By, Ayodeji Itsami (Twitter: @aryhorblueblood)

Stadio Olimpico/October 31, 2017


We seemed to have finally turned a corner after recent wobbles but there isn’t a respite yet as the big matches keeps piling up with two in two different competitions this week. We face AS Roma in the Champions’ League on Tuesday and then we welcome Manchester United to Stamford Bridge on Sunday. Since the first leg of this match two weeks ago, both Chelsea and AS Roma have won the three matches they have been involved in. One thing I’m sure both Antonio Conte and Eusebio Di Francesco will be keen to tell their players is to keep it tight at the back with the way the first leg played out in mind.


This will be sixth time Chelsea and AS Roma will  be facing off with Roma winning just one of the previous five (L2 D2). Interestingly, their only victory came at the Stadio Olimpico, venue of Tuesday night match, during the 2008/2009 Champions’ League campaign. Chelsea has only failed to score against AS Roma just once in a Fairs Cup match that ended 0-0 in October 1965. I expect goals in this match but it’s not likely to be a goal-crazy affair like in the reverse fixture a fortnight ago.

Team Breakdowns


The Bournemouth victory makes it three on the trot for Antonio Conte and his team after the temporary dip in form but a news that’s sure to make the gaffer just as happy is the one that his midfield machine, N’Golo Kante is nearing match fitness and might even feature against Roma on Tuesday night. In the first match against Roma at Stamford Bridge Conte started with the 3-5-2 formation and consequently he switched formation to his preferred 3-4-3 by taking David Luiz off for Pedro so we wait to see how Conte lines up now that he has some of his natural midfielders back in his first match back in his home country since joining Chelsea last season. Being left out of the team to face Everton in midweek seemed to have done the trick for Azpilicueta as he was back to his calm and energetic self at the Vitality Stadium on Saturday evening and I expect that to continue in Rome on Tuesday. Toni Rudiger came in for some racial chants from the Roma fans during his late cameo during the first leg at Stamford Bridge but I still expect him to feature in this one, whether as a LCB, RCB or even between the sticks, because his dynamism is very valuable to the team. Gary Cahill sat out the win on Saturday and it’s yet to be seen whether he gets his spot back for Tuesday and if that’s the case at whose expense. Eden Hazard was at his imperious best at the Vitality Stadium on Saturday and it was no surprise he was the match winner. I’m sure if he plays half as good as he did on Saturday the Roma team will not be able to contain him. Alvaro Morata hasn’t been himself since he returned from his injury but he showed flashes on Saturday and he was so unlucky to have his goal, which would have done his confidence a world of good, chalked off for offside but I still expect him to continue leading the line. For a man of his physique and stature, I think Bakayoko is soft as a central midfield and for me to have noticed I’m sure Antonio Conte would have been drumming it into his ears because he really needs to improve his physicality, especially in the Premier League. I know Danny Drinkwater hasn’t played that much since his return to full match fitness but I wouldn’t at all be surprised if Conte decides to throw him into this match to partner Bakayoko with Cesc Fabregas playing ahead of them in a 3-5-2 or Fabregas part of the three in attack in a 3-4-3, because I think the Spaniard is key to this match as long as he doesn’t have too much defensive responsibilities. The combination of Pedro and Zappacosta on the right side gave the Bournemouth defense a hard time on Saturday and Conte may be keen to let the two of them continue playing together in order to curtail the overlapping runs of Aleksandr Kolarov who caused our defense a lot of trouble during the first leg.

Possible Line-up:

Courtois; Rudiger, Luiz, Cahill; Azpilicueta, Bakayoko, Drinkwater, Alonso; Hazard, Fabregas; Morata

