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For Chelsea fans, the end of the 2015/16 season could not have come quickly enough. A disastrous campaign from start to finish had seen the sacking of a manager who had been thought of as a legend, the worst league finish in a generation, the first season without European football since 1996, and the fans practically falling into civil war over whether to point the finger at Mourinho, the players, which players, the coaching staff, the board, the pies or even each other.

 

For those who somehow don’t know, the season had begun with a loss to Arsenal in the Community Shield, a 2-2 draw against Swansea and a 3-0 loss at Manchester City. Things had only gone downhill from there, with Papy Djilobodji and Michael Hector (who would play a total of one minute between them all season) being signed on deadline day, the club equalling its previous season’s number of league defeats by the end of September, and Mourinho being sacked by Christmas with the club teetering above the relegation zone. Guus Hiddink had been brought in to steady the ship, and while the club had risen to tenth, there hadn’t been much to speak of, except for ruining Tottenham’s title challenge in a match where Mark Clattenburg had seemingly left his red card on the train.

 

The club had originally had Antonio Conte in the frame to take over, but the Italian had announced at the eleventh hour that he would be taking a sabbatical from football after the end of the season. Some people, namely Sun journalist Sid Collingwood, suggested that it was because he didn’t want to be at a club where the manager’s shelf life was shorter than that of the meat pies. The club turned to another, unexpected option: former player George Spencer.

 

***

 

Spencer had played for Chelsea from 2001 to 2012. Making his debut in a baptism of fire, the midfielder was thrown in at the deep end by Claudio Ranieri when six first teamers refused to travel to Tel Aviv for a UEFA Cup game citing safety fears. Although Chelsea would lose 2-0, he barely put a foot wrong and was rewarded by being picked for the return leg. He almost made a big impact at 0-0, but he saw his shot, having beaten Hapoel keeper Elimelech, cannon back off the post and be hacked clear of an onrushing Hasselbaink. That was one of the few bright sparks in an otherwise insipid display as Chelsea limped to a 1-1 draw and bowed out of the competition.

 

Spencer pushed on, however, and became a semi-regular face in the first team under Ranieri. He played in the 3-0 win at Old Trafford and both back-to-back 4-0 wins against Tottenham Hotspur, as well as the FA Cup Final defeat to Arsenal. 2002/03 would see Spencer get more opportunities, and he played in all of Chelsea’s FA Cup matches as well as the 2-1 win over Liverpool on the last day of the season which secured Champion’s League qualification for the following season.

 

The so-called “Russian Revolution” brought a plethora of new players into the squad, but Spencer was still a semi-regular presence as Chelsea tried to establish themselves as regular title challengers. The club fell short, as Arsenal went the season unbeaten, although Chelsea would gain some measure of revenge by knocking them out of the Champion’s League in their own backyard. Spencer’s reward at the end of the season was to be picked for England’s Euro 2004 squad, and he scored against Croatia and in the shootout against Portugal, although the Three Lions were eliminated on penalties.

 

Ranieri was sacked at the end of the season, with Champion’s League winner José Mourinho coming in. Mourinho, who dubbed himself “a special one” kept the faith with Spencer, although Frank Lampard and Tiago were often picked ahead of him. He did, however, make 17 appearances from the bench and win a Premier League medal. There would be further disappointment in the Champion’s League, however, as the infamous “ghost goal” saw Liverpool eliminate Chelsea in the semi-finals. The following season saw more glory in the league, with Spencer picking up a second winner’s medal, but more disappointment as another semi final against Liverpool ended in defeat, this time in the FA Cup, and in the second round of the Champion's League against Barcelona.

 

Spencer's career hit a snag in the 2006/07 season as he picked up an injury against Charlton Athletic early in the season and spent much of the season on the treatment table. He did make a return late in the season, but by then it was too late to stop Manchester United from winning their first title since 2003. He started the following season with a point to prove, but despite being in top form, was overlooked by Steve McClaren for England's Euro 2008 qualifier against Croatia... which England lost 3-2 and failed to qualify. Under Grant, Spencer was almost ever-present in midfield, as Lampard and Ballack both saw their season hampered by injuries (and, in Lampard’s case, personal problems), and Grant preferred to play Michael Essien at right back. The Blues lost the title to Manchester United, the league cup final to Tottenham and an FA Cup fifth-round tie to Championship side Barnsley, but made it to the Champion’s League Final after giving Liverpool a taste of their own semifinal medicine. Sadly, the trophy would be decided in the cruellest way possible; John Terry’s slip taking the shootout to sudden death and Anelka’s miss handing United the trophy. Lying flat on his back from exhaustion and despair immediately after the match, Spencer was hauled up by Gary Neville (who hadn’t been picked), who told him, “I’m almost certain you’ll get another chance.” Neville would be proven right four years later.

 

2008-09 brought another setback, as Scolari froze Spencer out of the side during the early part of the season to the point that, by January, there was speculation that he might join Mourinho at Inter Milan. No such move materialised, and Spencer would get back in the first team after Scolari was sacked a month later and replaced by Guus Hiddink, who guided Chelsea to an FA Cup and third in the table.

 

Carlo Ancelotti guided Chelsea to a league and cup double, although things fell apart in the second season, but Spencer found himself frozen out once more under Andre Villas-Boas. When Roberto Di Matteo became manager, Spencer was brought back into the fold. The blues faltered in the league, but continued their FA Cup and Champions League campaigns. In the latter, Spencer played in the second leg against Napoli as Chelsea overturned a 3-1 first leg deficit and scored a vital goal in the quarter final against Benfica. He also played in the defensive masterclass at the Nou Camp, in which a ten man side came back from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 and advance to the final. Then came what almost everyone agrees was the club’s finest hour, as the Blues recovered from a late Bayern goal to get an even later equaliser and beat them on penalties in their own backyard; Spencer had been down to take the sixth penalty if the shootout had gone into sudden death.

Spencer started 2012/13 knowing that he would have to start thinking about retirement. He believed that he could probably play for another couple of seasons, and was still in Di Matteo’s plans for the season, until it ended abruptly at Loftus Road. Midway through the first half, Spencer ran into the QPR penalty area looking to pass to Hazard, but was chopped down by Ryan Nelsen in an obvious foul which was ignored by the referee. A post-match assessment found that he had broken his ankle, effectively ending his season and forcing him to retire.

 

For the following three years, Spencer continued to work on his coaching licenses, which he had begun studying in 2011. He also appeared occasionally on Sky Sports as a pundit. Meanwhile, with Di Matteo being sacked in November and replaced by Benitez, Chelsea eventually finished third and won the Europa League, although Spencer was not impressed by the Spaniard, accusing him of “playing chicken with Tottenham”. Nor was he impressed with the referees that season, suggesting that their failures to send off opposing players for offences such as Aguero’s stamp on David Luiz and Suarez's biting of Ivanovich, constituted dereliction of duty.

 

Spencer had hoped to become a coach at Chelsea under Mourinho, but the disastrous 2015-16 season had put paid to that. With Antonio Conte’s 11th-hour withdrawal from the role, Chelsea announced on 3rd May 2016 that George Spencer would be taking over as manager as of 1st July.

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Welcome! This is, as you might expect, a Chelsea story. This is in fact the second Chelsea story I have written from Football Manager, following "The Future's Bright, the Future's Blue" on the now-defunct dugout forums, in which I managed Chelsea to two European Cups in three years before burnout took hold.

I am utilising the FM17 17.3.0 database, with English leagues loaded down to County Leagues (e.g. Wessex Premier, Combined Counties Premier, Hellenic Premier) as well as a slightly modded Chelsea patch which puts Chelsea's players closer to real life (Kante, for instance, has been upgraded from average to excellent).

This story utilises a mix of real characters (e.g. the players) and fictional ones (mainly supporters, but also the odd journalist).

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On 1st July 2016, George Spencer became manager of Chelsea Football Club. In a meeting with the board, the expectations were laid out; the board expected the club to win the title and reach the final of the FA Cup. Following this, Spencer met with Angelo Alessio, his assistant manager, to discuss the squad.

At present, the squad itself is fairly strong,” Alessio said, “but I feel we could do with a bit more depth. Diego feels that there is not enough competition for the striker role, and the midfield could be stretched if there is an injury. We could also do with another defender too.”

Spencer then called a meeting with the players, in which he stated his goal for the season.

I see no reason why we can’t win the title, and that’s what we should be aiming for. If we aim for top four, then falling short could have severe consequences. If we aim for the title, then if we fall short, we’ll still be in the top four. Besides, we won this title two years ago, so we can definitely do so again!”

 

Spencer was unveiled to the press the following day, in front of journalists from all the major publications.

 

Stevie Robertson, sportinglife.com. Surely, for a Chelsea fan, this is a dream come true?”

 

Of course it is, it’s a wonderful feeling and I can’t stop smiling.”

 

Mike Warner, Sky Sports News. Do you feel that your ambitions are matched by the chairman?”

 

Absolutely, I have no doubts that the chairman has the club's best interests at heart.”

 

Laurence Fox, Evening Standard. Do you feel the expectations this season are fair and realistic?”

 

If the club is to progress and stay competitive, then everyone has to aim high.”

 

Jake Clark, The Guardian. You had a hugely successful career as a player, but management is a different challenge altogether. Do you think your experience will aid the transition?”

 

I think so. I picked up a great knowledge of the game when I played.”

 

Sid Collingwood, The Sun. You mentioned on Sky Sports last season that you prefer a 4-3-3 formation. Is that because it's how Chelsea have traditionally played?”

 

Yes. 4-2-3-1 obviously didn't work last season and for us to recover we've got to go back to basics.”

 

Laurence Fox. Will you make many changes?”

 

I intend to give everyone a chance to prove their worth.”

 

In that case, are you likely to make moves in the transfer market?”

 

Yes, I have several targets in mind.”

 

Curtis Eaton, Fulham and Hammersmith Chronicle. How do you see your management style?”

 

I like to value players as people as well as footballers.”

 

Jake Clark. Will you be concentrating primarily on getting good results in the Premier League?”

 

Yes, the league has to be my priority. That's what the fans want.”

 

Callum Griffiths, 90min.com. Is there a particular area of the squad you are looking to bolster?”

 

We could do with a deeper squad, and I am looking at attack.”

 

George McAllister, TEAMtalk.com. Will there be any deals in the coming weeks?"

 

Only for the right player.”

 

Spencer's first action was to loan out promising young full back Charlie Wakefield. The 18-year-old had the potential to be one of the best players at the club, and Spencer felt that first team experience would be valuable. Wakefield would join Watford on loan for the season, playing his first game in the Hornets’ 3-0 victory over AFC Wimbledon in the Football Manager Cup.

Looking for another full back, Spencer set his sights on Luke Shaw of Manchester United. Although Shaw was interested in joining, Mourinho refused to consider it. Shaw was reportedly furious about not being allowed to join Chelsea, while Mourinho accused him of “wanting to take the easy way out”.

With Shaw out of the question, attention turned to another possibility: José Gaya of Valencia. A lengthy tussle with Liverpool ensued, but ultimately Chelsea would secure his signature for 38 million pounds. This was quickly followed by Ignacio Camacho, joining from Málaga for 15.5 million. Finally, the attack was bolstered by the signing of Raúl Jiménez from SL Benfica for 10.25 million. Moving the other way would be Nathan Aké and Kenedy, to spend the first half of the season on loan at AFC Bournemouth and Leicester City respectively.

Spencer also arranged a series of friendlies for preseason. In addition to ones at AS Monaco in July, and Hamburger SV and Atromitos in August, there would be ones at Bayer Leverkusen, Borussia Dortmund, and AS Roma in July. There would also be a game at Stamford Bridge on 30th July against Paris Saint-Germain, which would be John Terry's testimonial. The season would begin with none other than a reunion with José Mourinho at Old Trafford, followed by a home game against Stoke City and a trip to AFC Bournemouth either side of the EFL Cup 2nd round.

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Spencer's first game as Chelsea manager was on 19th July 2016, against AS Monaco. The opposition had finished 3rd in Ligue 1 the previous season, presenting a tough challenge for the new manager.

Spencer elected to field a 4-3-3 formation, with Thibaut Courtois in goal. César Azpilicueta and Marcos Alonso took up position as full backs (albeit being played as wing backs) with David Luiz and Gary Cahill in the centre. John Terry, surprisingly, was on the bench. Nemanja Matic was played behind N’golo Kanté and Cesc Fàbregas in midfield, with Eden Hazard and Willian on each wing either side of Diego Costa.

 

Both sides came close early on. Monaco won a corner which was caught by Courtois, who sent a long kick upfield. Raggi beat Costa in the air, but his header was intercepted by Fàbregas, who headed the ball to Kanté. Kanté ran into the Monaco half before attempting a one-two with Willian, only for Mendy to win the ball with a slide tackle at the expense of a corner.

 

From the corner, Fabinho intercepted and played a quick one-two with João Moutinho before sending Nabil Dirar away down the right. Dirar’s cross found Radamel Falcao, who had spent the previous year on loan at Chelsea, but his header went high into the stands.

 

Barely a minute later, Fàbregas played in a low pass to Eden Hazard. Hazard passed to the feet of Costa, who darted past Diallo before sending his shot over the bar.

 

In the 15th minute, Moutinho beat Kanté in the air. His header found Thomas Lemar, who connected with a half volley which went over the bar.

 

Lemar had another chance two minutes later, when he dribbled past David Luiz before putting his shot wide.

 

The deadlock was broken in the 26th minute. Marcos Alonso conceded a free kick for a foul on Mariano. Raggi passed it to Dirar, who exchanged passes with João Moutinho. He then passed to Falcao, who sprayed the ball out to Lemar. Lemar hit a cross towards the back post, which David Luiz attempted to intercept. However, the ball deflected off him and into his own net to give Monaco the lead.

 

Six minutes later, Kanté found Costa with a low pass. The forward was brought down by Fabinho, who was shown a yellow card.

 

Radamel Falcao had another chance four minutes before half time, which he sent wide of the target.

 

Chelsea started the second half stronger, and three minutes in Willian first saw a shot blocked by Mendy. The resulting corner was caught by De Sanctis, but Chelsea won possession back and Kanté found Willian, whose cross was blocked.

 

Falcao had another chance in the 51st minute, when he connected with a cross from Mendy. His shot, however, was blocked by David Luiz.

 

Cesc Fàbregas was the next player to be booked, picking up a yellow card for a trip on Fabinho.

 

Fabinho was then withdrawn to make way for Boschilia, before Thomas Lemar sent in Falcao, whose shot was held by Courtois.

 

Chelsea had their best chance of the match just before the hour, as Fàbregas found Kanté. Kanté passed the ball to Willian in the box, who set up Costa. Costa let fly with his right foot, but De Sanctis tipped it behind.

 

Dirar was next player to be substituted, making way for Mbappé in the 62nd minute.

 

Lemar had another chance in the 64th minute, when he connected with Raggi’s pass, but his shot was blocked by David Luiz.

 

Chelsea made their first substitution midway through the second half, with Azpilicueta making way for Victor Moses. Moses saw a cross blocked by Djibril Sidibé, before Eden Hazard was taken off and replaced by Pedro.

 

Costa had another chance with just over 15 minutes left, as he received the ball from Kanté and hit a speculative shot, but there was little power on it and he hit it straight at De Sanctis.

 

Marcos Alonso was the next to have a chance from a free kick, but he sent the ball wide.

 

Carillo then got up above Moses to connect with Mbappé's cross, sending his header just wide.

 

Chelsea then made a double change, with Camacho and Loftus-Cheek replacing Matic and Fàbregas.

 

Then, with seven minutes to go, came another goal. Antonucci’s pass found Carillo, who sent a through ball to Lemar. Moses dispossessed him, but the ball came to Boschilia. Camacho tried to intercept, but Valère Germain, on as a substitute for Mariano, slotted the ball home.

 

Chelsea looked to get at least one goal back, and in the 89th minute Pedro played Costa free of the defence, but Jemerson got back in time to tackle. Costa had another chance in stoppage time, but he fired it wide.

 

Final Score: AS Monaco 2-0 Chelsea ( David Luiz og 26, Germain 83)

 

Well, that's why we play friendlies.” Spencer said in the changing room after the match. “It's obvious that there's a lot of work to do if we're going to get anywhere this season. I'm not impressed with what I saw out there.”

 

He turned to David Luiz.

 

I thought you had a solid performance out there,” he said. “Don't be too cut up about the own goal, it could happen to anyone.”

 

He then addressed the squad.

 

Don’t expect to be in the first eleven for the next match if you started this one,” he stated. “My intention is to get everyone ready for the new season, not run the same eleven players into the ground.”

