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CFC

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Nemanja Matic in action © Francesca Ceciarini

Chelsea midfielder Nemanja Matic is optimistic and believes that the Blues, now 10th in the table with 40 points – 10 points under Manchester City that occupies the fourth spot with 50 points and one game in hand- can still finish in the top four.

“We’re a big team and we want to be closer to the top four,” the Serbian midfielder stated after the draw with Stoke City.

“It’s very difficult to catch them but we will try our best to win every game.

“We can certainly be in the top six and who knows what happens if we keep winning.

“It’s difficult – and maybe impossible – but in football anything can happen.”

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Chelsea manager Guus Hiddink is obviously frustrated after getting a draw at home against Stoke with the Potters scored the equaliser with five minutes to go:

“Yeah of course frustrating because we conceded a late goal – that is always frustrating.

“We scored a beautiful goal through Traore and then in the second half I think there was one key moment when the penalty was not awarded on Oscar, if you see it it was a clear, clear, clear penalty.

“I don’t often say that, but it would have been given as a free-kick if it was outside the box. I think it was a key moment but we must not say that Stoke was not pushing.

“They got encouraged by that, and they have some very creative players in the attacking part of team. At the end I think it was a fair result.”

He added: “Yeah, that’s difficult, almost impossible. Especially when other teams are also knocking on that door.

“Today’s result of West Ham for instance, we are respectful that they are also knocking on that door as well.

“You have to win, as we said, all the games.

“At the other end we know where we come from in December, one point off the relegation zone, amazingly we did it in a relatively short time to get safe of course, but also going into the mid of the table.

“Normally at Chelsea the standard is not enough, but after this season, If we can go into a very beautiful March and April it would be nice – I am referring to the upcoming Champions League and FA Cup competitions.”

Yeah of course frustrating because we conceded a late goal – that is always frustrating.

“We scored a beautiful goal through Traore and then in the second half I think there was one key moment when the penalty was not awarded on Oscar, if you see it it was a clear, clear, clear penalty.

“I don’t often say that, but it would have been given as a free-kick if it was outside the box. I think it was a key moment but we must not say that Stoke was not pushing.

“They got encouraged by that, and they have some very creative players in the attacking part of team. At the end I think it was a fair result.”

About reaching the fourth spot he admitted:

“Yeah, that’s difficult, almost impossible. Especially when other teams are also knocking on that door.

“Today’s result of West Ham for instance, we are respectful that they are also knocking on that door as well.

“You have to win, as we said, all the games.

“At the other end we know where we come from in December, one point off the relegation zone, amazingly we did it in a relatively short time to get safe of course, but also going into the mid of the table.

“Normally at Chelsea the standard is not enough, but after this season, If we can go into a very beautiful March and April it would be nice – I am referring to the upcoming Champions League and FA Cup competitions.”

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Stoke City manager Mark claims his side deserved the draw at Stamford Bridge for their display in the second part of the game:

“As the second half progressed there was a feeling around the stadium that we were the team likely to get the next goal,” the ex Blues player stated at the end of the match.

“We deserved a point and actually felt hard done by because in the first half we created two or three really good opportunities which we didn’t convert and then we got done with the sucker punch against the run of play.

“When that happens you can be deflated, but in fairness we had completely the opposite reaction. Everyone was encouraged by what we’d produced in the first half and said to carry on doing what we’d been doing.

“I was a little bit fortunate because I was going to take Mame Diouf off just before he scored,” he admitted”That’s the fortune you need.”

 

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Chelsea were great value for their 1-0 lead at half time. They grew in confidence as the half progressed and a fantastic goal from Traore in the 39th minute saw them in at the break with the lead.

Chelsea began the second half as they finished the first, lots of possession and attacking runs in the Stoke City half. Stoke struggling to compete and contain the Chelsea front men.

After 10 minutes of the second half, Stoke managed to get a little bit of possession and were trying to claw their way back into the game. They passed the ball around well, looking for some space around the Chelsea box. The ball eventually found its way to Shaqiri, he hit the ball well but Courtois was equal to it and tipped around his left hand post.

Instantly at the other end, Chelsea went on a counter attack after Muniesa lost the ball. Willian travelled well and hit the ball from a tight angle, forcing a good save from Jack Butland.

After 70 minutes had passed, Chelsea still kept up the high pressure and always looked threatening when going forward.