 Last Five Matches: WWWDL

Injuries: Victor Moses (Hamstring)-Out; N’Golo Kante (Hamstring)-Doubt


AS Roma

The Roma coach, Eusebio Di Francesco, will be keen for his side to get maximum points in this game knowing his next assignment in the Champions’ League is a difficult away trip to face Atletico Madrid, a match that could be the more difficult if, as expected, Atletico defeats FC Qarabag on Tuesday night. In the match at Stamford Bridge, Di Francesco packed his midfield and attack with physical and energetic players and it almost worked for them in terms of the result. The trio of Kevin Strootman, Radja Nainggolan and Maxime Gonalons were very effective in dictating play and neutralizing our midfielders but those three have not played together since. Danielle De Rossi was injured for the match at Stamford Bridge but he’s back playing now and should be line to lead the team out on Tuesday night alongside technically gifted Kevin Strootman and the energetic Nainggolan in Di Francesco preferred 4-3-3 formation. Aleksandr Kolarov caused a lot of trouble down the right side of our defense in the first leg contributing a goal and an assist and the coach will be hoping it’s more of the same from both the Serbian and Bruno Peres on the opposite flank on Tuesday. Federico Fazio’s sublime pass for Edin Dzeko’s equalizer was something the best of the best midfielders would have been proud of but the Argentine is known to cave under pressure, a fact I’m sure Conte would have made known to his strikers. Fazio’s defensive partner, Juan Jesus is something of an unknown quantity even though he’s been playing in the Serie A for six years. In attack Di Francesco will surely be hoping Edin Dzeko is in his element again on Tuesday night the same for Daniel Perotti, who was voted man-of- the-match at Stamford Bridge. For the last berth in attack, Di Francesco has a lot of options to choose from with Stephan El Shaarawy the likely option having scored their only goal against Bologna at the weekend just a day after his 25th birthday.

Possible Line-up:

Allison; Bruno Peres, Juan Jesus, Fazio, Kolarov; Nainggolan, De Rossi, Strootman; Perotti, Dzeko, El Shaarawy.

Last 5 matches: WWWDL

Injuries: Emerson (Knee) – Out; Rick Karsdorp (Knee) –Out.


Key Battles

Alvaro Morata vs. Federico Fazio

Alvaro Morata will be hoping to improve on his showing in the first leg which was his first game back after his injury hence he wasn’t his sharpest, but with some matches now under his belt he’s going to give the tall Argentine a run for his money as the former Sevilla man is prone to making mistakes.

Eden Hazard vs. Bruno Peres

With the form that Eden Hazard is in it’s going to be a long night for the Brazilian full back. His two goals against Roma last time out and his match-winning strike at the weekend will have done his confidence a lot of good and I don’t envy Peres right now.

David Luiz vs. Edin Dzeko

These two didn’t come in contact during the first leg even though they were both on the pitch, for the first hour or so, but on Tuesday it’s going to be a head-on collision between the two with the Brazilian given the tough task of stopping the Bosnian getting on the score sheet.



With Atletico expected to finally get their first win in this season’s Champions’ League against FK Qarabag at the Wanda Metropolitano, both Roma and Chelsea knows a loss, especially for the Italians who visits Spain next, might make qualification a lot more difficult. A win in Rome on Tuesday will bring us within touching distance of top spot in the group with Qarabag visiting Stamford Bridge in the next match day. With Manchester United paying a visit to Stamford Bridge on Sunday Conte may want to get the group sewn up as soon as possible and then he can focus his attention on the league. Until the weekend, Keep The Blue Flag Flying High!


Thumbnail image courtesy of: Evening Standard


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By, Ayodeji Itasanmi (Twitter: @Aryhorblueblood)

Wembley Stadium/August 6, 2017

After being involved in the last game of the 2016/2017 Premier League season, it’s only fitting that Arsenal vs. Chelsea gets the honour to usher us into the 2017/2018 Premier League season. The Community Shield is the traditional curtain-raiser for the English season and this year pits Chelsea against Arsenal, the League and FA Cup winners respectively from the previous campaign. The FA has announced that should the game go into a shootout the ABBA shootout system would be introduced for the first time so I guess we might see how that plays out. These two locked horns recently, albeit in a preseason friendly, that took place at China’s Bird Nest Stadium with Chelsea running out comfortable 3-0 winners; Willian and Batshuayi (2) with the goals. The Community Shield represents the last opportunity for both Antonio Conte and Arsene Wenger to drill their squads into shape in readiness for the new season with as many as six substitutions allowed.


This fixture has come about just twice before, first in 2005 and the last just two years ago in 2015, with both teams having a victory apiece. In August 2005, after Chelsea’s first League title for fifty years and Arsenal’s triumph in the FA Cup against Manchester United, Chelsea faced Arsenal at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff with Mourinho’s Chelsea coming out tops through two poacher’s goal from the scourge of Arsenal, Didier Drogba, with Cesc Fabregas getting what proved to be a mere consolation for Arsenal . Arsene Wenger got a measure of revenge back from Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea in the 2015 edition with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain getting the match winner in the second half of an uninspiring game for the neutrals. The only thing of note in that match at Wembley was that it was the first time Chelsea Legend, Petr Cech lined up against the Blues.

