CRYSTAL PALACE VS CHELSEA (0-1) MATCH REPORT AND PLAYER RATINGS ARTICLE.

Goals;-  Crystal Palace- none

               Chelsea- Kanté (50′)

N’golo Kante’s third goal of the season was enough for Chelsea to overcome Crystal Palace in the London derby, and strengthen their position in the top 4.

The first notable event of the game came in the 15th minute when Alonso’s act of petulance earned him an unnecessary yellow card.

In the 28th minute, Giroud finished off a nice Chelsea move by placing the ball out of Guaita’s reach from an acute angle, though the offside flag had already gone up, and by the looks of it, it was the wrong call from the linesman. This incident again brings up a question of VAR- Would that goal be given next year with VAR coming in the Premier League for the start of next season?

The game livened up in the 34th minute when Willian’s free kick from outside the box rattled Guaita’s post and went out for a corner. From that resulting corner, Willian had a shot from distance which was well saved by Guaita. From a corner in the 36th minute, Barkley’s acrobatic kick smashed the post to Palace’s relief.

The game was 0-0 at half-time, with Chelsea feeling that they should have been 0-1 up after Giroud’s goal was incorrectly ruled out for offside. But it all felt too predictable from Chelsea in that first half. They needed to switch it up in the second half to have a better chance of earning the three points from this London Derby. For Palace, they did do well with containing Chelsea in the first half.

It didn’t take too long for Chelsea to get the lead in the in the 50th minute when David Luiz’s long pass found Kanté who controlled well and slotted his shot under Guaita to give Chelsea a deserved lead.

Chelsea did have chances to kill off the game, with Willian having his shot saved well by Guaita, and then Barkley’s attempt which deflected just wide of the Palace goal. Olivier Giroud did score in the second half… but it was ruled offside again, and this time it was just about the right call from the officials. However, Giroud went off injured after his offside goal for Morata to come on for the last part of the game.

Palace went for it in the last 10 minutes with Zaha having an effort curled wide over Kepa’s bar. Their best chance before full time felt to Connor Wickham from a free kick which was headed on by Sakho and it felt to Wickham inside the penalty area, and his shot sailed over the bar to Chelsea’s relief as they held on for a massive three points.

Player and Manager Ratings

Crystal Palace (4-4-2)

Guaita- 6 (Made some great saves from Willian in the first half. Maybe could have done better for Chelsea’s goal)

Wan Bissaka- 7 (Kept Hazard quite on the whole)

Tomkins- 6 (Solid for most of the game. However was cut through too easily by David Luiz’s long ball for Chelsea’s goal)

Sakho- 6 (Same as Tomkins)

Van  Aanholt- 5 (Main fault for Chelsea’s goal)

McArthur- 6 (Solid- but lacked creativity)

Kouyaté-  6 (Solid- but lacked creativity)

Milovojevic- 6 (Solid- but lacked creativity)

Schlupp- (Average)

Zaha- 7 (Livened up in the last ten minutes of the game)

Townsend- 5 (Very quite in this game)

Subs;

Wickham- 5 (Missed a great chance to make it 1-1 late on)

Meyer- 5 (Produced a poor delivery from a Palace corner late on)

Manager Rating: Roy Hodgson- 7- Picked his best team, but lacked a target man in his team. Set his team up just to focus on containing Chelsea and abandoned the attacking side of the game.

Chelsea (4-3-3)

Kepa- 6 (Didn’t do much other than playing a few good passes out from the back. Good distribution over all)

Alonso- 5 (Average- very silly to pick up that unnecessary yellow card early on in the game)

Luiz- 8 (Solid defensively and got a lovely assist for Kante’s goal)

Rüdiger- 7 (Solid defensively- wasn’t really tested until the last 10 minutes of the game)

Azpilicueta- 6 (Good defensively and delivered some lovely balls into the Palace box)

Jorginho- 6 (Passed side to side too often. Needs to be more direct and sometimes shot when he is in a good position)

Kanté- 9 (MOTM- an excellent goal and good overall play from Chelsea’s most consistent player)

Hazard- 7 (Kept quite on the whole by Wan Bissaka, but still influential and produced some good link-up play with Giroud)

Willian- 6 (Good first half- hitting the post etc. However dropped off completely in the second half)

Giroud- 7 (Scored 2 good offside goals! One should have been given. Some good link-up play with Hazard)

Subs:

Morata- 4 (Useless when he came on. Had a chance to run at Sakho after a good Hazard pass, but ran straight into Sakho!)

Emerson- 5 (Didn’t have enough time to really make an impact. Did help Chelsea see out the win)

Kovacic- 5 (Same reason as Emerson)

Manager Ratings: Maurizio Sarri- 8- Was smart to pick Giroud for this game. I think that was his best side that he could have picked considering the tight schedule and injuries. However still don’t understand why he doesn’t drop Alonso for Emerson.

Match Statistics (Credit- BBC Sport)

Crystal Palace                      Chelsea

Possession (%)                 34                                        66

Shots                                      4                                           12

Shots on Target                0                                            4

Fouls                                    3                                            4

Corners                               11                                            8

 

Position in Premier League Table

Chelsea remain in fourth place with 43 points after that win. The Blues now have a goal difference of +22- Same as Tottenham who lost 1-3 to Wolves at Wembley yesterday!

