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Premiership

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PETR CECH
Petr Cech will move to Arsenal this summer © Francesca Ceciarini

Petr Cech is set to choose Inter Milan instead of Arsenal when he leaves Chelsea at the end of the season, according to the Daily Express.

Cech, 32, has been replaced by Thibaut Courtois as Chelsea’s regular goalkeeper, following a trophy-laden decade of being the first choice keeper at Stamford Bridge. But, he has rarely played for the Blues this season. Speculation has been rife as to whether or not the Czech he will still be in west London next season and, if not, where he will be instead. He has been linked to several clubs around Europe including Roma and Galatasaray, but it appeared Chelsea’s London rivals Arsenal were front-runners after Arsene Wenger reportedly offered Wojciech Szczesny in exchange.

However, the Gunners have been usurped by Serie A giants Inter Milan in the race to sign the 2012 Champions League winner’s signature. Inter have supposedly agreeing to meet Chelsea’s £10 million valuation, according to the Express which quotes Italian newspaper Corriere dello SportInter have turned to Cech after losing patience with their current goalkeeper Samir Handanovic, with whom they have been unable to agree personal terms on a new contract. The club, with which Jose Mourinho won the Champions League with in 2010, has reportedly offered Cech a two-year deal with the option of a third. Cech has spoken in the recent weeks about his frustration on his lack of first-team action.

“I’m used to playing 50 or 60 games a season, not 15 or 20. That’s a big difference. It is no secret that I want to play more. The situation is the same, it hasn’t changed. But at the end of the season it will be solved.”Cech joined Chelsea from French club Rennes in 2004 and boasts three Premier League titles and a Champions League, as well as breaking many goalkeeping records.

He has made only five appearances in the Premier League this season, but has kept a clean sheet in all of those games.

 

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Gary Cahill has warned his Chelsea teammates to not underestimate the danger of Arsenal in the final few weeks of the season.

Saturday’s 2-1 win at home to Stoke City preceded Manchester City’s surprising defeat away at Crystal Palace and gave Chelsea a nine point lead over last season’s champions with a game in hand, a weekend which effectively ended the Citizens’ chances of retaining the title after a terrible 2015 which has seen them slip to fourth.

Parallel to that has been the form of Chelsea’s London rivals Arsenal; a 4-1 victory over Liverpool last weekend taking the Gunners up to second place and seven points behind Chelsea, and inspiring hopes of winning the league that would have appeared outlandish just a few weeks ago. Chelsea still have to play at  the Emirates and, even though the game in hand- Leicester City away- a defeat in that fixture could give the season a distinctly unnerving edge for Chelsea as it nears its conclusion.

Cahill, who has often started at centre-back beside John Terry for Chelsea this season, is aware of the form of Arsene Wenger’s team.

“I think it’s gone under the radar, hasn’t it? I think how well they’ve done of late – they’ve crept up,” the England international is quoted as saying.

“We started (against Stoke) today with them in second position. They’ve gone about it quietly, they’re obviously in fantastic form.”

 

Chelsea beat Arsenal 2-0 at Stamford Bridge in October and Jose Mourinho has never lost to Arsene Wenger. However, Chelsea should be aware, as they prepare to face QPR this Sunday, of the relatively recent past. Arsenal overcame a similar point deficit in 1998 when they beat Manchester United to the title when some bookmakers had already paid out on the latter team winning the title, the spark for which was a 1-0 win over the Red Devils towards the end of the season.

 

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DIEGO COSTA
Diego Costa was a key-player for Chelsea in the last season © Francesca Ceciarini

Jose Mourinho has confirmed that Diego Costa will miss at least two weeks of football, including the visit of Manchester United to Stamford Bridge.

The clash between the current first and third placed teams in the Premier League is likely to be crucial in deciding the destination of the league trophy, with the Red Devils’ recent good run of form leading their manager Louis van Gaal to insist the trophy is not out of his team’s reach.

Chelsea are currently seven points clear at the top, a lead that will be reduced to six should Manchester City beat Crystal Palace tonight. Costa, who Chelsea signed for over £30 million in the summer from Athletico Madrid and scored 19 goals this season, was brought on as a substitute at half-time of Chelsea 2-1 win over Stoke City on Saturday. But, the Spaniard was forced to leave the pitch with a recurrence of his long term hamstring injury.

