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Revenge for Mourinho as Man Utd stun Chelsea

April 17, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho masterminded a brilliant and unexpected 2-0 home victory over former club Chelsea on Sunday to breathe new life into the Premier League title race.

Manchester United

Mourinho gambled by resting Zlatan Ibrahimovic, but Marcus Rashford and Ander Herrera’s goals gave United a win that leaves Chelsea just four points above Tottenham Hotspur with six games to play.

Victory at Old Trafford also lifted United to within four points of fourth-place Manchester City, on whom they have a game in hand, ahead of the derby at the Etihad Stadium on April 27.

It was a personal triumph for Mourinho, who saw his side thrashed 4-0 at Chelsea in October and was branded “Judas” by fans of his old club during last month’s FA Cup defeat at Stamford Bridge.

A wet, cold Manchester afternoon was the setting for United to end a run of 12 games without victory against Chelsea, stretching back to a 3-2 away win in October 2012.

Chelsea have now lost twice in four games, having gone down 2-1 at home to Crystal Palace earlier this month, which will give in-form Spurs fresh hope that the Blues may yet collapse as the finishing line nears.

The top two meet at Wembley in the FA Cup semi-finals next weekend in what now looks a significant test of Chelsea’s mettle.

United, meanwhile, will approach Thursday’s Europa League quarter-final second leg at home to Anderlecht, which is poised at 1-1, on the back of their best display under Mourinho.

Chelsea were without goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois due to an ankle problem, while Marcos Alonso succumbed to a virus, bringing Asmir Begovic and Kurt Zouma into their usual first XI.

Mourinho set United up to stop Chelsea, with Herrera and Matteo Darmian tasked with the responsibility of tracking dangermen Eden Hazard and Pedro wherever they went.

But despite Herrera’s chief role as a stifler, he created United’s seventh-minute opener, albeit in contentious circumstances.

He seemed to block Nemanja Matic’s pass with his right hand, but referee Robert Madley played on, enabling Herrera to split the Chelsea defence with a sublime through ball for Rashford.

The 19-year-old raced in behind David Luiz before clipping a shot past Begovic for his ninth goal of the season.

With Chelsea striker Diego Costa spending more time provoking his opponents than taking shots at goal, David de Gea was a virtual spectator between the posts for United.

Costa became embroiled in penalty-box tangles with United centre-backs Eric Bailly and Marcos Rojo and was booked for a late challenge on Paul Pogba.

With the willing Jesse Lingard in support of Rashford, United looked far more lively going forward.

Ashley Young twice spurned presentable shooting opportunities from the edge of the box, while Rashford saw a cross headed onto the roof of the net by Gary Cahill.

Short of a 25-yard drive by Costa that flashed wide in stoppage time, the half-time whistle sounded without Chelsea having offered anything in attack.

Any hopes the visitors had of masterminding a turnaround vanished within four minutes of kick-off in the second half as Herrera doubled United’s lead.

Zouma’s tackle on the burrowing Young sent the ball rolling into Herrera’s path and his drilled effort flicked off Zouma to fly past the grounded Begovic.

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte sent on Cesc Fabregas for Victor Moses, with Pedro moving to wing-back, but still the league leaders toiled, Pedro twice curling shots over De Gea’s bar.

At the other end Rashford remained a constant menace, teeing up Lingard to bend a shot over and twice going close himself, ruffling the side-netting and testing Begovic at his near post.

When he departed in the 82nd minute, with Ibrahimovic taking his place, he was accorded a richly deserved standing ovation.

Chelsea’s Pedro, Costa muzzle Wolves in FA Cup

February 19, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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Second-half goals from Pedro and Diego Costa earned Premier League leaders Chelsea a 2-0 win in a difficult FA Cup fifth-round tie at second-tier Wolverhampton Wanderers on Saturday.

Costa

Pedro headed in after 65 minutes following an intricate build-up involving Costa, Cesc Fabregas and Willian.

Costa sealed a place in the quarter-finals in the 89th minute after defender Matt Doherty inadvertently deflected a pass into his path.

The prolific Chelsea striker had the time and space to easily stroke the ball into the Wolves goal, finally killing off the Championship side’s brave resistance.

Having accounted for the Premier League scalps of Stoke City and Liverpool in previous rounds, Wolves looked in the mood to add the division’s leaders to that list.

In front of Molineux’s biggest crowd for 36 years, the home side made an electrifying start.

Asmir Begovic had already been required to tip a dangerous Conor Coady cross over his bar in the opening exchanges when former Chelsea youngster George Saville found the ball at his feet 15 yards out.

The unmarked midfielder unleashed a powerful left-foot shot that thundered against the left-hand post, with Andreas Weimann blasting a follow-up effort over.

That was the start of an absorbing cup tie, with the Championship side putting their league troubles behind them and going toe-to-toe with a Chelsea team who made seven changes from their least league game.

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte had still fielded a strong line-up, however, with former England international John Terry continuing his ever-present status in the FA Cup and Fabregas handed a start.

Fabregas looked capable of picking a hole in the home defence and did precisely that after 12 minutes when his lofted pass sent Willian sprinting into the area.

The Brazilian attempted to chip over Wolves goalkeeper Carl Ikeme, who did well to put a touch on the shot and steer it over his net.

The tie had plenty of aggression and a raucous atmosphere, especially when the home supporters claimed Weimann had been brought down by Willian in the area midway through the first half.

That appeal was turned down by referee Jonathan Moss, but Wolves maintained the pressure when Helder Costa turned neatly and unleashed a low shot that Begovic smothered well.

But Chelsea still posed a serious threat as Fabregas and Willian attempted to find the pass that would play in Costa over the Wolves back four.

A number of times the tactic came close to working and in first-half injury time a cross from the right by wing-back Victor Moses was met by Costa, back to goal, who hooked an effort wide.

Wolves opened the second half in similar, threatening fashion, with Pedro the first Chelsea player cautioned for a crude trip on the dangerous Helder Costa.

But it was Chelsea’s Nathaniel Chalobah who was presented with the first shot of the half, a low strike from the edge of the area that went directly at the goalkeeper.

Chelsea’s Costa also received yet another neat pass from Hazard and almost set up Chalobah for an attempt on goal, only to be denied by more committed Wolves defending.

Wolves’ Costa eased the pressure momentarily with a high free-kick that Danny Batth headed into the arms of Begovic.

