Tags Posts tagged with "January"

January

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nkoulou

According to a report by the French newspaper L’Equipe Chelsea are keen to sign Olympique Marseille defender Nicolas Nkoulou to challenge captain John Terry.

The Cameroon defender, 25, got 63 caps with his national team: his price-tag is around £7.2m.

He joined Marseille from French rivals Monaco in 2011 and has made a total of 212 appearances in Ligue 1.

Nkoulou can play as a defensive midfielder but also as central defender.

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The visit of Manchester United tomorrow and the trip to Arsenal next week give Chelsea the chance to all but ensure that the Premier League trophy will be present at Stamford Bridge for the next 12 months.

A victory on Saturday evening will mean the Blues will extend the lead to ten points as Arsenal are busy with their FA Cup semi-final, and a draw will mean they have avoided defeat against one of the best teams in the country and one week closer to winning their first league title since 2010. A defeat would not be a disaster, but could make life considerably more difficult with difficult matches against Liverpool, Crystal Palace and Leicester to come.

Therefore, whilst it cannot be considered definitive, unlike the fixture in 2006, a 3-0 victory for Chelsea which gave them their second Premier League title, or as triumphalist as Chelsea’s 3-1 victory at Old Trafford in 2005 after they had secured the league, but it could be seen as a game where Chelsea’s title ambitions are either confirmed or damaged. With only seven matches left, a victory against Chelsea’s great rivals from the North could be crucial.

Chelsea have a good record against Manchester United, especially at home. Fans of the Blues remember with great fondness the victory in October 1999 when the Red Devils, fresh from winning the Treble the following season were dispatched 5-0 and dominated from the first minute to the last. More recently, important victories have included the 1-0 win in September 2004 – Jose Mourinho’s first league game as Chelsea manager- the already mentioned win the following season that secured the title, the 2-1 triumph with only two matches left to go in the 2007/08 season, courtesy of two Michael Ballack goals, and 1-0 win in 2009/10 when John Terry scored the winning goal 18 months after failing to convert the penalty which could have won Chelsea the Champions League. There have been disappointments in league matches against Man Utd as well- losing a three goal lead in 2012 late on is perhaps the most bitter, but the 3-2 defeat the following season, a game in which Chelsea had two player sent off, runs it close.

Chelsea are undefeated against United since Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013. The 1-1 draw earlier on in the season was virtue of a stoppage time equaliser by Robin van Persie, but the fact that a draw at Old Trafford was a let down for Chelsea is testament to the shifting fortunes of the two clubs. Manchester United have not been close to Chelsea this season, but that does not mean anyone should take this game easily. Their relative weakness in midfield and defence is compensated by attacking options that would make any club jealous if only they were given better service- former Chelsea favourite Juan Mata included.

Similar things can be said of next week’s opponents, Arsenal. Their brilliant recent form- seven wins in a row- working parallel with Manchester City’s meltdown, has seen them emerge as Chelsea’s nearest rivals for the title.  Until recently, Chelsea had a terrible record against the Gunners, something which  began change when they were beaten at Highbury in the first all-English Champions League tie in 2004. Sub-plots await next week’s fixture at the Emirates, even more than tomorrow.

Cesc Fabregas, a former Arsenal captain, will return to his old ground as one of Chelsea’s key creative outlets, a title he proved he is worthy of in the October fixture at Stamford Bridge when a fantastic pass to Diego Costa secured the three points for the Blues and earned him a Man of the Match award. Regardless of the result tomorrow evening, next week’s fixture will be a challenge for Mourinho’s side. Arsenal not playing this weekend will make the slight advantage Chelsea have of playing a game less invalid, especially as the game Chelsea currently have in hand is against Leicester City, a team fighting for their Premier League survival at the bottom of the table.

Defeat in either game will leave Chelsea in danger of losing the title which they are so close to, something that will no doubt be in the manager’s mind when he selects his team(s). The approach to the game at home to Man City at the end of January, then considered a potential title decider, was clearly conservative with Chelsea, top then as now, settling for a draw after City equalised before half-time. It is likely that a draw in one, maybe even both, would be an acceptable situation.

The temptation is to want Chelsea to express themselves, to not fear tomorrow’s and next week’s opponents, but one must remember that both Manchester United and Arsenal have chased down similar deficits to the one Chelsea hold over the, and the experience of the Champions League this season- when Chelsea were knocked out by PSG in a tie the Blues really should have won- should be a careful reminder pf what can happen when quality opponents are not given the respect they deserve, which Man Utd and Arsenal, despite their flaws, obviously are. Chelsea have been stung on more than one occasion this season when complacency has been allowed to override professionalism, the most important thing to do until the end of the season is to make sure that doesn’t happen again.

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