 

Most supporters didn’t read too much into the result, but Garry Baker of the Chelsea Supporters’ Group did voice his concerns on Twitter, stating that “It seems a lot of the rot from last year is still there. Whilst there’s probably no reason to panic, it’s still concerning to see us falter in the final third.”

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Chelsea's second friendly was on the evening of Thursday 21st July 2016, against Bayer Leverkusen who, like Monaco, had qualified for the Champions League. As expected, Spencer rang the changes for the match. Asmir Begovic started in goal, with José Gaya and Ola Aina either side of John Terry and Gary Cahill. In midfield, Ignacio Camacho sat behind Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Nathaniel Chalobah, while Charly Musonda and Pedro played either side of Michy Batshuayi.

 

It was the home side who started better, with former Manchester United striker Javier Hernández forcing a save from Begovic as early as the fifth minute.

 

Worse was to come in the fourteenth minute. Julian Baumgartlinger played the ball to the feet of Hakan Çalhanoglu. Çalhanoglu played the ball to Hernández, who beat Cahill to it and fired it past Begovic into the top corner.

 

Chelsea looked to hit back almost immediately. Batshuayi fed in Chalobah, who was tackled by Baumgartlinger. The loose ball came to Pedro, who sent a cross across the face of goal to Musonda, only for the Belgian to hit the side netting.

 

Hernández had another chance to score when he was played in again by Çalhanoglu, but he too hit the side netting from a tight angle.

 

Chelsea had a golden opportunity midway through the first half. José Gaya's throw in found Musonda, who found Chalobah in the area. Baumgartlinger tackled him, but Batshuayi pounced on the rebound, only to be brought down by Lars Bender. Jochen Drees immediately pointed to the spot, despite protests from the Leverkusen players who felt that it was a harsh decision. Batshuayi stepped up and aimed for the roof of the net, only for Ramazan Özcan to save the shot, the ball hitting the inside of the post before the Leverkusen keeper grabbed it at the second attempt.

 

Özcan was called into action two minutes later, saving a Chalobah header.

 

To add insult to injury, Bayer then doubled their lead. Mehmedi passed forward to Hernández, who laid it right to Çalhanoglu. The striker then set up Mehmedi on the edge of the area to fire a half volley beyond Begovic. The 1,892 Chelsea fans who had made the trip to Germany watched on with grim faces.

 

Hernández then nearly made things a lot worse, but his shot was tipped over by Begovic. Charly Musonda then had a chance to get Chelsea back into the game, as he connected with Pedro's cross only to see his header pushed away by Özcan and the rebound hit the post.

 

Chelsea then won a corner, which was taken by Pedro. John Terry rose highest, but his header was caught by Özcan.

 

Both Jedvaj and Baumgartlinger then picked up bookings for fouls on Batshuayi and Loftus-Cheek respectively, before Musonda saw another effort saved by Özcan.

 

Spencer was not happy with how things were going and told the players that he expected much better in the second half.

 

Leverkusen still threatened, however, with Çalhanoglu playing a one-two with Hernández before firing over the bar and then heading wide.

 

Pedro then ran onto a pass from Batshuayi, only to see his shot saved by Özcan.

 

Çalhanoglu, always a danger, forced two saves from Begovic before Ola Aina sent a shot wide.

 

With less than twenty minutes to go, Spencer made changes. Batshuayi was replaced by Raúl Jiménez, while Camacho, Loftus-Cheek and Chalobah were replaced by Matic, Kanté and Fàbregas.

 

Yurchenko then saw a shot tipped over by Begovic, before Alonso and Hazard came on.

 

Just after Hazard came on, Jiménez charged down a Dragovic pass and headed the ball to Hazard. Hazard raced past Da Costa and centred the ball to the near post, where Jiménez arrived to convert at point blank range and halve the deficit.

 

Then, in stoppage time, Danny Da Costa failed to control the ball and Hazard sent a high pass over the top. Jiménez timed his run to perfection, beating the Leverkusen defence to the ball before taking a touch and, from 25 yards out, hitting a piledriver beyond the despairing Özcan to to bring Chelsea level in the space of four minutes and secure himself the Man of the Match award.

 

Final Score: Bayer Leverkusen 2-2 Chelsea (Hernández 14, Mehmedi 26; Raúl 87, 90, Batshuayi m/pen 22)

Man of the Match: Raúl Jiménez

 

Every single one of you…” Spencer began, looking around the changing room, “Should be proud of yourselves! That was a fantastic comeback, especially in such a short period of time!” He allowed the players to cheer, before continuing. “There were still some areas that need work, but it's better than the last result.

 

Garry Baker was also pleased, saying on Twitter, “Superb performance to salvage a draw, especially from 2-0 down with four minutes left. Entertaining football a bonus as well.

 

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Chelsea's next friendly was against Borussia Dortmund on Sunday 24th July. Raúl Jiménez, whose quickfire double had salvaged a draw against Leverkusen, started up front, while Camacho retained his place in the starting eleven.

 

Things did not start well for Chelsea. Courtois was called into action almost immediately as he held onto a shot from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, before Camacho twisted his ankle and had to be replaced by Nemanja Matic. Courtois then had to be alert again as Christian Pusilic tried his luck from long range before Nuri Sahin attempted a half volley. Sahin then hit a free kick over the bar.

 

Dortmund were on top and causing Chelsea no end of trouble, as Matic and Terry picked up bookings.

 

Aubameyang then hit the side netting before Chelsea won a corner which came to nothing. Marcos Alonso then became the next Chelsea player to go into the book.

 

Courtois then had to save from Aubameyang before Chelsea began to counter. Marcos Alonso sent a free kick over the bar and a second was intercepted, but the referee spotted a foul on Jiménez and pointed to the spot. Eden Hazard stepped up but, like Batshuayi against Leverkusen, saw his kick saved by Bürki.

 

Just before half time, Guerreiro won a free kick, but Courtois was once again alert to the danger.

 

This game is still there for the taking,” Spencer said at half time. “Keep at it and the chances will come. And you two,” he turned to Alonso and Matic, “Calm down. This lot are difficult enough with eleven and I do not want to have to play them with ten men!

 

Dortmund continued to dominate in the second half as Courtois had to save from Castro before Ginter hit the bar with a half volley. Dortmund kept coming as Courtois denied both Pusilic and Aubameyang, before a rare Chelsea attack saw Ginter throw himself in front of Jiménez’ effort.

 

The deadlock was broken on 66 minutes. Sokratis Papastathopoulos sent a long clearance which Shinji Kagawa connected to. The former Manchester United player played a one-two with Emre More before placing the ball past Courtois.

 

Chelsea fought back almost immediately. David Luiz sent a pass down the right to Raúl Jiménez. The striker played a short pass to Pedro, who cut through the Dortmund defence like a hot knife through butter before lofting a shot over Bürki into the opposite corner of the net.

 

Chelsea now looked to seize the initiative, with Courtois saving from Aubameyang before Raúl Jiménez ran onto a pass from Fàbregas and hit a shot which Bürki did well to save.

 

However, Jiménez then had to be withdrawn with a gashed head, with Batshuayi coming on to replace him.

 

Chelsea then had a huge let-off with ten minutes to go as Dembélé saw his shot hit the crossbar and fall to Courtois in the resulting melee.

 

Chelsea won a free kick with five minutes to go, but Marcos Alonso sent it flying over the crossbar.

 

Both sides sought a winner in the closing stages, as Pusilic wasted a superb chance and Hazard saw a shot blocked, but the game ended all square.

 

Final Score: Borussia Dortmund 1-1 Chelsea (Kagawa 66; Pedro 69, Hazard m/pen 38)

 

We should have done a lot better out there,” Spencer said in the dressing room after the match. “We were dominated from start to finish and had it not been for Thibaut we'd have shipped double figures. We'll be working on set piece defence over the next few days and I expect to see it bear fruit against Roma.”


Garry Baker, however, felt that the result was a good one, saying “A good result, given the calibre of our opponents.”

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Chelsea's next friendly was against AS Roma, on the 27th July. The Blues’ last match there, in which Spencer had been an unused substitute, had seen them lose 3-1 in the group stage of the Champions League. Roma were formidable opposition as well, having finished 3rd in Serie A the previous season. Spencer opted for a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Hazard, Fàbregas and Willian behind Diego Costa.

 

Chelsea almost got off to a dream start, as from the kick off, Gary Cahill found Eden Hazard with a first time pass. Hazard left both Juan Jesus and Grenier in the dust before sending in a high cross which Costa couldn't keep down.

 

Matic’s trip on Nainggolan then won Roma a free kick, which Grenier couldn't keep down.

 

Hazard then drifted past Bruno Peres and won a corner, which Cahill couldn't convert.

 

The game was rapidly becoming an end-to-end encounter, as former Chelsea player Mohamed Salah played in Nainggolan. Nainggolan found El Shaarawy, who sent the ball wide.

 

Hazard then played a one-two with Diego Costa before sending in a cross. Willian beat Emerson Palmieri in the air, but sent his header over.

 

David Luiz gave away a foul in the fifteenth minute, but the free kick was blocked by Marcos Alonso.

 

Three minutes later, a slick passing move between Costa, Hazard and Fàbregas saw Costa denied by a last ditch Juan Jesus tackle.

 

Roma then won a series of corners, with Salah eventually hitting the side netting.

 

In the 27th minute, Kanté and Fàbregas exchanged passes before finding Hazard, whose pot shot was saved by former Arsenal keeper Woljciech Szczesny.

 

The first yellow card of the game was shown on 35 minutes to N’Golo Kanté for a pull on Kevin Strootman.

 

A minute later, Perotti’s header was saved by Courtois, who sent a long clearance up to Willian. Willian sent the ball into space for Diego Costa to run onto. Costa then saw his shot tipped over by Szczesny.

 

Nainggolan then had two chances to score. Firstly, he ran onto Salah’s pass and sent in a shot from distance which Courtois held, before he received the ball from Perotti and exchanged passes with El Shaarawy only to shoot wide.

 

From the resulting goal kick, Marcos Alonso found Diego Costa. Costa ran into traffic, but Cahill beat El Shaarawy to Szczesny’s clearance. Perotti’s pass to Salah was intercepted by Alonso, who passed to Hazard. Hazard's ball found Costa, Who passed short to Kanté. The midfielder then set off with the Roma defence backing off him before sending the ball wide from 20 yards.

 

With the teams going into the break goalless, Spencer told his players to keep at it. Roma, meanwhile, brought on Federico Fazio and Gérson to replace Grenier and El Shaarawy.

 

Once again Chelsea had the first real chance of the half. Azpilicueta’s throw in was intercepted by Palmieri, only for Kanté to get the ball ahead of Gérson. The Frenchman sprinted past Palmieri, before sending in a low cross that was deflected right into the path of Fàbregas. Fàbregas shot, but the ball was cleared by the outstretched leg of Strootman.

 

With 51 minutes gone, Salah came off to be replaced by Florenzi, with Alisson replacing Szczesny five minutes later. Allisson was called into action almost immediately, saving a Gary Cahill header.

 

Roma then replaced Palmieri and Vermalaen with Pellegrini and Manolas, while Chelsea replaced Marcos Alonso with José Gaya.

 

Three minutes later, Chelsea won a free kick. Hazard sent the ball into the box and David Luiz was pushed by Nainggolan. Luca Pairetto pointed to the spot and made it clear that this was Nainggolan’s last chance. Eden Hazard stepped up and fired in a no nonsense effort, beating Allisson with sheer power.

 

Roma looked to hit back instantly and from a throw in, Pellegrini found Strootman, who passed to Fazio. Fazio found Nainggolan, who played a wonderful ball from Florenzi. Florenzi hit a powerful shot which Courtois could only parry.

 

Roma won another throw in with twenty minutes to go. Pellegrini threw the ball to Strootman, who exchanged passes with Pellegrini before sending in a cross to the far post which Alessandro Florenzi headed in from an awkward angle.

 

José Gaya then entered the book for a foul on Florenzi.

 

Chelsea came forward again in the 77th minute. Fàbregas intercepted a pass and sent the ball to Willian. Willian attempted to cross, but was thwarted by Manolas. The resulting corner saw Cahill head just wide.

 

With eight minutes to go, Spencer replaced the tiring Hazard and Matic with Pedro and Ruben Loftus-Cheek.

 

Both sides had chances late on. In the 90th minute, Perotti, Nainggolan and Fazio exchanged passes before Perotti shot wide from an acute angle. Then, in the last minute, Willian moved the ball to Fàbregas. Fàbregas laid it forward to his compatriot Pedro, who sprinted past Pellegrini before firing into the side netting.

 

Final Score: AS Roma 1-1 Chelsea (Florenzi 71; Hazard pen 65)

 

You were unlucky out there,” Spencer said in the changing room after the match. “I feel that you did enough to win that.”

 

Following the match, Chelsea returned to London. The next match, against PSG, would be at Stamford Bridge, a testimonial for John Terry.

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One of Spencer's first actions as Chelsea manager had been to organise a testimonial for John Terry, the club's stalwart captain. Paris Saint-Germain were the visitors, which was questioned by some supporters due to the recent history between the two clubs. Nonetheless, arrangements had been made, with Ashley Cole and Eidur Gudjohnsen also taking part. Indeed, the stage did look set for a memorable occasion, with a display of pyrotechnics as Terry walked onto the pitch to a guard of honour from the two teams.

 

PSG got off to a flyer, however, with Giovani Lo Celso finding Angel Di María, who couldn't get his shot on target.

 

Chelsea then had several chances of their own. David Luiz sent a free kick straight at Matimbou in the PSG goal, before Willian connected with a pass from former Chelsea player Gudjohnsen which Matimbou did well to tip behind. The resulting corner was cleared by Cavani but only to Batshuayi, whose cross was met by the head of Willian. However, he couldn't get it on target.

 

Nkunku went into the book on 14 minutes for a trip on Hazard, before Cavani sent a hopeful effort off target. However, he would have better luck on 18 minutes. Nkunku found Lucas Moura with a free kick. Moura was dispossessed by Hazard, but Maxwell intercepted the clearance and found Motta. Motta passed to Marauinhos, who played it to Nkunku. Nkunku sent a lofted ball to Cavani, who beat the offside trap and fired it past the onrushing Courtois.

 

Chelsea had a chance to equalise five minutes later, but Willan’s free kick hit the wall and was cleared.

 

Chelsea would pay dearly for that miss, as two minutes later Cavani found Lucas Moura on the right. Moura sent the ball left to Christopher Nkunku, who found Cavani. Cavani raced into the box and was forced wide, but his cross evaded the outstretched leg of David Luiz and was turned into the net by Lo Celso. Another two minutes later, Meunier’s throw in found Nkunku, who passed into the box for Moura. Moura squared the ball to Lo Celso, who put the visitors three goals ahead.

 

Lo Celso nearly turned villain on 33 minutes. He missed an interception on a pass from Kanté, only for Willian to lose out to Maxwell. Maxwell played it to Lo Celso, who tried to pass to the keeper. Batshuayi raced in with Matimbou stranded, but his shot cannoned back off the post.

 

Just before half time, Ashley Cole found Hazard with a long header. Hazard raced away down the wing and sent a cross into the area, which Batshuayi volleyed home.

 

Spencer made a double change ten minutes into the second half, replacing Ashley Cole and Eidur Gudjohnsen with José Gaya and Fàbregas. Di Maria then missed two good chances, the former Manchester United winger sending a free kick over before being denied by Courtois.

 

Chelsea then came close again. Matic hit a long ball which Gaya ran on to before crossing into the area. Willian rose highest to head at goal but Matimbou gathered it easily. PSG then went up the other end, with Lo Celso blasting a banana shot wide. Moura was the next to have an effort, his speculative shot going just wide with Courtois beaten.

 

N’Golo Kanté then made a surging run to the edge of the box before finding Fàbregas, whose shot was deflected and saved by Matimbou.

 

Chelsea then made another change, Gary Cahill replacing the tiring Matic and David Luiz moving to defensive midfielder.

 

With eight minutes left, the match was sealed. Pastore dispossessed Fàbregas and found Lucas Moura, who sent a cross into the area. Adrien Rabiot connected, and his shot deflected off Cahill into the net.

 

Chelsea briefly rallied in the closing stages, forcing a series of corners. Diego Costa saw a header tipped behind by substitute keeper Rémy Descamps, before José Gaya saw a shot charged down by Moura. Descamps was then on hand to tip a Pedro header around the post. From the resulting corner, David Luiz sent a header wide.

 

Final Score: Chelsea 1-4 Paris Saint-Germain ( Batshuayi 45+1; Cavani 18, Lo Celso 25, 27, Rabiot 82)

As the players traipsed back into the dressing room, Spencer beckoned to Terry to go into the tactics room, before giving his post-mortem.