The Chelsea manager is hoping the Spain international will return after a fortnight but that will probably not be soon enough for the Manchester United match on the 18th April.

“He will be out for sure a couple of weeks, but we have seven weeks until the end of the season.” the Portuguese said.

Defending his decision to bring on Costa, Mourinho continued:

“The player trained two days 100 per cent with the team, the medical department was convinced that he was ready. Sometimes as a manager I have to risk things. Medical departments have to do the same, if they want to be top medical departments like our department is.”

Costa’s fitness was also the subject of speculation before Chelsea’s match with Manchester United in October, a match where Chelsea were left to rue missed chances after Robin van Persie equalised in stoppage time to secure a 1-1 draw.

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Hazard has been a key man for the Blues this season

Here are our ratings for the Chelsea team that played in the Blues 2-1 victory over Stoke:

Courtois: 6 - Caught out for the Stoke goal when he shouldn’t have been.

Azpilicueta: - He was ready to get forward and support the attack when needed to, and defended well.

Terry: 6.5 – Isn’t quite organising his defence in the same way that he used to – the goals Chelsea are conceding is proof of that.

Cahill: - John Terry needs to play with someone quick. Should be replaced by Zouma as soon as possible.

Ivanovic: 6.5 - Worked hard but is perhaps fading defensively as the season goes on.

Fabregas: 7 – Appears to be getting back to his early season form, if quite slowly. Won the penalty after some good work.

Matic: 7 – Worked very hard and played in the first half.

Willian: - A good performance, slowed down after the goal but generally worked hard.

Oscar: 6 – An inconsistent performance in the first half and was taken off at the break.

Hazard: 8 – Scored one and set up another. Could have assisted or scored a few today. Man of the match and deservedly so.

Remy: 7 – Started instead of Costa and scored the winner, albeit an easy one.

Substitutes

Drogba: - Came on for Costa and did well. Received only Chelsea booking.

Costa: N/A – Only on for ten minutes before going off for injury.

Cuadrado: - Struggled to get into the game.

Manager

Jose Mourinho 7- The team was prepared well and only went in level because of one individual error. Had the foresight to make changes when they were needed.

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Chelsea have increased their lead at the top of the Premiership after a tough 2-1 win over Stoke City at Stamford Bridge.

Goals from Eden Hazard and Loic Remy were enough to seal the points, and despite an outstanding 50-yard strike from Stoke captain Charlie Adam, the Blues held out to seal the win and increase their lead at the top of the table until at least Monday, when Manchester City play Crystal Palace.

Chelsea started the game very well; neat passing around the away penalty area after a free-kick led to Stoke goalkeeper Asmir Begovic making a good save from Remy’s deflected shot in the 3rd minute. Chelsea’s high tempo start gave Remy the chance to try again three minutes later, but his shot from the edge of the box drifted wide. Eden Hazard had the next attempt a few minutes after, when he made an incisive run towards the edge of the box. However, the Belgian put his shot over the bar.

The game settled within the first quarter-of-an-hour into a pattern of Chelsea passing the ball quickly in midfield but not quite being able to find the space in the area needed to open the scoring. Remy’s quick movement forced another save from Begovic at the near post when Oscar played him in, although the Frenchman’s shot was slightly scuffed. Stoke tried to break away when they could but struggled to threaten Chelsea’s defence, mainly because of the hard work of the midfielders – Nemanja Matic, Cesc Fabregas and Oscar playing with an energy that had been lacking slightly in recent matches to win the ball back when it was lost.

The visitors first opening on goal came in the 23rd minute, a free-kick from the left causing some confusion between the Chelsea centre-backs who eventually blocked a volley from the edge of the penalty area. A poor clearance from Matic five minutes later led to a shot from Stoke midfielder Steven Nzonzi which appeared to have Thibaut Courtois beaten but it drifted wide. Chelsea responded with fantastic link up between Fabregas, Willian and Hazard who squared the ball to Oscar, who in turn could not provide the finish that the move deserved.

