entertaining 3-3 draw with Arsenal on Friday, but ultimately Chelsea could not successfully break down Sam Allardyce’s stubborn Everton.

For all of their first-half dominance, Chelsea did not create as many clear-cut chances as Conte would have hoped, with Jordan Pickford only troubled sporadically.

The champions were quick out of the blocks after the break and saw a couple of opportunities go begging, but such chances soon dried up once again.

Eden Hazard looked lively leading the line for Chelsea and he often combined to good effect with Willian and Pedro, but without the suspended Alvaro Morata, they were lacking in the final third.

Ashley Williams actually went closest for Chelsea, heading on to his own crossbar late on, but Everton survived that scare to hold on and secure a hard-fought point.

Chelsea managed to exert control almost right from the off, enjoying periods of real pressure and crafting several decent chances early on.

The best opportunity fell to Tiemoue Bakayoko, who saw his 10-yard effort cleared off the line by Phil Jagielka in the 10th-minute after Marcos Alonso’s volley was deflected right to the midfielder.

Everton looked particularly helpless against Hazard, whose driving runs caused no end of problems.

And one such foray nearly brought about another chance, as he darted at the Everton defence, offloaded to Victor Moses on the right and almost got on the end of the wing-back’s resulting cross.

Pickford was forced into action nine minutes before the break, however, palming Pedro’s left-footed effort over after a swift Chelsea counter.

A rare Everton chance presented itself late in the half, but Dominic Calvert-Lewin selfishly went for goal himself when surrounded in the area instead of feeding the unmarked Gylfi Sigurdsson.

Chelsea began the second period with renewed focus and went close to the opener inside a minute – Pedro meeting Willian’s cut-back and testing Pickford, with Alonso’s rebound then blocked behind the goalkeeper by half-time substitute Williams.

That flurry failed to usher in another period of Chelsea dominance, though, with Everton looking more solid in midfield, despite Idrissa Gueye’s withdrawal due to injury.

Chelsea were successful in preventing Everton from becoming a threat, though they were forced to wait until the 76th minute for their next chance.

Moses flashed a teasing delivery across the face of goal that Williams glanced on to the bar, breathing a sigh of relief as it bounced away to safety.

Everton played the majority of the final 10 minutes with everyone other than Sandro Ramirez behind the ball, but they very nearly stole victory right at the end, as Michael Keane headed just over from a corner, much to the relief of Conte and Chelsea.

Key Opta Facts:

– Everton kept their first Premier League clean sheet in nine games against Chelsea, since a 1-0 win in September 2013. However, the Toffees have now failed to score in their last four Premier League games against Chelsea.
– Everton have kept three clean sheets in their five Premier League games under Sam Allardyce – the same number they’d kept in their previous 18 in the competition.
– Chelsea had 25 shots in this match, their most in a Premier League game without scoring since January 2014 (39 vs West Ham).
– Meanwhile, Everton failed to have a single shot on target in a home Premier League game for the first time since 4th December 2011 vs Stoke; 2211 days ago.

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Chelsea 2 Bournemouth 1: Morata breaks Cherries´ hearts with last-gasp winner

Alvaro Morata snatched a dramatic 91st minute winner moments after Bournemouth had equalised as Chelsea reached the EFL Cup semi-finals with a 2-1 win at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday.

Introduced in the 73rd minute, Spain strike Morata broke the visitors’ hearts by combining with fellow substitute Eden Hazard to book his side’s place in the final four.

The decisive goal came just 75 seconds after Dan Gosling had curled the Cherries level, appearing to reward Eddie Howe’s men from a dogged second-half fightback.

But they were ultimately denied what would have been the club’s first ever appearance in the next stage, with Chelsea instead still in contention for a second EFL Cup triumph in the space of four seasons.

Willian earlier capped a well-constructed move in the 13th minute to give his side a lead, which they held for almost the entire match.

And Bournemouth’s disappointment will be compounded by the first-half loss of Jermain Defoe, who was forced off early following a heavy challenge from Ethan Ampadu.

Ampadu was brought in as one of eight changes for Chelsea and the teenager’s first act was to go in late on Defoe, who was unable to continue beyond the 17th minute.