"What the hell was that?" he bellowed. "Because I'll tell you what that wasn't: anywhere near good enough for a Premier League side! And especially nowhere near good enough for a side that should be challenging for the title! Not only that," he continued, "but you let down a club legend today. A player who has made nearly 500 appearances for this club and always turned up through thick and thin. He played on a broken toe for eight months and I should know; I was his team-mate."

He paused, taking a deep breath.

"There's too much to dissect now. We'll go over it when we arrive in Hamburg on Monday. There are two friendlies still to play before we face Manchester United, and I want us to go into that one firing on all cylinders."

There was a knock at the door. Spencer opened it to see Lee Mason waiting on the other side.

"The other team are ready, Mr Spencer."

Spencer nodded, and gestured to the players to leave the dressing room before fetching John Terry from the tactics room. The captain walked out to yet another guard of honour from players and officials, to where a podium had been erected in the centre circle. Ashley Cole, Eidur Gudjohnsen, Frank Lampard, Didier Drogba and Gianfranco Zola all stood waiting.

"Ladies and Gentlemen," came the announcement through the tannoy, "In recognition of his service to Chelsea Football Club down the years, please show your appreciation for your captain; JOHN TERRY!

The former players had drawn lots to determine who would present Terry with a small trophy, on which was engraved In recognition of your years of dedicated service to Chelsea Football Club, and the crowd raised the roof as Eidur Gudjohnsen presented it, with the other four presenting a large bottle of champagne.

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Following the debacle that was John Terry's testimonial, many people made their voices heard. The most noticeable was the Sun, where under the headline “TERRYBLE!”, Sid Collingwood took Courtois to task for his performance, complete with a picture depicting him as Thompson and Thomson, the bumbling detectives from Tintin. Collingwood also questioned why Spencer had chosen such a high calibre of opposition, rather than Nottingham Forest, where John Terry had spent some time on loan. However, he also criticised what he termed “Sad and bitter individuals” who had wasted no time crowing on social media.

 

Meanwhile, Spencer had issued the squad numbers for the season. Of the new signings, Marcos Alonso took number 3, with 7 going to N’Golo Kanté. Raúl Jiménez was given the number 9 shirt, with José Gaya taking number 17 and Ignacio Camacho getting number 20. Michy Batshuayi would have the number 23 shirt, while number 30 went to David Luiz.

 

As the Blues arrived in Hamburg for their next friendly, they learned that their opening Premier League game against Manchester United had been moved to Friday night, leaving the players one day fewer to prepare.

 

Spencer made a few changes to his side for the Hamburg game. Courtois was dropped following his abject performance against PSG, while Victor Moses and Pedro came in for Hazard and Willian, who Spencer deemed to have sufficient match sharpness. Diego Costa started up front.

 

It was, however, Hamburg who started stronger, with Begovic blocking a Gregoritsch effort two minutes in. Gregoritsch had another chance in the sixth minute, when he blasted a free kick off target.

 

A minute later, Chelsea had their first chance. Azpilicueta's throw in found Kanté, who crossed the ball in to the far post. Diego Costa went for goal from a very tight angle, but René Adler pushed the ball away and Izzet Isler cleared behind. From the resulting corner, Gary Cahill could only nod it wide. Chelsea had another chance in the twelfth minute, but Matic sent his free kick flying over the bar.

 

Gregoritsch had a chance from a free kick of his own in the fifteenth minute, which Begovic did well to tip away. Albin Ekdal then hit a long shot wide of the mark.

 

Chelsea then came close in the 21st minute, as Kanté hit a first time pass to Moses, who easily outpaced Ostrzolek before seeing his shot blocked by Isler.

 

The hosts then won a series of corners, first as a brilliant slide tackle from Gaya broke up a Hamburg attacking move, then as Lasogga saw his long range effort tipped behind by Begovic. In the 38th minute, Ostrzolek out-jumped Cahill to meet Kostic’s corner, but put his header wide. Ostrzolek then became the first player to be booked on the stroke of half time, for a trip on Moses.

 

Bobby Wood came on for Hamburg at half time, replacing Lasogga, and had a chance in the 47th minute. Kostic crossed the ball to the far post and Wood beat Cahill in the air, only to head the ball wide. Kostic linked up with Wood again in the 55th minute, his header being turned behind by Begovic.

 

Azpilicueta then found his way into the book, receiving a yellow card for a trip on Kostic. Then in the 57th minute, Kanté passed to Diego Costa, whose optimistic long-range effort went flying over the bar. A minute later, Kostic surged past Azpilicueta and crossed the ball into the box. Wood tried a half volley, which Matic was able to block.

 

Wood tried to turn provider in the 62nd minute with a through ball to Walace, who saw his effort strike the bar and go out of play. Pedro then had a go in the 74th minute, which René Adler tipped behind. Cahill's header from the resulting corner evaded two Hamburg players before Tobias Fagerström cleared the danger. Chelsea then made a double change, with Matic and Moses being replaced by Chalobah and Willian. Gary Cahill once again rose imperiously to connect with a Cesc Fàbregas corner, but his header went flying over the bar.

 

Diego Costa was the next to have a chance, connecting Willian's cross with a volley which went over the bar.

 

Mavraj had a chance with two minutes to go, but he sent his header over the bar.

 

Final Score: Hamburger SV 0-0 Chelsea

 

Not good enough, I'm afraid,” Spencer said in the dressing room after the match. “We had more than enough chances to win, so I'm disappointed with that result. However,” he continued, “Most of you are now match fit so I will be making changes for the Atromitos game next Monday.

 

Chelsea flew straight to Athens to acclimatise to the heat there. Greece still had representatives in Europe, Olympiakos’ 6-1 aggregate win over Sheriff Tiraspol of Moldova earning them a tie against Ludogorets in the Champions playoff round of the Champions League, while in the Europa League, AEK Athens and Panathinaikos had joined PAOK Salonika in the playoff round with wins over Hajduk Split and Vitorul Constanta respectively. West Ham were also there, their 7-0 aggregate win over Heart of Midlothian earning them a tie against either Videoton of Hungary or HJK of Finland.

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Chelsea would play Atromitos in their final friendly. The day before that, however, Spencer allowed his squad to watch the Community Shield game between Leicester City and Manchester United. This served two purposes; firstly, it allowed them to get some reconnaissance on their first league opponents, and it also allowed Spencer to check on Kenedy, who was on loan to the Premier League Champions for the first half of the season. In the event, Kenedy had a quiet game, being substituted in the 78th minute as United won 2-0 with goals from Marouane Fellaini and Marcus Rashford.

 

Spencer opted to ring the changes for what was a very hot night in Athens. Aina, Chalobah, Moses and Musonda all started, with Spencer unwilling to risk injuries to the key players. The Blues had a chance almost instantly, Raúl Jiménez getting his head to Ola Aina’s cross and only finding the side netting. Jiménez had another chance in the ninth minute, running on to a pass from Charly Musonda which was charged down and hit the post.

 

Another chance came a minute later. Kanté won a free kick after being brought down by Pavlos Marigos. Matic took it, but Marigos got in the way at the expense of a corner. Musonda saw the corner cleared by Mazanakis, but only as far as Aina. Aina found Victor Moses, who took a touch on the edge of the D before sending a powerful shot past the outstretched arm of Psarianos, which the Chelsea TV commentary team described as “Sheer Genius”.

 

Atromitos had a chance to equalise in the thirteenth minute, but Tsalikidis put the ball high and wide. The hosts forced a corner in the fifteenth minute, which was easily dealt with.

 

Chelsea went on the attack, and in the 28th minute Musonda once again found Jiménez. Jiménez passed to Kanté, who was dispossessed. Chalobah intercepted the ball, however, and passed to Matic, who pinged it first time to Musonda. Musonda fed it to Jiménez, whose shot was blocked by Kerasidis.

 

Marcos Alonso was the next to try his luck, his free kick cannoning off Tsalikidis.

 

It was obvious that Chelsea were dominating and this showed in the 33rd minute. Kanté made a surging run into the Atromitos half and, although his attempted pass was cut out by Marigos, he won the ball back and ran into the area, only to be brought down by Marigos for a penalty. Raúl Jiménez stepped up and although Psarianos got his hands to it, all he could do was deflect it into the roof of the net.

 

Atromitos tried to get back into the game, but Nicolas Diguiny could only send his 41st minute effort wide. By contrast, Chelsea looked dangerous every time they went forward, Charly Musonda seeing a shot saved a minute later. Psarianos also had to be on hand in first half stoppage time to tip a Marcos Alonso free kick over the bar.

 

So far, so good,” Spencer said at half time. “However, if we get slack out there, it could still go wrong. You remember what we did to Leverkusen, so don't let your performances drop.

 

Chelsea seemed to take the team talk to heart, and won a corner in the 49th minute when Karlaftis had to clear the ball behind with Aina threatening.

 

The hosts’ best chance came in the 51st minute. Former Liverpool striker Anthony Le Tallec found Marigos, who passed to Diguiny. Paparounas got in behind Aina and had a go, which went out off the top of the bar.

 

Marcos Alonso then sent a free kick just over the bar, before Kanté was denied by Psarianos. The Atromitos keeper was then tested again on 58 minutes as he had to turn a Jiménez pot-shot behind.

 

Jiménez was then taken off for Batshuayi as Spencer looked to increase the Belgian’s match sharpness.

 

In the 72nd minute, Aina threw the ball in to Kanté. Kanté played it short to Matic, who got past his man before letting the ball fly into the net from 20 yards out, to the delight of the 900 Chelsea fans who'd made the trip to Greece.

 

Le Tallec looked to get a goal back from a free kick, but his effort went over the bar.

 

José Gayà was then brought on to replace Alonso, and forced a corner almost immediately. Aina also forced a corner as Chelsea looked to add the icing on the cake. Indeed, Musonda came close to adding his name to the scoresheet, as the Blues closed out a game that they had dominated from start to finish.

 

Final Score: APS Atromitos 0-3 Chelsea (Moses 11, Raúl 33 pen, Matic 72)

 

That was superb, from all of you, Spencer said after the match. “It looks like you're all raring to go for the season ahead, and I'm absolutely delighted. There's no hitting the town tonight though I'm afraid, we're flying back early tomorrow morning because we start our season on Friday, and you all know who it's against.

 

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As the preseason games wrapped up, Chelsea returned to London to prepare for their reunion with José Mourinho the coming Friday, which had been moved for Sky Sports coverage. Spencer had no sooner arrived at Stamford Bridge when he was met by Michael Emelano.

I had Eastleigh on the phone yesterday,” he said, “They want to take Trevoh Chalobah on loan for five months. I told them I'd let them know your decision as soon as you made it. They're willing to pay half his wages during his stay.

Tell them that it's a deal,” Spencer responded. “We'll sub his train tickets too if we need to. He could do with regular first team football.

The deal done, Chalobah was sent to meet his new teammates at Eastleigh, where he was thrust into the side immediately, putting in a solid display in a 2-0 win at Braintree which saw the Spitfires join Barrow, Dagenham & Redbridge and Eastleigh on maximum points.

 

On Thursday, Spencer met several journalists in the pre-match press conference. The Sun's Sid Collingwood was the first to ask.

What do you say about José Mourinho suggesting John Terry is a weak link in your side?

Mourinho said that, did he? Well…” Spencer briefly considered calling Mourinho out, but decided against it, “He's entitled to his opinion, but I'm not going to waste my time commenting on it.”

Then came Liam Brown of the Mirror. “Do you have a clear idea of a preferred first eleven?

Not yet. The first few games will shape that.

Laurence Fox of the Evening Standard was next. “The bookies have you down as favourites to win the title. How do you rate your chances?"

I think we'll be there or thereabouts.

Many are suggesting that you need to strengthen in some key positions. Do you agree that spending is necessary?

No, I'm quite happy with the players I have.

Then came Jamie Dingwall of the Daily Mail. “Do you think Chelsea can get off to a winning start?

Well, I think it'll be a tough game and if we don't win it won't be the end of the world. The season is long and we're prepared to fight from now until the final game.

Curtis Eaton then asked the next question. “Who do you think is Man Utd’s weakest link?

In all honesty, I think that it would be unprofessional to comment on potential weak links.” Sid Collingwood’s eyes lit up.

George McAllister, Talksport. Would you agree that success tests on David Luiz having a good season?

We have many quality players here. If we are to have a good season, everyone had to contribute.

Stephen Green, The Guardian. Some critics, including Stan Collymore, have accused Chelsea of stockpiling players with their loan system. How do you respond to such criticism?

Just because they're not currently at the club doesn't mean they're not part of the club. We keep close tabs on all players out on loan and are sure that they'll return better for the experience.

Amber McHugh, Daily Telegraph. How excited are you for the opening day of the domestic season?

Very. You can play all the friendlies in the world but it won't hold a candle to competitive football.

"Mike Warner, Sky Sports News. Are you confident that your team is ready?

Yes, we're fully prepared.

Gary Doyle, FourFourTwo. Many bookmakers and pundits have tipped your team to win the title. What do you think are the chances of this?

Too hard to say right now. There are plenty of strong contenders who have a great chance, and look at who won it last year.

Would you agree that the difference between success and failure often comes down to who stays the most injury free?

Yes, even the deepest squad can be affected by an injury crisis.

Joe Byrne, 90min.com. With Solanke signing this new contract, how important a role will he play?

I'm sorry, I don't like to talk about contractual matters in press conferences.

 

As Spencer left the press room, his PA, Amelia Richards, came up to him. “The draw for the EFL Cup was made during the conference,” she said. “We're away to Crawley Town, tie to be played on the 24th August.

Not a bad draw,” Spencer responded, “Could use it to get the youngsters some match experience.

It won't be easy, though,” Richards responded. “They won away at Cardiff in the first round and Cardiff were two divisions higher.

Chelsea travelled to Manchester the following morning. After all the talk and predictions, the season was about to get underway.

Edited by Drogba11CFC

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As the players entered the away dressing room, Spencer was called over.

"Mr Spencer, Craig Charlesworth, BBC Radio 5 Live. You're about to take charge of your first match as manager. Can you sum up your feelings on an occasion like this?"

"I'm excited, I know the fans are too," Spencer responded, "but they need to know that this is a long term project. You can't judge it by today, win or lose."

"How much of a boost is Paul Pogba’s absence to your chances?"

Well, any player would miss a player of his calibre but they're not a one-man team.”

And finally, you've left Ignacio Camacho out, is that due to recent injury problems?

Absolutely. He's not ready to start this match and it's important not to rush him back, that would risk further damage.

 

OK, then,” Spencer said as he gave his team talk. “We all know how important a winning start is, and we also know how difficult our opponents are. I suspect that my predecessor is saying exactly the same in the home dressing room. But,” he continued, “There's something else to consider. Three thousand of our loyal supporters have made the trip here on a Friday night. The last train back leaves before half time and it's a three and a half hour drive back. I want you to go out there and ensure that it was worth the trip!

 

Manchester United:

Quote

 

De Gea 

Valencia Bailly Jones Marcos Rojo

Blind

Rooney Ander Herrera

Mata Ibrahimovic Martial

 

Subs: Romero, Darmian, Mkhitaryan, Rashford, Fellaini, Carrick, Lingard

 

Chelsea:

Quote

 

Courtois

Azpilicueta David Luiz Cahill Marcos Alonso

Kanté Matic

Willian Fàbregas Hazard

Diego Costa

 

Subs: Begovic, Gayà, Terry, Camacho, Moses, Pedro, Batshuayi

 

The game between the two sides at Old Trafford the previous season had ended goalless, and Manchester United had not beaten Chelsea since a controversial 3-2 victory at Stamford Bridge in October 2012. Eager to ensure that neither fact held sway, the hosts burst out of the blocks early on. In the third minute, Juan Mata came up against Azpilicueta. He outpaced his former Chelsea teammate, only for Marcos Alonso to clear. Phil Jones intercepted, however, and sent a long ball into the Chelsea area. Ibrahimovic beat Cahill to get his head on it, only to send it wide.

 

Ibrahimovic would have better luck in the seventh minute. As United attacked down the left, Mata sent a 35 yard pass to Martial which Willian intercepted. His header only found Blind, however, who searched out Martial on the left. Martial beat Azpilicueta and sent a low cross into the area which Ibrahimovic volleyed home to open the scoring on his debut.

 

United had another chance a minute later. Alonso gave away a free kick for a trip on Mata. Matic blocked Rooney's effort, at the expense of a corner which came to nothing.

 

Chelsea had their first serious chance in the thirteenth minute. Eden Hazard intercepted Valencia's clearance and sent in a cross which evaded Mata. Costa's header evaded Phil Jones but not De Gea, who pushed it away. United then went up the other end, with Mata hitting the side netting.