But soon after his namesake was played in by yet another Fabregas pass and left Batth on the floor before shooting into the side-netting.

The opening goal was not long in coming, although Dave Edwards looked like he might head in an equaliser minutes later, only to be denied by an important defensive header from Kurt Zouma.

In the closing stages, Fabregas should have doubled their advantage when he shot wide from Eden Hazard’s pass, before Costa’s strike — his 16th of the season — put the game to bed.

Chelsea turn it up to 11, Ibra lifts Man Utd

December 18, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Diego Costa earned Chelsea a 1-0 victory at Crystal Palace on Saturday as the Premier League leaders claimed a club record-equalling 11th consecutive league victory.

Chelsea

Costa headed home Cesar Azpilicueta’s cross in the 43rd minute at a foggy Selhurst Park to send Antonio Conte’s men nine points clear.

“The run is fantastic,” said Chelsea manager Conte. “Congratulations to my players, not me. I am pleased for them because they deserve this.”

Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored twice as Manchester United won 2-0 at West Bromwich Albion, while champions Leicester City weathered the dismissal of Jamie Vardy to come from 2-0 down and draw 2-2 at Stoke City.

Chelsea have matched their record of 11 consecutive wins from April to September 2009, achieving the feat within the same season for the first time.

The only blemishes were yellow cards for Costa and N’Golo Kante that mean both players will be suspended for next weekend’s home game against Bournemouth.

Narrowly beaten 2-1 by Manchester United in mid-week, Palace threatened to take the lead against Chelsea when Jason Puncheon scuffed wide from Martin Kelly’s cross.

The visitors went in front shortly before half-time after Eden Hazard sprayed a pass wide to Azpilicueta, whose floated cross allowed Costa to nod in his 13th goal of the campaign.

Marcos Alonso struck the bar with a late free-kick, but Costa’s goal proved sufficient.

Chelsea are nine points clear of second-place Liverpool, who visit Everton on Monday, and Arsenal, who travel to fourth-place Manchester City on Sunday.

“We can improve though,” Conte added. “It is important to understand we are only at the 17th game in the season. We must not look at the table.”

Jose Mourinho’s United drew level on points with fifth-place Tottenham Hotspur, who host Burnley on Sunday, after winning at West Brom to record three successive league wins for the first time since August.

Ibrahimovic opened the scoring in the fifth minute with a header from Jesse Lingard’s fine right-wing cross at the conclusion of a magnificent team move.

After Ben Foster had pushed a shot from Wayne Rooney onto the bar, Ibrahimovic added a second in the 56th minute.

The former Paris Saint-Germain striker darted between two defenders before scoring via a deflection off Craig Dawson, leaving him with nine goals from his last 10 appearances and 16 for the season.

“I keep saying that for me it is not his body, for me it is more up here,” Mourinho told BT Sport, pointing to his head.

“It is a pleasure to see him play, his happiness. It’s fantastic for a 35-year-old guy.”

He added: “That was very good. We played really well at Crystal Palace and today, even better.”

Leicester avoided a ninth defeat of the campaign thanks to an impressive fightback in a stormy game at Stoke, which left Claudio Ranieri’s men three points above the relegation zone in 15th place.

Vardy was shown a straight red card in the 28th minute for a two-footed challenge on Mame Biram Diouf, ruling the England striker out of Leicester’s entire festive programme.

Bojan Krkic put Stoke ahead with a 39th-minute penalty after Danny Simpson was adjudged to have handled his cross, with Joe Allen tapping in a second in first-half stoppage time.

But Leonardo Ulloa halved the deficit, smuggling a header over the line from fellow substitute Demarai Gray’s cross, before Christian Fuchs teed up Daniel Amartey to head in an 88th-minute leveller.

Discussing whether Vardy deserved to be sent off, Leicester manager Ranieri said: “One manager says yes, one says no. If you listen to me, I say ‘no’. If you listen to Mark Hughes, he says ‘yes’.

“I don’t know if he touched the player, but he touched the ball. I was angry (with the referee) because I saw my players fight and there were so many yellow cards, but it was a normal battle in the Premier League.

“It could be a turning point today, but we have to wait and see the next matches.”

Middlesbrough moved above Leicester to 14th place after beating Swansea City 3-0 courtesy of a first-half Alvaro Negredo brace and a Marten de Roon volley.

Swansea dropped to second-bottom, with Sunderland climbing off the foot of the table after Patrick van Aanholt’s 49th-minute goal secured a 1-0 home win over Watford.

Hull City are now bottom following a 1-0 defeat at West Ham United, who prevailed through Mark Noble’s 76th-minute penalty after the visitors had hit the post three times.

Hot Costa out to spoil Mourinho’s Chelsea return

October 20, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Jose Mourinho will always have a place in the hearts of Chelsea’s faithful but his former charges are hoping to make him suffer when he returns to Stamford Bridge as manager of Manchester United on Sunday.

Mourinho

Two days before being sacked in December a doomed Mourinho spoke of a “betrayal” of his work by some of the players who had propelled Chelsea to the Premier League title the previous season.

Fingers were pointed at Diego Costa, among others, and the Spain striker’s huge dip in form was a contributing factor to the Portuguese tactician’s bitter exit.

Costa has started this season like the marauding forward Mourinho signed from Atletico Madrid, scoring seven goals in eight Premier League games, and he will be relishing the highly-charged atmosphere expected on Sunday.

The visit to Stamford Bridge could hardly have come at a worse time for a United side who have won only one of their last five Premier League games to stall what had been a promising beginning to the Mourinho reign.

Fifth-placed Chelsea have also had a whole week to prepare following their demolition of champions Leicester City last weekend while United have been working overtime.

Mourinho’s new team drew 0-0 at Liverpool on Monday and will play Turkish club Fenerbahce in the Europa League on Thursday before they can fully focus on the visit to west London.

No wonder Mourinho, whose side are seventh in the table, said it was a time for digging in.

“This is not the week where we were expecting to close the distances to the top of the league. This is the week we have to keep contact with them,” he told the club’s website (www.manutd.com).

“Then we will arrive at the moment where we win three, four or five matches in a row and we will be there fighting with almost everybody for the title.”

It is not the first time Mourinho, who won two Premier League titles for Chelsea before his first sacking in 2007, will sit in the away dugout at Stamford Bridge.