Chelsea were already ahead by the time of his substitution courtesy of a delightful team move.

Michy Batshuayi’s pass enabled Kenedy to free Cesc Fabregas with a classy first-time back-heel and, from inside the area, the Spain midfielder unselfishly squared for Willian to tap home.

Defoe’s replacement Jordon Ibe fired wide of the near post with a chance to issue a quick response, although the hosts quickly reasserted their dominance over possession and territory.

Batshuayi drew a close-range smother from Artur Boruc after being put through on an angle by Pedro, before Gary Cahill audaciously volleyed the half-clearance marginally over the bar.

Bournemouth survived to the break without further damage and returned with renewed impetus, winning a trio of corners in quick succession.

Lys Mousset drew another when his effort from Ibe’s pass was deflected over the bar as Howe’s men continued to grow in confidence.

Conte moved to alleviate the mounting pressure by introducing Hazard and Tiemoue Bakayoko in a double change, although the Cherries were inching closer to an equaliser.

Ibe first whistled a shot past the left post and Gosling went one better in the 90th minute, clinically curling beyond the outstretched Willy Caballero to spark wild celebrations among the away fans.

But their joy quickly turned to despair as, from the resultant kick-off, Chelsea stunningly restored their lead, Hazard skilfully setting Morata through for a cool one-on-one finish.

The striker’s subsequent celebrations earned him a yellow card and a suspension, though, meaning he will miss Saturday’s trip to Everton in the only dampener on the hosts’ delight.

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Chelsea 3 Newcastle United 1: Hazard double completes champions´ comeback

Chelsea survived a scare to claim a 3-1 win over Newcastle United on Saturday and move level on points with second-place Manchester United in the Premier League.

The champions came from a goal down to record their fifth win in six league matches thanks to an Eden Hazard double and an Alvaro Morata header.

Antonio Conte had complained this week that his side have been given an unfair fixture schedule, with Newcastle given an extra 24 hours to prepare for this game after playing on Tuesday, and Chelsea certainly looked out-of-sorts early on at Stamford Bridge as Dwight Gayle put the visitors ahead.

Gayle also opened the scoring in the 4-1 defeat to United last month and there was sense of deja vu for the Magpies when Hazard levelled nine minutes later, before Morata’s header made it 2-1 before half-time.

Chelsea rather eased off in the second half, with Hazard coming close to a third on two occasions, but the Belgium star eventually made the points safe with an impudent penalty.

The result puts Conte’s side level on 32 points with United, who face Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium later on Saturday, while Newcastle stay 12th.

Chelsea’s sluggish start was punished after 12 minutes. A defensive mix-up saw the ball deflect towards Jacob Murphy and, although Thibaut Courtois palmed the ball away from his feet, Gayle was on hand to tap home the rebound.

The goal seemed to spark the home side into life, with Hazard denied by a good Karl Darlow save following a fine Cesc Fabregas pass, before Andreas Christensen rattled the post with a header.

With 21 minutes played, the Blues got their equaliser. Florian Lejeune cleared a cross only as far as Hazard on the edge of the six-yard box, and the Belgian bounced a half-volley off the turf and into the right-hand corner.

Chelsea kept up their pressure and grabbed a second 12 minutes before the break. Victor Moses sent in a cross from the right, Lejeune and Chancel Mbemba both missed it, and Morata had the simple task of nodding the ball into the net from barely five yards out.

Conte’s side were beginning to look comfortable and Darlow had to be alert to deny Hazard his second after a mazy run, with Newcastle mustering little in the opening stages of the second half but for a hopeful strike from 25 yards out by Ayoze Perez.

Hazard then came within inches of connecting with a fine Danny Drinkwater pass 12 yards from goal, as Newcastle dropped deeper and deeper and showed few signs of threatening a late comeback.

The result was finally secured 16 minutes from time, as Hazard clipped a confident penalty into the net after Moses had been brought down by a poor challenge from Matt Ritchie.

Darlow denied Hazard a hat-trick with another good stop but it mattered little to Chelsea, who will now hope for favours from Arsenal and West Ham in their bid to haul in United and runaway leaders Manchester City.