The West-Londoners were 1 point off third-placed Manchester City before they played Southampton later today. Chelsea are also only 2 points off Tottenham, so this win was massive for the Blues, despite it not being a vintage performance.

The Blues have also created a gap between themselves and Arsenal. They are now 5 points ahead of the Gunners in the race for a top 4 spot.

For the Eagles, they remain in 14th place with 19 points.

Next games for both teams

Both teams play on Wednesday, with the Blues hosting Southampton at Stamford Bridge at 7:45pm. For the Eagles, they travel to Molineux to play a high flying Wolves side at 7:45pm. Both teams are then in FA Cup action next weekend, with Chelsea hosting Nottingham Forest, and Palace hosting League 2 Grimsby Town at Selhurst Park.

Check out ABDHFootball tomorrow where me and Hannah will be reviewing all the Premier League action from this round of matches- Last Premier League games before the new year.

Check out Chivers and Ron ‘Chopper’ Harris’s post-match analysis podcast on Sportstalkline.com later this week.

Also, check out ABDH Football later this week as Hannah and I will review all the Premier League games. This is the last Matchday before the new year.

By Danyal Khan

Liverpool vs Arsenal – Preview

The Gunners travel to Anfield Road on Saturday evening to take on a robust Jurgen Klopp’s side.

Liverpool are yet to taste defeat having won their last eight league games after drawing 2-2 at the Emirates Stadium on November 3.

Unai Emery’s side come into this game after drawing 1-1 away from home to Chris Hughton’s Brighton on Boxing Day.

Whereas Klopp’s team strolled past Newcastle in a comfortable 4-0 victory at Anfield to extend their lead to six points at the top of the Premier League table.

The Managers:

Liverpool manager: Jurgen Klopp

When asked whether English fans were more intense than Germans:

“I would say so. You can feel it. It’s really physical. In Dortmund it was like a religion. But then you come to Liverpool and it’s the next level. You only meet supporters of Liverpool and Everton”

“It’s just more intense. It’s nice. The atmosphere is different. People are in the game. That means if nothing is happening it can be really silent but when the game is lively the crowd is lively. It’s not better or worse it’s different”

“Thank God we’re in a club where the atmosphere is on the very, very good side of the schedule.”

“English people are much better to take the weather as it is. That’s pretty much the only big difference”

“I like this country. It’s clear why. It’s mainly really good people and I have found new friends. I have only a small world. I only go in and out here where we live and here where we work. We are really close.

The 51-year-old German requested Liverpool fans to replicate the atmosphere at Anfield, the same as when news of Leicester’s lead against Manchester City filtered last weekend.

When asked about what he expected of his team for tomorrow’s clash:

“The boys are not silly. To win against Arsenal is always difficult but it’s what we want to do. I would like to have an atmosphere like it was when people found out about the Man City score.”

Six-point gap:

“We didn’t think about the distance between us and other teams. It is too early.”

“In the moment nothing happens. To explain our situation, maybe, I’m not sure if we spoke about targets at the start of the season but it’s clear at a club like Liverpool you should go for CL qualification”

“We have to try and play football and get results like we want to do.”

(Credit: Liverpool Echo)

Arsenal manager: Unai Emery

On his team for the Liverpool game:

“We are playing a lot of matched in the space of a few days, and we need each day to test how the players are”, said Emery.

“We have players who have the habit of playing in big matches, also in Liverpool, and we know it is difficult for us but for me it is a very big test, I have a big motivation and I am looking forward to our response against them”

“We are in a good position with the points, 38, not very good but it is [quite] good and with the difference to the other teams, they are doing this difference and we need to do our process in the second half of the season to improve”

“We need more, but we need more from everybody and we need more also in our demanding ideas, and we need to continue working on things”

Ahead of this Saturday’s match:

“It is a very big match for us, and for them. They are unbeaten this season, with a very big confidence and big performance from their players. I look at their progress over the last year and they are maybe in the best moment now. But for us it is a big challenge and a good test to know who we are, the difference between them and us in the table is clear and also I want to look at the pitch”

“We have one test against them at the Emirates, we drew but it was a good match. In Liverpool is going to be a different match to what we played here”

Whether he thinks Liverpool could go the whole season unbeaten like Wenger’s side previously claimed in 2004:

“At the moment, they are doing it and they can do. They can do that because they are doing it at the moment”

“The progression with Liverpool is clear. Three years ago, they were out of the Champions League through the Premier League and through the Europa League, because they lost against us [at Sevilla]. This progress is also one example for us, now, in our moment.

“But we need to be very, very demanding of ourselves to do this step quickly in our way.

“But we need also time, and sometimes the patience is very important for us”

(Quotes credit: Arsenal official website)

Team News:

Liverpool

It has been confirmed that James Milner will be out of tomorrow’s clash but Alberto Moreno returns after recovering from a back complaint.

On the other hand, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain could return to full training in February.

Jurgen Klopp also praised his side and admitted this is Dejan Lovren’s best ever year as he stated Liverpool are not getting carried away with their lead at the top of the League.

Arsenal

Three defenders remain unavailable for Emery’s side: Hector Bellerin (calf), Konstantinos Mavropanos (groin) and Rob Holding (knee).