He masterminded a 1-0 win for Inter Milan over Carlo Ancelotti’s Chelsea in 2010 on the way to winning the Champions League.

Former Italy coach Antonio Conte, the man now sitting in Mourinho’s old office, has made a steady enough start and the victory over Leicester was the ideal confidence-booster after defeats by Liverpool and Arsenal had lowered expectations.

North London rivals Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal have the chance to leapfrog leaders Manchester City on Saturday.

Tottenham will go top if they win at Bournemouth in Saturday’s early kickoff although Arsenal can respond later at home to Middlesbrough.

Conte salutes Costa as Chelsea end barren run

October 2, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Chelsea manager Antonio Conte paid tribute to Diego Costa as the revitalised Spain forward took his season’s tally to six goals in seven games in a much-needed 2-0 win at Hull.

Costa

Costa did not reach the half-dozen goal mark until the first week of January last season, but the temperamental star looks back to his best under Chelsea’s new Italian coach.

His attacking partnership with Willian and Eden Hazard proved unstoppable for slumping Hull as the former opened the scoring before Costa wrapped up all three points on Saturday.

“It’s fantastic for him, for us,” said Conte, whose side got back on track after defeats against Liverpool and Arsenal.

“He has scored six goals but I think Diego has the opportunity every game to score goals.

“It’s important he scored a goal but it’s important he’s working for the team. For me, this is the most important thing — together with Willian, together with Hazard.

“I’m pleased with the performance because we played with the right intensity and good pressure.

“After two defeats, it’s never easy, but I’m pleased with the attitude and commitment of the players. We’re working hard and I think that’s the right way.

“We must follow this way because we must know that we have to improve a lot and if we want to improve there is only one way — that is to work.”

Conte dropped Branislav Ivanovic and switched to a three-man central defensive line-up in a bid to return to winning ways after collecting one point from the last three games.

It was the first time Ivanovic had been left out of a Chelsea line-up since the Andre Villas-Boas era, although Conte insisted he had no hesitation in making the switch.

“I try to choose the best for the team,” he said. “Because I want to win, the fans want to win and I have different options in this situation. I think that is normal.

“And it’s important that the players must be involved in the project — all the players together because together we win, together we lose. It’s important to work together and trust in the work.”

The new formation certainly had the desired effect as Chelsea recorded just their second clean sheet of the season and its continued use, after the coming international break, seems likely.

“We were able to defend very high and this is very important,” said Conte. “The team was very compact and when we lost the ball, we tried to win it back very soon.

“All the players worked very well. When we work together, it’s easy.”

Hull, having played Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal in their previous four games, can look forward to a kinder fixture list on the horizon, although caretaker manager Mike Phelan remains unclear about his own position.

“My future will take care of itself but there is no panic,” he said.

“I’m not in a position of worrying too much about it. The talks I’ve had have been extremely good but, once people sleep on things, they tend to change overnight.

“It’s just a case of I wasn’t particularly happy with the uncertainty of the deal. But moving on, we’ll have another coffee and cake, like we did last week, and discuss it.”

Costa strikes late as Conte masters old rival Mazzarri

August 21, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Antonio Conte won the battle of two old Serie A adversaries as Chelsea came from behind to beat Walter Mazzarri’s Watford 2-1 on Saturday thanks to Diego Costa’s latest last-gasp winner.

Costa

Etienne Capoue put Watford ahead after 55 minutes with his second goal of the season, but Michy Batshuayi equalised in the 80th minute with his first goal for Chelsea, six minutes after coming off the bench, thanks to an error by Watford goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes.

And Spain striker Costa won it with three minutes to go at Vicarage Road after a fine pass from another substitute, Cesc Fabregas.

If Fabregas had a point to make after failing to make Conte’s starting line-up for either of the first two matches, then he may consider it made, having also played a part in Batshuayi’s equaliser.

Conte and Mazzarri, who had a frosty relationship when they managed Juventus and Napoli respectively in Italy, are animated performers in the technical area and not even some unseasonal rain put them off as they both spent most of the match on their feet.

But Conte won the battle in the end, even if a draw might have been a fairer result on the balance of play.

Watford paraded new signings Roberto Pereyra, a £13 million ($17 million, 15 million euros) capture from Juventus, and Isaac Success before the match.

They and Younes Kaboul, who joined on Friday from Sunderland, may reflect that their extra quality might convert results such as this into better outcomes for their new team.

Jose Holebas had the first serious shot at goal after seven minutes, advancing from his left wing-back position to meet a diagonal pass with a low angled half-volley that goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois had to block with his feet.

And the other wing-back, Nordin Amrabat, bullied his way past Cesar Azpilicueta and curved in a dangerous cross that Odion Ighalo, sliding in along the rain-slicked turf, could only hit over the bar.

Amrabat then half-volleyed a decent chance high and wide after Chelsea had half-cleared a cross from the left.

And the Dutch-born Moroccan international was a central player again as Watford took the lead 10 minutes into the second half.

Amrabat’s pass found Adlene Guedioura and his cross from the right swung behind forwards and defenders alike but reached Capoue beyond the far post.

He had time to chest the ball down and strike a fierce left-foot half-volley high past the right hand of Courtois.

The French midfielder had not scored for Watford since joining the club in July 2015 until he found the net at Southampton last week.

Chelsea tried to react but Costa, already on a booking, fooled nobody, including referee Jon Moss, when he appeared to dive after a challenge by Miguel Britos in an unsuccessful bid to win a foul.

Conte sent on Spain midfielder Fabregas in an attempt to bring some accuracy to his team’s passing, and it worked.

He found Eden Hazard and his shot was fumbled by Gomes to Batshuayi, who could not miss from six yards.

Then, in the 87th minute, Fabregas’ diagonal pass sent Costa racing clear to slip the ball under Gomes for his second late winner in a week following Monday’s decisive strike against West Ham United.

Batshuayi could even have made it 3-1 but his shot from 12 yards came back off the crossbar.

Chelsea striker Costa charged by FA for improper conduct

March 15, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Chelsea forward Diego Costa has been charged for improper conduct following his red card in their 2-0 FA Cup quarter-final defeat by Everton at Goodison Park on Saturday.

Football Soccer - Everton v Chelsea - FA Cup Quarter Final - Goodison Park - 12/3/16 Chelsea's Diego Costa is sent off by referee Michael Oliver Action Images via Reuters / Carl Recine

Costa, already booked for a first-half collision with Gareth Barry, squared up to the midfielder, shoving his face into the Everton player after being fouled in the 84th minute.