 

Chelsea then had another chance, with Willian hitting a speculative long-range shot wide after some good passing play.

 

United then began to take control. Mata sent a free kick wide in the 23rd minute, before Cahill charged down a shot by Ibrahimovic. Mata then won another free kick from Marcos Alonso, which he sent over the bar.

 

Chelsea then had a huge let-off in the 33rd minute. Ander Herrera played a pass to Martial, who passed it back. Herrera dropped deep before passing to Martial, who drifted past Azpilicueta before sending a pass into the area. Cahill missed the interception completely and Ibrahimovic looked certain to double his tally, but he sent his effort wide.

 

Marcos Rojo was the first name in the book a minute later, for a trip on Willian.

 

However, the attack from the resulting free kick broke down and Ibrahimovic sent Mata away down the right. Mata sent a pass 45 yards left to Martial, who raced into the Chelsea half before feeding the ball to Herrera in the box. Herrera passed short to the arriving Martial, whose placed shot wrong-footed Courtois to double United's lead.

 

Chelsea attacked immediately, with a good passing move resulting in Fàbregas having a low shot which De Gea did well to turn away. The clearance was intercepted and Chelsea attacked again, with Diego Costa being thwarted by a last ditch tackle by Phil Jones. Matic then saw a shot blocked by Rooney, before Kanté sent a shot into the stands. Matic and Blind both picked up yellow cards as the first half drew to a close.

 

Come on, you lot,” Spencer said during the break, “I know you can do much better than this. I want you to go out there and get back into the game. One goal, and they'll start to get nervous. They'll start to be uncertain. They'll start making mistakes.

 

Chelsea attacked right from the off in the second half, and it was only a slide tackle from Martial on Willian that broke the attack down. The resulting corner, however, was cleared by Bailly to Herrera, who ran 45 yards into the Chelsea half before finding Martial. Martial cut inside and ran to the edge of the area before firing in a shot which Courtois was able to hold onto.

 

Martial then had another chance in the 53rd minute, which was blocked by David Luiz and turned behind by Courtois.

 

Mata was giving Marcos Alonso a torrid time, and in the 56th minute Alonso received a yellow card for yet another foul on the former Chelsea winger.

 

In the 60th minute, Phil Jones received the ball from Mata and had a shot, which David Luiz charged down and cleared. Two minutes later, however, the Brazilian pulled up with a groin strain, forcing Spencer to replace him with John Terry.

 

In the 64th minute, a good passing move saw Fàbregas run onto Willian's pass, but the midfielder got under the ball and sent it over.

 

John Terry then got booked for a trip on Ibrahimovic, the resulting free kick being blocked by Willian.

 

With time running out, Spencer elected to replace Matic with Pedro to increase his side's attacking options in the 73rd minute. However, his hand was forced again three minutes later. Wayne Rooney's header found Mata, who looked to cut inside. In mid-run, however, he was impeded by Alonso in full view of Neil Swarbrick. Swarbrick wasted no time in calling Alonso over... before showing him his second yellow and then the red card in quick succession. United looked to attack and it took an expert slide tackle from Azpilicueta to thwart Martial. Spencer promptly took Willian off, bringing on José Gayà to fill the void left by Alonso.

 

United looked to close the game out, but Chelsea, to their credit, continued to fight. In the 83rd minute, a long ball by Kanté was intercepted by Bailly. His clearance, however, was cut out by Hazard, who was fouled by Herrera. From the free kick, Hazard passed to Fàbregas, who laid it back to Terry. Terry drove a long ball into the area, and although Jones intercepted, Costa pounced on the loose ball and sent a half volley into the net to bring Chelsea back into the game.

 

United then looked to restore their two goal advantage, as Mkhitaryan had a shot from a tight angle which Courtois did well to tip behind, before the Armenian had a shot from an even tighter angle which left the frame of the goal shaking.

 

In the 90th minute, Chelsea won a corner. Fàbregas whipped it in, but it was intercepted by Ibrahimovic. Gayà raced after the ball and intercepted it, turned, and hit a shot from 25 yards which De Gea secured, much to the relief of 68,000 home supporters.

Final Score: Man Utd 2-1 Chelsea (Ibrahimovic 7, Martial 38; Diego Costa 84, Alonso s/o 76)

That was a very disappointing performance,” Spencer said in the dressing room after the match. “And we're coming away from this match with nothing because you didn't really start playing until we went 2-0 down.”

As the players left the dressing room, Mike Warner approached him.

Mr Spencer, will Marcos Alonso struggle to get back into the team after that red card and complete lack of discipline?

He was sent off at a time when we really couldn't afford to be weakened. I need to speak to him and make sure he understands the gravity of the situation. But to call a second yellow card a 'complete lack of discipline’ is a gross overstatement. A complete lack of discipline would be Ben Thatcher's elbow on Pedro Mendes, Wayne Rooney's red card against Montenegro, or Luis Suarez biting an opponent.

 

Marcos Alonso's red card was also the opening question in the post-match press conference, posed by Curtis Eaton.

Your task was made even harder today by Marcos Alonso's red card. Do you feel let down by his dismissal?

Yes, but it made things a lot more difficult for his team mates. They're the ones who have been let down.

Jack McIntosh, BBC Radio Manchester. Not the start you had in mind. How disappointed are you with today's result?

Very. The players are really disappointed as well.

Sid Collingwood, The Sun. How would you describe your relationship with José Mourinho?

Well, whilst we did have a good relationship when I played under him, he's gone down in my estimation as of late.

And finally, Jamie Dingwall, Daily Mail. Anthony Martial had a great game today and picked up the Man of the Match award. What did you make of his performance?

I have to admit, he played very well. It's just a shame he didn't save that performance for a different opponent!

 

As the players boarded the coach back to their hotel, Spencer took Marcos Alonso aside.

That was a silly red card to pick up, and it made things a lot more difficult.” He said. “I'm issuing you with an official warning, if it happens again this season I'll be fining you a week's wages.

That's fair enough, boss,” Alonso replied, “I should have realised that it was a bad idea to go in like that on a yellow card.

Garry Baker was also disappointed with the result, reiterating Spencer's team talk observation that Chelsea hadn't started playing until they went 2-0 down. Others were more critical, with Zak Green calling the team “a shambles”.

Edited by Drogba11CFC

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After arriving back from Manchester, Spencer headed home to unwind. He did want to head for the golf course, but he did have a couple of emails to respond to. The first was from Jody Morris, reporting on the Under 18s side's 1-0 win over Tottenham Hotspur, the other being from Amelia Richards to tell him that the EFL Cup tie at Crawley Town had been moved to Tuesday 23rd August for live television coverage.

 

The opening day of the season saw some interesting results. In the lunchtime kick off, Tottenham could only draw with Southampton. Manolo Gabbiadini scored on his debut with a well struck effort from distance in the first minute, but a first half brace from Harry Kane gave Tottenham the lead at half time. However, Southampton refused to be beaten and James Ward-Prowse scored an equaliser with two minutes to go.

Bournemouth and West Bromwich Albion played out a goalless draw in which Harry Arter picked up two yellow cards in the space of three minutes. Nathan Aké had a fine game before being substituted in the 84th minute.

Sam Vokes scored the goal of the day for Burnley against Liverpool, chesting down the ball from André Gray's cross before volleying it into the net to instantly cancel out Sadio Mané’s opener. Firmino then restored Liverpool's lead in the 55th minute before Mané got his second ten minutes later.

Everton were beaten at home by Watford. Troy Deeney and José Holébas scored in the first 15 minutes and although Lukaku pulled one back in the 81st minute, Everton couldn't find an equaliser. Defending champions Leicester drew with Swansea in a game of two penalties. Gylfi Sigudsson gave Swansea the leaf from the spot in the 37th minute, before Jamie Vardy equalised with a penalty of his own eight minutes from time. Kenedy had insufficient time to make an impact, only coming on in the 74th minute. In the 5:30 kick off, goals from Olivier Giroud and Granit Xhaka gave Arsenal a 2-0 win at Selhurst Park.

In the National League, Trevoh Chalobah had a subdued game, but Eastleigh still beat Tranmere Rovers 2-1 at Prenton Park to remain on maximum points with Dagenham & Redbridge and Woking.

 

The following day, Stoke City, Chelsea's next opponents, beat Middlesbrough 1-0, before Manchester City hammered Sunderland 4-0. The Monday night game saw Hull City fall victim to an own goal by Andrea Ranocchia in the 81st minute to gift West Ham victory.

 

However, Chelsea were dealt a severe blow on Tuesday. During training, Ruben Loftus-Cheek sustained a lower back stress fracture, ruling him out for up to seven weeks. Trevoh Chalobah, meanwhile, had a quiet game as Eastleigh racked up a 2-0 win over Dover Athletic to go second in the National League. In Europe, meanwhile, Manchester City defeated Anderlecht 3-0 in the Champions League best placed playoff round.

 

Spencer was asked about the Manchester City game in the press conference, answering that he expected City to get three points. When asked about Mark Hughes’s wealth of experience in his Stoke side, Spencer responded, “I don't actually take that into consideration. We focus on our own game, regardless of our opposition's experience.”

 

That night, Leicester pulled off a surprise 3-2 win at Anfield. Jamie Vardy gave Leicester the lead five minutes in, although Adam Lallana equalised twenty minutes later. Demarai Gray restored Leicester's advantage in the second half and although Firmino equalised almost immediately, the hosts were unable to respond to Jamie Vardy’s second of the game 20 minutes from time which sent Leicester temporarily top of the table.

Edited by Drogba11CFC

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Author's note: I'm going off to Wales on holiday tomorrow so there won't be any updates next week. I'll probably play and post the Stoke City game when I get back next Saturday.

I'll still have access to FM Stories though, so all feedback will be welcomed.

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As the players arrived for the home fixture against Stoke, Spencer gave another tunnel interview.

Obviously the loss of Marcos Alonso will be felt; how hard will it be without his services?

I'd rather have him available, but I believe in the team selected today.” Spencer responded.

 

OK, everyone, listen up,” Spencer said. “We're overwhelming favourites out there; The press expects us to win, the fans expect us to win, and I expect you to win. We've gone over the tactics; I want to see fluid movement, I want to see us controlling the game. Now go out there and get the win the fans expect!

 

However, Stoke nearly caught the home side cold right from the off. The Liquidator had barely stopped playing when Joe Allen dispossessed Fàbregas and passed to Ramadan Sobhi. Sobhi sent a cross into the box to Saido Berahino, who searched out Berahino. Berahino raced down the wing and crossed the ball into the box for Sobhi, whose volley was held by Courtois.

 

Chelsea's first chance came in the fourth minute, as David Luiz fired a free kick wide from 25 yards. The Blues then began to take control of the match. Fàbregas found Hazard, who got to the byline and sent in a cross, which Muniesa cleared behind ahead of Costa. From the resulting corner, Muniesa cleared the ball, but Hazard got there first. The Belgian ghosted past Pieters before having a shot, which was blocked by Arnautovic.

 

Chelsea's next chance came in the 22nd minute. Willian's free kick hit the wall, but the Brazilian recovered the ball and passed to Hazard. Hazard found Matic, whose long range effort barely missed the target. Then, eight minutes later, José Gayà passed through to Hazard, whose cross was headed clear by Imbula. Kanté, however, intercepted, and dribbled to the edge of the area before firing off a shot which grazed the top of the bar.

 

In the 37th minute, David Luiz had a free kick, which hit the wall. Arnautovic looked to start a counter-attack, which Gayà did well to thwart.

 

Chelsea had been knocking on the door for much of the first half, but as half time approached the game was still goalless... until the the 42nd minute. Geoff Cameron's throw in was cut out by Cahill, who sent the ball forward to Diego Costa. Joe Allen, however, slid in to dispossess Costa and Imbula took the ball into the Chelsea half. He sent a lofted ball to Sobhi, who found Berahino 25 yards out. Berahino, however, came out second-best against Cahill's robust challenge, and Cahill searched out Hazard first time. Hazard then took the ball down the left deep into the Stoke half, going past Joe Allen with ease, before opening it up to his right, where Diego Costa pounced to fire home from close range and give Chelsea the lead.

 

Geoff Cameron then entered the book for a foul on Hazard. From the free kick, Imbula headed clear, but only as far as Kanté. Kanté found David Luiz, whose effort was blocked by Cameron.

 

So far, so good,” Spencer said in the interval, “but you need to guard against complacency now. Let's not forget that you were 1-0 up at half time in this fixture last season and ended up conceding an equaliser.

 

Four minutes into the second half, another goal was scored. Azpilicueta’s throw found Kanté, who searched out Matic to his left. From 25 yards, Matic had a go with a shot which flew into the net, giving Lee Grant no chance with what would be described as “a real belter” by Chris Kamara on Soccer Saturday and “a sublime finish” by Steve Bower on Match of the Day.

 

Stoke responded by bringing Glenn Whelan on for Ramadan Sobhi and trying to take it easy. Chelsea continued to impose themselves, with Hazard's speculative effort cannoning off Shawcross.

 

Stoke then brought Bony on for Berahino, before Lee Grant came to his side's rescue in the 63rd minute. Azpilicueta's throw found Kanté, who passed it back. Azpilicueta then sent the ball in from the right, and only Grant tipping the ball behind stopped him from emulating Ronaldinho’s goal against England in the 2002 World Cup.

 

Kanté then sustained a groin strain in a foul by Imbula, necessitating his withdrawal and replacement by Ignacio Camacho. David Luiz and Willian then both came close as Chelsea looked for a third.

 

Stoke, however, still had some fight in them.

A cross into the Stoke box was headed clear by Pieters. Shaqiri took the ball forward before playing it right to Bony. Bony held off Camacho as he bore down on goal before sending his shot wide.

 

Chelsea made their second change with fourteen minutes left, as Batshuayi came on to replace Costa. Batshuayi nearly turned provider, as his cross was headed wide by Willian. Bony then had another chance, his header being held by Courtois.

 

Camacho then had a go, his volley being held by Grant, before Pedro came on as a substitute just as the game fizzled out.

 

Final Score: Chelsea 2-0 Stoke City (Diego Costa 42, Matic 49)

 

Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Courtois; Azpilicueta, David Luiz, Cahill, Gayà; Kanté (Camacho 65), Matic; Willian (Pedro 85), Fàbregas, Hazard; Diego Costa (Batshuayi 77)

Subs not used: Begovic, Aina, Terry, Moses

 

Stoke (4-4-1-1): Grant; Cameron (Bardsley 76), Shawcross, Muniesa, Pieters; Arnautovic, Allen, Imbula, Shaqiri; Sobhi (Whelan 49); Berahino (Bony 60)

Subs not used: Given, Lafita, Walters, Adam

Booked: Cameron 42

 

Attendance: 41,629

Referee: Anthony Taylor

Man of the Match: Nemanja Matic

 

That was a superb performance,” Spencer said in his post match team talk. “We controlled the match throughout and didn't give them a sniff.”

 

Everyone enjoyed Matic's goal, except the Stoke fans. It must have been fantastic to see one of your players score a goal like that. How did you rate it?” asked Radio 5 Live's Craig Charlesworth after the match.

 

It was a truly special goal, nothing else to say.” Spencer answered.

 

And what impact do you think getting a goal just before half time had?” Charlesworth continued.

 

It's always a great time to score because the opposition have to alter their plans for the second half at very short notice.

 

Well, Nemanja Matic was in fine form today, wasn't he?” Asked Steven Moore of the Daily Mail.

 

Yes, he had a very good game and I expect to see more of the same.”

 

Even Mark Hughes praised Matic's goal, telling the Stoke Sentinel's Harry Madden that “It was a fantastic strike, absolutely no question.

* * *

The lunchtime kickoff saw a goalless draw between Arsenal and Everton at the Emirates. Middlesbrough and Bournemouth also played out a goalless draw, in which Nathan Aké put in a solid defensive display.

Southampton, meanwhile, beat Crystal Palace 2-0 at At Mary's, Manolo Gabbiadini and Dusan Tadic the scorers. Sunderland suffered another defeat, going down 1-0 at home to Burnley through Scott Arfields 84th minute strike and seeing Lamine Koné sent off in stoppage time. Tottenham won 2-0 at Swansea, Wanyama and Vertonghen scoring in a four minute spell.

The big shock, however, was at Vicarage Road, where Mauro Zárate’s 90th-minute strike secured Watford all three points in a 1-0 win over Manchester United which sent the Hornets top of the league. Mourinho called Watford “ridiculously lucky” and then accused Mazzari of being “very petty and very bitter” when Mazzari stated that Mourinho had nothing to moan about.

