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Chelsea FC

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Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger, who watch the derby from Stamford Bridge stands after he was hit by a touchline four-match-ban, complained about Chelsea‘s opener because, in his opinion, Marcos Alonso hit Hector Bellerin with an elbow when heading the ball.

The Gunners defender was then forced to leave the pitch loooking groggy:

“It was a foul. If you look at a number of games recently we can feel sorry,” the French manager told Sky Sports after match.

“It was 100% a foul, it was even dangerous play. That doesn’t take anything away from the performance of Chelsea.

“We had a strong start but didn’t take the opportunites and after half time the second goal was the killer for us.”

“We were really naive and not clinical in our defending. Then Chelsea looked the better side. We took risks and they were well organised and played well on the counter attack and looked powerful.

“We lost ball the many times. In situations we lacked maturity and experience. Individually some of our players were not at their best today.”

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Chelsea boss Antonio Conte spoke to Sky Sport Italia after the great win over Arsenal at Stamford Bridge this afternoon.

The Blues won 3-1 and now, with 9/12 points on the second ones ( depending on Tottenham result at Middlesbrough tonight) they start to feel the Premier League trophy in their hands, even if Conte claims that nothing is over yet:

“It’s not a revenge from the 3-0 at the Emirates back in September, I just think that in this moment we are top of the table and today we had the chance to kill – in a sport way- a direct rival in the title race, because if they won they would have been only 6 points clear and get confidence, and consequently we lose it.

“What me and my staff did to the team? We are trying to “Italianise” them, especially in the mentality: everything can happen in a game if you don’t face it with the right concentration, we are bringing our [Italian] determination and sharpness, our concentration.

“I don’t think the league is already ours: we still have 14 games to play, with 42 points to gain, and when you have teams like Spurs, Liverpool, Arsenal, Man City and Man United behind you, you cannot relax. With 14 games left you have to work even harder, without losing your focus. we still have to keep the tension high.

“I am happy of what we are doing with these guys, not only for the performances but also because I see team-mates that love each other and fight as a team.”

 

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Chelsea confirm to be unstoppable with a sharp win on Arsenal in one of the most important London derbies: 3-1 and the Blues hands that start to touch the Premier League trophy.

Conte’s side are now 12 points clear of the Gunners and Spurs, that still got one game in hand: 59 points to 47. A huge gap that is not easy to fulfill in fourteen games.

Arsenal started better and with more determination and after a couple of minutes they almost score with a Iwobi’s shot that, deflected, goes wide on the goal´s side, but it´s Chelsea to score at their very first occasion: Pedro runs down the right and executes a perfect cross for Diego Costa to attack. He meets it with a firm header but the ball bounces back off the crossbar, Marcos Alonso comes flying in with Bellerin and heads in goal from close range.

Bellerin remains down receiving treatment as he took a fair whack from the Chelsea full-back, who probably committed a foul. The French defender left the pitch after two minutes looking groggy, with Gabriel replacing him.

After some minutes Costa has the chance to net the 2-0, but his shot is wide. The Blues are in control of the game and try to close the game, but at minute 32 is Cech to stop Pedro’s attempt: it seems a signal for Arsenal, that play the last fifteen minutes of the first half with another spirit.

Courtois first makes an important save on Gabriel -almost- perfect header, then stops a shot from Ozil that could have done better after a fine combination between Coquelin and Walcott.

The first half ends 1-0 for the Blues, who enter the pitch in the second part with even more determination to seal the game and they succeed after eight minutes: a stunning goal from Eden Hazard, who dribbles past half Arsenal team after receiving the ball from Costa when he still was in his half of the pitch.

Probably the goal of the year so far, even if Arsenal defence could do better, with the Belgian player beating Cech with a lob when in front of him.

Arsenal, anyway, had a reaction in their worst moment, with Chelsea being dangerous on the break.

The Gunners replace Coquelin and Walcott with Giroud and Welbeck, who instantly made an impact but didn’t have many chances to be dangerous, with Ozil and Sanchez being clearly in a negative day.

Arsenal blow a couple of chances with a coupld of headers from Mustafi and Welbeck, the first one goes wide while the second is saved by Courtois.

Immediately after Willian and Fabregas replace Pedro and Hazard and after five minute the Spanish midfielder definitely seal the game with an impressive lob from outside the box after a mistake by ex Chelsea keeper Cech, who directs a short ball to his team-mate that is intercepted by the ex Arsenal captain.

A fantastic goal and no celebration for Fab who, at the end, was still a Gunner for eight years.

Consolation goal for Giroud at 90, with a great header on a cross from Monreal.

Chelsea leave the pitch triumphantly, knowing that now the job in the title race can be easier.

