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Three talking points as Chelsea came out on top against Watford in a pulsating encounter

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Two late goals eased the growing pressure on Antonio Conte’s shoulders as Chelsea came from behind to secure a dramatic win over an excellent Watford side at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.

The reigning Premier League champions went into Saturday’s clash on the back of three games without a win – including last weekend’s defeat at Crystal Palace – but they got off to the perfect start at Stamford Bridge when Pedro curled in a stunning effort from 25-yards into the far corner.

Conte’s side were far from superior, though, and Watford managed to get themselves back in the game seconds before the break when Abdoulaye Doucoure’s swerving effort squeezed into the net.

The timing of the goal seemed to buoy the visitors and they came out firing in the second-half, taking the lead when Roberto Pereyra found space inside the box to finish past Thibaut Courtois.

Chelsea rolled the dice in search of an equaliser, bringing on Michy Batshuayi and Willian, and the Belgian striker made the telling impact when he levelled the scores with a smart near-post header.

Cesar Azpilicueta then popped up in the right place at the right time to secure a winner in the 87th minute, before Batshuayi made sure of it with his second, sending Chelsea up to fourth in the table.

Antonio Conte’s substitutes help the Blues paper over the cracks

It wasn’t vintage by any means.

However, football is a results business and, in coming from behind to secure a much-needed win against Watford, Antonio Conte will no doubt be breathing a massive sigh of relief following a thrilling match.

He is a man that has come under fire for his side’s performances in recent weeks but the Italian deserves credit for his decision-making on Saturday, and it was his foresight to introduce Batshuayi and Willian in the second-half that ultimately turned a topsy-turvy encounter in his side’s favour.

It is not often that a player comes on in the second-half of a game and wins the man of the match accolade but that is exactly what the Belgian did, and his two goals helped his side to a critical win.

Batshuayi continued his prolific recent record from the bench – now scoring six goals in his last nine Premier League appearances – and his double took his record to a goal every 60.1 minutes this season, which is not bad for a player that still can’t impress Conte enough to warrant a starting berth.

His equaliser was a true centre-forward’s goal, darting across his man before glancing a powerful header into the far corner, and it gave his side some impetus when the game started drifting beyond them.

Willian also deserves a mention too, coming on and injecting some pace into Chelsea’s play and giving them a potent option on the break. It was his superb cross that created Azpilicueta’s winning goal.

There is no doubt that Chelsea were not at the races on Saturday – and they certainly didn’t play like champions – but you have to admire their fight, and Conte deserves some praise for his part in that.

Chelsea defensively inept as Watford miss out

Chelsea’s ability to grind out three points will only serve to paper over the cracks of an otherwise poor display, and suddenly the Blue’s reputation of being defensively sound is starting to crumble quickly.

They have conceded seven goals in their past three matches in all competitions and for some reason or other on Saturday their wing-back system left them hugely exposed at the back, with Watford capitalising on numerous occasions.

Marcos Alonso and Azpilicueta were caught too far up the pitch too often, leaving the back-three firmly isolated, and Richarlison, in particular, had a field day running at the back line with the space on offer.

The hosts were carved open three times in just five second-half minutes – one of which resulted in Pereyra’s goal – and Watford arguably should have been out of sight by the hour mark with the young Brazilian having two glorious opportunities in front of goal to score, but he fluffed his lines badly.

It perhaps goes to show just how much Chelsea miss the dominant presence of N’Golo Kante in midfield when he is not playing, with Tiemoue Bakayoko offering very little protection in a holding position.

The worrying thing for Chelsea fans is that the French star is in a real race against time to be fit for the huge visit of Manchester United on November 5th – and that would be a huge blow if he is not available.

Defeat tough to take for wasteful Watford

For all the talk of Chelsea being below par, Watford were excellent.

Marco Silva has worked wonders at the Hornets since taking over and it showed once again at the champions. Nobody would have begrudged Watford all three points had they got over the line.

After going behind they didn’t let their heads drop – as most teams would away at Chelsea – and instead, they got straight on the front foot, taking the game to the hosts and pushing them back into their own third of the pitch. This persistence paid its dividends when they got their noses in front after the break.

The most impressive thing about this Watford side has been their relentless work-rate, all of a sudden having a never-say-die attitude, and it is testament to the impact Silva has had since arriving.

As alluded to above, it could have been oh so different had Richarlison taken his chances, missing an absolute sitter from five-yards out before sending a free header wide from an equally promising position, and there would have been an air of bitter disappointment in the dressing room yesterday.