Referee Michael Oliver showed the Brazil-born Spanish international a second yellow card, meaning he was sent off for Chelsea for the first time.

“It is alleged his behaviour, after being shown a second yellow card in the game, amounted to improper conduct,” the FA said in a statement on Monday.

Costa has until 1800 GMT on Thursday to respond to the charge.

He also has until Wednesday to provide his observations to the FA in relation to an alleged gesture he made towards Everton supporters while leaving the pitch at halftime.

Lukaku sinks Chelsea, Costa sent off in FA Cup

March 13, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Romelu Lukaku scored two superb goals to give Everton a 2-0 FA Cup quarter-final victory on Saturday over his former club Chelsea, for whom Diego Costa was sent off.

Lukaku

As a fractious match neared its conclusion, Lukaku took a Tom Cleverley pass in his stride after 77 minutes and powered past four defenders before burying an unstoppable shot into the back of the visitors’ goal.

Just five minutes later, after neat passes fromGareth Barry and Ross Barkley, it was left to Lukaku to deliver the killer blow with another emphatic finish that earned Everton a place in the semi-finals.

“It is a fantastic feeling,” said Everton manager Roberto Martinez. “More than anything, the atmosphere that was created. Every one of us will take it away.

“Romelu Lukaku’s goal was one of the great goals we will see in the FA Cup.”

The controversy was still to come, however, as Costa earned a second yellow card after 84 minutes as he reacted to a Barry foul by motioning his head towards the Everton man and apparently threatening to bite him.

Martinez would not be drawn on the Costa incident and Chelsea interim manager Guus Hiddink claimed not to have seen it.

Defeat brought an end to a miserable week for Chelsea, who were eliminated from the Champions League by Paris Saint-Germain on Wednesday and no longer have any chance of winning any silverware this season.

“Everyone knows where Chelsea were,” Hiddink said. “The first task was to get out of the relegation zone and we did that fast. Then there were two cups at stake.

“It is important now that we have the pride to play when there is nothing much at stake.”

Everton’s new co-owner Farhad Moshiri was in attendance at Goodison Park for the first time since paying a reported £200 million ($287.7 million, 258 million euros) to buy 49.9 percent of the club.

There was little for either him or the home fans to cheer in the early stages, apart from a first-minute Cleverley volley into the body of Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.

Chelsea left-back Kenedy was fortunate not to be booked after two clumsy trips on Aaron Lennon, while Costa made the most of slight contact with Phil Jagielka off the ball, appealing for a penalty that was instantly rejected.

Nor were Everton blameless, with Jagielka booked for a wild kick at Fabregas.

From the ensuing free-kick, Joel Robles made the first meaningful save of the game by tipping over a dipping effort from Willian.

Courtois was also pressed into action before the interval, diving smartly to make a routine stop from another long-range Cleverley shot.

Chelsea’s goal was threatened again soon after the restart, Ramiro Funes Mori rising well to meet a Cleverley corner with a header that just cleared the crossbar.

Chelsea finally showed some attacking intent, after 56 minutes, and almost scored from their first meaningful foray into Everton territory.

Fabregas found Costa, who beat Funes Mori and rounded Robles, only to steer a low shot across goal and wide from a difficult, narrow angle.

Courtois was again pressed into action when he rushed from his line to dispossess Lukaku, but the Belgian striker, sold by Chelsea in 2014, would have the last laugh.

“I think the first goal is the best thing,” Lukaku said of his sensational opener.

“I didn’t know where I was going, but then I was in the box. I saw Gary Cahill not know where he was going so I shifted it onto my left foot (and shot).”

Don’t let Costa wind you up, says PSG coach Blanc

March 9, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Paris St Germain coach Laurent Blanc has told his players not to succumb to provocation from Chelsea striker Diego Costa in the second leg of their Champions League last 16 clash on Wednesday.

Football Soccer - Southampton v Chelsea - Barclays Premier League - St Mary's Stadium - 27/2/16Chelsea's Diego Costa clashes with Southampton's Virgil van DijkReuters / Dylan Martinez

PSG take a 2-1 advantage into the tie at Stamford Bridge against a Chelsea side who have returned to form since Guus Hiddink took over as interim manager from the sacked Jose Mourinho in December.

The feisty Costa has been at the heart of their resurgence, scoring 10 times since Mourinho left the club having found the net on just four occasions this season prior to the Portuguese’s departure.

The forward has a well-founded reputation for mastering some of football’s darker arts and Blanc has warned his defenders they cannot risk reacting to any provocation from the Brazil-born Spanish international if they want to reach the last eight.

“He (Costa) loves contact, duelling, provocation, but that’s part of the game,” Blanc told reporters. “I say to my defenders not to respond, to be strong, stay cool.

“We must learn to control ourselves. If one is in control we can show on the pitch that we are capable of doing great things.”

It is the third successive season the two sides have met in the knockout rounds of the Champions League, with honours even so far.

Chelsea reached the semi-finals at PSG’s expense in 2014 and the French side ousted the Londoners to reach the last eight last season.

PSG’s talismanic striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic lasted 31 minutes of last term’s second-leg clash before being sent off.

In the aftermath of PSG’s away-goals victory he accused the Chelsea players of behaving like babies for their reaction to a foul on Oscar that resulted in his dismissal.

Ibrahimovic will not be on a revenge mission, however, when he returns to Stamford Bridge.

“I never think about revenge and these things because every game is a new game but hopefully I will stay on the pitch longer than the last time to have a possibility to do things I’m good at,” the Swede said.

“What happened in the past, it belongs to the past and this is the present time. So let’s do a good game … this is a new game.”

Favourites PSG could find Chelsea tough to crack

February 15, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Paris St Germain would be odds-on certainties to easily beat Chelsea and take a big step towards the Champions League quarter-finals on Tuesday if statistics and domestic form decided matches.

Football Soccer - Chelsea v Manchester United - Barclays Premier League - Stamford Bridge - 7/2/16 Chelsea's Diego Costa celebrates scoring their first goal with John Terry Action Images via Reuters / John Sibley

But there is far more to it than that which is why Chelsea, enduring one of their worst seasons in years but showing signs of improvement, will visit the runaway Ligue 1 leaders optimistic they can avenge last season’s round of 16 defeat.