West Bromwich Albion cruised to a 3-0 win over Hull City thanks to a Salomón Rondón hat trick, whilst West Ham came back from 2-0 down to salvage a point at home to Manchester City. Trevoh Chalobah put in another solid display for Eastleigh in their 2-1 win at Wrexham which saw them remain joint top with Woking.

 

Chelsea's next game would be at Crawley Town in the EFL Cup. Spencer was wary of the opposition, even though his side were firm favourites at 1-8 to Crawley's 12-1.

Edited by Drogba11CFC

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Chelsea's EFL Cup tie in the 2nd round was at Crawley Town. Although the hosts sat 21st in League 2, Spencer took no chances and ensured that his side had plenty of experience that could be called upon if needed. The hosts, incidentally, were managed by former Chelsea youth coach Dermot Drummy.

 

Crawley Town:

Morris

Bawling Connolly Yorwerth Arthur

 Smith Cain

 Boldewijn Kaby Roberts

 Collins

Substitutes: Boyd, McNerney, Andrews, Harrold, Watt, Lelan, Young

 

Chelsea:

Begovic

Aina Terry Cahill Gayà

Camacho 

Chalobah Fàbregas 

Moses Batshuayi Pedro

Substitutes: Courtois, Azpilicueta, David Luiz, Matic, Musonda, Willian, Raúl

 

The game was barely a minute old when Camacho found his way into the book for a foul on Kaby. Mark Connolly was booked for the hosts two minutes later, for holding Batshuayi back. Fàbregas sent the resulting free kick sailing over the crossbar.

 

However, Chelsea would take the lead in the fifth minute. Cahill fed the ball forward to Fàbregas, who looked ahead to Pedro. Pedro cut inside before finding Batshuayi, who ghosted into the box before slotting home from close range for his first Chelsea goal.

 

Crawley looked to equalise almost immediately, but Kaby’s shot was blocked by Cahill.

 

Chelsea should have doubled their lead in the 21st minute. Camacho dispossessed Kaby and found Batshuayi, who played the ball into space for Pedro to run onto. Pedro took the ball to the byline and sent a cross to the far post, which Moses headed straight at the keeper. Camacho then had a chance three minutes later, which was blocked by Collins.

 

Michael Cain then entered the book in the 32nd minute, for a trip on Chalobah.

 

Although Chelsea were comfortably on top, the hosts were still dangerous. In the 41st minute, Cain found Roberts, who played the ball back to Smith. Smith passed it to Cain, who found Arthur on the left. Arthur passed back to Cain, who lofted the ball to Collins. Collins timed his run perfectly, but couldn't get his shot on target.

 

Chelsea replaced the tiring Aina with Azpilicueta at half time, but it was Crawley who had the first real chance of the half. Yorwerth played the ball ahead to Arthur, who moved it forward to Roberts. Roberts found Cain, who looked to bring Kaby into play. Kaby hit a hopeful effort, which was easily saved by Begovic. Collins then tried his luck in the 52nd minute, but he too hit it straight at Begovic.

 

Chelsea had a free kick in the 60th minute, which Fàbregas hit straight at the wall. Then in the 67th minute, Kaby found Andrews to his left from a free kick. Andrews sprayed the ball out to Kaby on the right. Kaby's square ball, however, was blocked by Gayà and picked up by Pedro, who sent a long lofted ball to Moses on the right. Moses raced into the area, but his shot was turned behind by Morris. From the resulting corner, Cahill was beaten in the air but Roberts could only head the ball to Fàbregas, who knocked it towards the far post. Terry rose highest, but his header missed the target. Chelsea then replaced the booked Camacho with Matic.

 

Matic then had a chance in the 73rd minute, but his header was cleared by Bawling. From the loose ball, he had another shot, which was again blocked by Bawling. Matic then had another chance in the 74th minute, but Morris did just enough to tip his header over.

 

With seven minutes remaining, Willian replaced the tiring Fàbregas. Two minutes later, Chelsea had another chance. Pedro’s corner was cleared, but only as far as Willian. Willian hit a one touch ball to Pedro, whose cross was intercepted. Moses let the ball drop, but his shot went out off the post. A minute later, Willian found Moses on the right. Moses lost the ball to Arthur, whose clearance was intercepted by Cahill. Cahill laid it forward to Willian, who passed forward to Batshuayi. Batshuayi gave it straight back to Willian, who found Pedro. Pedro played it back to Willian, who played a one-two with Batshuayi before shooting straight at Morris.

 

Final Score: Crawley Town 0-1 Chelsea (Batshuayi 5)

 

Following the match, Dermot Drummy told BBC Surrey, “I don't think Chelsea are as good as people make them out to be. I thought we gave them a game and I think we could beat them given another chance.”

 

Spencer, for his part, chose a more diplomatic response, saying, “He can say whatever he wants but, for my part, I want to say how much his team impressed me.”

Elsewhere in the EFL Cup, it took a penalty shootout for Everton to get past Accrington Stanley, while West Bromwich Albion needed extra time to win at Exeter. Hull, meanwhile, lost 3-1 at home to Millwall, while Liverpool dispatched Port Vale at Anfield thanks to a brace from Daniel Sturridge. Sunderland beat Peterborough by the same scoreline, while Nathan Aké put in a very good performance in Bournemouth's 2-1 extra time win at Swindon Town, with fellow Chelsea loanee Charlie Collkett scoring the home side's equaliser.

Wednesday's ties saw a major shock as Burton Albion beat Stoke City 1-0. Middlesbrough eventually won 5-3 at Cheltenham, but Crystal Palace also came unstuck, going down 2-1 at home to Bradford City. Burnley had no such trouble, winning 4-1 at Rotherham, while Charlie Wakefield put in a very good performance in Watford's 3-0 win over Portsmouth. Swansea, meanwhile, needed penalties to get past Wycombe.

In Europe, Manchester City beat Anderlecht 4-1 on the night and 7-1 on aggregate to progress to the group stage of the Champions League, while West Ham beat Videoton 3-0 home and away to join Man Utd and Southampton in the group stage of the Europa League.

 

Thursday saw the third round draw for the EFL Cup. Chelsea were drawn away to Sheffield Wednesday, while Bradford's reward for knocking out Crystal Palace was a trip to Old Trafford.

The European competitions were also drawn. In the Champions League, Leicester City were drawn in a group with Bayer Leverkusen, Shakhtar and FC Copenhagen. Tottenham were drawn in a group with FC Barcelona, FC Porto and Legia Warsaw, while Arsenal were drawn to face Real Madrid, Dynamo Kiev, and Club Brugge. Man City, meanwhile, were drawn to face Benfica, Villarreal, and PSV Eindhoven, while Celtic ended up with Sevilla, Olympiakos and CSKA Moscow.

In the Europa League, West Ham ended up with Braga, Monaco and Rostov. Man Utd were drawn in a group with Ludogorets, Feyenoord and Qarabag, while Southampton would face Fiorentina, Young Boys and Hertha Berlin.

In the Friday night kickoff, a goal from Anthony Martial and an own goal by Shkodran Mustafi saw Manchester United beat Arsenal 2-0 at Old Trafford.

Edited by Drogba11CFC

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Chelsea travelled to Dean Court missing N’Golo Kanté, who had sustained a groin strain in training. They did, however, welcome back Marcos Alonso, who had missed the Stoke game through suspension.

Chelsea started the match brightly; in the second minute Diego Costa won a foul from Cook, who was shown a yellow card for his troubles. From the free kick, Wilson headed clear but a potential counter-attack was thwarted by Camacho's tackle on Wilshere. Camacho played forward to Fàbregas, who sent a long ball over the top. Costa ran onto it and got free of the last defender, but sent the ball across the face of goal.

Bournemouth had their first chance in the seventh minute. A Chelsea corner was held by Boruc, who delivered the ball to Steve Cook. Cook cleared the ball to Pugh, who sent a wonderful pass forward to Wilson. Courtois, however, got across to tip the shot wide, before holding onto Afobe's header from the subsequent corner.

Although Costa had missed an early opportunity, he would do much better in the 11th minute. A Bournemouth attack broke down and Camacho cleared the ball to Willian. Willian set off on a long run down the right, eluding Arter as he cut inside and ran into the area. He then whipped in a cross which Diego Costa volleyed home from close range.

Chelsea had another chance two minutes later. Camacho's pass found Hazard, who sent his effort wide of the mark.

Bournemouth would make Chelsea pay for that miss in the sixteenth minute. From a corner, Jack Wilshere sent a hanging ball over. Afobe's header was parried by Courtois, but Marcos Alonso continued his stuttering start to his time at Chelsea by heading the ball into his own net.

Bournemouth looked to seize the initiative, and in the 20th minute, Daniels beat Willian in the air and headed the ball to Wilson in the Chelsea half. Wilson headed back to Pugh, who passed to the feet of Wilshere. Wilshere passed to Wilson, who surged past Azpilicueta before finding Afobe. Afobe took the ball into the area before having a shot which cannoned back off the post and was cleared by a grateful Gary Cahill.

Chelsea, having had a very lucky escape, looked to retake the lead. In the 25th minute, Azpilicueta found Willian with a throw. Daniels got his foot in, but Azpilicueta crossed the ball into the area. Karim Rekik intercepted the pass, but Camacho picked up the loose ball. He then went for goal, but sent the ball wide of the mark. Two minutes later, Rekik’s clearance was intercepted by Cahill, who hit the ball long to Costa. Costa held off Wilshere to find Fàbregas. Fàbregas was then dispossessed, but Camacho recovered possession and passed to Fàbregas, who then sent a shot sailing wide.

Fàbregas then had another chance in the 30th minute. Hazard's corner was cleared, but Willian was first to the loose ball. He passed it to Fàbregas, whose shot was blocked. Hazard then had a chance in the 37th minute, sending a shot over the bar.

Max Gradel had a superb chance to give Bournemouth the lead just before half time, his free kick striking the post.

Bournemouth looked to take the lead early in the second half, and Wilson hit a header off target before Pugh did the same with a volley. Chelsea made them pay for those misses; in the 53rd minute, Arter’s clearance was intercepted by Cahill, who sprinted past Wilson and sent a long ball to Costa. Costa dominated Steve Cook in the air and headed the ball to Fàbregas, who found Willian. Willian took the ball into the area before tucking the ball into the opposite corner of the net. 

Chelsea struck again three minutes later. Marcos Alonso headed the ball to Hazard, who found Fàbregas. Fàbregas angled a 25 yard pass to Alonso, who played a one-two with Hazard before delivering a cross to Diego Costa, who volleyed home from close range to cap off a sublime move.

Costa could have had a hat trick in the 60th minute, but his volley went just over the bar.

Bournemouth, however, weren't giving up that easily. In the 62nd minute, Callum Wilson saw his shot tipped wide by Courtois. Then, in the 66th minute, Gradel raced down the right and aimed a cross at the far post, which Wilson headed in for the 50th league goal of his career.

Wilson then had another chance in the 69th minute. Benik Afobe's free kick was blocked by Camacho. Wilson was first to the loose ball and went for goal, but Courtois held onto the shot. Afobe then got behind the defence, only for his shot to be tipped over by Courtois. That was Afobe's last action of the match, as he was then replaced by Lys Mousset.

Cahill then ended up in the book, for a trip on Mousset.

Chelsea looked to regain their two goal advantage. In the 75th minute, Marcos Alonso played a long ball which was intercepted by Cook. Camacho, however, regained possession and found Fàbregas who sent a long ball to Willian. Willian raced into the area and had a shot from a tight angle which was tipped wide by Boruc.

Hazard, who'd had a quiet game, was then replaced by Pedro, before Fàbregas’ long free kick found David Luiz, whose header missed the target.

Bournemouth then looked to equalise, with Mousset having a pot-shot before Gradel pounced on the rebound. Courtois was unable to hold onto it, but it was scrambled away by Alonso.

With Chelsea looking to tighten up the defence, Spencer brought John Terry on for Matic. With time almost up, Wilson tried his luck from distance, but his effort was nowhere near on target.

Final Score: AFC Bournemouth 2-3 Chelsea (Alonso og 16, Wilson 66; Costa 11, 56; Willian 53)

After the match, Spencer was full of praise for César Azpilicueta, who had made his 125th league appearance for Chelsea, telling Curtis Eaton, “You cannot overestimate his influence. Azpilicueta is a great player and we are lucky to have him.” 

Meanwhile, Tottenham laid down a marker in the lunchtime kickoff by putting Liverpool to the sword. Roberto Firmino’s brace had given Liverpool a half time lead, but Tottenham ran riot in the second half with a brace from Harry Kane, before goals from Eriksen and Wanyama in the last ten minutes sealed a 5-2 win. 

The blue half of Merseyside fared considerably better, as Romelu Lukaku’s 75th minute goal gave Everton a 1-0 win over Crystal Palace at Goodison. In the North East, Hull City and Middlesbrough shared the spoils in a 1-1 draw, while Leicester City increased Sunderland's woes with a 2-0 win at the King Power Stadium. Swansea and Southampton played out a 1-1 draw in South Wales, before Nolito’s late winner was the only goal in a drab  evening game between Manchester City and West Bromwich Albion. Sunday saw Troy Deeney’s brace help Watford to a 3-1 win at Stoke, while Sam Vokes scored twice for Burnley in a 2-1 win over West Ham.

The manager of the month award went to Watford's Walter Mazzari, whose Hornets sat top of the table on maximum points. Harry Kane won player of the month, while young player of the month went to Anthony Martial. Goal of the month, however, went to Nemanja Matic for his 25 yard strike against Stoke. Diego Costa jointly led the goalscoring charts with Harry Kane and Roberto Firmino.
 

League Table (August):

 

Pos

Inf

Team

Pld

Won

Drn

Lst

For

Ag

GD

Pts

1st

 

Watford

3

3

0

0

6

2

4

9

2nd

 

Tottenham

3

2

1

0

9

4

5

7

3rd

 

Man City

3

2

1

0

7

2

5

7

4th

 

Leicester

3

2

1

0

6

3

3

7

5th

 

Chelsea

3

2

0

1

6

4

2

6

6th

 

Man Utd

3

2

0

1

4

2

2

6

7th

 

Burnley

3

2

0

1

4

4

0

6

8th

 

Southampton

3

1

2

0

5

3

2

5

9th

 

West Brom

3

1

1

1

3

1

2

4

10th

 

West Ham

3

1

1

1

4

4

0

4

11th

 

Arsenal

3

1

1

1

2

2

0

4

12th

 

Everton

3

1

1

1

2

2

0

4

13th

 

Stoke

4

1

1

2

2

5

-3

4

14th

 

Liverpool

3

1

0

2

7

9

-2

3

15th

 

Bournemouth

3

0

2

1

2

3

-1

2

16th

 

Middlesbrough

3

0

2

1

1

2

-1

2

17th

 

Swansea

3

0

2

1

2

4

-2

2

18th

 

Hull

3

0

1

2

1

5

-4

1

19th

 

Crystal Palace

3

0

0

3

0

5

-5

0

20th

 

Sunderland

3

0

0

3

0

7

-7

0

 
 

 

Edited by Drogba11CFC

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September would see Chelsea play back-to-back home games against Hull City and Burnley, before their league cup tie at Hillsborough. They would finish the month with a game against Manchester City at the Etihad.

Firstly though, there was an international weekend. Charlie Wakefield and Nathan Ake both turned out for their respective U21 sides, Wakefield playing superbly in a 3-0 win in Russia and Ake having a quiet game in Holland's 1-0 win over Denmark. In the World Cup qualifiers, Courtois and Hazard both turned out for Belgium in their 3-0 win in Estonia, while Asmir Begovic put in a solid performance as Bosnia & Herzegovina won 4-2 in Cyprus. Gary Cahill, however, picked up a yellow card as England lost 2-1 at Hampden Park, with the Scottish population delighted at their triumph over the "Auld Enemy" and the press already sharpening the knives for Southgate. Charlie Wakefield had more success turning out for the U21 side, in a 2-1 win over Albania, while Nathan Ake featured in a 7-0 win over Luxembourg.

Chelsea would have the Sunday afternoon kickoff in the next round of fixtures. Arsenal were once again playing on Friday night, and continued their underwhelming start with a 0-0 draw at home to Stoke City, a game that was considerably less entertaining than the ArsenalfanTV interviews afterwards.

The Saturday fixtures saw Manchester United romp to a 3-0 win at Selhurst Park, largely thanks to two penalties. Manchester City also won on the road, running out 2-0 winners against Middlesbrough. Sunderland, however, moved off the bottom, Jack Rodwell's late equaliser securing a point against Tottenham.

Burnley continued their impressive start with a 2-1 win at West Brom, but Leicester's good start came screeching to a halt at the London Stadium. 2-0 down after ten minutes, the Foxes were well and truly hammered, losing 6-0. Liverpool also racked up six goals in the evening kickoff, Daniel Sturridge scoring an eight minute hat trick in a 6-1 win over Swansea.

