Back to West London now, after two road trips to West Ham and Huddersfield. Chelsea’s opponents today: Southampton FC, fresh off a 4 – 1 home defeat to Leicester City. The game before though, Southampton managed a creditable 1 – 1 draw v Arsenal, who were in seventh place. They would not be pushovers today, by any means.

Chelsea (and Antonio Conte) were in game two of a “small ball” experiment. Even though Alvaro Morata was unavailable v Huddersfield, Michy Batshuayi was left on the bench. Today, both Michy and Alvaro were ready to play, but Conte started the same small, mobile attacking three as the previous game: Willian on the left, Pedro on the right, Eden Hazard in the center.

Mauricio Pellegrino rotated in Wesley Hoedt and Manolo Gabbiadini for Virgil van Dijk and Charlie Austin. Gary Cahill replaced Antonio Rudiger, who’d played well against Huddersfield, but maybe could have done more to prevent their late goal. N’golo Kante and Tiemoue Bakayoko were the two midfielders in Chelsea’s 3-4-3 today, so Cesc Fabregas was on the bench second game in a row. […]

Freezing weather, pouring rain, unbelievably enthusiastic home crowd, good times! It was a quick return to action in the Premier League. Chelsea played Huddersfield Town in their second away game in four days.

Chelsea had lost their last game against West Ham United. They started too slowly, the opposition scored and for the first time in the league since October, they couldn’t find their way back into the game. West Ham had ended an unbeaten run in which Chelsea had banked 19 of 21 available points.

Fortunately for Chelsea though, the teams around them weren’t able to take advantage. Manchester United lost their derby, Liverpool drew theirs, and Arsenal were held by Southampton.

Despite recent losses to Everton, Arsenal and Manchester City, Huddersfield were enjoying a pretty good start to their Premier League season. The two-nil win v Brighton in their last game had lifted them to twelfth place in the league, level on points with Southampton. […]

The final score was a fair reflection of the game. West Ham had a full week’s rest while Chelsea played a big game midweek, and it showed – the Hammers were buzzing like killer bees from the opening whistle. Chelsea may have tried nineteen shots to West Ham’s five, but both sides had just two shots on target each.

Perhaps Chelsea could have done with two strikers in the second half, as they were chasing the game. Maybe Michy Batshuayi might have worked West Ham’s defenders a bit more than Pedro. Maybe Chelsea’s midfield and attack overplayed it a little bit, passing up simple opportunities to shoot the ball. And maybe all their players need extensive finishing practice.

Whatever the root causes West Ham defended magnificently today, and outworked their opponents at the other end. They were the better side this game, credit to them. And Chelsea… well, they gave another struggling side a reprieve. As is their wont. […]

Last chance Tuesday in UEFA Champions League Group C. Last chance for Atletico de Madrid to avoid joining Arsenal in Europe’s second tier. Last chance for AS Roma to claim top spot in one of this season’s toughest CL groups. Last chance for Chelsea to duck a January clash with Barcelona or PSG in the first knockout stage.

All three clubs needed a win to secure their objective, but Roma were the most likely to get that result in their home game v FK Qarabag.

Yes, Chelsea had beaten Atletico the last time these two teams met. But after a difficult run of seven low-scoring draws in nine games, including two shock draws with Qarabag, Atletico had rediscovered their touch in front of goal. They’d now scored twelve goals and conceded only one in four consecutive wins against Roma, Levante, Elche and Real Sociedad.

Chelsea had experienced troubles too, but they were back in form now with five wins from six games since the start of November, fourteen goals scored and only two conceded. This was going to be a quality game between two great football clubs. […]

It was matchday 15 of the 2017 season. Ex-Chelsea manager Rafa Benitez and Newcastle United were in London for the first league game of the weekend, against his former club.

November had turned to December, and as Chelsea’s players returned from injury, and Antonio Conte settled on his favoured shape and starting line-up, his team’s defensive inconsistencies were fading into memory.

Newcastle’s recent form was relatively similar to that of the last visitors to Stamford Bridge, Swansea City. They had four losses and one draw from their last five games – but they sat twelfth, much higher up the league table than the eighteenth placed Welsh side.

Chelsea were in third, with four wins and one draw from their last five league games. They had a chance today to draw level on points with second placed Manchester United – if they could take all three points today. […]

Swansea City AFC were in London for their midweek EPL fixture against defending champions Chelsea. The Welsh side were in desperately poor form, having secured just one point and scored only two goals in their last five league games.

Manager Paul Clement said at the weekend, he didn’t believe he would be sacked if his team lost against Bournemouth. They had managed a goalless draw against the Cherries, but his words were eerily similar to Tony Pulis’s, just before West Bromwich Albion lost 4 – 0 to Chelsea – and Mr. Pulis lost his job.

Some of the circumstances were in Swansea’s favour though – Chelsea had just completed a run of three consecutive away games in seven days, including a couple of six-hour flights to and from Azerbaijan for a champions league fixture. The London club also had a relatively lengthy list of players that were either injured, or had just returned from injury, still lacking match fitness. Perhaps Swansea could take advantage. […]

The ones that get away… they always come back to haunt you don’t they? First Kevin de Bruyne with Manchester City, now Mohamed Salah with Liverpool. Maybe it’s Romelu Lukaku at OT next.

And as well as Alvaro Morata, Chelsea’s record signing has played this season, as many goals as he has scored, de Bruyne has played better and more consistently for City, and Salah has scored far more goals for Liverpool even though he’s not even a striker.

Chelsea signed them for relatively little but never really gave them a chance, even when there were signs of the player they might become. Hopefully the club have learned their lesson now. […]

Despite the chilly evening weather in the Azerbaijani capital, the stadium was packed. Premyer Liqa champions FK Qarabag were hosting Chelsea FC on match day 5 of the 2017 Champions League season.

Qarabag were their country’s first ever representatives in the group stages of this competition. And they’d acquitted themselves pretty creditably, drawing twice with recent CL runners up Atletico Madrid, and only losing narrowly to AS Roma at home.

Chelsea had ceded control of Group C though, in a pitiful, bumbling performance in Rome. Their slim hopes of winning the group stage were pinned on tonight’s results – Chelsea had to win in Baku, and Roma had to lose, or draw in Madrid.

Chelsea on the other hand had been in relatively good form recently – at least in the premier league. Yet this fixture screamed out BANANA SKIN.

The last time they’d faced a struggling team after an international break, Chelsea had been well beaten. In fact Antonio Conte referenced that particular loss to Crystal Palace in comments before the game, highlighting how important it was for his players to bank the points against teams in the relegation zone.

Local rivals Arsenal had also beaten Tottenham Hotspur 2 – 0 earlier that day, and were now fifth in the table, level on points with Chelsea. Arsene Wenger had sent his neighbours a clear message with the win, and the Champions were under pressure to respond. […]

Chelsea faced Manchester United for the first time in the 2017-18 season. The visitors were trying to keep pace with runaway leaders Manchester City. The hosts needed to recover some dignity after being taken apart in Rome Tuesday night.

There had been stories during the week about Conte reading his players the riot act, training ground bust-ups – influential center back David Luiz was not even on the bench for this game. Was Conte losing the dressing room? Would player power claim yet another brilliant manager’s job at Stamford Bridge? Or would Antonio be able to provoke a positive reaction against one of the biggest teams in the league? […]