Shkodran Mustafi and Nacho Monreal are both doubts with thigh injuries, this could mean that the Swiss Stephan Lichtsteiner could be deployed at right-back despite a harmful mistake at Brighton.

Henrik Mkhitaryan continues out for six weeks with a broken metatarsal. While, Danny Welbeck is a long-term absentee and Emile Smith Rowe also remains out.

Mesut Ozil was taken off at half-time against Brighton, suggesting he would be unlikely to start at Anfield.

Statistics:

These two sides have met 225 times over the years with Liverpool having a better head-to-head record against the Gunners. The Reds have beaten Arsenal on 86 occasions while drawing 61 times and losing 78.

Their latest meeting ended up in a 1-1 draw at the Emirates in a well-disputed game. In the previous season, the Gunners hold the Reds to a 3-3 draw at home.

Liverpool – W, W, W, W, W

Arsenal – D, W, L, W, D

Betting Odds:

A Liverpool win at home is being placed at 1/2

A draw between the two teams: 7/2

An Arsenal away win: 19/4

Crystal Palace vs Chelsea Match Preview: 30th December

Crystal Palace host Chelsea in the midday kick off on Sunday.

The Eagles will be looking to keep their mini unbeaten run in the Premier League intact, after now going three unbeaten in the League.

The Eagles drew 0-0 with Cardiff at home on boxing day, which would be seen as a disappointment with the Eagles fans, as they had just come off the back of their famous 2-3 win against Manchester City at the Etihad, and they were heavy favourites to pick up all three points from that game.

Can the Eagles repeat what happened last season when they faced Chelsea at home? On that occasion, Zaha scored the winner to end Palace’s dismal start of not winning a single Premier League game in their first seven games under De Boer and Hodgson.

Chelsea make the short trip to South London, on the back of their impressive and important 1-2 away win against Watford on boxing day, with Eden Hazard reaching the landmark of scoring 100 plus goals for the Blues.

The Blues bounced back from their disappointing and surprising 0-1 defeat to Leicester just before Christmas, by picking up all three points in Hertfordshire against the Hornets.

So, can Maurizio’s Sarri’s side start to build some momentum on the back of their win against Watford, by picking up all three points in this London Derby away to Crystal Palace? Or will Palace shock Chelsea again?

Recent form for both sides in the Premier League

Crystal Palace- L/L/W/W/D

Chelsea- L/W/W/L/W

Is this game televised in the UK?

Yes, the coverage starts from 11:30am on Sky Sports Main Event and Sky Sports Premier League, with kick off being at 12pm.

Team News

Crystal Palace

Roy Hodgson confirmed earlier in his press conference that Christian Benteke is the only player recovering from an injury, meaning that he has a full squad for the London derby on Sunday.

Hodgson could opt to keep the same starting lineup for the visit of Chelsea, although Jeffrey Schlupp is an option to come in on one of the flanks.

Connor Wickham will likely have to make do with a place among the replacements despite coming through 27 minutes against Cardiff.

Chelsea

Maurizio Sarri confirmed earlier in his press conference that both Pedro and Hudson-Odoi are injured for their upcoming trip to Palace after they both sustained injuries in their win against Watford on Boxing day.

Sarri did make it clear though that Hudson-Odoi will come back before Pedro, therefore suggesting that Pedro’s injury is more serious.

Ruben Loftus-Cheek could be used on the right wing with Hazard retaining his place down the centre, although Giroud remains an option with Hazard moving out wide.

Ross Barkley could get the nod over Mateo Kovacic in midfield, while Andreas Christensen may be fit enough to return to the squad after a minor issue with his hamstring.

Manager comments ahead of the game

Crystal Palace Manager: Roy Hodgson (Quotes Credit/Source- Crystal Palace’s official Twitter account)

Roy: I’m pleased that the atmosphere is good here at the training ground. It has been for a long time now and I’m pleased it’s survived the busy period and Boxing Day’s disappointment.

Roy: Very difficult [to contain Hazard]. He’s correctly regarded as one of the best in the world, a top player. He’s got all the skills, but he’s also wise and knows when to use them: when to pass and when to go.

Roy: Winning a game last year means nothing to you trying to win a game this year. We’re in the Premier League to play the Chelsea’s of the world. On paper, we’re not favourites, but it’s not over until the final whistle.

Chelsea Manager: Maurizio Sarri (Quotes Credit/Source- Chelsea’s official Twitter account)

Sarri says he is very happy with Hazard’s performances up front. He adds he was confident when he arrived at Chelsea that Hazard would be able to score more goals.

Sarri is expecting a very difficult match at Palace on Sunday. He notes they have kept three consecutive clean sheets at Selhurst Park, and are also very dangerous on the counter-attack.

Sarri says he thinks we can become more solid with Hazard playing a false nine position, but it depends on the moment. There is a chance in the future Hazard will play alongside a striker.

Predicted starting elevens

Crystal Palace’s predicted starting eleven- Guaita, Wan-Bissaka, Tomkins, Sakho, Van Aanholt, McArthur, Kouyate, Milivojevic, Meyer, Townsend, Zaha.