 

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Team News

CHELSEA 

– No injury concerns for Conte

David Luiz still playing on a knee injury

 

ARSENAL 

Santi Cazorla still out for injury

Mohamed Elneny in African Cup of Nations

Aaron Ramsey out after picking calf injury against Watford

Olivier Giroud and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain faced fitness test yesterday to value their condition before Chelsea derby

– Manager Arsene Wenger still banned from touchline, he will watch the game from the stands

 

Predicted Line-Ups

CHELSEA – Courtois; Azpilicueta, Cahill, David Luiz; Moses, Matic, Kante, Alonso; Pedro, Diego Costa, Eden Hazard.

ARSENAL – Cech; Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal; Coquelin, Oxlade-Chamberlain; Walcott, Ozil, Sanchez; Welbeck.

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Transfer window was over two days ago but according to some rumours, Diego Costa continues to receive offers from China, where the transfer market is still open, and many football and market experts reckon the Spaniard can move to Chinese Super League next summer:

“I don´t know, every week I have a lot of news and speculations about Diego, now the important thing is to be focused in this title race. Diego now is with us, summer is far, and it´s important to be prepared for this title race.

Speaking about the possible signing two Celtic players, Moussa Dembele and Ryan Gordon, who eventually stayed at the Glasgow side, Conte said:

“I’ve never talked with my club about Dembele, we tried [to sign] Gordon because we tried to satisfy Begovic and his requests, he wanted to play every game, but I told him he could leave only if we could find a substitute: Gordon was one of the goalkeepers in our list, we tried but when Celtic told us they couldn’t sell him, it was over.”

“During this transfer window we signed three young players: Ake, Kenedy and Musonda.

Ake played very well for one year and half in the league, I think now he´s more mature, he can improve with us and help us until the end of the season, the others are two young players but with good quality.”

 

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Chelsea manager Antonio Conte spoke before tomorrow’s clash against Arsenal: the two teams arrives with a different spirit to this really important derby, with the Gunners coming from a home defeat with Watford and nine points under Chelsea in the table, where they sit third with 47 points along with Spurs, and the Blues coming from a good draw with Liverpool away, still leaders with 56 points:

“For sure the result was good but honestly at the end we were a bit disappointed,” the Italian boss said about the recent game against the Reds.

“It´s not easy to get a result in Anfield against a really good team like Liverpool.”

“Arsenal is a great team, for sure they have the chance to fight for the title until the end, now Liverpool game is gone and now it´s important to be focused only on the next game.”

Continuing to speak about tomorrow’s derby, he said:

We must pay great attention because they are a great team, it will be a very tough game.

“We are nine points clear, but if we lose tomorrow the points are six, we are playing good football, with good intensity. Tomorrow we have a great opportunity to show this.”

Asked if something changes with Wenger on the stands for a four-match-ban, Conte replied:

“I don´t know, I cannot reply this question because for sure I prefer to stay in the touchline to push my players and help them in the key moments of the gas, for me it´s very important and I don´t know about the others.”

According to some rumours, Diego Costa continues to receive offers from China, where the transfer window is still open, and many football and market experts reckon the Spaniard can move to Chinese Super League next summer:

“I don´t know, every week I have a lot of news and speculations about Diego, now the important thing is to be focused in this title race. Diego now is with us, summer is far, and it´s important to be prepared for this title race.

Speaking about the possible signing two Celtic players, Moussa Dembele and Ryan Gordon, who eventually stayed at the Glasgow side, Conte said:

“I’ve never talked with my club about Dembele, we tried [to sign] Gordon because we tried to satisfy Begovic and his requests, he wanted to play every game, but I told him he could leave only if we could find a substitute: Gordon was one of the goalkeepers in our list, we tried but when Celtic told us they couldn’t sell him, it was over.”

“During this transfer window we signed three young players: Ake, Kenedy and Musonda.

Ake played very well for one year and half in the league, I think now he´s more mature, he can improve with us and help us until the end of the season, the others are two young players but with good quality.”

Asked about Frank Lampard‘s decision to retire from football, Conte claimed:

“It´s a pity when a great player as Frank Lampard decides to end his career, because you lose a fantastic player, the whole world of football is disappointed when a player like him finishes his career, he played thirteen years for Chelsea, he gave a lot to this team, he played more than 100 times for the national team, but every player knows when it’s the right moment to finish his career. I have a lot of respect for him and what he did.”

About Lampard’s future, the Blues boss said:

“I don’t know his thoughts, it’s important to take a bit of time to make the best decision for you. I think Frank Lampard can decide what is the best decision for him.”

Continuing to speak about the game against Arsenal he said:

“I think if we win the game tomorrow for sure is a good hit for us because to improve your situation in the table, take three points and have a 12 points gap from Arsenal is very good. But tomorrow will be a tough game, we have to pay a lot of attention, Arsenal already beat us and it’s possible to repeat this, so we have to have max concentration, to have the same anger and most important of all we have to look at ourselves, not the others, like I always say to my players.

“I watched the game against Watford and sometimes the results don’t say the truth: I think they were a little unlucky, they had many chances to score, I think they are in a good shape, in a good form, the result is strange.