The 74th minute saw a Willian free-kick from 30-yards fizz passed Jack Butlands right hand post.

After some Stoke pressure, in the 85th minute Diouf finds himself in the box with a good header and a mistake from Courtois see’s the ball fly into the Chelsea net.

Chelsea looked comfortable for the most part but Couldn’t keep Stoke City out.

The game finished 1-1

 

 

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Starting XI

Courtois 5 – Had some saves to make and did well for the most part but the goal could have been prevented with more concentration.

Azpilicueta 6 – Got forward well with an attacking mindset. Crossed some dangerous balls into the box.

Ivanovic 7 – Held the line well and made some important tackles.

Cahill 6 – Held the line with Ivanovic really well.

Rahman 6 – Tracked his runners defensively and also got forward when he could.

Matic 7 – Broke up the Stoke city play in his own half and passed the ball well.

Mikel 5 – Made some tackles but struggled to get into the game.

Oscar 6 – Didn’t have too much impact on the game.

Willian 8 – Very confident throughout the game. Lots of attacking runs to get Chelsea on the front foot.

Hazard 7 – Good control of the ball and found space well. Looking confident throughout the game.

Traore 8 – Led the line brilliantly. Held the ball up well and scored a fantastic goal.

Substitutes

Loftus-Cheek 5 – Didn’t do much wrong but couldn’t make a massive impact on the game when he came on.

Remy 6 – Played well when introduced to the game. Kept up with the pace and held the ball up.

Fabregas 5 – A late substitution didn’t give him much opportunity to get into the game.

Manager

Guus Hiddink 8 – Got his tactics right. Played a team to give good mentality and was always looking for the win. A shame his team couldn’t hold on.

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An even start to the game with both teams sharing possession but Traore had a small chance in the 5th minute as the ball came in from the right wing, he missed his kick and the chance was gone.

10 minutes in and some good interchange from the Chelsea players. Willian drove with the ball and played a fancy flick but the attack came to nothing as Stoke cleared the ball well.

Oscar managing a strike in the 17th minute but team-mate Eden Hazard couldn’t get out of the way and ball struck the Belgian on the back.

Chelsea began to dominate the game with possession and have a few threatening shots towards the Stoke City goal.

Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois  making a good save from Affelay and forcing a corner. The resulting corner got headed away and Muniesa couldn’t control his volley which flew over the cross bar.

Azpilicueta did well to dispossess the Stoke midfield which gave Willian the chance to strike the ball but it fizzed past the cross bar with Jack Butland seemingly having it covered.

Just after the half hour mark, Chelsea had 3 shots on target but all three were blocked. Willian with the last which resulted in a corner but it came to nothing. High Chelsea pressure though that saw Stoke City struggling to contain the attacking minds of the Chelsea players.

A wasted chance for Stoke in the 36th minute. Shaqiri made it to the dead ball line and stood the ball up for Diouf at the far post, the Stoke City striker took his eye off the ball and couldn’t keep it down.

Chelsea took the lead in the 38th minute. A fantastic strike from Traore 20-yards out left Jack Butland absolutely no chance in reaching it. Chelsea‘s confidence had been growing as the half went on and a well deserved lead for the Blues.

The half drew to a close with Chelsea having a lot of the ball in-and-around the Stoke City 18-yard box. Chelsea go in at the break 1-0. Great value for their lead.

 

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Diego Costa © Francesca Ceciarini

Diego Costa was supposed to start today but Hiddink revealed he is out due to a minor tendon injury

CHELSEA-  Courtois; Azpilicueta, Cahill, Ivanovic
(c), Baba; Mikel, Matic; Willian, Oscar, Hazard; Traore.

Subs: Begovic, Miazga, Clarke-Salter, Loftus-Cheek, Fabregas, Pato, Remy.

Manager: Guus Hiddink

 

STOKE CITY – Butland, Muniesa, Cameron, Wollscheid, Pieters, Whelan, Imbula, Shaqiri, Affelay, Arnautovic, Diouf

Subs: TBA

Manager: Mark Hughes
Referee: Mark Clattenburg
Venue: Stamford Bridge, London, UK
Kick Off: 3 pm, GMT

 

 

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Guus Hiddink speaks about his experience at Chelsea in these last two months and praise his staff for the precious help they are giving him:

Working here is different and I’m enjoying every day.

“It’s satisfying and I like to emphasise I’m not doing it by myself, I’m responsible and I like to take the lead but I’m depending on my technical team for professionalism.