Chelsea’s predicted starting eleven- Kepa, Azpilicueta, Rüdiger, Luiz, Alonso; Kante, Jorginho, Barkley; Loftus-Cheek, Hazard, Willian.

Head to Head

These two London sides have met 49 times in all competitions over the years, with the West-Londoners having the better head-to-head record, as they have recorded 23 wins in all competitions against the Eagles. There have been 15 draws in all competitions between these two London sides. The South-Londoners have only beaten the West-Londoners on 11 occasions over the years.

Their last meeting was earlier this season in the Premier League, where an Alvaro Morata brace helped Chelsea overcome Crystal Palace by 3-1 at Stamford Bridge, in November. Will the Spanish Striker be involved at all on Sunday for Chelsea?

Betting Odds/My Prediction

Bet 365 have made Chelsea favourites for this game at Selhurst Park on Sunday, with a Blues away win being priced at 8/11. A draw between these two sides is being priced 29/10. A surprise Crystal Palace home win is being priced at 17/4.

My realistic prediction for this game is a 2-2 draw.

My Optimistic prediction for this game is a 1-2 Chelsea win with Hazard and Loftus-Cheek scoring the goals for Chelsea, and Zaha getting the only Palace goal.

By Danyal Khan

 

 

Watford vs Chelsea 1-2 Match Report and Player Ratings article

Goals; Watford- Pereyra (48′)

               Chelsea- Hazard (47′), (58′ Pen)

Two goals from Eden Hazard helped the forward reach a landmark for Chelsea, as the Blues overcame the Hornets by two goals to one, earning an important win on boxing day.

The Belgians two goals helped him earn his 100th and 101st goal for Chelsea. He now joins the likes of Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba to the landmark of scoring 100 plus goals for Chelsea.

Sarri’s side bounced back after their disappointing defeat against Leicester at the weekend, and with this win- they now reclaim fourth spot from Arsenal.

Both teams started the game brightly, with both teams having chances to make it 1-0 early on in the 8th minute. Firstly, Kepa’s mistake led to a massive chance for Watford, but Delofeu’s back flick failed to find Deeney who would have had a tap-in, but Chelsea smothered it clear to Kepa’s relief.

Then down the other end, Kovacic slipped Willian through, and the Brazilian rounded Foster then rolled his shot towards the Watford goal but unluckily hit the outside of Foster’s post. That chance came in the expense of Kabasele who clattered into the post and then was subbed for Mariappa minutes after.

Pedro came off injured towards the end of the first half and was replaced by Callum Hudson-Odoi, who made his first Premier League appearance this season in Sarri’s side.

Going into 4 minutes of injury time at the end of the first half, the game went up a notch, with Chelsea pouncing on a Capoue mistake, leading to Hazard being played through by Kovacic, and the Belgian rounded Foster and placed his finish into the empty net, to earn him his 100

two minutes 17 second later though, from a corner, Watford hit back. With Pereyra finishing off a well-worked Hornets set piece superbly to draw the side from Hertfordshire level going into halftime. That goal right on the stroke of half-time would have been a big psychological blow to Sarri’s side, going into the second half.

Chelsea started the second half better, and through balls from David Luiz and Hazard nearly found Kante in on goal twice, but a mixture of last-gasp defending and a bad touch from Kante prevented Chelsea from having two real good chances to make it 1-2 really early on in the second half.

However, Chelsea’s better start in the second half  paid dividends in the 55th minute, when a lovely ball from Jorginho put Hazard through 1-on-1, and the Belgian was clattered by Foster and that resulted in a Chelsea penalty, which Hazard calmly rolled home for his 101st goal for Chelsea.

Chelsea did have chances to kill off the game. however the likes of Willian, Kante and Jorginho failed to add to the Blues slender 1-2 lead.

Watford nearly made Chelsea pay for not finishing the game off late on, when Troy Deeney muscled his way in front of David Luiz, and the English target man’s effort from a cross from the left hand side was poked just over Kepa’s bar to David Luiz’s relief.

The game ended in a frantic manner but Chelsea held on for an important win to get themselves back in the top 4.

Hazard reached a landmark for Chelsea

Hazard has now reached a landmark of scoring over 100 goals now for Chelsea after his two goals today.

And he made some interesting comments after the game to Sky Sports; “101 goals with this amazing club is something I will never forget. Now me, the fans and this club want more. I will try to be a legend like Terry, Drogba and Lampard.” Does this suggest that he will sign a new contract and commit his long term future to the club, by stating that he wants to be a Chelsea Legend?

Mixed fortunes for Hudson-Odoi

The young English talent came off the bench to replace the injured Pedro in the first half, to gain his 1st appearance under Sarri in the Premier League this season.

However, he was subbed off in the 85th minute to the sound of boos amongst the Chelsea fan base who showed displeasure towards Sarri for that decision, and initially it looked like it was for tactical reasons. And if that was the case, then that would be seen as a ludicrous decision by Sarri. But many people on social media think that he had an injury, so it still needs to be cleared up by Sarri what happened.

The Blues end Watford’s mini unbeaten run in the league

Watford were 3 unbeaten in the League coming into this game, and this was seen as a chance to get a win against Chelsea at home, but the Blues ended that good run for the Hornets, and also that win for the Blues wiped out the bad memories of last seasons 4-1 hammering to the side from Hertfordshire.

