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Chelsea’s Fearsome Fortnight

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The only sound that resonated louder than the groans from the Shed End on Saturday evening was the cheering emanating from Anfield and The Etihad. The piercing blow of the referee’s whistle brought with it José Mourinho’s first ever home defeat as Chelsea manager in either spell. This becomes more astounding when you realise that he had also not lost at home during his time as Porto or Inter head coach. Yet more remarkable still, was that this heaviest of blows came at the hands of lowly Sunderland; bottom of the league and relegation had been looming as a greater probability with each passing week. Not exactly the perfect preparation then for a season-defining trio of matches taking place over just 8 days.

The first match approaching fast on the horizon is the trip to Spain to face up to Atletico Madrid; the surprise package of the La Liga season and real title contenders. Chelsea players will need to recover quickly both physically and mentally from the demoralising defeat at home to Sunderland. They were certainly not without chances, and for spells throughout the game did indeed pepper Mannone’s goal, but as has been all too frequent an occurrence for Chelsea, the pressure did not translate into goals. Ivanovic had a header deflected onto the bar from a corner and Ramires could only head wide when under significant pressure from Seb Larsson.

They would go on to rue those missed chances and that lack of a cutting edge severely hampered their chances of victory. In order to progress to the Champions League final, these issues cannot be allowed to reappear. Atletico have a very solid spine to their team which is a fine blend of youthful exuberance and the experience of older heads. Courtois; likely to feature against his parent club, has been a rock between the sticks, Godin has had a new lease of life at centre-back, Tiago patrols central midfield excellently, and Diego Costa is simply lethal. The flair possessed by the Spanish league leaders will ensure that missed opportunities will be punished, and they themselves are unlikely to gift Chelsea anything at the other end. Nothing less than Mourinho’s tactical brilliance and motivational prowess will be required.

One option at José’s disposal is to cleverly use the presence of cup-tied players in the squad to his advantage. Both Nemanja Matic and Mohammed Salah are unable to play for Chelsea in the Champions League due to their appearances in this season’s group stage for Benfica and F.C. Basel respectively. Therefore, they can play no part at all in either mid-week fixture and so should be amongst the freshest for the trip to Anfield. Chelsea’s formation and play-style demands energetic performances from the central midfield and wide players as Mourinho demands that they fulfil their defensive duties in addition to joining in with the attack.

As has been the trend recently, Lampard and David Luiz will most likely form the solid base to their midfield against Atletico with Matic returning to face Liverpool. Salah should also play a role from the start on Sunday as he will inject pace and enthusiasm to whichever forward role he is deployed in. Eden Hazard; Chelsea’s brilliant Belgian, will be touch and go as to whether he features against Atletico. Since damaging his lower calf in the early stages of The Blues’ second leg triumph against PSG, he has not trained. I am sure that José will give his star man every opportunity to play as, following the home defeat to Sunderland, he may see the Champions League as the best bet for silverware. His sharpness will inevitably not be to his usual high levels having had no match practice, but an appearance as a 60th minute substitute may well be on the cards. Even at 75%, the tricky winger has the ability to change any game.

The trip to Spain on Tuesday may only be a short one in terms of actual distance travelled, but depending on the outcome, it could prove to be highly draining for all players concerned. Anything other than a positive result during the week, combined with the loss to Sunderland, will have a drastic effect on squad morale. With Liverpool riding high after their hard-fought 3-2 victory at Norwich, they will be in a confident mood when Chelsea come to Anfield this Sunday. Regardless of mid-week events, José surely has to field his strongest possible eleven. Any indication that the Champions League tie is being prioritised will only serve to heap further unwanted pressure on the return leg.

As has been correctly noted on several occasions this season by the Chelsea boss, Liverpool do not have mid-week commitments to tire them out or distract their minds and so can have a week of dedicated training and recuperation. Mourinho has repeatedly drawn attention to the advantage this has brought them, and it may be the difference on Sunday. Sturridge could return to face his old team; fit and ready to prove a point, and the trickery and pace of Coutinho and Sterling could be the undoing of the tiring legs in Chelsea’s defence.

It is not inconceivable that The Blues will play host to Atletico next Tuesday having lost 3 games on the bounce. Should this be the case, and then be compounded by a Champions League exit and Stamford Bridge, their season would effectively be over. I am sure that this point will have been hammered home by Mourinho and his staff to the players. The importance of this 8 day period cannot be overestimated; not only is it season-defining for sure, but it could also determine the calibre of player recruited in the summer and so have a knock-on effect for seasons to come. I personally cannot wait to see how it all plays out, as it certainly promises a highly dramatic fortnight in the world of football.

I am currently at university studying Mechanical Engineering, but in my spare time I'm into all things football. I'm an avid Liverpool fan but always try to remain impartial. My other interests include gaming and Formula One.

Chelsea

Newcastle United can do better than Chelsea’s Tammy Abraham this summer

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Photo: Getty Images.