Nonetheless, Watford have shown they are more than capable of competing this season and, in the same way they did after the 6-0 defeat to Manchester City, Silva’s side now have to bounce back against Stoke next week.

Will is a Multimedia Journalism graduate from the University of Salford, specialising in the art of sports. Long-time suffering Northampton Town fan who once saw us win a league title. Find him on Twitter - @96PearsonW.

Chelsea

Crystal Palace’s hopes of Ruben Loftus-Cheek return boosted after latest comments

The midfielder is unlikely to get what he’s after at his parent club.

Jamie Watts

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Ruben Loftus-Cheek has boosted Crystal Palace‘s hopes of securing his services for another season, after claiming he will only remain with Chelsea this summer if guaranteed a regular first-team spot at Stamford Bridge next season, in quotes via Sky Sports.

The 22-year-old spent last season on loan at Selhurst Park after making just 31 appearances for Chelsea since his debut in 2014, and his immense talents have earned him a place in Gareth Southgate’s England squad this World Cup.

Photo: Getty Images

“I want to play as much as I can,” revealed Loftus-Cheek. “Even this past season just gone, I didn’t play as much as I would have liked because of injuries. So I still feel I need a proper season of playing, wherever it is.”

Loftus-Cheek made 25 appearances for Roy Hodgson’s outfit last term, and is still unhappy with the amount of minutes he managed, so it’s pretty safe to assume Chelsea – given the disastrous domestic season they’ve just had – won’t be bettering his previous return, or be prioritising taking chances on academy products next season.

And Palace will be keen to offer the stylish midfielder a deal to extend his stay with the former England manager, where, if available, he will continue to be considered one of the first names on the team-sheet.

Photo: Getty Images

Palace are likely to face competition from rival clubs though, as Loftus-Cheek is emerging as a star on the biggest stage of all in Russia; having flourished in his brief cameo against Tunisia. And he’s now considered likely to start against Panama, with Dele Alli nursing a slight injury.

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Aston Villa

Aston Villa could reportedly owe John Terry £560,000 in wages

The owner may have to sell shares in the club.

Jamie Watts

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Aston Villa’s financial mess looks likely to continue, as the cash-strapped club could now owe captain John Terry a whopping £560,000 in wages, unless he transfers to a different club this summer, according to reports from the Telegraph.

Villa are said to have reached an agreement with HMRC to postpone a payment of £4 million last week, but a further payment is expected this week and the club owner Tony Xia may have to go as far as to sell shares in the club to ensure all debts are paid.

The ex-Chelsea legend announced his impending departure from the midlands club last month, after they failed to secure Premier League promotion in the play-offs and his current contract is due to expire at the end of the month. But he is said to be entitled to a further month’s pay.

Photo: Getty Images

His weekly-wage packet was said to be worth £70,000 at Villa Park, meaning the overdue payments from the last two-months add up to over half-a-million for the 37-year-old defender. However, the outstanding July payment will only stand if Terry retires or remains a free-agent, meaning Villa will be keen to land him a new club.

Villa reportedly need £40 million in order to comply with Financial Fair Play regulations (Birmingham Mail), after gambling that they would gain promotion to the Premier League this season.

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Chelsea

England must start Marcus Rashford and Ruben Loftus-Cheek after Panama reveal tactics

England must opt for creativity after the Panama captain’s comments

Jamie Watts

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Panama have revealed plans stifle England with a physical approach in their upcoming clash on Sunday, in quotes from captain Roman Torres on the Telegraph, and Gareth Southgate should ensure the Three Lions’ approach is suited to the style of opponent.

The Central Americans were beaten 3-0 by a star-studded Belgium outfit on Monday in their World Cup debut, meaning a win against England is pivotal in ensuring they remain in the competition beyond the group stages. And England will have a tough task taking the lion’s share of points on the day.

“England are a bit more direct than Belgium. They try to make use of the pace they have. We’ll need to be compact and limit their space,” revealed Torres told the Telegraph.

Photo: Getty Images

And as a result England must employ the right tactics. Creativity and bravery will be key, as they will undoubtedly have the majority of possession, and Southgate will want to make it count. Marcus Rashford and Ruben Loftus-Cheek added instant impetus to a languid outfit, after coming on late against Tunisia.

The team’s performance became full of purpose and directness in the last 20 minutes, with both taking the responsibility of carrying the ball forward and creating, and from that arrived the corner and subsequent winner from Harry Kane.

Photo: Getty Images

The end product from the likes of Rashford was missing in the opening stages of the game also, as team-mate Jesse Lingard squandered a number of key opportunities to put the game to bed early, and Southgate will not want a repeat this time around.

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