Player and Manager Ratings

Watford (4-4-2)

Foster- 5 (wiped out Hazard for Chelsea’s winning goal from the spot)

Kiko- 5 (average)

Cathcart- 5 (Opened up by Chelsea on quite a few occasions)

Kabasele- 6 (Unfortunate to go off injured after the Willian chance. Hope he recovers soon. but showed determination to get back and prevent what he thought would be a Chelsea goal)

Holebas- 7 (Dealt with Hudson-Odoi well)

Sema- 5 (Failed to convert his chances)

Doucouré- 6 (Solid on the whole

Capoue- 3 (Made a massive mistake for Chelsea’s opening goal)

Pereyra- 7 (Brilliant goal from the set piece)

Deulofeu- 7 (Good on the whole, but David Luiz dealt with him well)

Deeney- 8 (Won every aerial battle against Chelsea’s defence. Caused Rüdiger multiple problems)

Subs;

Mariappa- 6 (Did a good job when he came on for Kabasele)

Quina- 6 (Didn’t have enough time to make a noticeable impact)

Success- 6 (Didn’t have enough time to make a noticeable impact)

 

Manager Rating- Watford Manager: Javi Gracia- 7- Team selection spot on. Selecting the same team that had got Watford on a good run. But unfortunately for him, the quality shone through from the opposition.

 

Chelsea (4-3-3)

Kepa- 5 (Dodgy today. Nearly made a fatal error to gift Watford the first goal of the game, but Deulofeu didn’t punish him)

Alonso- 4 (Caught out defensively too much on the left side)

Luiz- 7 (Solid. Better of the centre backs today for the Blues)

Rüdiger- 5 (Sloppy on quite a few occasion. Lost the aerial battles to Deeney)

Azpilicueta- 6 (delivered some lovely crosses in attack, but was caught out defensively)

Kovacic- 8 (One of his best games for Chelsea. Got an assist for Hazards first goal)

Jorginho-  6 (Bit too slow in possession, but played a lovely ball to Hazard who earned a penalty from that lovely attack)

Kanté- 6 (Played well on the whole. Missed a few chance though)

Willian- 7 (One of his better games, but he still didn’t score)

Pedro- 4 (Unfortunate to get injured, but didn’t do much when he was on the pitch)

Hazard- 9 (MOTM- Was brilliant for Chelsea today. Showing that he can play the false 9 in Sarri’s attacking system)

Subs;

Hudson-Odoi- 7 (Good cameo. surprised when he was taken off)

Barkley- 5 (His cameo from the bench showed why Loftus-Cheek is better in the midfield)

Emerson- 6 (Helped Alonso out on the left side when he came on to defend)

 

Manager Rating- Chelsea Manager: Maurizio Sarri- 8- Initially i thought that he was stubborn for picking the same team that lost against Leicester. But his persistence paid off in the end and his side responded after their disappointing defeat against Leicester.

Match Statistics (Credit- BBC Sports)

Watford                                        Chelsea

Possession (%)                35                                                  65

Shots                                      10                                                  10

Shots on Target                2                                                    4

Corners                               3                                                    5

Fouls                                    15                                                  5

Manager Comments after the game(Credit- BBC and Sky Sports)

Watford manager Javi Gracia told Sky Sports: “I think we competed very well. I think we started the second half well by pressing high, but in that moment if you make a mistake they can score a second goal. Maybe after we scored our goal, in that moment we were playing better but we conceded the second.

“We know they are a very good team and maybe if there was another decision when we were playing and Gerard Deulofeu goes into the box, maybe it could have been different. I think it was a penalty.”

On the Watford goal: “We try to practice different corner kicks and I am happy for the goal but today it was not enough. We will try to improve and be better.

On Christian Kabasele: “At this moment I do not know anything because he is not with us, he is in the hospital.”

Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri told BBC Sport: “Maybe Saturday in the first half we played with more quality than today. We had more attention and our determination continued for 90 minutes. We could have won with another result because in the last 20-25 minutes we missed opportunities. At the end of the match, we did very well, especially mentally.

“Eden Hazard can play in every position. He played very well with two goals and could have had two or three assists. He can play with team-mates very well.

“We don’t know how much Pedro is injured, we will evaluate tomorrow. That is the same problem with Callum Hudson-Odoi. He had a little injury a few days ago, yesterday it was good and he managed 50-55 minutes. We thought it was better to substitute him.

“We have to try to stay close to the top four. The target this season could only be to stay close and to enter into the Champions League. Liverpool are playing really well especially with the continuity to win the Premier League.”

Position in the PL table

Chelsea jump back into fourth decision after thier victory tonight. They have 40 points, and are only four points off third placed Manchester City, after the Sky Blues lost 2-1 away at Leicester earlier today. The Blues have also taken advantage of Arsenal dropping points against Brighton today. The Blues are two points ahead of fifth placed Arsenal, and eight points ahead of sixth placed Manchester United. Whereas for the Hornets, they drop to ninth position after Leicester and Everton both won earlier today. Watford have 27 points- level with Everton but below them on goal difference. And only one point off the foxes in seventh position.