PSG were on a 16-match winning streak in all competitions before a partly reserve side were held to a goalless draw by visitors Lille in Ligue 1 on Saturday.

Talismanic striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, key midfielder Thiago Motta and captain and centre back Thiago Silva were all rested and although PSG did not win they still stretched their unbeaten league run to 35 games.

Midfielder Marco Verratti returned after a two-week injury layoff, replacing Javier Pastore at halftime, but manager Laurent Blanc said the Italian would not start against Chelsea.

“It’s too risky. Everything goes faster in a Champions League game. If you play, you risk getting injured again,” said Blanc, who is likely to field Adrien Rabiot in midfield alongside Blaise Matuidi and Thiago Motta.

PSG have been knocked out in the quarter-finals of the last three Champions Leagues but hope the addition of Angel Di Maria, who has been an inspiration since he joined from Manchester United last summer, will help them go further this time.

Although Chelsea eliminated PSG in the last eight on away goals two seasons ago, the Parisians got their revenge last term when they knocked the London side out.

Chelsea’s interim boss Guus Hiddink said last week he thought PSG were favourites, but the outcome is not a foregone conclusion.

Unlike PSG, Chelsea’s domestic form has been patchy but it has improved since Hiddink replaced the sacked Jose Mourinho in mid-December.

Saturday’s 5-1 win over Newcastle United was their best in the Premier League this term and stretched their unbeaten league run to 10 matches.

However, they are still only 12th in the table, 20 points behind leaders Leicester City.

Saturday’s win could prove costly, though, with a hamstring injury making it doubtful John Terry can play.

Hiddink said: “We have just two days to recover and it is something to think about in the future as two days of recovery is not enough.”

Terry’s fellow central defender Kurt Zouma was ruled out for six months after injuring his anterior cruciate ligament against Manchester United last week.

Hiddink frustrated at Costa blow

December 27, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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Guus Hiddink admits the absence of Diego Costa is a major blow to Chelsea’s hopes of taking advantage of Manchester United’s struggles when they travel to Old Trafford on Monday.

Costa

Hiddink took charge of his first game since being installed as Chelsea interim manager, overseeing a frustrating 2-2 draw against Watford at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.

The result left Chelsea in 15th place and came at the cost of a fifth booking of the season for Costa, who will now miss the meeting with United while he serves a one-match ban.

The Spain striker had confirmed his value to Hiddink’s side by scoring twice against Watford and the Dutch manager said: “It’s a setback of course.

“Costa’s performances are improving. I can complain (about the booking), but it’s not my nature. I have to go on and find a solution as soon as possible.”

Loic Remy is expected to step into the line-up for the meeting against United, whose 2-0 defeat at Stoke means they are going into the game without a win in seven matches.

Hiddink acknowledged United are going through a difficult time, but he refused to consider the uncertainty surrounding the future of Old Trafford boss Louis van Gaal.

“Manchester United were first and now they are in a different period. I can’t comment on another manager’s position,” Hiddink said.

Hiddink did, however, express sympathy for the difficulties facing Memphis Depay, the young Holland forward signed by United for £23 million from PSV Eindhoven during the close season.

“In Holland, Memphis Depay was a star player at a young age,” he said.

“He has the talent but is now battling the demands of the Premier League, playing three games a week. These players need the cover of experienced players.

“We will go to Old Trafford, it will be difficult, but I hope this team will show, in every game, the ambition like they showed against Watford – we are going there for the win.”

Costa put Chelsea ahead and salvaged a point after a Troy Deeney penalty and an effort from Odion Ighalo had put Watford ahead.

Hiddink’s side, though, could have claimed all three points had Oscar not failed to convert a late penalty.

“When we are near the end of the game and get a penalty, we deserved a 3-2 win,” he said.

“It’s a pity and a setback. But we have to analyse the game and Watford deserves respect – they have had a lot of clean sheets.

“But the two goals conceded were unlucky, a penalty and a deflection. I’m disappointed but it was important how we reacted when it was 1-2 – that was good.”

Chelsea’s first game since the departure of Jose Mourinho had been played in a hostile atmosphere, with some Blues supporters targeting those players they felt had under-performed under the previous manager.

But a week later, Hiddink believes the players have gone some way to winning back the crowd in the second match.

“It’s now up to the team to show, and take the initiative to get the crowd back. And they did, especially when we went behind,” Hiddink said.

“The team reacted and showed the crowd what they are willing to do, and showed ambition, and the crowd reacted positively to them.”

In contrast to Chelsea’s woes, Watford lie seventh ahead of their home meeting with Tottenham and manager Quique Sanchez Flores believes the draw at Stamford Bridge, coming on the back of the defeat of Liverpool, shows how far his side have progressed.

“I am not surprised and the squad are not surprised that we can draw at Chelsea,” Flores said.

“Some players are even angry with the draw because we had opportunities.

“I like this mentality but I say to them that a draw is a good result because Chelseaplayed really well.

“We are on the right road so we are happy.”

Mourinho under fire as Klopp set for Liverpool bow

October 17, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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Jose Mourinho hopes Diego Costa’s return from suspension will provide troubled champions Chelsea with the spark to ignite their spluttering campaign.

Mourniho

Feted as kings of the Premier League in May, just five months later the Blues are languishing in 16th place following a 3-1 home defeat against Southampton.

That loss came amid reports of a dressing room mutiny against the Chelsea boss.

And, despite public backing from Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich, Mourinho cut an agitated figure this week when he launched a scathing attack on the Football Association after he was fined and given a suspended one-match stadium ban following his criticism of the officials in the Southampton match.

With tensions running high at Stamford Bridge, Mourinho is relieved to welcome back Costa after a three-match ban and said the Spain striker’s return had lifted morale ahead of Aston Villa’s visit on Saturday.

“On Friday we had a good conversation. We laughed a lot because Diego Costa found the reasons for the bad results,” Mourinho said.

“I cannot tell you but he gave us the solution to go back to victories.

“We cannot run away from the reality of the table in the Premier League.

“The numbers are very cruel and we need points, but obviously we know we’re not going to be relegated.”

Meanwhile, Jurgen Klopp has challenged Liverpool’s under-performing stars to rediscover their swagger when the new Reds boss gets his first taste of the Premier League against Tottenham.

All eyes will be on Klopp’s eagerly anticipated debut at White Hart Lane following the highly-regarded German’s recent appointment as successor to the sacked Brendan Rodgers.