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Chelsea faced a struggling Hull City side on Sunday 11th September in the second half of Super Sunday. With N’Golo Kanté back from injury, Spencer picked his strongest eleven. The Blues had a superb record against their opponents, having never lost to them at Stamford Bridge and having not lost to them since October 1988.

Chelsea:


Courtois
Azpilicueta David Luiz Cahill Marcos Alonso
Matic Kanté
Willian Fàbregas Hazard
Diego Costa


Substitutes: Begovic, Gayà, Terry, Camacho, Pedro, Moses, Batshuayi

Hull City:


Marshall
Elabdellaoui Davies Ranocchia Robertson
Mason N’Diaye
Markovic Evandro Grosicki
Berbatov


Substitutes: Jakupovic, Maguire, Henriksen, Mbokani, Hernández, Clucas, Niasse

Chelsea came straight out of the blocks and in the third minute, Alonso played the ball to Matic, who played a low forward pass to Fàbregas. Fàbregas fed Diego Costa, who looked for Willian. Willian tried his luck from a tight angle, but Marshall did well to turn it around the post. Marshall had to be on hand again in the seventh minute, when some good build up play resulted in a blistering strike from Willian. Diego Costa then had a chance, his header from Willian's free kick being held by Marshall.

Chelsea were showing that they meant business, and their next attack came in the twelfth minute. Kamil Grosicki found Berbatov, who passed to Evandro. Evandro looked for Markovic, who was on loan from Liverpool, but Alonso cut out the pass and sent it forward to Hazard. Hazard set off on a surging run, leaving Mason on the floor, before sending the ball into the box for Costa. Costa couldn't get to the ball, but Willian did, and sent the ball into the roof of the net to give Chelsea the lead.

Chelsea then spurned a glorious opportunity to double their lead three minutes later. Willian's free kick found Kanté, who played the ball forward to Hazard. Hazard had a pop from a tight angle, but Marshall diverted the ball onto the opposite post and Robertson cleared the ball ahead of the onrushing Costa.

Robertson then became the first player to be booked, being shown the yellow card by Mark Clattenburg for a push on Willian.

Hull's first real chance came in the 19th minute, as Evandro fired over from a free kick.

However, he would have more success four minutes later. N’Diaye beat Costa in the air and headed the ball to Grosicki on the right. Grosicki passed to N’Diaye, who ran at the defence before finding Evandro with a weighted pass. Evandro got past Cahill before firing across Courtois into the corner of the net for his first goal of the season, sparking wild celebrations among the Hull fans, who'd been fearing a rout.

Chelsea attacked almost immediately, and three minutes later Hazard found Costa, whose effort was blocked. Then, on the half hour mark, Diego Costa took the ball past Ranocchia before passing to Fàbregas. Fàbregas played the ball for Hazard to latch on to, but the Belgian's hopeful right footed shot was held by Marshall. Marshall bowled the ball short to Davies, who passed to Ranocchia. Ranocchia’s clearance, however, was intercepted by Cahill, whose header was intercepted by Evandro. Cahill intercepted again, however, and his header found Fàbregas. Fàbregas sent a pinpoint pass to Costa, who fired a shot into the opposite corner.

Hull, however, were not lying down. Immediately, Ranocchia hit a long ball forward to Grosicki, who sent a low pass to Berbatov. The former Tottenham and Man Utd frontman passed back to N’Diaye, before Evandro took over. Evandro found Markovic in the box who, with all the time in the world, capped off a fine move with his first Hull City goal to bring the Tigers level.

From the kick off, Cahill found Fàbregas. Fàbregas sprayed the ball out left for Hazard, whose lofted volley forward was cut out by Ranocchia. Kanté, however, regained possession and angled a 30 yard pass to Willian on the right. Willian jinked past Robertson before crossing from the byline. Fàbregas charged in to volley the ball past Marshall and restore Chelsea's lead immediately.

As if three goals in as many minutes wasn't enough, it could have been four. A Hull attack broke down and Kanté lofted the ball forward to Costa. Costa ran at the defence before passing low to Willian, but Robertson did just enough to put him off.

Four minutes later, a long ball by Courtois was headed clear by Davies, but only to Hazard. Hazard cushioned a headed pass to Kanté, who passed back to Matic. Matic found Fàbregas, who found Willian just outside the area. Willian passed the ball to Kanté, who passed to Hazard. Hazard hit a snapshot from just outside the area, which went wide of the goal.

Two minutes later, N'Diaye fed the ball forward to Berbatov, whose shot was saved by Courtois.

In the 40th minute, Elabdellaoui’s corner found Markovic, who couldn't keep his header down. Then, Diego Costa found Fàbregas with a header, but the midfielder was upended by N'Diaye. David Luiz took the free kick, but his shot hit Berbatov and went behind.

In stoppage time, Evandro once again tormented the Chelsea defence, running onto a lofted ball by Berbatov before hitting a half volley which Courtois managed to turn behind. Evandro then won a foul from Matic, who received a yellow card for a shirt pull.

Chelsea came flying out of the blocks in the second half, with Marshall having to be alert to tip Hazard's shot behind. Barely a minute into the second half, N'Diaye’s clearance was intercepted by Matic, who fed the ball forward to Fàbregas. Fàbregas played a nice one-two with Alonso, before moving the ball to Hazard in the area. Hazard passed to Alonso, who floated a cross to the far post. Davies intercepted, but Kanté headed it back into the box for Costa, who turned his man before firing into the opposite corner for his second of the game. Grosicki was subsequently withdrawn, Clucas coming on to replace him.

Chelsea's next chance came two minutes later, when Kanté was brought down by Evandro. Marcos Alonso took the free kick, but his shot hit the wall. Evandro was shown the yellow card two minutes later for a similar foul on Fàbregas.

From the free kick, Willian passed the ball 25 yards to Azpilicueta, who passed left to Matic. Matic moved the ball left for Kanté, who sent a long shot high over the bar.

It was all Chelsea, and in the 55th minute, Alonso saw a free kick held by Marshall, before Berbatov was replaced by Mbokani.

Chelsea were knocking at the door and a fifth seemed inevitable. Just before the hour mark, Azpilicueta threw the ball to Matic, who played it back to him. Azpilicueta passed to David Luiz, who sent a long ball forward to Willian. Willian looked to cross for Costa, but the ball was deflected behind for a corner. From the corner. Fàbregas aimed the corner at the far post but Cahill was unable to get to it. Clattenburg, however, pointed to the spot, having noticed a foul on Cahill by N'Diaye. Evandro was livid, and raged at Clattenburg, who refrained from showing him his second yellow. With Costa on a hat trick, Hazard handed him the ball, and he blasted the ball into the top corner to surely put the result beyond doubt.

Hazard then had a pop from distance, which went over the bar. Marcos Alonso then sent a free kick wide, before Mason hit a spectacular half volley which Courtois was able to wave wide.

With just under twenty minutes to go, Matic was upended by N'Diaye. Willian took the resulting free kick 25 yards out, and fired the ball over the wall and into the net.

N'Diaye then received a yellow card for bringing down Costa, but Alonso sent the free kick over the bar as the home fans clamoured for a seventh, before Camacho replaced the booked Matic. However, as the game drew to a close, Hull looked more likely to grab a consolation. With ten minutes to go, Evandro hit a long range effort straight at Courtois, while N'Diaye and Mason both came close in the final ten minutes.

Final Score: Chelsea 6-2 Hull City (Willian 12, 71, Costa 30, 47, pen 60, Fàbregas 32; Evandro 23, Markovic 31)

Man of the match: Diego Costa

Diego Costa's hat trick was undoubtedly the key factor in your win today.” BBC Radio Humberside’s Bernard Fisher stated in the post match press conference. “What did you make of his performance?

It was absolutely tremendous and that's reflected in the goals he scored.” Spencer replied.

That result sees Chelsea shoot up the table,” put in Tom Clark of the Daily Mirror. “You've got to be happy with that, surely?

Of course. It gives us a platform to build on and something to work towards maintaining. It also creates a positive atmosphere and hopefully we can take an optimistic approach going forward.


***


Chelsea had indeed shot up the table; another good performance by Nathan Aké helped Bournemouth to a 2-0 win at Watford in the 13:30 kickoff, putting an end to the Hornets’ perfect start. The margin of victory also saw Chelsea move up to second in the table, while Diego Costa went top of the scoring charts.

The press were also full of praise; In the Sun, Sid Collingwood described it as “A dazzling display of attacking football that blew away the cobwebs of the previous season” under the headline “SIX OF THE BEST, PART 3” (Parts one and two referring to West Ham's 6-0 victory over Leicester and Liverpool's 6-1 victory over Swansea, respectively), while in the Mail, Martin Samuel wrote that “Chelsea looked like scoring every time they went forward. You could even say the scoreline flattered Hull. José Mourinho take note.” His colleague Steven Moore, however, bemoaned the poor standard of defending over the weekend.

Garry Baker, too, was appreciative, saying, “Outstanding performance today. That'll definitely be something for the fans to take into work with them tomorrow morning.” Chelsea's performance was the talk of twitter, except for the previous day's Old Firm Derby, in which Rangers had pulled off a major shock with a 2-1 win at Parkhead. There were rumours among the tinfoil hat brigade that the referee and the SFA had been part of a Masonic conspiracy.

In the Monday night game, Southampton beat Leicester 4-3, before Tuesday saw the commencement of the Champions League group stage. Leicester won 4-0 in Copenhagen, while Tottenham were held to a 1-1 draw in Porto. On Wednesday night, Manchester City were held at home by Benfica, while Arsenal defeated Club Brugge 2-0. In the Europa League, West Ham won 3-1 at Rostov, while Manchester United dispatched Ludogorets 3-0 at Old Trafford and Southampton beat Hertha 2-0 in Berlin.

Friday saw the press conference for the Burnley game. When asked about Burnley's good start to the season which saw the Clarets sit 5th in the table, Spencer responded, “Well, I think they've got to be respected. They've had a good start and as we so often see, anyone can beat anyone else.” In the Friday night game, Crystal Palace continued their sorry start to the season, as Steve Cook scored the only goal of the game at Selhurst Park to ensure the home side remained without a point.

Edited by Drogba11CFC

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Following their demolition of Hull City, Chelsea sat second in the table when high-flying Burnley arrived at Stamford Bridge. Since losing to Liverpool on the opening day, Burnley had won three games on the bounce and found themselves in 5th position. The fixture two seasons ago had ended in a draw, with Nemanja Matic being shown a red card for retaliating to an absolutely appalling challenge by Clarets midfielder Ashley Barnes, who had also gotten away with a nasty foul on Ivanovic. Barnes was, however, missing through injury, but Spencer was able to pick the same eleven that had put Hull to the sword.

 

The home side looked to pick up from where they left off and in the fifth minute, Kanté found Diego Costa with a low pass. Costa ran into the area before laying the ball to Hazard, whose first time shot was held by Heaton. Chelsea then forced a corner, from which Cahill couldn't direct his header goalwards.

 

Fàbregas was the next to try his luck in the eighth minute, pouncing on a loose ball just outside the box only for Michael Keane to throw himself in front of the shot. A minute later, Willian hit a free kick straight at the wall.

 

Chelsea were on top and had another chance in the fourteenth minute. Kanté found Willian with a 30 yard ball, which Willian headed on to Costa. Costa powered a header at goal, but  Heaton saved it and held onto it.

 

Heaton was called into action again a minute later. Fàbregas played a lovely ball to Diego Costa, who timed his run perfectly. He hit a powerful first time effort, which Heaton tipped wide.

 

Kanté was the next player to have a go, striking a volley which Suk Hyun-Jun bravely got in the way of.

 

Fàbregas then looked to capitalise on a poor clearance from Keane, but he sent his header wide of the goal.

 

Defour had committed a surprisingly large amount of fouls in the opening twenty minutes, and it was no surprise when he was booked in the 23rd minute. Willian took the free kick, but Sam Vokes threw himself in front of it.

 

Burnley then had a rare chance. Keane looked for Robbie Brady in front of him. Brady left Matic standing before hitting an optimistic long-range effort, which sailed wide of the mark. They then came much closer, Sam Vokes playing a one-two with Hendricks before having a shot which was turned against the post by Courtois and hacked clear by Alonso.

 

Chelsea then had a free kick, which Willian sent wide, before Brady tried to score another long-range effort, which was caught by Courtois. A Burnley attack then broke down with Hazard sending Costa through on goal, only for him to miss the target. Burnley then had a free kick, which Matic blocked. Matic then entered the book for a foul on Suk Hyun-Jun.

 

As the first half drew to a close, Chelsea looked to turn the screw. A long pass from Kanté found Fàbregas, whose shot was tipped wide by Heaton. A minute later, Costa played a short pass to Hazard, whose shot was saved by Heaton.

 

Kanté then hit a fierce shot from the edge of the are which barely missed the target. In first half stoppage time, Fàbregas saw a shot sail wide of the mark, before sending a wonderful pass to Hazard whose shot from a tight angle was tipped wide by Heaton. From the corner, Marcos Alonso couldn't get his shot on target.

 

Hendrick was shown a yellow card two minutes into the second half, before Hazard's shot was blocked by Flanagan. Flanagan then gave away a free kick for a foul on Alonso, with David Luiz shooting over the bar.

 

In the 57th minute, Azpilicueta knocked the ball down the line for Willian, who sent a cross into the area. Defour cleared the ball, but Azpilicueta regained possession and sent a cross towards the far post. Costa got on the end of it, but his effort hit the post.

 

In the 66th minute, Brady received a yellow card for upending Willian. Sam Vokes then got on the end of a Brady free kick, sending his header the wrong side of the post.

 

Chelsea were then dealt a severe blow as Kanté pulled up with a dead leg, necessitating his withdrawal for Camacho.

 

Tom Heaton was then on hand again, holding onto Hazard's long range effort after some good build up play by Chelsea.

 

Courtois then had to be alert to tip a cross-cum-shot from Gudmundsson around the post, before Spencer brought Pedro on for Matic to increase Chelsea's attacking options.

 

Joey Barton then gave away a free kick, which Willian sent wide, before Diego Costa missed the target with a header.

 

With time almost up, Ben Mee’s clearance was intercepted by Willian. Willian's header found Costa, whose shot was saved by Heaton, leaving the Chelsea manager, players and fans to wonder just how they'd not won.

 

Final Score: Chelsea 0-0 Burnley

Man of the Match: David Luiz

 

Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Courtois; Azpilicueta, David Luiz (Terry 90), Cahill, Alonso; Matic (Pedro 76), Kanté (Camacho 70); Willian, Fàbregas, Hazard; Diego Costa

Subs not used: Begovic, Gayà, Moses, Batshuayi

Booked: Matic, Azpilicueta

 

Burnley (4-4-1-1): Heaton; Flanagan, Keane, Mee, Ward; Arfield (Gudmundsson 67), Defour (Barton 61), Hendrick, Brady; Suk (Boyd 56); Vokes

Subs not used: Pope, Tarkowski, Long, Westwood

Booked: Defour, Hendrick, Brady

 

Attendance: 41,629

Referee: André Marriner

 

Following the match, many fans voiced their discontent at the result. Garry Baker stated that “The team that put Hull to the sword now can't find their way past Tom Heaton. The profligacy shown is a major concern.” Others were less diplomatic; one person calling Chelsea's forwards “literally useless” with another saying “Can't believe how many chances we squandered in that match, fuming.” Many others, however, simply went for the quote from the Inbetweeners film: “When people now ask me if I like football, I say yes, I do like football. But not Burnley. Burnley can **** off.

* * *

To add insult to injury, a win would have seen Chelsea go top of the league. The lunchtime kick off saw Camilo Zúñiga score the only goal of the game as Watford pulled off a shock victory over Manchester City. Arsenal beat Hull City 3-0 in a match which saw Henriksen receive two yellow cards in the space of four minutes, while Everton managed to beat Stoke 3-2 despite Enner Valencia's red card. Leicester won 1-0 at Middlesbrough thanks to Ahmed Musa’s 18th minute effort, while at The Hawthorns, Tottenham contrived to squander a 4-1 lead and allow West Bromwich Albion to snatch a point. In the evening kick off, Liverpool won 2-0 at the Stadium of Light through goals by Coutinho and Wijnaldum. The main talking point, however, came in the 52nd minute, where Jack Rodwell hacked down Firmino with both feet. It was an appalling challenge which could have caused serious injury; Firmino escaped unscathed, but Rodwell was sent off, and faced a lengthy suspension.

Sunday's fixtures saw West Ham draw 1-1 with Swansea as Feghouli missed a late penalty for the Hammers, while Manchester United replaced Watford at the top of the table after coming from behind to win 2-1 at Southampton.