The football generally in the first half-an-hour was very good, but Chelsea conspicuously failed to create clear cut opportunities on goal, with the intelligent build-up often leading to corners which in turn came to nothing. However, the breakthrough came in the 37th minute when Fabregas, with just about every Stoke player in the penalty box, found perhaps the only area of space near the by-line – where he was clumsily brought down by the challenge of defender Philipp Wollscheid. Hazard stepped up and scored his 12th goal of the season with his usual calm dispatch from the spot. The joy and relief from Chelsea taking the lead was quickly extinguished when Charlie Adam equalised for Stoke with a superb piece of vision and skill- the Scot scoring from his own half when he saw Courtois off his line, taking advantage of of lapse of concentration from the home team as they cried for a free-kick for a supposed foul on Hazard.

The second half began with manager Jose Mourinho bringing on Diego Costa for Oscar. Chelsea continued where they had left off from the first half, having the bulk of possession with little or no end product. A free-kick from Willian took a deflection and Begovic pushed the ball around the post as Chelsea started to build up some momentum, momentum that was dented ten minutes in when Costa aggravated the hamstring injury that had persuaded Mourinho to leave the Spaniard out of the starting XI. He was replaced by Didier Drogba.

The man who had started instead of Costa, Remy, gave Chelsea the lead again in the 62nd minute. A weak roll-out from Begovic found Hazard running at liberty into the penalty area and the Belgian simply squared the ball to the Frenchman, who passed it into an empty net.

But, the lead was very nearly lost just a few minutes later when a shot from outside the box bounced awkwardly passed Courtois and just hit the post.

The goal generally perked the game up from the rather tired start to the second half, but Chelsea were sometimes left in danger of losing the lead for a second time as Stoke preyed upon the nervousness in the defence, and the crowd, to find space.

The game slowed down as the minutes went by, Chelsea happy to have fewer chances at either end of the pitch in order to defend the lead. The passing became more considered and cautious. Juan Cuadrado came on for Remy who struggled to get into the game as he often has in his recent substitute appearances. The Colombian had a brilliant opportunity to finish the game with his first Chelsea goal after another run from Hazard on the left, but the January signing was prevented with a good double save from Begovic.

Chelsea had few moments of concern late on, with the exception of a shot from outside the box which went into the top tier of the Matthew Harding Stand, and the game finished after four minutes of stoppage time. Chelsea did just about enough to win this game and showed the mental stength which they will need if they are to regain the title.

Chelsea: 

Courtois, Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta, Fàbregas, Matic, Willian, Oscar (Drogba – 57′, YC), Hazard, Remy (Cuadrado – 63′)

Subs not used: Cech, Filipe Luis, Zouma, Ramires

 

Stoke City:

Begovic, Cameron, Shawcross (YC), Wollscheid (YC), Wilson, Ireland (YC) (Crouch – 78′, YC), N’Zonzi, Whelan (YC), Adam (YC) (Pieters – 79′), Diouf (Arnautovic – 62′), Walters

Subs not used: Butland, Bardsley, Muniesa, Sidwell

*YC = Yellow Card

Scorers: Hazard 39′ ( P), Adam 44′, Remy 62′

Referee: Jonathan Moss

Attendance: 41,098

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Stoke manager Mark Hughes believes his three seasons at Stamford Bridge helped build the club into the global force it is today.

Hughes signed for Chelsea in 1995 from Manchester United and was part of the club’s resurgence in the late 1990s. When he left the Blues it was a few months after inspiring them to winning the Cup Winners Cup in 1998, the penultimate year that trophy was played for. It was just the second European trophy in Chelsea’s history.

Hughes will bring his Stoke team to Stamford bridge tomorrow afternoon.

“I had three really good years there, at the start of the modern day times for them,” he said.

“They were beginning to become one of the big teams in the country then.

“I joined with Ruud Gullit and then Vialli and (Gianfranco) Zola came in too.

“I would like to think I played a small part in the beginnings of the journey they have been on.

“I’ve not won there as manager but I always enjoy going back to Stamford Bridge – it was a good place for me and I have many good memories.”

Since his time at Chelsea, the club has won a whole host of honours that many at the club thought impossible before Hughes joined, including three Premier League titles- the first of which coming exactly a decade after Hughes joined in 2005.