Team Breakdowns


Antonio Conte will surely be having a rethink about some of our loan contingent that was in the squad that traveled to Asia for our preseason tour, because I think some of them have played themselves into contention. Jeremie Boga, Lewis Baker and Charly Musonda surely took their chances in Asia and I wouldn’t be surprised if the trio were to stay on with the squad for the season and not go out on loans. Pedro was back in training, albeit with a protective mask, after his multiple fractures against Arsenal in China and might get a run out against Arsenal on Sunday. However this game will come too soon for the duo of Eden Hazard and Timoue Bakayoko who are still on the road to full fitness. With Conte stating that Alvaro Morata needs to improve his fitness he might decide to give Michy Batshuayi the chance to continue his hot streak in front of goal with support from Willian and one of Morata/Pedro/Boga and Musonda. The rest of the team should be straight forward enough with the only exception being where and how Antonio Rudiger fits in. With Victor Moses set to miss our first Premier League game against Burnley, Rudiger might get the chance to replace him at wingback while Azpilicueta keeps his place at RCB or maybe Dave will deputise at wingback with Rudiger coming in at RCB/LCB.

Injuries: Eden Hazard (Ankle) – Out; Timoue Bakayoko (Knee) – Out; Pedro (Facial Fracture) – Doubt.

Last 5 matches: LLWLW


Arsene Wenger will surely welcome the chance to play Laurent Koscielny even if he won’t be able to call on his best CB for the first two Premier League games. Shokdran Mustafi will also be in contention for a place in the team even though he’ll be short on match fitness having been given an extended leave after his involvement in Germany’s Confederations’ Cup triumph. Arsene Wenger seem very confident about Alexis Sanchez remaining at the Emirates Stadium by the close of the transfer window but I’m sure he won’t be as confident about starting him against Chelsea on Sunday, the Chilean having only retuned to training on Wednesday following his involvement in the Confederations’ Cup and a bout of flu. With record signing Alexander Lacazette sidelined, Wenger will be forced to turn to one of Olivier Giroud, Theo Walcott and soon-to-be former Arsenal striker Lucas Perez. Wenger has stated he’ll continue with the three at the back set up with which he finished last season, whether he has the team to sustain that system over the course of a full season is yet to be seen.

Injuries: Santi Cazorla (Ankle) – Out; Gabriel Paulista (MCL) – Out; Jack Wilshere (Ankle) – Out; Francis Coquelin (Muscle Strain) – Doubtful; Mesut Ozil (Thigh) – Doubtful; Aaron Ramsey (Muscle) – Doubtful.

 Last 5 matches: LWLDW

3 Matchups to Watch

Cesc Fabregas vs. Granit Xhaka

Fabregas has been involved from the start in all of our four preseason games so far and will likely continue to partner N’Golo Kante in midfield, and if that’s the case he’s going to be up against the tough-tackling Swiss. Cesc always has an assist in him if given the chance and space to pick his passes but Xhaka will be looking to deny him the space needed to operate. This should be an interesting duel.

Victor Moses vs. Mesut Ozil

Victor Moses will have one of the most difficult tasks of the Chelsea players on Sunday which is limiting the impact of the German maestro. Wenger usually plays Ozil at the left of his front three in his new found 3-4-2-1 formation. Ozil is not the fastest player around but he’s one of the most dangerous with the ball at his feet. Moses will have to pay close attention to him because Ozil has been known to drift in-field to wreak havoc if it becomes necessary and he has a killer pass in him every game.

David Luiz vs. Olivier Giroud

With Lacazette side-lined Wenger will be looking up to Giroud for goals on Sunday and David Luiz must be at the top of his game because the Frenchman is out to prove to his coach that he still deserve a place in the team in spite of the addition of his record-signing countryman.


If the FA Cup final is anything to go by, then Arsene Wenger might decide again to cede possession to Chelsea and look to catch us on the counter but I trust Antonio Conte would have learned one or two lessons of his own from that game in May. I expect this to be an open but tactical game with it coming so close to the beginning of the season. Fringe players will see this as an opportunity to impress ahead of the new season while established players will be looking to avoid any injuries that might disrupt their seasons. In all, this should be an exciting and interesting game of football for the neutrals which. I think Chelsea will have enough in them to get the piece. The first piece of silverware of the season is coming to Stamford Bridge! Until next week, Keep The Blue Flag Flying High Blues!


Thumbnail image courtesy of: Pinnacle Sports


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