 

However, Chelsea were dealt a severe blow on Monday in training. Eden Hazard went down following an accidental collision, and tests revealed that he'd broken a toe, ruling him out for 6-7 weeks; a period during which Chelsea would face Manchester City, Tottenham and Liverpool.

Edited by Drogba11CFC

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Chelsea played their EFL Cup 3rd round tie on 20th September at Sheffield Wednesday. The two clubs had not faced each other since May 2000, in which Wednesday had won 1-0.

Spencer looked to rest some of the first team players with Manchester City on the horizon. Courtois, David Luiz, Fàbregas and Alonso were among the players rested or benched.

 

Sheffield Wednesday:

Wildsmith

Hunt Sasso Loovens Fox

Pêpê

Abdi Bannan

Adelaide Nuhiu Emanuelson

Substitutes: Dawson, Palmer, Hooper, Winnall, Wallace, Semedo, Jones

 

Chelsea:

Begovic

Azpilicueta Terry Cahill Gayà

Camacho

Matic Kanté

Moses Batshuayi Pedro

Substitutes: Courtois, Alonso, Luiz, Chalobah, Fàbregas, Willian, Raúl

 

From the kick off, Bannan hit a speculative pass which Azpilicueta intercepted and played back to Begovic. Begovic took the ball out of the area before hoofing it clear. Pedro latched onto it, holding up play before moving it back to Matic. Matic then exchanged passes with Azpilicueta, before passing through to Camacho. Camacho found Cahill on the left, and Cahill fed it forward to Kanté. Kanté then sprayed the ball out left, where Pedro moved onto the pass before getting a cross in to Batshuayi, whose header looped over Wildsmith and into the net with just 51 seconds on the clock.

 

In the seventh minute, Bannon’s pass found Emanuelson, who sent a shot sailing wide of the mark. Adelaide would then head wide from a Bannon free kick in the thirteenth minute.

 

In the seventeenth minute, Emanuelson was forced wide. He attempted to send in a cross, which Begovic did just enough to tip over.

 

The home fans were starting to sense that Chelsea might be vulnerable and in the twentieth minute, Hunt hit the ball 30 yards back towards Pêpê, whose first time volley sailed into the net beyond the outstretched arm of Begovic. Joy turned to despair, however, as the goal was ruled out for offside, Nuhiu being the culprit.

 

Three minutes later, Bannon's free kick was saved by Begovic. The ball ran free to Adelaide, but Gayà raced in to clear.

 

The hosts then won a series of corners, but the pendulum swung again as half time approached. In the closing stages of the half, Kanté sent a header straight at Wildsmith, before seeing a volley blocked by Loovens.

 

Chelsea nearly doubled their advantage in the first minute of the second half. Kanté found Camacho, whose shot took two deflections before Wildsmith claimed it.

 

With an hour gone, Nuhiu came off for Winnall, while Chalobah came on for Chelsea to replace Matic.

 

A good pass from Kanté found Pedro with 25 minutes remaining, but the winger couldn't get his shot on target.

 

Chalobah then tried his luck after getting on the end of a pass from John Terry in a melee in the box following a free kick, but Morgan Fox got in the way. From the corner, Cahill sent a header flying over the bar from an awkward angle. Kanté then played a one-two with Chalobah before firing off a shot which Wildsmith got enough on to tip over.

 

Gary Cahill was then withdrawn, being replaced by David Luiz.

 

With eight minutes remaining, Sam Winnall sent a shot over the bar, but Chelsea held on to progress into the next round.

 

20th September 2016: EFL Cup 3rd Round - at Hillsborough, Sheffield

Sheffield Wednesday 0-1 Chelsea (Batshuayi 1)

Man of the Match: John Terry

 

In the evening's other fixtures, a Romelu Lukaku hat trick saw Everton cruise to a 3-1 win at Brighton, while a good performance by Kenedy couldn't prevent Leicester's elimination on penalties by Reading after a 0-0 draw. Sunderland, meanwhile, defeated Burnley 3-2 at the Stadium of Light, while Tottenham beat Blackburn 3-1 at White Hart Lane. Troy Deeney's goal gave Watford a 1-0 win over Derby County, while Manchester City won 2-0 at the Hawthorns despite being reduced to ten men after a Fernando's two footed lunge on Rondón. Burton Albion, meanwhile, secured a 1-0 win at Molineux.

Wednesday's fixtures saw Arsenal need penalties to get past an underachieving Newcastle side at the Emirates after a goalless draw. Championship high-flyers Brentford made short work of Millwall in a 3-1 win at Griffin Park, while Huddersfield pushed Bournemouth to extra time only to concede four goals without reply. Gaston Ramirez's strike secured a 1-0 win for Middlesbrough at Portman Road, while José Mourinho got revenge for his 2015 FA Cup humiliation with a 4-0 win over Bradford City at Old Trafford. QPR secured a 1-0 win over Preston, while Gylfi Sigurdsson scored a last minute equaliser and missed an injury time penalty before scoring in the shootout as Swansea eliminated Southampton in Wales. At the London Stadium, a Loris Karius own goal helped West Ham to a 2-1 win over Liverpool.

 

Thursday saw another setback for Chelsea as Asmir Begovic landed heavily in training and sustained a sprained ankle, ruling him out for up to four weeks. Although Begovic was a backup to Courtois, any injury or suspension to Chelsea's first choice keeper would leave Spencer having to rely on the services of third-choice keeper Eduardo.

 

Meanwhile, the Friday night game saw Leicester briefly go top after beating West Brom 2-1 at the King Power Stadium. The draw for the EFL Cup 4th round would see Chelsea travel to Middlesbrough, with the tie of the round being Arsenal against Manchester City.

Edited by Drogba11CFC

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Chelsea's next league game would be at Manchester City on 24th September 2016. The Blues had lost this fixture 3-0 the previous season, turning in an abject performance which would prove to be the shape of things to come. Wary of the threat posed by the home side, Spencer opted for a more defensive formation; he was also unable to call upon Eden Hazard, who was out with a broken toe. The hosts, meanwhile, were missing Fernando through suspension.

 

Man City:

Bravo

Zabaleta Kompany Otamendi Clichy

Gündogan

Fernandinho De Bruyne

Gabriel Jesus Agüero Silva

Substitutes: Caballero, Kolarov, Sterling, Iheanacho, Touré, Sagna, Nolito

 

Chelsea:

Courtois

Azpilicueta David Luiz Cahill Marcos Alonso

Matic

Fàbregas Kanté

Willian Costa Pedro

Substitutes: Eduardo, Gayà, Terry, Chalobah, Camacho, Moses, Batshuayi

 

The first real chance actually went to Chelsea in the fifth minute. A clearance from Courtois was knocked down to Fàbregas by the head of Willian. Fàbregas passed it to Azpilicueta, who sent the ball left to Matic. Matic played it to the feet of Kanté, whose long ball sent Pedro away down the left. Pedro drifted past Zabaleta before sending in a low cross which Diego Costa connected with. Costa came agonisingly close, the ball fizzing past the post.

 

Manchester City had their first chance in the ninth minute. Silva sent a low forward pass to Agüero, whose shot went sailing wide of the mark.

 

Chelsea survived a major scare in the fifteenth minute. David Silva ran onto Jesus's first time ball and crossed the ball low. The ball took a deflection off the foot of David Luiz and Courtois pushed it into the path of Agüero, who hit the post from two feet out before the ball was hacked clear.

 

In the twentieth minute, Kevin De Bruyne hit an audacious shot, which was saved by Courtois. A minute later, Marcos Alonso threw himself in front of a Gabriel Jesus shot.

 

In the 27th minute, a rare Chelsea attack saw Diego Costa feed in Kanté. Kanté was onside and through on goal, but Bravo came racing out before he could shoot.

 

In the 33rd minute, Chelsea looked to attack again. Willian played a one-two with Cahill from a free kick before dribbling to the edge of the area and hitting a blistering strike which Bravo was able to tip against the bar. Willian then tried again less than a minute later, with Bravo again making a save.

 

Kevin De Bruyne then had a shot in the 35th minute, which David Luiz blocked at the expense of a corner. From the corner, however, Kanté missed the clearance and Silva headed home from an acute angle.

 

Chelsea looked to equalise, and won a free kick in the 38th minute. Willian sent a long ball into the area, but Cahill's header was saved by Bravo.

 

Azpilicueta then entered the book for a trip on Silva. Silva had a free kick just before half time, which he sent over the bar.

 

In the 56th minute, a Chelsea attack broke down and De Bruyne sent a long ball for Agüero to chase. Agüero raced into the area before firing in a shot which Courtois couldn't hold. David Luiz came to the rescue and hoofed the ball clear. Agüero had another shot two minutes later, with similar results.

 

With fifteen minutes remaining, Camacho was brought on to replace Matic. Courtois then tipped a cross from Sterling wide, before Touré headed the resulting corner wide. With time running out, Spencer brought on Batshuayi and Moses for Costa and Fàbregas.

 

The next goal came a minute later...but not the way Spencer was hoping. David Silva threaded a pass to Agüero, who slipped through the Chelsea defence to double City's lead and put the result beyond doubt.

 

Touré could have added insult to injury in stoppage time, but his free kick went over the bar.

 

24th September 2016: Barclays Premier League - at Etihad Stadium, Manchester

Man City 2-0 Chelsea (Silva 36, Agüero 82)

Man of the Match: David Silva

 

We didn't even begin to play as well as we're capable of,” Spencer said in the press conference after the match. “It was disappointing in every department and nowhere near good enough.

 

The press were also scathing; Sid Collingwood was particularly critical of Spencer's caution, comparing him to “a gambler at the blackjack table who stands on a three and a two” while Garry Baker stated that “We simply didn't create enough chances. We need to learn how to play without Hazard because otherwise it could be a bleak six weeks.”

* * *

The three o'clock games saw some interesting results. A poor performance from Nathan Aké contributed to Bournemouth losing 4-0 at home to Arsenal as Olivier Giroud scored all four of Arsenal's goals. Hull secured a 1-1 draw against Watford, Abel Hernandez cancelling out Deeney's opener, while Crystal Palace picked up their first point of the season with a 0-0 draw at Stoke. Tottenham's local derby with West Ham also ended in a goalless draw, while the evening kickoff saw Manchester United defeat Everton 3-0 to go top of the league. Sunday saw Middlesbrough win 2-1 at Turf Moor, while Liverpool were held 0-0 by Southampton at Anfield. In the Monday night game, Swansea beat Sunderland 1-0 thanks to a Fernando Llorente goal.

 

League Table:


 

Pos

Inf

Team

Pld

Won

Drn

Lst

For

Ag

GD

Pts

1st

 

Man Utd

6

5

0

1

12

3

9

15

2nd

 

Man City

6

4

1

1

11

3

8

13

3rd

 

Watford

6

4

1

1

8

5

3

13

4th

 

Leicester

6

4

1

1

9

10

-1

13

5th

 

Arsenal

6

3

2

1

9

2

7

11

6th

 

Liverpool

6

3

1

2

15

10

5

10

7th

 

Tottenham

6

2

4

0

14

9

5

10

8th

 

Chelsea

6

3

1

2

12

8

4

10

9th

 

Burnley

6

3

1

2

7

7

0

10

10th

 

West Ham

6

2

3

1

11

5

6

9

11th

 

Southampton

6

2

3

1

10

8

2

9

12th

 

Bournemouth

6

2

2

2

5

7

-2

8

13th

 

Everton

6

2

1

3

8

11

-3

7

14th

 

Swansea

6

1

3

2

5

11

-6

6

15th

 

West Brom

6

1

2

3

9

9

0

5

16th

 

Middlesbrough

6

1

2

3

3

6

-3

5

17th

 

Stoke

6

1

2

3

4

8

-4

5

18th

 

Hull

6

0

2

4

4

15

-11

2

19th

 

Crystal Palace

6

0

1

5

0

9

-9

1

20th

 

Sunderland

6

0

1

5

1

11

-10

1


 

 

The European fixtures on Tuesday night saw Arsenal draw 2-2 away to a Dynamo Kiev side who ended up with two players being sent off, while Manchester City won 3-0 at PSV Eindhoven. On Wednesday, Tottenham drew 2-2 with Barcelona at White Hart Lane while Leicester won 3-1 at home to Bayer Leverkusen. Thursday's Europa League fixtures saw West Ham draw 1-1 with Braga after being reduced to ten men. Manchester United beat Qarabag 3-0 in Azerbaijan, while Southampton beat Young Boys 2-0 at St Mary's.

October looked like a tough month for Chelsea, as they would travel to champions Leicester before hosting Tottenham. A trip to Swansea would be followed by an EFL Cup tie at Middlesbrough, before a home fixture against Liverpool. In the Friday night game, a Salomón Rondón hat trick helped West Brom to a 3-1 win at Swansea.

Edited by Drogba11CFC

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Leicester City were the hosts for Chelsea's next match. The previous season, this fixture had proven to be Mourinho’s last as Chelsea manager, the “Special One” being sacked after a 2-1 defeat. Chelsea's situation was not as dire this time around, but a defeat would be far from ideal. Spencer abandoned the cautiousness from the Man City game, looking to control the match.

 

Leicester:

Zieler

Simpson Morgan Huth Fuchs

King Drinkwater

Mahrez Pereira Gray

Vardy

Substitutes: Schmeichel, Benalouane, Ndidi, Slimani, Albrighton, Amartey, Ulloa

 

Chelsea:

Courtois

Azpilicueta David Luiz Cahill Marcos Alonso

Matic Kanté

Willian Fàbregas Pedro

Diego Costa

Substitutes: Eduardo, Gayà, Terry, Chalobah, Camacho, Moses, Batshuayi

 

The match was barely a minute old when Chelsea won a free kick. Marcos Alonso found Kanté, who moved the ball on to Pedro. Pedro fed the ball into the danger area, where Fàbregas ran onto it and looked to centre. The ball, however, was deflected off Morgan into the path of King, whose clearance was intercepted by Matic. Matic passed to Willian, who took the ball inside before playing it to Costa's feet. Costa played a low pass into the area, and Kanté raced onto it before firing the ball past Zieler to score his first Chelsea goal. The side he'd done so against was not lost on either the Radio 5 Live or Sky Sports commentators, although his celebration was muted.

 

Chelsea looked to continue their flying start and on the sixth minute David Luiz got on the end of Pedro's free kick, only to hit the side netting.

 

Kanté then looked to double his tally in the ninth minute, receiving the ball from Alonso before setting off on a run to the edge of the area, before sending his shot off target.

 

Chelsea thought they'd doubled their lead in the 14th minute. David Luiz sent a free kick into the wall, but regained possession and found Fàbregas. Fàbregas passed low to Cahill, who fired home from 18 yards. However, Costa had moved too early, and the goal was disallowed.

 

Leicester had their first chance in the sixteenth minute. Mahrez lofted a free kick into the area, which Willian headed clear. Gray, however, won the ball from Pedro, and played it to Pereira. Pereira moved the ball onto Vardy, whose shot was blocked. Gray regained possession and took the ball into the D before passing to King. King passed to Mahrez, whose speculative effort was well saved by Courtois.

 

Leicester then had a free kick, which Willian was able to block.

 

In the 21st minute, Chelsea won a free kick for a foul on Costa. David Luiz beat the wall, but not Zieler.

 

Two minutes later, Mahrez fired a Leicester free kick over the bar.

 

Zieler then had to be on hand in the 26th minute, scrambling across to tip Willian's effort wide. Two minutes later, a throw in by Azpilicueta found Drinkwater, whose interception was intercepted by Matic. Matic flicked the ball onto Willian, who found Kanté to his left. Kanté looked to find Pedro, but the ball was intercepted by Simpson. Chelsea recovered, however, and David Luiz glanced a header on to Kanté, who ghosted past King before moving the ball forward for Pedro. Pedro raced into the area before sending in a cross. Costa got his head to it, but he sent it straight at Zieler. A minute later, Willian got down the wing and sent in a cross, which was deflected. Kanté got to the ball and went for glory, but Zieler was able to push it away.

 

Chelsea were dominating, and Leicester's chances were few and far between. In the 33rd minute, Mahrez found Drinkwater, who sent a shot straight at Courtois.

 

Chelsea had dominated the first half and at half time, Leicester brought on Islam Slimani for Matheus Pereira, hoping that the increased attacking options would bear fruit. The first chance of the half, however, went to Chelsea, but Willian sent the free kick over the bar from a promising position. Fàbregas also sent a shot wide two minutes later.

 

Leicester did have a chance in the 53rd minute, but King sent his shot straight at Courtois.