The charismatic 48-year-old’s impressive track record at Borussia Dortmund has established him as one of Europe’s top coaches and his arrival has rekindled enthusiasm among Liverpool fans who had grown disillusioned with Rodgers’ trophyless reign.

But, with Liverpool slumping to 10th place after just one win in their last nine matches in all competitions, Klopp is well aware he faces a major rebuilding job before he can dream of emulating legendary Anfield managers like Bill Shankly, Bob Paisley and Kenny Dalglish.

“I have met two kinds of people in the last week: most of them say ‘We’ll win the league’ and the other guys look at me like ‘What have you done? Why are you here?’,” Klopp said.

“Both are not right in this moment. It is not interesting what people think about this.”

While Klopp is cautious about revealing his own ambitions, he has already identified one key problem that needs to be solved if Liverpool are to get back on track quickly.

He believes the players were hamstrung by a fear of failure as the pressure mounted on Rodgers and he wants them to forget about past mistakes.

“Some things you can change instantly: mentality, readiness,” Klopp said.

“I want to see more bravery, more fun in their eyes. I want to see that they like what they do.”

While Klopp will steal most of the headlines this weekend, new Sunderland manager Sam Allardyce returns to the Premier League facing arguably the toughest challenge of his career.

The second bottom Black Cats turned to Allardyce after Dick Advocaat quit, making him the first man to take charge of bitter north-east rivals Newcastle and Sunderland.

Allardyce, who left West Ham at the end of last season, has a well-earned reputation for helping clubs punch above their weight.

But Sunderland have failed to win any of their first eight matches and defeat in Allardyce’s debut at struggling West Bromwich Albion would be a hammer blow.

“It’s a big challenge. Even at this early stage of the season, it’s clear that we are in trouble,” Allardyce said.

“It could take the vast majority of our 30 matches to get safe.”

Leaders Manchester City host Bournemouth bolstered by captain Vincent Kompany’s return after a five-game injury absence, but Manuel Pellegrini’s side will be without star striker Sergio Aguero and key midfielder David Silva after both suffered knocks on international duty.

Second placed Arsenal will face Watford for the first time in nine years when they travel to Vicarage Road, while third placed Manchester United are at Everton.

Costa defends Mourinho, says players to blame for poor start

October 9, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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Chelsea’s Diego Costa admitted to being overweight at the start of the season and defended under-fire manager Jose Mourinho, insisting the players are to be blamed for the champions’ poor start to the Premier League season.

Mourinho and Costa

Chelsea languish 16th in the league table and owner Roman Abramovich was moved to publicly back the manager after their fourth league loss of the season against Southampton at the weekend.

Costa scored 20 league goals last term as Chelsea went on to win the title with a comfortable eight-point margin but has struggled so far this campaign.

The Spain international has a solitary league goal and has been in the news for all the wrong reasons, including being retrospectively banned for violent conduct during the 2-0 win over Arsenal on Sept. 19.

“We know we’re not in the form we were supposed to be at the beginning of the season. I’m going to be very honest, maybe a few weeks ago, I was not on top of my game. At least physically,” Costa was quoted as saying by the British media.

“I got injured at the end of last season and then I went on holiday.

When I came back … I was a little bit overweight. That affected my game.

“You can be selfish and blame it on the manager but I’m not going to do that. I’m responsible 100 percent, and so are the other guys,” the 27-year-old added.

Costa joins a host of senior players, including John Terry and Cesc Fabregas, who have backed Mourinho in what the Portuguese has described as “worst period in my career”.

The Blues have been woeful defensively, conceding 17 league goals already. They let in only 32 league goals last season.

Defender Gary Cahill also continued the theme of presenting a united front, backing Mourinho to turn things around.

“I think in terms of backing the manager, of course we all back him, of course we are all around him,” Cahill said.

“Dare I say he doesn’t even need backing, when you’ve done so much in the game, not just in this league but in other leagues too.

“It is obviously nice to have that and he certainly has it from the players and the club,” he added.

Costa and Gabriel charged by FA after Stamford Bridge battle

September 22, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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Chelsea striker Diego Costa and Arsenal’s Gabriel have both been charged by the Football Association after incidents in Saturday’s bad-tempered Premier League derby at Stamford Bridge.

Football - Chelsea v Arsenal - Barclays Premier League - Stamford Bridge - 19/9/15Chelsea's Diego Costa clashes with Arsenal's Gabriel PaulistaAction Images via Reuters / John Sibley

The FA said on its website that Costa had been charged with an alleged “act of violent conduct” after television replays showed him catching Arsenal defender Laurent Koscielny with his arm in an incident not spotted at the time by the referee.

“Off the ball incidents which are not seen at the time by the match officials are referred to a panel of three former elite referees,” an FA statement said.

“For retrospective action to be taken, and an FA charge to follow, the decision by the panel must be unanimous.”

Brazilian defender Gabriel, who was sent off after tangling with Costa shortly after that incident, was charged with “improper conduct” following his straight red card which Arsenal have since appealed against.

Spain international Costa has until 1700 GMT on Tuesday to respond to the charges while Gabriel has until 1700 GMT on Thursday to respond.

Both Chelsea and Arsenal were also charged by the FA for failing to control their players.

Chelsea won the fractious game 2-0 with Arsenal ending the match with nine men after Santi Cazorla was also dismissed for a second yellow card after a foul on former Arsenal midfielder Cesc Fabregas.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger was critical of Costa after the derby, saying he is “always involved in provocation”.

Costa injury woes threaten to hamper Chelsea’s title defence

August 7, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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Chelsea kick off their Premier League title defence against Swansea on Saturday fretting that Diego Costa’s injury problems could hamper their bid to remain England’s pre-eminent force.

Costa

Costa’s 20 goals in 26 league appearances were crucial as Jose Mourinho’s side took an early grip on last season’s title race that they never relinquished.

But concerns about the Spain striker’s fitness became a recurring theme throughout the campaign and it frequently took the brilliance of Eden Hazard to make up for the side’s diminished attacking threat whenever Costa was absent.

And the sight of Costa limping out of a recent friendly with Barcelona followed by his enforced absence from last weekend’s Community Shield prompted fresh concerns that the former Atletico Madrid star’s problems have not yet gone away.