Steve Holland, Eddie Newton, Chris Jones and Christophe Lollichon are doing great jobs. They don’t get the publicity I get each week but without Steve it would have been different for me.”

The Dutch coach also explained how the team could improve results since he took over in December:

“They don’t have to answer me with words but they have done it with their performances.

“We weren’t hoping, we were expecting (an improvement), because they’ve shown it in the past.

“When they won the championship there were ups and downs, but at the end of it came the championship. At the beginning there was a lack of confidence but when the results came, and they got used to playing a little bit differently, defending with a higher block, they started playing well and enjoying it, which is important. It’s about doing your job and enjoying your job.”

Chelsea can qualify for Europa League for next season and Hiddink, of course, has his opinion about the competition the club won in 2013:

“My personal opinion is that if you play in the Europa League you can bring in young players.

“I don’t want to undervalue it but it’s nice to have games for younger players. We’ve tried to bring young players in and it’s good for them as well.”

 

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Chelsea captain John Terry revealed one very strange superstition of the Blues dressing room:

“I am very superstitious and, for me, if we win a game then I add it on to my next superstition,” said Terry.

“Last season, as you can imagine, it built up to quite a lot.

“Me and Frank [Lampard] started it a long time ago; in the Chelsea dressing room we have three urinals and me and Lamps started weeing in one. We won the game and, for me, that was it, the next week there was a queue of me, Frank and Ash [Ashley Cole].

The next week there were four of us and the week after there were five.

And even now, up until today, you have Cesar Azpilicueta and Cesc Fabregas, we are all there in one big queue.

A few months ago the club secretary said to me: ‘we have had a few calls from the FA complaining because we have been going out late’ and I didn’t have the heart to tell him it was because we were all waiting to go for a wee.

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Chelsea vice-captain Branislav Ivanovic explained what went wrong in the beginning of this season, when the Blues had the worst start in the last 40 years and went one point from relegation zone, a situation that culminated with the sacking of manager José Mourinho.

The Serbian defender reveals that was not Mourinho‘s fault and that if Abramovich could, he would have fired all the squad for under performing on the pitch but, at the end, as it often happens in football it was the coach to pay for everyone:

“We didn’t know what was going on,” the current Chelsea’s captain on the pitch said.

“We finished brilliantly last season.We won the trophy. We knew how difficult it was.

Jose told us the hardest season in football is the year after you win. We were ready for that, but we didn’t start well.

“We lost control of our game and minds. Those three or four months was one of the most disappointing moments in my career.“

We could not deal with the pressure of what being champions of England means. Your opponents have big motivation.

“When we didn’t win for six or seven games, people realised we were not as strong as last season. They weren’t scared.

“I took criticism from the public, but I was more critical of myself. All players are most critical of themselves.

“I tried to find the reason why I was not performing as I was last season. We gave everything last season.

“We didn’t realise how dangerous it was to be champions. We fell down quickly. We didn’t know what was going on around us.

“I had an injury and was not 100 per cent clear in my head what I was doing, what I had to do.

“Jose didn’t change. He didn’t change his preparation for games. He didn’t change the way he treated us. He was the same.

“Football is about players. The managers are not on the pitch. It is 11 vs 11. You have to be better than your opponent.

“We were more responsible than the manager. Of course it is difficult to change 25 players halfway through the season.

If Abramovich could have, he would have changed all of us as. It’s difficult to say it was only one guy’s responsibility.

Guus [Hiddink] deserves a lot of credit. He is doing an amazing job. But it was all about the players. Changing manager woke us up.

“When we had Jose, we had a shield in front of us. We had someone to protect us, to be criticised first. Now it’s only us.

“We cannot blame someone else. We have no-one around us, and we have to start winning games, which is the aim of the club.

“Chelsea did not deserve to be in the situation they were in. We are trying to do everything we can to save the season.

Asked if he would like Chelsea captaincy he replied:

“Difficult question. We have a captain. I don’t like to think about the future.

“I try to do my best and be ready if it happens. I would hope not to change what I am now. If not, I’m happy like this.

“You need to be the person all the others look to. When we concede a goal, we always look to John and see his reaction.

“A good captain must be successful. Win the trophies. Off the pitch, you need to be professional, set a good example.

“We have lost some leadership. We had big players who built this team. In my opinion we have lost a bit of leadership.“

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