Key Opta Facts:

– Chelsea recorded their 16th Premier League home win against Newcastle – their joint-most versus one side alongside Spurs (also 16 wins).
– Antonio Conte has won all 17 Premier League games with Chelsea in which Eden Hazard has scored.
– Newcastle lost their 70th Premier League game in London – the joint-most of any away side in the competition (level with Everton).
– Since the start of season, Alvaro Morata has scored 11 headed goals, more than any other player in Europe’s big five leagues.
– Newcastle United have won just one of their last 19 away Premier League games (W1 D4 L14).
– Since the start of last season, Dwight Gayle has scored 25 league goals for Newcastle, more than double any other player has netted for the club.

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Chelsea 1 Swansea City 0: Rudiger the match-winner for dominant Blues

Antonio Rudiger’s headed goal earned Chelsea a 1-0 victory over Swansea City on Wednesday, but the margin should have been far greater in a match that also saw Antonio Conte sent to the stands.

Chelsea were in control from start to finish against a Swansea side who failed to muster a single shot on target, but they were left to rely on a somewhat scruffy Rudiger effort to claim a win that keeps the gap to second-placed Manchester United at three points.

Conte was given his marching orders towards the end of the first half, when he lost his temper after his side were wrongly denied a corner.

But the Italian will have breathed a sigh of relief when his side eventually and deservedly went in front – Rudiger heading home after N’Golo Kante’s effort took a huge deflection off Swansea striker Wilfried Bony.

While Chelsea will be grateful to emerge with the three points, Swansea’s concerns in front of goal continue following a fourth successive match without finding the net.

Eden Hazard dropped to the bench in one of four changes to the Chelsea side that drew 1-1 with Liverpool on Saturday and Willian – one of the players to come in following his equalising goal at Anfield – came close to opening the scoring in the 10th minute.

The Brazilian’s free-kick from the left curled just around the post after Marcos Alonso came within a whisker of getting his head to the delivery.

On-loan Swansea top scorer Tammy Abraham was ineligible to play against his parent club as Bony once again led the line, but the Ivorian saw little of the ball early on, with Chelsea controlling possession and testing Lukasz Fabianski with efforts from Davide Zappacosta, Pedro and Alvaro Morata – a man who has scored more goals in the Premier League this season (8) than Wednesday’s opponents (7).

Alonso unsuccessfully hit the deck in search of a penalty under pressure from Renato Sanches after 25 minutes, before Fabianski was called into action again to tip over a well-struck Morata volley.

The wing-back then headed wide and a Willian cross deflected just beyond the left-hand post off Alfie Mawson, but the home side went in at half-time with nothing to show for their 11 shots on goal, while Conte was banished over his furious reaction to the home side not being awarded a corner following Mawson’s lucky escape.

Sanches, who arrived in south Wales from Bayern Munich with much promise, was hooked at the interval after another ineffective outing in the Swansea midfield, and Chelsea finally got their goal 10 minutes into the second half.

Bony got his head in the way of a fierce Kante drive but only managed to divert it into the path of the advancing Rudiger, who used his own head to power the ball beyond Fabianski.

Swansea finally drew a save from Thibaut Courtois when Jordan Ayew fired across the six-yard box from a tight angle, but it was the sum of what the visitors could manage against a Chelsea side who should already have been out of sight.

KEY OPTA STATS

– Cesar Azpilicueta didn’t start a Premier League game for Chelsea for the first time since December 2015, having played 90 minutes in each of their last 74 top-flight matches.
– Chelsea have scored eight headed goals in the Premier League this season; more than any other side.
– Chelsea have remained unbeaten in the Premier League in November (W3 D1 L0) – the first month this season in which they haven’t lost a league match.
– Only three clubs have scored fewer goals after 14 games of a Premier League season than Swansea City (7) this season: Derby (5 in 2007-08), Bradford (5 in 2000-01) and Man City (6 in 1995-96).
– Swansea failed to attempt a single shot on target in this match – the fourth time they haven’t had one in a Premier League game already this season.

– Overall in 2017-18, the Swans have attempted a league-low 24 shots on target in the Premier League.