Chelsea manager Mourinho has stuck by his policy of operating with a squad that includes just three strikers, with Radamel Falcao arriving on loan from Monaco to join Loic Remy as back-up to Costa after Didier Drogba moved to Major League Soccer’s Montreal Impact.

The evidence of pre-season, however, has been that Chelsea’s attacking options appear under-powered compared to their main rivals and while Mourinho has not ruled out the possibility of Costa facing Swansea when the champions return to action at Stamford Bridge, the chances appear slim.

Mourinho’s team have failed to win any of their warm-up games in 90 minutes and meet Swansea after suffering successive 1-0 defeats, first to Arsenal at Wembley on Sunday and then at home to Fiorentina on Wednesday.

And while the usual caveats about friendly matches apply, Chelsea have looked alarmingly blunt in front of goal, with Falcao — who endured a miserable loan spell at Manchester United last season — showing few signs of returning to his best.

Falcao netted only four goals in 29 appearances for United and he acknowledges it isn’t easy to adapt to the unique challenges of the Premier League.

“It’s a lot more physical here than anywhere else in Europe,” Falcao told Chelsea’s website.

“It’s a very, very competitive league where each team gives absolutely everything they’ve got in every game they play.

“It demands 100 per cent of your ability and focus because it is very competitive, very physical and tactical too.

“Maybe the football philosophy is a little different here in that it is always about getting the ball forward and there is less time when teams are just trying to control the ball and take the heat out of the game.”

Other than Falcao, Asmir Begovic is the only other new arrival, brought in from Stoke to replace departed goalkeeper Petr Cech, although Mourinho is keen to bring in a left-back as back-up for Cesar Azpilicueta.

The Blues boss doesn’t get many things wrong, but if Chelsea’s title defence falters, he will find himself accused of failing to build on a side that won the title at a canter.

The likely absence of Costa would provide Garry Monk’s Swansea with a welcome boost ahead of one of their most testing fixtures of the season.

And Swansea captain Ashley Williams said: “At the moment I think the most difficult Premier League striker to play against is Diego Costa, he scored a few goals against us last season.

“He’s one you don’t look forward to playing against to be honest.

“It seems he might miss Saturday’s game, but you never really know until you get to the ground and look at the team-sheet.

“Whatever eleven they field is world class so it doesn’t matter too much, but obviously if he didn’t play it would be a bonus for us.”

Swansea are hoping to build on last season’s success of finishing eighth in Monk’s first full year in charge and the arrival of Andre Ayew from Marseille should provide an additional attacking threat this year.

Combative Costa may be more careful but won’t change his game

February 27, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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Controversial Chelsea striker Diego Costa has no plans to modify his robust style of play though he concedes he may need to be more careful in future to avoid another ban.

The Brazil-born Spain international returned from a three-match suspension for stamping on Liverpool’s Emre Can last week, a penalty imposed on video evidence after a media outcry.

“I’m never going to change the way I play. That’s what got me here, that’s the way I play,” Costa, who denied his stamp was deliberate, told reporters after training this week for Sunday’s League Cup final against Tottenham Hotspur.

The burly striker is Chelsea’s top scorer this season and likely to start at Wembley even though he is still not back to peak fitness following the ban. “I’m running a little bit behind, trying to do my best, working hard and hopefully I’ll be 100 percent,” he said.

Manager Jose Mourinho has suggested Costa and his team mates are victims of an anti-Chelsea campaign and consequently have not been treated equally with players from other teams.

Costa said: “I do know now that I have to be a little bit more careful because it’s not the same when I do something or when someone else does it. Something I do, it’s talked about much more than another player. I have to be extra careful…

“After last season, I had a few injuries and when I was on top form, when I was at my best, I had that suspension and I still don’t even know why it happened.”

Costa has scored 17 goals in 20 games for Chelsea after joining from Atletico Madrid this season, but they have all come in the Premier League rather than cups.

“I don’t pick tournaments to score, or rivals or other teams to score against. I’m a striker, every game I play I want to score. If it hasn’t happened in the cup, I’m hoping to God it happens on Sunday.”

He said he was delighted to be playing at Wembley, host of many historic games and prestigious players. More importantly the final represented Chelsea’s first bite at silverware this season. They are five points ahead of Manchester City in the title race and still in the Champions League.

“It’s an important game whatever way you look at it. What gives it more importance is it’s my first final at the club. So I will go in with the mentality and have the motivation to come away with the title.”

(Reuters)

Chelsea’s Costa to contest FA violent conduct charge

January 30, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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(Reuters) – Chelsea striker Diego Costa will contest the Football Association’s violent conduct charge for his alleged stamp on Liverpool’s Emre Can, British media reported on Thursday.

The Brazilian-born Spain striker faces a potential three-game ban after he appeared to tread down on the 21-year-old German early in the first half of their League Cup semi-final, second leg at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday.

Should he fail in his challenge he would miss Saturday’s top-of-the-table clash against Manchester City as well as games at Aston Villa and home to Everton.

Costa was later involved in a second stamping furore involving Liverpool’s Slovakian defender Martin Skrtel, but the FA said they would not take any action over that incident.

Chelsea reached the League Cup final thanks to a towering header from Branislav Ivanovic in extra time to give them a 1-0 victory on the night and 2-1 aggregate success.

Chelsea, who cancelled their usual pre-match news conference ahead of the City game, are five points clear at the top of the table.

Chelsea’s Costa accused of stamping in Cup semi-final

January 28, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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(Reuters) – Chelsea’s Diego Costa has quickly become a fan favourite at Stamford Bridge but his fiery temper could have earned him a red card after two stamping incidents in their League Cup semi-final with Liverpool on Tuesday.

The Spain striker appeared to tread down on Emre Can and Martin Skrtel in the second leg clash at Stamford Bridge, that Chelsea won 1-0 to book a place in the Wembley final.

The west London club will be waiting anxiously to see if the Football Association choose to take retrospective action.

Any suspension could rule Costa out of Chelsea’s crucial top-of-the-table Premier League clash at home to second-placed Manchester City, who they lead by five points, on Saturday.

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers had little doubt the Brazilian-born striker should have been sent off.

“There’s no need to do it. He’s a top class player. He knows how to do it so the officials don’t see. It wasn’t good for the game. It’s disappointing to see such a good player behave like that,” Rodgers told reporters.

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho saw things differently.

The Portuguese, no stranger to conspiracy theories, sought to explain away the incidents as nothing more than accidents blown out of proportion by TV pundits.