Rafa Benitez will have been disappointed to have seen his January signing of Islam Slimani end in complete and utter failure with the Leicester City loanee spending more time in the stands than on the pitch and now he is focused on bringing in an improvement to St. James’ Park for 2018/19, but Tammy Abraham is not the answer.

TEAMTalk say that the Spaniard may return to the striker, who was strongly linked with a move to the north-east last summer, according to the Daily Mirror.

On that occasion, the report indicated that a deal could not be agreed to satisfy Chelsea, but having struck a deal for Kenedy since then the relationship between the two parties may be better and make a move for Abraham smoother.

(Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images)

Then, Abraham was hot property having set the Championship alight with Bristol City, but his loan spell at Swansea has been less convincing. Having scored just five goals and registered three assists in 39 appearances for the Swans, Abraham has made only two Premier League starts in 2018 as doubts continue to emerge about his ability at this level.

What is clear is that he is not ready to walk into Newcastle and be the solution that Benitez needs. In part, that is because Abraham would not be an alternative to the likes of Aleksandar Mitrovic, impressing in the second tier himself now, or Slimani, given that whilst he is tall and physical, his game is about much more than simply being a target man.

The Newcastle boss is clearly looking for a way to add goals to his team, but Abraham, whilst promising, may not be ready for such pressure after a frustrating season in difficult circumstances in south Wales and would be a cheap gamble if Newcastle were to opt for him as their main addition up-front.

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Isaac Christie-Davies joining Liverpool highlights Anfield as the ideal platform for youngsters

Josh Kerr

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Isaac Christie-Davies
Photo: Getty Images

Liverpool are set to sign Chelsea midfielder Isaac Christie-Davies on a free transfer, according to reports from ESPN.

The 20-year-old talent was not offered a new contract by Chelsea and the Reds swooped in earlier this year to offer him a trial ahead of other interested clubs.

If the move goes through, Christie-Davies will become the second young player, after Dominic Solanke, to join the Reds from Chelsea in just two years.

Davies joined Chelsea’s academy from Brighton and progressed from the youth ranks to the under-23s, winning the FA Youth Cup in 2015 and 2016 as well as the UEFA Youth League in 2016.

The teenager impressed during his trial period at Liverpool with the Merseyside outfit set to offer him a contract.

The youngster will look to his former Chelsea teammate and World Cup Golden Ball winner Solanke for inspiration, who finally showcased his talents in his previous outing at Anfield.

(Photo by Paul Ellis/Getty Images)

The 20-year-old striker finally notched his first senior goal for the Reds against Brighton on the final day of the Premier League, when the England international rifled a shot just under the bar to break his Reds duck.

The move for Christie-Davies represents yet another promising player trading London for Merseyside, and it could be Liverpool taking advantage of further academy talents.

Christie-Davies is likely to head straight into the Liverpool Under 23 squad as he follows the path of former teammate Solanke to Anfield.

Despite the youngster being unlikely to influence the first team next season it still could prove to be a nice bit of business from the club.

Although it was Chelsea’s decision to let the former Brighton youngster leave Stamford Bridge, Davies will look to the likes of former Blues, Solanke and Rhian Brewster as inspiration that it is still possible to reach the top.

Liverpool’s under 23’s finished 2nd in Premier League 2 this season, and standout players such as Harry Wilson even endured successful loan moves in the Championship, which could be the motivation Davies needs to make the grade at Anfield.

Also, the fact Liverpool quickly gambled on the midfielder reflects the qualities that are evidently present with Christie-Davies. If the youngster makes the most of his new move he could be another former Blue to thrive from a London exit.

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Mauricio Pochettino would be mad to leave Tottenham for Chelsea

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Photo: Getty Images.

There could be one of the most sensational managerial switches of the Premier League era if Sky Sports are to be believed as they claim that Chelsea are pondering over making a move for Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino to replace Antonio Conte after a disastrous attempt at a Premier League title defence.

The Italian’s days are clearly numbered and his departure after the FA Cup final this weekend looks inevitable, but Mauricio Pochettino would be making a serious mistake if he were to take the opportunity to move to Stamford Bridge.

After four years in the dugout, at both White Hart Lane and Wembley Stadium, Pochettino has got his team playing his way. The Argentine has always worked under limited resources, at Espanyol, Southampton and even now at Spurs, and whilst the offer of money to spend at Chelsea may be exciting it would also mean an increased responsibility and a very different challenge.

(during the Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Leicester City at Wembley Stadium on May 13, 2018 in London, England.

Tottenham fans and board have complete faith in their coach and are prepared to invest in him to take their club to the next level, something which will come soon with the building of their new stadium, and feel that he is the right man to lead the club in the long-term.

A move to a club with such a short term view in the form of Chelsea would be to sacrifice all that Pochettino has achieved in his spell in north London to date, bringing through young talents like Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Eric Dier who are now beginning to reach their peak and shine under the coach.

With stability at a club on the up, Pochettino would be foolish to be distracted by the bright lights and glamour of a dysfunctional club like Chelsea.

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