Next games for both teams

Watford are next in action on Saturday at home to Newcastle at 3pm, looking to get back on the right track after their tight loss today against Chelsea. Chelsea face a tough match away to Crystal Palace on Sunday at 12pm as they look to build some momentum after their tight 1-2 win against Watford tonight.

Check out Chivers and Ron ‘Chopper’ Harris’s Post match analysis podcast later this week on Sportstalkline.com

Also Check out my podcast with Hannah on ABDHFootball later this week, where we will review all the boxing day action in the Premier League.

By Danyal Khan

 

Watford vs Chelsea Match Preview: 26th December

Watford welcome Chelsea to Vicarage Road on Boxing Day in the late game of boxing day (7:30pm).

The Hornets have put together a three-match unbeaten run in the Premier League, ahead of the Blues visit.

Watford come into this London Derby, on the back of an impressive 0-2 win on the weekend in another London Derby against West-Ham away so they come into this game with a lot of confidence.

Chelsea make the short trip to face the Hornets, having suffered a shock 0-1 defeat at home to Claude Puel’s Leicester on Saturday afternoon.

Maurizio Sarri will be looking for a positive response in this game from his Blues side.

Recent form in the Premier League for both sides;

Watford- L/L/D/W/W

Chelsea- W/L/W/W/L

Team News

Watford

Gracia could field the same team which got the better of West Ham at the weekend after they have no fresh injury issues.

Tom Cleverly is back in contention for a starting role, after his 15-minute cameo off the bench for Watford at the weekend against West-Ham, as he returned to the Watford squad at the weekend, after recovering from a long-term injury.

Chelsea

Sarri is likely to recall Olivier Giroud to the starting line-up, as the French Striker only was used off the bench at the weekend against Leicester.

Barkley or Loftus-Cheek are in contention for a starting position, with Mateo Kovacic dropping out of the starting eleven after his poor performance at the weekend against Leicester.

There also may be changes at the back for the Blues, due to their busy upcoming schedule.

Alvaro Morata could make the bench after returning to training following a knee injury, but Andreas Christensen will remain out with a minor hamstring problem.

Predicted Line-ups 

Watford predicted eleven- Foster, Femenia, Kabasele, Cathcart, Holebas, Capoue, Doucoure, Sema, Pereyra, Deulofeu, Deeney.

Chelsea predicted eleven- Kepa, Azpilicueta, Luiz, Rüdiger, Emerson, Kante, Jorginho, Loftus-Cheek, Pedro, Giroud, Hazard.

Is this game on TV in the UK?

Yes. This late game on boxing day is on Sky Sports Main Event and Sky Sports Premier League, with the coverage starting at 7:00pm, and kick off is at 7:30pm.

Manager Comments

Watford Manager: Javi Gracia (Quotes credit- Watford Official website)

On Chelsea; “It was my first home game and my first victory as well,” said Gracia. “We try to repeat. It was a good game, last season. It was special. But it’s the past, it’s another game.”

“I don’t know what will change for them after they lost, but what I know is that playing against Chelsea we have to do our best and try to compete to our best level,” said the Head Coach. “If you don’t do it, you don’t have any chance. We know it will be demanding because Chelsea is one of the best teams in the league but, playing at home with the backing of our supporters, we can do it.”

On his the topic of his squad depth; “At this moment I think all the players have finished the [West Ham] game well. We have to recover well and to prepare in a short time for the next game. With a win, it is always better.”

On his sides recent good form and his sides good form against the big sides; “They have very good mechanisms to attack, different options and good players, but to get a clean sheet against West Ham is something good for us,” Gracia said. “It shows us working together with solidarity. We showed we can defend well against City at home. We lost 2-1 but, at the end, we had chances to get some points. We know it’s difficult, but, at this moment, I think we are able to compete and get options to win. We are in a good moment and we can compete with all of them.”

 

Chelsea Manager: Maurizio Sarri (Quotes credit- FotMob)

“I think that in this moment, we have to think about us, only about our team”

“The match is difficult. We know we have to study this kind of opponent very well [but] i think that now this most important thing is our reaction after the [Leicester] match.”

“In this match [Leicester] our reaction was not in the right way, and now we have to think about our reaction after the match, just in order to prepare in the right way.”

“I think that i have an idea about what happened [against Leicester], so I want only a confirmation”.

“We will prepare a video for the individual mistakes. I want to speak with the group first of all and then I want to speak with three, four, five players. I don’t know how many at the moment.”

“But we have to do everything to avoid the same problem in the future. It is not easy.”

On Morata;  “[On Friday] he started training with the group so I think he will be able to play”.

Head-to-Head

These two sides have met 33 times in all competitions over the years, with Chelsea having a better head-to-head record against the Hornets. The Blues have beaten the Hornets on 17 occasions. There have been 6 draws between these two sides over the years. And the Hornets have beaten the Blues on 10 occasions.

These two sides met two times last year in the League, and their latest meeting finishes in a famous 4-1 win to Watford at Vicarage Road. The reverse fixture earlier that season finished 4-2 to the Blues at Stamford Bridge, thanks to Michy Batshuayi grabbing a brace on that day!

Betting Odds/My Prediction

Sky Bet have made Chelsea slight favourites for this encounter, with a Blues away win at Vicarage Road being priced at 8/11. A draw between these two sides is being priced at 14/5. And a Watford home is being priced at 18/5.

