Back to the bridge now for the fourth instalment of the Chelsea-Arsenal derby this season. The occasion this time, the first leg of the Carabao Cup semi-final.

Bristol City played well in the other semi-final, but failed to upset Manchester City at the Etihad. If there was going to be a surprise at Stamford Bridge, it would be one of the teams actually winning the game – every time Chelsea and Arsenal have met this season, once in the Community Shield (1 – 1), twice in the league (0 – 0 & 2 – 2), it’s ended up a draw.

Another weird Chelsea-Arsenal 2017/18 fact – it’s been a pretty good fixture for full backs. Four of the six goals in their games so far this season were scored by full backs: Victor Moses, Sead Kolasinac, Marcos Alonso and Hector Bellerin. […]

Arsenal were down in sixth place, seven points behind Chelsea in third, six points behind Liverpool in the last Champions League spot – this particular derby was a must win game for them.

The game started at a relatively moderate pace, and Chelsea had the better early chances. But after referee Anthony Taylor wrongly gave a free kick for a Lacazette dive off a Kante tackle, the Arsenal players seemed to gain confidence and started ripping into their visitors at pace.

Chelsea responded with their own counterattacks, and the game devolved into an attacking free-for-all, with both sides creating brilliant chances, and only failing to score in the first half due to the dazzling form of their goalkeepers. Or in Chelsea’s case, finishing so weak, it made you scratch your head. […]

Chelsea were in a 3-5-2 today, with Gary Cahill, Antonio Rudiger and Cesar Azpilicueta in defence. N’golo Kante, Tiemoue Bakayoko and Cesc Fabregas were just ahead of them in midfield.

It wasn’t the most aggressive line-up but even taking that into account, they started this game pretty sluggishly. It was almost as if the players were recovering from a really heavy Christmas dinner.

Brighton set up in two defensive lines of four and five, with Tomer Hemed as the lone striker up top. They showed much more energy and desire than the home side in the first half, as well as a willingness to get forward in numbers when the opportunity presented itself.

For a midfielder Tiemoue Bakayoko gets into a lot of good positions to score, and he had a great opening early on – but he wasn’t able to get the right contact to put his shot on target. […]

The game looked like it was going to extra time – but apparently nobody told Alvaro Morata, who just two minutes later, sadly ruined the Cherries’ comeback with a really, really inconvenient goal.

Well he might have scored it, but this goal was really all about Eden Hazard. He blazed into the box straight from the kick-off to receive a long cross from Davide Zappacosta.

Then duplicating Kenedy, having made himself the decoy Hazard back-heeled for Morata, who was steaming in behind him to whip it off Boruc and into the net. 2 – 1! It was the ultimate sucker punch, both the move specifically and the goal in the context of the match. […]

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. […]

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. […]

Roma lined up in a 4-3-3 with Stephan El Sharaawy, Edin Dzeko and Diego Perotti up top.

Chelsea reverted to their familiar 3-4-3 with Rudiger, Luiz and Cahill in center back, and Cesar Azpilicueta shifted out to right back. Cesc Fabregas and Tiemoue Bakayoko started in midfield.

It was a slightly less compact, defensive setup than expected from Chelsea – they were away from home and top of the group – Roma needed a win much more than they did.

Either way, Antonio Conte would soon find out whether or not it was right tactical setup for this game. […]

Chelsea faced a pretty tough examination from their visitors in the second half. Caballero was absolutely the man of the match for me. There’s no hiding from the facts – put this Chelsea team under pressure, and without N’golo Kante, David Luiz or similar players in midfield, they will fold.

In fact, they did fold over and over this game, but Caballero showed a bit more experience and quality perhaps than Courtois had in some other challenging games this season, and held the line until their attacking quality won them the match. […]

The Premier League is back! Chelsea left for the international break on a downer, having lost their last game against Manchester City at Stamford Bridge. Yes, City have been at their best so far this season, but the loss still felt like a missed opportunity for the home side.

Circumstances, perhaps fixture congestion and insufficient rest for the starters, had conspired to make that game more difficult for Chelsea than it should have been. Today though they had a chance to recover form, as they made the short hop across London for the second derby of the season, this time against Crystal Palace.

Chelsea’s last game had been against the hottest team in the league, but this one was against a team in record-breaking poor form. Palace had been plagued by injuries since the start of the season, and had not scored a single goal or recorded a single point in seven league games so far. […]