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Proper football returned this weekend as we travelled to Selhurst Park to face a Crystal Palace side that won the same fixture last season.
There was to be no repeat performance though, as Chelsea won to maintain a five point gap at the top of the table and pull further away from Arsenal who are increasingly becoming irrelevant in the title race already.
The game was John Terry’s 500th as captain and he played a captains game as always.
With no Costa in the team there was apprehension about what Loic Remy could do, but he put in a decent performance and despite the scoreline, we were comfortable in the game.
Despite the game being full of drama, the result never really felt in doubt from the moment that Oscar’s free kick hit the back of the net.
The sending off of Azpilicueta threatened to make things uncomfortable in the second half, his challenge was reckless but without malice. Fortunately Palace soon even things up with an ill judged tug on Loic Remy.
The suspension of Azpilicueta will create an opportunity for Felipe Luis to build on his solid substitute performance and lay his claim for more involvement in the team.
Cesc Fabregas had the moment of the match as he finished off some beautiful interplay to get his first Premier League goal for Chelsea.
Solanke Denied Debut
Sadly the last minute goal saw Dom Solanke denied a debut, he was stripped and ready to come on but the goal saw Mourinho choose to go with the experience of Drogba to see out the final minutes.
Let’s hope he gets another chance
Man of the Match – Nemanja Matic (commanded the game)
Highlight – The pure bliss of that Fabregas goal
- 13 Courtois
- 02 Ivanovic
- 24 Cahill
- 26 Terry
- 28 Azpilicueta Dismissed
- 21 Matic
- 04 Fàbregas Booked
- 22 Willian (Filipe Luis – 42′ )
- 08 Oscar
- 10 Hazard (Salah – 86′ )
- 18 Remy (Drogba – 91′ )
The international break means we are all treading water until the action starts up again at the weekend. So we thought we would take this opportunity to look at two great Chelsea teams, the one from Mourinho’s first spell in 2004/2005 and the one today.
Obviously the systems are different, but how many players would get in the current team from the first spell in charge. This is a harder decision than you would think.
So which players would get in the current team (in their heyday)
Obviously Courtois is the incumbent against Petr Cech, however his place in history is not yet secure, therefore I would choose Cech as we know he is ready for the fight.
William Gallas was not a natural left back but dependable enough, and although Azpilicueta is on the opposite side of the pitch to his natural position, he has made it his own.
Ivanovic of Ferreria, well I love them both but I would have to go for the Serbian
John Terry is the only player in both teams so he is a given, however I think in his heyday Carvalho edges Gary Cahill.
This was a tough one, but the club’s top scorer of all time and the man who had a position named after himself get the nod over Cesc Fabregas and Nemanja Matic.
Damien Duff was a great player and Schurrle has his moments, but a combination of Robben and Eden Hazard would dominate the league.
Oscar has talent, but EIdur Gudjohnsen was unplayable on his day and I think he just about gets the nod ahead of Oscar.
This for me is the toughest one, compared to Drogba in 2004/2005 Diego Costa is the better player but he has yet to play a whole season. Drogba is the man for the big occasion and won trophies for Chelsea. For this reason I will go with Didier Drogba.
What would your combination XI be?
The focus on Eden Hazard this season has been intense with players, the media and the fans comparing the potential of Eden Hazard to Lionel Messi.
This is a little premature but he has had a good start to the season, with the arrival of Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas tying up more defenders giving him more time and space to impact games.
Here is a video of the damage he has done so far this season
Plastered over my timeline today was speculation that Lampard could spend the whole season at Man City, it is upsetting to see Lampard in anything but Royal Blue but the time has come to move on and live and let live.
Frank Lampard is a Chelsea legend, and his exploits will be remembered for generations in the same breath as Tambling, Osgood, Bentley and Zola. He is our record goalscorer and has won a staggering amount of silverware.
But for the next six months and possibly beyond he will play for Manchester City, the full story behind that one is not entirely clear but glancing in his direction and getting obsessed by the speculation on his future does no-one any good.
The talk is that he will extend his loan into the future and every single one of these stories is pounced on by Chelsea fans who reopen the wound that he is no longer at the Bridge. The time came and a decision by someone was made, there is no changing it and no amount of wishful thinking will change that.
He left, there was no shirt burning and a mutual respect, but he has gone.
The story is of course made richer by the fact that we have had to suffer him playing against us and showing his class on and off the pitch with his performance and reaction at the Etihad.
The goal he scored against us was painful, but in ten years it will be a funny anecdote in the story of Frank Lampard a Chelsea legend a one time Manchester City player.
Instead let’s focus on the player he was for us and ignore the fact he is playing for a rival. In two years time he will have retired and we will have forgotten all about that.
Frank Lampard a Chelsea legend but let’s stop talking about who he plays for now.
He may not be playing tomorrow but Didier Drogba should sit on the bench anyway as his presence could be enough to put the fear into the Arsenal defence.
This is a man who scores for fun against Arsenal
Didier Drogba has scored 13 goals in 14 games against Arsenal during his first spell at the Bridge, so I am sure that Arsene Wenger is relieved he will not be terrorising the Arsenal defence.
The European away trip is one of the highlights of watching Chelsea, a few days away from the office in a foreign land, drinking with your mates and getting behind the team.
However when Chelsea travel to Slovenia this month, numbers will be a bit thin, not because there is not enough fans wanting to go, because Chelsea have been allocated a paltry 642 tickets for the game which barely covers all European away season ticket holders.
