Barcelona and Chelsea clashed again in the second leg of the UEFA Champions league round of sixteen.

The teams had enjoyed very different fortunes since the 1 – 1 draw at Stamford Bridge in February. Chelsea had been beaten twice in Manchester by United and City, before scraping a 2-1 win vs Crystal Palace at home.

They were fifth in the league, four points behind Liverpool in fourth, and twenty-five points (yes you read that right, twenty-five points) behind league leaders Manchester City.

Barcelona had played four league games to Chelsea’s three, beating Girona and Atletico Madrid 6 – 1 and 1 – 0 respectively at home, and bottom club Malaga 2 – 0 away.

Surprisingly, their one draw had come against relegation-threatened Las Palmas, but the Catalan giants were eight points clear at the top of La Liga Santander with ten games left to play. Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez were the league’s top scorers at 24 and 21 goals, and all was right with the world. […]

Chelsea looked a completely different team from their games against Watford and Bournemouth. It might have been the result of having a target man to focus their attacking play, bring others into the game and draw the defence away from their wide forwards. Or maybe it was the time off Conte gave his players midweek, or the quality of the opposition. Or a combination of all three.

They took the points and leap-frogged Spurs to fourth, one point behind Liverpool in third, three points behind Manchester United; West Bromwich Albion remained pinned to the bottom of the table.

Next up for Chelsea, two big cup games in eight days: Hull City in the FA Cup fifth round, and FC Barcelona in the Champions League. […]

It was Brighton & Hove Albion versus Chelsea in the early kick-off in the Premier League. Both teams were a little bit goal shy, Chelsea in the last few games, Brighton all season. And both were looking to change that state of affairs in this match today.

Chelsea had recorded five straight draws in all competitions since the start of 2018, three of them goalless. They did manage to beat Norwich City on penalties in their last game, but Alvaro Morata and Pedro both picked up suspensions.

Brighton actually scored more goals in their three games in January (four goals), than Chelsea had in their five games (three goals). The odds weren’t necessarily in Brighton’s favour this fixture, but they had home advantage, and they definitely had the quality to give Chelsea a game. […]

After their exertions against Arsenal in the Carabao Cup midweek, Chelsea made a quick return to Premier League football. Their opponents this weekend: eighth-placed Leicester City FC.

Leicester were in relatively decent form; they’d won four and drawn one of their eight league games since the start of December. Their pace and counterattacking style tended to work well against teams at the top end of the league table: the one draw in that run of results was a 2 – 2 vs Manchester United. They also drew 1 – 1 with Manchester City in the league cup, before getting knocked out on penalties.

Chelsea were five places and sixteen points ahead of their visitors overall, but they weren’t that much better in terms of recent form. The London club had five wins and two draws since December; they were only four points ahead of Leicester City in that period of time. […]

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. […]