My realistic predictions for this game is either a 2-1 Watford win or a 2-2 draw.

But my optimistic predictions for this game is either a very tight 0-1 win to Chelsea or a tight 1-2 win to Chelsea. I think Sarri’s side will respond after their shock defeat to Leicester at home at the weekend. ending their unbeaten home record!

Which way do you see this game going? Comment down below your score predictions.

By Danyal Khan

 

Chelsea vs Leicester 0-1 Match Report and Player Ratings article

Goals; Chelsea- none

           Leicester- Vardy (51′)

A Jamie Vardy goal was enough for Leicester to shock Chelsea at the Bridge and end the Blues unbeaten home run.

The early signs were worrying for the foxes in this game, as the match settled into an attack versus defence game in the first half. But for Leicester, they kept Chelsea to not having any shots on target for the first 30 minutes of the game.

However saying that, the Blues should have been 1-0 up in the 17th minute, when Pedro flicked on a Willian corner, and an onrushing David Luiz just had to make contact with his head to nod the ball into the net, but the Brazilian completely missed the ball, and therefore the ball drifted wide of Schmeichel’s far post. The foxes escaped on that occasion. Willian also squandered a good chance for Chelsea early on.

And the foxes were lucky to escape in the 32nd minute when Hazard spun Maguire from a free kick, and his effort smashed Schmeichel’s bar. The bar denied the Belgian his 100th goal for Chelsea on that occasion.

Amazingly, with how lucky the foxes were not to be 1-0 down at half-time,  they could have taken the lead just before half-time when Ndidi’s shot from 30 yards produced an outstanding save by Kepa to keep the scores at 0-0 going into half-time.

Chelsea huffed and puffed in the first half but just couldn’t find a way to get a goal in the first half.

The second half was a completely different story, with Leicester starting the brighter, and their efforts paid off in the 51st minute when Pedro gave the ball away, and Maddison slotted in Vardy who finished well past Kepa to give the foxes a valuable 0-1 lead at the Bridge.

Chelsea didn’t really come into life until the 90th minute when Rüdiger header from a corner somehow flashed wide of Schmeichel’s target. And Chelsea’s best chance came in the dying moments of the game when Kanté slotted in Alonso who was played through 1-on-1 by the Frenchman, and his shot cannoned off the inside of the post and rolled away to Leicester’s relief, and to Chelsea’s frustration.

This famous win for Leicester ends Chelsea’s unbeaten home record, and most importantly for the foxes, relieves the pressure on Claude Puel.

 

Player and Manager Ratings

Chelsea (4-3-3)

Kepa- 7 (Made some great saves to keep the score at only 0-1)

Azpilicueta- 6 (prevented a second Leicester goal  with a great block, but was awful in the attacking phase of the game. Couldn’t cross a ball)

Luiz- 4 (Sliced open for Leicester’s first goal)

Rüdiger- 4(Sliced open for Leicester’s first goal)

Alonso- 4 (Missed a massive chance at the end to level for Chelsea)

Jorginho- 4 (Kept misplacing passes)

Kovacic- 3 (Offered nothing to the game today)

Kanté- 5 (Looked lost in Sarri’s system today)

Pedro- 2 (Diabolical today)

Willian- 3 (Awful like Pedro. Should have put Chelsea in the lead within the first five minutes)

Hazard- 8 (Created most of Chelsea’s chances)

Subs;

Loftus-Cheek- 6 (Played much better than Kovacic when he came on)

Giroud- 4 (Offered nothing to the game when he came on)

Fabregas (Awful when he came on today)

Manager Rating: Maurizio Sarri- 5– Should have started Loftus-Cheek, and should have made the changes of withdrawing Willian and Kovacic at half-time.

 

Leicester (4-3-3)

Schmeichel- 8 (Made some excellent saves to deny Hazard)

Chilwell- 8 (Played very well in the attacking and defensive phase today)

Maguire- 8 (Solid in defence)

Morgan- 8 (Solid in defence)

Pereira- 7 (Really good performance from the wingback today. Caused alot of havoc bombing forward today)

Choudhury- 9 (Excellent for such a young player. Controlled the midfield and has had two good performances in a week against Chelsea today and Manchester City in the Carabao Cup)

Mendy- 7 (Brilliant in the midfield today)

Ndidi- 8 (Nearly scored a worldie in the first half, but was denied by Kepa)

Maddison- 8 (Got a brilliant assist for Vardy’s goal)

Albrighton- 6 (Had a few chances, but probably was Leicester’s poorest attacker)

Vardy- 8 (Very well taken goal today. Showing Chelsea how to finish chances when 1-on-1)

Subs;

Gray- 5 (Didn’t make an impact when he came on)

Iheanacho- 7 (Had a decent cameo when he came on)

Manager Rating: Claude Puel- 9- Massive result to relieve the pressure on him.

Match Statistics (Credit- BBC Sport)

                                      Chelsea                                  Leicester 

Possession (%)                72                                              28

Shots                                  17                                               8

Shots on Target                 5                                                3

Corners                                9                                               5

Fouls                                    10                                              9

Position in the Premier League table

Chelsea fails to leapfrog Tottenham in the table, and this defeat means that the Blues only remain in the top 4 on goal difference, ahead of Arsenal who beat Burnley today. Both the Gunners and the Blues now have 37 points going into Christmas.