The reason for the allocation is that the Maribor stadium is the smallest in the group stages holding less than 13,000 fans, the kind of stadium capacity you would expect in League One or Two in England.
Eastern Europe is often a firm favourite with Chelsea fans, as flights are normally easy to find, booze and tickets are cheap and its a bit of an adventure into unknown lands. There will be lots of disappointed fans, myself included.
It is a shame the game could be moved to a larger stadium, but fortunately Sporting Lisbon and Schalke are not bad trips as compensation.
Sporting Lisbon’s home record has been brilliant in Europe and only one team has managed to win there in the Champions League before tonight.
It was a very good away European performance in my humble opinion.
Take away the missed chances (of which there were a lot) and what is left? Solid at the back, good going forward and a clean sheet.
Tonight was always going to be trickier then people imagined. Sporting have has a few issues over the past few years and seem to be through the worst of it and anyone going there knows they are in for a game. Before tonight they were unbeaten in 16 homes games.
We started very well. Even from Sporting kick off it took no time at all to get the ball back and after some patient build up play Costa was put through one on one with Rui Patricio who saved brilliantly, not for the first time tonight, making himself big and blocking the shot. This was pretty much the sign of things to come from the Sporting number 1.
As time went on, frustration grew as we could not seem to beat the fantastic Patricio. There was a mix of the brilliant from the keeper and some woeful finishing that got you feeling it was going to be one of those nights.
On 34 minutes though the breakthrough we had all wanted. A brilliant delivery from Cesc Fabregas was met by probably the most under rated midfielder in the world who arched his header brilliantly over the despairing Patricio. A great header and a great goal.
Then the wait started. The wait for the second goal to kill off the game. The second goal that we did not get against Shalke and paid dearly for not getting. From the minute we went 1-0 up and kept pressing twitter was pessimistically awaiting an equaliser with every tweet you saw saying ‘this has 1-1 written all over it’ and I was one of them people (check for yourself @footy83 #ShamlessPlug). There was a difference from tonight and the Shalke game. The defence. Tonight the defence were awesome. Lisbon had some half chances but never really made Courtois really worry about what was coming. The dive Courtois made from Nani’s shot in the second half I am sure was just out of boredom and wanting something to do.
The second half continued as the first did. Lots of frustrating moments where a second goal looked on the cards. There were chances for Oscar and Salah to name a couple but it just would not happen. When you saw Mikel 25 yards out trying to hit a half volley top bins you sensed the players may be feeling the frustration as well.
The referee had a bizarre game. The game could maybe have had some red cards for both teams. Hazard was subjected to a tackle that could have called for Police involvement and Ivanovic was lucky to get just a yellow when blocking a player coming through on goal because Terry was never going to get there. You expect better officiating at this level of football.
We managed to stifle any attack Sporting had and although it felt that they may get a lucky deflected goal in the 91st minute they posed no threat at all to us.
I don’t know what other fans think but I think tonight was a professional performance with a lot more positives then negatives. Negatives we missed a lot of chances, positives we kept a clean sheet, Costa’s ‘dodgy hammy’ held out for 90, solid at the back and most importantly 3 points. Top of the Group and top of the league………you’re having a laugh!!!!
Bring on Arsenal on Sunday!!!!
COME ON CHELS!!!!!!!
A quick ode to the statistic buffs amongst our readers, admittedly stolen from the awesome Blue Flag UK group on Facebook
They tell us that tomorrow is Chelsea’s 4000th league game and the 2000th at Stamford Bridge, a feat that has taken 109 years to achieve.
We do love a few nice round numbers so we can move onto the next stat, we currently have earned 4997 points, so a win tomorrow will make it a nice round 5000 points in 4000 games.
So how have we done?
Our record is across the whole of our history, the good times and the bad. Chelsea have won 1663 (41.48%), drawn 1037 and lost 1299, scoring 6258 and conceding 5632
At Stamford Bridge, Chelsea have won 1065 (53.28%), drawn 423 and lost 423, scoring 3674 and conceding 2206
So the unthinkable happened and Frank Lampard not only played against Chelsea for the first time since 2001, but he also went on and scored.
Frank Lampard is a Chelsea legend and always will be. Scored a goal and still had his name sung by our fans after the game.
Does it matter that he scored against us? Not a jot and that’s all I have to say about that.
Scoring seven goals in three games is not usually the kind of form that gets you “dropped” from the starting line up, but utilising our squad and giving one of our other strikers game time would be a smart move by Jose Mourinho.
I am not suggesting that we play the youth team, but there are a number of quality players that have had limited time this season, they could benefit from some game time.
Mourinho could easily drop Diego Costa, Cesar Azpilicueta, Cesc Fabregas, Thibaut Courtois, Nemanja Matic, Andre Schurrle and Eden Hazard and field a strong team.
These players could be replaced by Loic Remy (or Drogba), Ramires, Petr Cech, Felipe Luiz, John Obi Mikel, Willian and Salah and still look a formidable team.
It makes sense to give Petr Cech a start in all the European group games to keep him sharp and keep him as part of the team. This and the League Cup game with Bolton would give him two games in two weeks which will be key to keeping him sharp.
We have yet to see Felipe Luis yet and I would be keen to see how he can perform when given the opportunity. Loic Remy could use a start to keep him sharp and we all know about Didier Drogba who will be keen to start making an impact on his return.
I am not suggesting 8 or 10 changes, but a line up with some of these players starting would be a positive. We can always hold the starting XI players in reserve and introduce them as needed if chasing a result.
Football is now a squad game and it is not about dropping or “resting” players but using the squad as a whole to succeed.
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