“I don’t know what you understand by stamp. I think you are already influenced by — there is a campaign by a certain pundit that talks about Diego Costa’s crimes,” he told reporters after former Liverpool midfielder Jamie Redknapp analysed the match.

“What (broadcaster) Sky calls crime, it’s absolutely accidental.

“When you are there and you are paid and you are very well paid — these guys they have a very good seat, they are always right and they always win but they should be honest.”

 

COMBATIVE APPROACH

Costa has taken to English football like a duck to water, with his combative approach suiting the high-tempo physicality of the Premier League.

The striker has scored 17 league goals since arriving from Atletico Madrid in the close season.

He was a handful for Liverpool’s defenders all evening and was unfortunate not to win a penalty in the first half when he was felled by a clumsy tackle from Slovakia defender Skrtel.

Chelsea’s winner arrived four minutes into extra time when Branislav Ivanovic rose unmarked to power home a header from close range to send them to the March 1 final.

The defender was singled out for praise by Mourinho, with a “bloody boot” evidence of the Serb’s commitment to the cause.

“I think Ivanovic’s boot should go direct to the academy for the kids to see all the blood,” Mourinho said.

“The boot is a white boot but it’s completely red. He had a big cut — he gave absolutely everything.”

Ivanovic heads Chelsea into League Cup final

January 28, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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(Reuters) – Chelsea reached the League Cup final after Branislav Ivanovic’s towering extra-time header secured a 1-0 victory over Liverpool in a rip-roaring semi-final second leg at an electric Stamford Bridge on Tuesday.

The Serbian defender powered a header past Liverpool keeper Simon Mignolet four minutes into the extra period to secure a 2-1 aggregate win for the four-times winners days after their humiliating FA Cup exit to third-tier Bradford City.

Both sides had good chances in normal time and were grateful to their keepers — Thibaut Courtois and Mignolet — for keeping the scores level in a blood-and-thunder encounter with plenty of controversy.

Chelsea striker Diego Costa was typically in the thick of the action and twice appeared to stamp on Liverpool players, but should also have been awarded a penalty when he was felled by Slovak defender Martin Skrtel in the first half.

Chelsea will face Tottenham Hotspur or Sheffield United, who play the second leg of their last-four clash on Wednesday with the London side leading 1-0, in the final at Wembley on March 1.

“This is a new Liverpool team (from earlier in the season) and a very difficult opponent. So I’m even happier because we beat a very good team over two legs,” Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho told Sky Sports.

This was a very different Chelsea side to the one that was beaten 4-2 by Bradford in the FA Cup at Stamford Bridge on Saturday, with manager Jose Mourinho making nine changes.

 

FULL THROTTLE

The first half was played at full throttle with both teams looking to seize the early initiative, but the visitors had the better chances with Chelsea keeper Courtois producing excellent saves to deny Alberto Moreno and Philippe Coutinho.

While Chelsea struggled to create opportunities, they did have loud appeals for a penalty waved away when Costa, who was lucky to be on the pitch after stamping on Emre Can’s ankle earlier in the match, was felled by a clumsy tackle from Skrtel.

Tempers began to flare after the break with Brazilian-born Spain striker Costa involved in another stamping incident, but as the match wore Chelsea began to craft the better openings.

Eden Hazard beat four men and drove a shot just wide, and Mignolet superbly denied Costa twice with his feet, first from a deflected shot and then when the striker was through on goal.

Ivanovic ensured Chelsea would not have to rely on the away goals rule, which would only have come into play after extra time, to progress while Liverpool’s best chance in extra time fell to Jordan Henderson, who headed wide.

For Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers, the difference between the teams was Chelsea keeper Courtois.

“We were better in every aspect of our game but we just couldn’t get the big goals. Sometimes you have a barrier in your way and tonight and last week it was Courtois,” he said.

Chelsea seek to regain momentum as Manchester City surge

January 8, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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(Reuters) – Stuttering Chelsea retained their Premier League lead by virtue of the alphabet heading into the new year but will need a quick riposte at home to Newcastle United on Saturday to hold Manchester City at bay.

Jose Mourinho’s side gleaned a mere four points from nine during a frenzy of holiday fixtures and a humbling 5-3 loss at Tottenham Hotspur on Jan. 1 meant champions City restored parity at the top having at one stage trailed by eight points.

An easy FA Cup win over second tier Watford offered Chelsea a breather, but they host managerless Newcastle knowing their margin for error between now and May is miniscule.

Buoyant City, who are level on points (46), goal difference (25) and goals scored (44) with Chelsea, are away at struggling Everton on the same day, looking to continue a blistering run which has yielded 26 points from the last 30 on offer.

After Mourinho’s side had threatened to run away with it earlier in the season, the title race now effectively starts from scratch with an 18-match sprint.

Chelsea’s stumbles have happened away from home with losses to Newcastle and Tottenham and a draw at Southampton.

They have been immaculate at home though, winning nine out of nine in the league and striker Loic Remy believes the recent slip-ups are not the start of a longer slide.

“The mood is really positive and we’re focused on all of our targets,” Remy, who scored against Watford, said. “During the season every team will be in trouble at certain times, so for us I hope it’s behind us now with the last two league games.”

John Carver remains in temporary charge of mid-table Newcastle after Alan Pardew left for Crystal Palace and he will be wary of a Chelsea backlash as he tries to stake his claim for the job on a full-time basis.

“I’d be a fool if didn’t want to be head coach of this football club,” Carver, who could have first-choice keeper Tim Krul back, told the Northern Echo.

City will be boosted by the imminent return of Premier league top scorer Sergio Aguero as they travel to face an Everton side who have lost four consecutive league matches.

“I wanted you to know I’ve already started field work. Slowly but surely I’ll be back at the right moment. Thanks for the wishes!” the Argentine, who hurt his knee in the 1-0 home defeat of Everton, said on Twitter.

Edin Dzeko and skipper Vincent Kompany are also expected to be available for Manuel Pellegrini.

Third versus fourth meet at Old Trafford on Sunday as Manchester United host Southampton while in-form Tottenham, up to fifth, are Pardew’s first league test as Palace manager on Saturday. Tottenham would rise to fourth with a win.

Tottenham face six games in 21 days, including a two-legged League Cup semi-final and an FA Cup replay against Burnley.

Sixth-placed Arsenal host Stoke City on Sunday.

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