Leicester moves up to 9th in the table with this famous win at Stamford Bridge, with 25 points. This Leicester win would have made their former owner Vichai very proud.

 

Next games for both teams

Both teams are next in action on boxing day, with Leicester hosting Manchester City at home at 3pm (UK time). Manchester City will be looking to bounce back after their shock defeat to Crystal Palace today!

Chelsea play Watford away from home in the London derby at 7:30p. (UK time)

Check out Chivers and Ron ‘Chopper’ Harris’s post-match analysis podcast for this match on Sportstalkline.com later this week.

Also remember to check out my Isco opinion piece, and my piece on who I think Sarri needs to sell in the next two transfer windows.

By Danyal Khan

Chelsea vs Leicester City: Match Preview – 22nd December

Chelsea take on Leicester, looking to build on back to back wins against Manchester City and Brighton in the Premier League.

This is the last game for both sides before Christmas day so both sides will be looking for a positive result, to send their fans happy going into Christmas day next Tuesday.

The Blues will be looking for all 3 points at Stamford Bridge to further cement their position in the top 4.

The West Londoners take on Claude Puel’s foxes who have lost back to back Premier League games in their last 2 matches.

Last week’s 1-0 loss away from home against Crystal Palace has increased the pressure on Claude Puel.

Both teams were in Carabao Cup quarter-final action midweek, with the Blues labouring to a 1-0 win at home to Bournemouth, sending them through to the semi-finals where they will play Tottenham Hotspur.

However, the Foxes lost on penalties to Manchester City so Puel will be looking for a positive response from his team on Saturday.

Recent form for both teams in the Premier League

Chelsea- L/W/L/W/W

Leicester- D/W/D/L/L

Is this game televised in the UK?

No, as it is a 3pm kick off on a Saturday.

Team News

Chelsea

Alvaro Morata remains a doubt for Chelsea with a knee injury, while Victor Moses is ruled out.

Andreas Christensen is unlikely to feature at all after his minor hamstring injury that he sustained midweek against Bournemouth in the Carabao Cup.

Leicester

As for Leicester, Daniel Amartey is out, although Ben Chilwell could return.

Predicted Line-ups

Chelsea’s predicted 11- Arrizabalaga; Azpilicueta, Rudiger, Luiz, Alonso; Kante, Jorginho, Kovacic; Willian, Giroud, Hazard

Leicester’s predicted 11-  Schmeichel; Pereira, Morgan, Maguire, Fuchs; Mendy, Ndidi; Gray, Maddison, Ghezzal, Vardy

 

Manager Comments

Chelsea Manager: Maurizio Sarri (Quotes credit- Official Chelsea FC Twitter page)

Maurizio Sarri agrees the Premier League will miss Jose Mourinho. He adds that he likes him very much as a coach and man and he hopes to see him on the bench somewhere soon, maybe in England, but not at Chelsea, he laughs.

Sarri says we started in the last two Premier League matches with Hazard as a central striker and he is seeing if it works as a solution. He has explained this to Giroud. Sarri adds that as a solution it seems to be one that works.

Sarri adds that he has not decided on his striker selection for tomorrow yet. He reports that Morata has just returned to training.

Sarri says he has never seen Chelsea as a contender for this season’s title as at the moment there are two teams a step ahead.

Sarri also remained Coy when asked about Chelsea’s links to Higuain.

 

Leicester Manager: Claude Puel (Quotes credit- Official Leicester FC Twitter page)

CP on the game vs. Man City: “I am happy about our game. We played against a strong team, one of the best in Europe. They have an average of three goals a game and we managed our game to get a draw. Unfortunately, we didn’t manage our penalties well.”

CP on N’Golo Kanté: “It will be a pleasure to see him again. He came to our hotel before Crystal Palace to see his former teammates.”

CP on the Chelsea game at the weekend; “It will be a good challenge. We need to give our best to get a result. We need to have a collective response. If we have the same mentality as against Man City, we can hopefully get a result.”

Head-to-Head record

Chelsea has met Leicester 112 times in all competitions over the years, with the West-Londoners having a significantly better head-to-head record against the foxes. The Blues have beaten the foxes 56 times in all competitions, including Chelsea’s 1-2 victory at Leicester in the FA Cup.

There have been 31 draws between these two teams in all competitions, including the last meeting between these two teams in the League, which finished in a 0-0 stalemate at Stamford Bridge in January.

Leicester have only beaten the Blues on 25 occasions in all competitions over the years, including their famous 2-1 win against Chelsea at the King Power Stadium during their title-winning season. The foxes also got Jose Mourinho Sacked on that occasion!

Betting Odds/ My Prediction

Bet 365 have made Chelsea clear favourites for this game, with a Chelsea win being priced at 1/3. A draw between these sides is being priced at 9/2. And a surprise Leicester win at Stamford Bridge is being priced at 10/1.

My Prediction for this game is a comfortable and convincing 2-0 Chelsea win, with Hazard and Kanté scoring both goals for the Blues.

 

By Danyal Khan