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pogba
Pogba stayed at Juventus last summer but hinted an exit soon

Marco Veratti has criticised Manchester United for letting Paul Pogba leave for nothing in 2012.

PSG’s Veratti, who is reportedly wanted by Arsenal this summer, claims the Red Devils missed a huge opportunity to fine tune his the Frenchman’s talent. Pogba is currently one of the most sought after players in the world, and is set to leave Juventus, who he joined after Man Utd’s snub, for as much as £75 million. He is wanted by just about every big club in Europe, including Chelsea.

Veratti describes Pogba as a”phenomenon” and claims that “if he had been allowed to play at Manchester United he’d have responded as he’s doing now [for Juventus].”

He needed confidence. Juventus gave it to him and now he’s proving to everyone that he’s among the best in the world.

“It would be nice to play with him one day, he’s very good. With the best players everything is easier.”

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DIEGO COSTA
Diego Costa was a key-player for Chelsea in the last season © Francesca Ceciarini

Stoke City midfielder Charlie Adam pinpoints defender Ryan Shawcross as the key to getting a result at Stamford Bridge tomorrow afternoon.

Adam believes Shawcross will have a tough time stopping Chelsea’s Diego Costa, who  has scored 19 goals this season, but believes the Englishman will be good enough to do so.

Of his teammate, Adam said this to the Stoke Sentinel:

“He’s a strong centre-forward and a good player, but Ryan knows how to play against him and did well the last time he played against him.”

Adam, who played against Chelsea at the Brittania Stadium in December when Chelsea ran out 2-0 winners, is under no illusion the task that he and his teammates face in west London tomorrow and just how difficult it will be against their host’s star-laden front line.

“But it’s not just Costa we have to watch. There’s also (Cesc) Fabregas, (Eden) Hazard and a lot of other good players.”

Shawcross is one of the toughest defenders to play against in the Premier League, and he is a key component in a team that many of England’s best have found troublesome since they were promoted to the top division in 2008. Chelsea face a very difficult match in their bid to keep their title challenge going.

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STERLING
STERLING

Chelsea’s pursuit of Raheem Sterling appears to be over after the Liverpool claimed he is happy at Anfield.

The 20-year-old’s future has been the subject of fervent speculation recently after negotiations over a new contract were put on hold.

Sterling has been one of Liverpool’s most prolific performers since breaking into the first team three seasons ago, and formed one of the most fearsome attacks in world football with Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge when Liverpool nearly won the league in 2014.

Sterling’s contract runs out in 2017 and it was widely reported that he was a target for many clubs in the next transfer window such as Chelsea, Arsenal and Real Madrid after apparently turning down a new contract worth £100,000- a-week.

However, Sterling refutes that and insists his future is with Liverpool. BBC quotes him as saying: “Everyone’s dream growing up is seeing themselves in an away kit somewhere in a sunny country.

“But, in reality, I’m happy to be playing for Liverpool and trying to win trophies.”

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Chelsea will fight with Manchester City for the signing of Ross Barkley this summer with the fee potentially rising to as much as £50 million, according to many sources in this morning’s newspapers,

The 21-year-old is believed to be one of this country’s finest young talents after a series of seasons in which he has been by far Everton’s best player, and he has subsequently been linked with a move away from Goodison Park for the past few transfer windows.

There were rumours that Chelsea were hoping to line up Barkley as a long term replacement for Frank Lampard when it became apparent Chelsea’s record goalscorer was going to bring his Stamford Bridge career to and end, and he has been a target of Manchester City for some time as the Citizens’ wish to make him part of the spine that their money has yet to buy them.

Everton must be expecting to lose Barkley, who has been compared to Wayne Rooney for his direct style of attacking and ability to change a game in a short amount of time, and it will be interesting to see which club, Chelsea or City, will win his signature in the end, and how much one of England’s best young players goes for in this age of inflated prices.

Both clubs are apparently seeking major signings this summer, with City apparently hoping to have an overhaul of their team going into the hundreds of millions. Whether or not they will be able to depends on how much money they can get for their existing players so as to not break FFP laws. In that regard a move to west London appears more likely, but Barkley may be hesitant to move to a team that already has an abundant amount of world class talent in its midfield.

 

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