Conte changed his tactical system during the game with Arsenal at Emirates, a decision than then paid, since Chelsea were almost unbeatable after that defeat and had an incredible run of 13 wins in a row:

“It’s not simple, we know all the work we did in the past and what we are doing now, during the game against Arsenal, after ten minutes, I decided to change our system, because in my mind it was possible, we were seven points from Manchester City in that moment and what happened showed a situation can change very quickly and after twenty games the situation is very different, there are fifteen games and now we have to pay great attention.”

Conte was at London Stadium the other night to watch West Ham v Man City, with the Guardiola side beating the Hammers 4-0 still having Agüero on the bench and with a super Gabriel Jesus:

“When I have the chance I like to go to stadia to watch future opponents, I saw a really good team, but we all know Man City’s potential. I think the strange thing is their current situation, I think they have a great squad, a lot of fantastic players in the team, they played very well, Gabriel Jesus and Sterling played very well, all the team played very well. I am not so sure the league is finished, I know that we must pay great attention, there are 15 games to play and I think we must keep the right tension.

“We have to keep our attention very high, I have experience in this, I want to keep our concentration very high, we know that behind us we have a lot of great teams.”

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Ivanovic
Chelsea vice captain Branislav Ivanovic

Chelsea legend Branislav Ivanovic officially moves to Zenit St Petersburg on January 2017 transfer window deadline day.

The Serbian defender, who scored in his last Stamford Bridge appearance last Saturday, posted a selfie of himself with a Zenit training t-shirt, probably after undergoing a medical.

Here is the snap:

IMG_2526

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Chelsea boss Antonio Conte regrets missing the chance to get three points at Anfield, but the Blues manager is happy anyway since his team maintained a huge gap on the chasers after both Tottenham and Arsenal dropped points tonight, with a draw and a defeat:

“I think at the end of the match we could have won. It was a very tough game, both games tried to play with intensity. I’m pleased. We saw a different game to when we played Liverpool and lost at home,” Conte told BT Sport after the game with Liverpool.

“It’s a pity Diego Costa missed the penalty because he played very well. We had different chances to score goals, but we must be happy with the result and the performance because it is not easy to play away at Liverpool.

“The best thing is to see ourselves, not the others. We stay top of the table and that is a great achievement but it is important to focus on ourselves.

“There are 15 games remaining and 45 points. It’s important to draw against a really good team and now we must focus on playing Arsenal next week.”

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David Luiz was one of the protagonist of tonight’s 1-1 draw with Liverpool: after the match the Brazilian defender spoke about the stunning free-kick with which he gave the lead to Chelsea half-way through the second half:

“Sometimes you need to try the surprise,” Luiz said on his free-kick.

“I’m not in the best position to take free-kicks because my knee is hurting and I can’t train every day,” he said speaking of the small injury that followed Sergio Aguero‘s dreadful tackle back in December “but in a game you need to see the opportunity.

“I’m pleased I scored.”

“It is never easy to play here at Anfield and win points.

“We had an opportunity to win the game, and we’re unlucky we didn’t win it. But it was a good result.”

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The Anfield big match ends 1-1 but it feels like a win for Chelsea, because their closest rivals all drop points and the Blues increase their gap: in fact, Spurs leave Sunderland with a goalless draw while Arsenal lose 2-1 to Watford at the Emirates and now both teams are second with 47 points, with Chelsea still leading the table with 56, 9 points clear, that at this point of the season can be lost only with a [sport] suicide.

Chelsea could have won a game that Liverpool, anyway, played better if Diego Costa didn´t miss a penalty at minute 77: Mignolet’s save gave even more adrenalin to the Reds, that in the last minutes were even more convinced to get the three points, but the Blues stayed focused and showed their impressive tactical organization, especially in the defense.

Pedro even missed two more chances in a couple of counter attacks, but also Liverpool went close to score when Firmino missed a goal with a weak header, even if the Brazilian missed an even more clamorous occasion half way in the second part, when he sent the ball – really – high on the crossbar when he was alone in front of Courtois, this was just some minutes after Wijaldum’s equaliser, a beautiful header in one of the few occasions where Chelsea defence and Courtois didn’t seem concentrated and ready.

The Dutchman was also the protagonist of the first dangerous chance of the night, when he tested Courtois’ reflexes with a great shot after 11′.

Nothing much happened in the first part, until minute 25′, when Eden Hazard tripped Adam Lallana that pushed him down the floor: on the following free-kick, David Luiz found an incredible powerful shot that surprised Mignolet and took Chelsea to lead 1-0.

After a couple of minutes the Belgian keeper saved a ball coming from a Willian´s free-kick from the left.

Liverpool, anyway, put pressure on Chelsea for the entire game but Conte’s side showed again their great defensive skills and organization.

Despite the draw Chelsea still have a good gap from their chasers and after Arsenal’s defeat tonight they can even face Saturday’s derby with less pressure, even if a win from the Gunners would give them again faith for the title race, so Conte’s guys cannot underestimate this crucial game that, if won, can give them wings in their title’s pursue.

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