 

In the 56th minute, Willian took the ball down the right before sending it into the area. Costa's shot was blocked by Morgan and struck the post before Drinkwater cleared it ahead of the onrushing Fàbregas. That would be Drinkwater's last contribution, as he was then replaced by Wilfred Ndidi.

 

In the 59th minute, a good ball into the box found Vardy. Vardy whipped it into the mix for Mahrez, whose volley fizzled past the post.

 

Chelsea then went up the other end and won a free kick, which Willian fired over the bar, before Leicester replaced Gray with Albrighton. In the 66th minute, Albrighton teed up Vardy, whose pot shot was easily saved by Courtois. A minute later, Willian's free kick was blocked by King.

 

Willian had another chance in the 74th minute, running onto a perfect pass from Diego Costa before hitting his shot straight at Zieler. Spencer then looked to close out the game, replacing Matic with Camacho.

 

With just over ten minutes left, Wes Morgan got his head to Mahrez's corner, but sent his header over the bar. With four minutes left, Willian was replaced by Victor Moses.

 

A minute later, Fàbregas sent in a corner, Ndidi intercepted, but Costa regained possession and crossed the ball to Pedro, whose header was hacked clear by Huth.

 

In the 90th minute, Zieler’s free kick found Mahrez, who ran into Cahill. Cahill found Costa, who passed to Fàbregas. Kanté then took over, before passing ahead to Pedro. Pedro, wide open, sent a cross to the far post, where Moses arrived to volley home.

 

In stoppage time, Pedro found Fàbregas, who found Moses in front of him. Moses played it to Costa, who got into the area before being tripped by Morgan. Anthony Taylor pointed to the spot, and David Luiz sent the ball beyond the outstretched arm of Zieler to make it three.

 

1st October 2016, 17:30: Barclays Premier League - at King Power Stadium, Leicester

Leicester 0-3 Chelsea (Kanté 2, Moses 90, David Luiz 90+2 pen)

Man of the Match: Diego Costa

 

The lunchtime kick off had seen Manchester City defeat Arsenal 3-1, before a good performance by Nathan Aké helped Bournemouth to a 1-0 win over Everton. Burnley and Watford played out a 2-2 draw, while an Abel Hernandez brace saw Hull defeat Crystal Palace 2-1. Tottenham remained unbeaten, beating Middlesbrough 4-1. The Sunday fixtures, meanwhile saw Sunderland beat Southampton 3-1. Liverpool avenged their EFL Cup defeat with a 4-1 win over West Ham, while Stoke held Man Utd to a 0-0 draw.

 

Over the course of the week, Ruben Loftus-Cheek resumed full training after his back injury. The following weekend, however, Marcos Alonso was taken ill with food poisoning. The international fixtures saw England rack up wins over Lithuania and Malta.

 

The following Monday, Kurt Zouma finally resumed full training after suffering damaged cruciate ligaments against Manchester United the previous season. However, it would be a while until he would be fit enough for the first team, so he was put in the reserves.

Edited by Drogba11CFC

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Chelsea's first game after the international break was against bitter rivals Tottenham Hotspur. The fixture between the two sides last season had been a very bad-tempered affair, with Chelsea coming from two goals down to snatch a point and end Tottenham's title challenge. However, the moving of the fixture to Friday night forced Spencer's hand, as neither David Luiz nor Gary Cahill had recovered enough to play the full 90 minutes. In the end, Spencer elected to give Terry his first start of the season, and switch Luiz with Cahill at half time. He took some consolation in the fact that the visitors, who were missing Kyle Walker through injury, would also have stamina problems.

 

Chelsea:

Courtois

Azpilicueta Terry David Luiz Marcos Alonso

Matic Kanté

Willian Fàbregas Pedro

Diego Costa

Substitutes: Eduardo, Gayà, Cahill, Chalobah, Camacho, Moses, Batshuayi

 

Tottenham:

Lloris

Dier Alderweireld Vertonghen Davies

Alli Wanyama

Lamela Eriksen Son

Kane

Substitutes: López, Rose, Dembélé, Janssen, Sissoko, Wimmer, Winks

 

Signs were ominous as early as the third minute when Lamela hit a shot which Courtois was unable to gather cleanly. In the eighth minute, Dier's free kick was blocked by Matic, but Eriksen took the ball down before firing a bullet into the opposite corner from just outside the box. Harry Kane then nearly doubled Tottenham's lead, sending his shot wide of the post.

 

Chelsea's first real chance did not materialize until the 21st minute. Matic knocked the ball down the line to Willian, who sent a low pass into the area. Costa controlled it before trying an audacious shot, but Lloris was able to save it.

 

Eriksen then sent a free kick wide, before Costa ran onto a pass from Fàbregas only to send his shot wide. Lamela then blasted a shot wide in the 28th minute following a Tottenham corner.

 

In the 41st minute, Tottenham were awarded a free kick. Eriksen’s shot beat Courtois, but struck the post. However, before Chelsea could clear, Alderweireld raced in to pounce on the rebound and double Tottenham's lead.

 

Alderweireld nearly made it three just before half time, but his header was held by Courtois.

 

In the 58th minute, a tiring David Luiz was replaced by Cahill. Matic then went into Stuart Atwell’s book for a foul on Kane.

 

Tottenham then made two changes of their own, with Kevin Wimmer and Moussa Dembélé replacing Vertonghen and Dele Alli. The latter came on to a chorus of boos from the home supporters, who had not forgotten his eye gouge on Diego Costa the previous season.

 

Spencer, looking to increase attacking options, threw Batshuayi on for Matic in the 63rd minute. Willian then saw a free kick charged down by Kane, before Kanté had an effort turned over the bar by Lloris.

 

Willian then had another free kick, which was held by Lloris, before Danny Rose replaced Son Heung-Min.

 

Chelsea were attacking, but with nothing to show for it, as John Terry connected with Pedro's free kick only for Lloris to hold onto it. Costa then ran onto Pedro's header and got past Alderweireld before blasting in a shot which Lloris managed to turn behind. From the corner, Cahill sent his header off target.

 

In the 79th minute, Marcos Alonso was shown a yellow card, for a trip on Lamela.

 

Tottenham then took the initiative. An audacious shot by Danny Rose skimmed the top of the bar, before Eriksen sent a free kick wide. At this point, quite a few of the home supporters had seen enough, and started heading for the exits.

 

In the 85th minute, Azpilicueta was booked for a foul on Rose. The final whistle eventually capped off a miserable evening for Chelsea, bringing their unbeaten run against Tottenham at Stamford Bridge to an end.

 

14th October 2016, 20:00: Barclays Premier League - at Stamford Bridge, London

Chelsea 0-2 Tottenham Hotspur (Eriksen 8, Alderweireld 41)

Man of the Match: Christian Eriksen

 

As he made his way down the tunnel, Spencer was taken aside by Geoff Shreeves of Sky Sports.

That result; obviously a disappointment, but what did you make of the performance?

Well, to any fans still watching, I want to apologise for that performance. It was nowhere near acceptable.” Spencer responded, before entering the dressing room.

 

In the post match press conference, Spencer admitted that “We were our own worst enemies out there. It's the fans I feel sorry for; I know how much these games mean to them.”

 

Although Spencer had kept his cool during the conference, and Pochettino admitted that “he handled himself very well during and after the match and I've got no problem with him at all”, Sid Collingwood wrote in his match report in The Sun “You could almost see the steam emitting from Spencer's ears when he entered the press room. It was as though he'd spent his post match team talk channelling Sir Alex Ferguson, and you can't really blame him after such an abject display.” Collingwood was half right; in an interview with BBC London, Nemanja Matic admitted, “Understandably, the gaffer was absolutely furious. He let us know in no uncertain terms that he wasn't happy, that we'd let the fans and ourselves down, and he'd be ringing the changes for the Swansea game.

One fan even stated on social media “I think I hate Chelsea even more than I hate Tottenham after this

 

In the Saturday fixtures, Manchester City's third successive lunchtime kickoff saw them win 3-0 at Selhurst Park over a Crystal Palace side who remained bottom of the table. Burnley pulled off a massive shock as André Gray's goal eight minutes from time gave them a 1-0 win at the Emirates, while a Charlie Austin hat trick helped Southampton to a 4-1 win at home to Stoke.

Watford continued their good start with a 2-0 win at home to Leicester, while West Ham and Sunderland drew 0-0 at the London Stadium. In the evening kickoff, three goals in seven minutes sent Liverpool on their way to a 3-1 win at The Hawthorns. In Sunday's fixtures, Middlesbrough beat Swansea 1-0 at The Riverside, before Manchester United beat Bournemouth 5-1 at Old Trafford. In the Monday Night game, a double from Lukaku saw Everton beat Hull 2-0.

 

In the Champions League, Arsenal managed to strike lucky with a surprise 2-0 win at the Bernabeu, emulating their triumph there in 2006, while Manchester City defeated Villarreal 3-1 at the Etihad Stadium. Wednesday's fixtures saw Leicester beaten 3-1 at home by Shakhtar Donetsk, while Tottenham got their first win of the competition with a 3-0 win in Warsaw. Elsewhere, former Chelsea striker Fernando Torres helped Atletico Madrid to a 2-1 win at Juventus Stadium.

In the Europa League on Thursday night, West Ham came back from going 2-0 down in the first ten minutes to grab a 2-2 draw in Monaco, but were unable to get a third even though the hosts had to play 53 minutes with nine men. Manchester United continued their perfect start with a 3-1 win over Feyenoord, but at the cost of an injury to Zlatan Ibrahimovic which would rule him out of the upcoming Manchester derby. Southampton, meanwhile, lost 2-1 to Fiorentina at Artemio Franchi.

On Friday night, Crystal Palace continued their sorry start to the season as another late André Gray goal saw Burnley defeat them 1-0 at Turf Moor.

 

Edited by Drogba11CFC

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Spencer wielded the axe following Chelsea's display against Tottenham. Costa, Fàbregas and Alonso were all dropped to the bench for the trip to Swansea, while Gayà, Camacho and Batshuayi came in. For the latter two, it was their first start of the season.

 

Swansea had the first chance in the third minute, Fernández getting up above Gayà to send a header off target from a Narsingh free kick.

 

From the resulting goal kick, Chelsea attacked, and Batshuayi found Willian, whose shot was tipped wide by former Arsenal keeper Fabianski.

 

In the sixth minute, a Gylfi Sigurdsson free kick was blocked by Willian. Chelsea broke away down the left, but the attack broke down.

 

Swansea had another free kick in the tenth minute, which was blocked by Matic. Matic was then booked by Mark Clattenburg in the twelfth minute, ruling him out of the EFL Cup tie at Middlesbrough and thus clearing his tally for the upcoming game against Liverpool.

 

Pedro had a chance in the fourteenth minute, but he couldn't direct his shot goalwards. In the seventeenth minute, he ran onto a pass by Kanté, but sent that one wide as well.

 

Chelsea were dominating, and had a chance in the eighteenth minute. Camacho's shot was blocked by Amat, but the loose ball came to Willian, whose first time shot was tipped wide by Fabianski.

 

Five minutes later, however, Willian made it count. A Swansea attack broke down, and a long ball from Cahill found the head of Pedro. Pedro's header was intercepted by Roca, who played it back to the defence, but Camacho won the ball back from Fernández's clearance. Kanté sent a hefty long ball to Batshuayi and, although it was intercepted by Amat, won it back and laid it left to Pedro. Pedro played it to Camacho, who won the tussle with Ki Sung-Yeung and passed to Batshuayi. Batshuayi played a lovely ball to Willian, who slotted the ball into the bottom corner to give Chelsea the lead.

 

Two minutes later, Willian nearly turned provider, feeding the ball through to Pedro, whose audacious shot was held by Fabianski.

 

In the 40th minute, Fabianski had to be on hand again to save a speculative effort from Pedro.

 

In the 55th minute, a rare Swansea chance saw Fernández send another header off target, before Routledge replaced Sigurdsson.

 

Fernández then picked up a yellow card for impeding Pedro, before Jack Cork was replaced by Tom Carroll. Llorente then went off, being replaced by Bastón. Chelsea also made their first substitution, replacing Batshuayi with Diego Costa.

 

The game had largely quietened down but Chelsea were in complete control and, in the 76th minute, Willian sent a cross into the box, with Pedro's half volley being denied by Fabianski. With ten minutes remaining, Matic left the pitch to be replaced by Fàbregas.

 

Fàbregas then nearly turned provider in the 83rd minute, teeing up Costa, who took the ball to the edge of the area before going for glory. The shot, however, was tipped away by Fàbregas.

 

Bastón had a chance with three minutes to go, but he steered his header wide after beating David Luiz in the air. Chelsea then brought on Loftus-Cheek for Camacho, before Carroll, Gayà and Amat all picked up yellow cards while Fernández steered a header wide. While the scoreline suggested a tense game, it was only Fabianski who had prevented Chelsea from running away with it, while Swansea had been unable to muster a single shot on target.

 

22nd October 2016, 15:00: Barclays Premier League - at Liberty Stadium, Swansea

Swansea City 0-1 Chelsea (Willian 23)

Man of the Match: Willian

 

Swansea City (4-3-3): Fabianski; Naughton, Fernández, Amat, Olsson; Cork (Carroll 61), Roca, Ki; Narsingh, Llorente (Bastón 66), Sigurdsson (Routledge 55)

Subs not used: Nordfeldt, Hoorn, Britton, Mawson

Booked: Fernández, Amat, Carroll

Chelsea (4-3-3): Courtois, Azpilicueta, David Luiz, Cahill, Gayà; Matic (Fàbregas 80), Camacho (Loftus-Cheek 90), Kanté; Willian, Batshuayi (Diego Costa 66), Pedro

Subs not used: Begovic, Marcos Alonso, Terry, Moses

Booked: Gayà, Matic

Attendance: 20,750

 

Following the match, opinions were mixed. One supporter claimed “Always a sign of a dull match when the defenders are the ones getting the praise!” While another was less critical, saying “Superb performance that, defended really well and looked decent going forward as well. Great stuff!

Spencer, in the post-match press conference, said “I'm very happy with our defensive play today; we had a good shape, good organisation and we were decisive in every way.

In the other games, a brace from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain helped Arsenal to a 4-0 win at Leicester, while Callum Wilson's double saw Bournemouth defeat Stoke 2-1 at Dean Court. Liverpool defeated Middlesbrough 3-0 at Anfield, while Sunderland's 1-0 home win over West Brom saw them climb out of the relegation zone. Tottenham drew 1-1 at home to Watford thanks to a second half equaliser by Vincent Wanyama, while a Robles own goal proved the difference in Man City's 2-1 win over Everton. Both the Sunday games resulted in away wins; Anthony Martial scored a brace in Man Utd’s 3-0 win at Hull, while Southampton won 2-1 at West Ham.

Edited by Drogba11CFC

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Chelsea travelled to Middlesbrough for their EFL Cup 4th round tie with a largely scratch side. Spencer could ill afford to risk an injury to a first teamer with Liverpool on the horizon, so he once again rotated his side; Ignacio Camacho,  José Gayà and Michy Batshuayi retained their spots from the Swansea game, while Kurt Zouma made his first appearance since March and Ruben Loftus-Cheek made his first appearance of the season.

in the eighth minute, Stuani hit a shot straight at Courtois. Chelsea then went up the other end, Pedro feeding in Kanté, who dribbled to the edge of the box before his tame shot was gathered up by former Barcelona keeper Victor Valdés. In the tenth minute, Moses pounced on the loose ball after a Batshuayi effort was blocked, but Friend got himself in front of the shot.

Camacho then had a chance a minute later, receiving the ball from Loftus-Cheek before hitting a powerful strike which was parried by Valdés. Moses got to the loose ball, but nobody was there to receive his cross.

It looked as though a goal was coming, but nobody suspected which way it would go. In the seventeenth minute, Middlesbrough were awarded a free kick. Ontiveros delivered it into the area, and out-jumped Zouma to send the ball into the net off the upright.

Chelsea had a free kick of their own in the 24th minute, but Pedro's shot was easily gathered by Valdés. Another free kick, in the 39th minute, was taken by Batshuayi, but Valdés got across to save it as it was heading for the top corner.

Camacho then went into the book, for a trip on Stuani.

Chelsea were doing everything aside from score, and in the 44th minute Pedro saw a pot-shot blocked by De Roon. De Roon then received a yellow card for a foul on Moses.

The second half saw Chelsea determined to level things up and almost immediately, Loftus-Cheek tried to trip Valdés from the centre circle; his effort going wide.Viktor Fischer then entered the book for a foul on Camacho.

Batshuayi then had a chance just after the hour mark, as he ran onto a pass by Kanté only to send his shot wide. That was his last action, as he was withdrawn for Raúl Jiménez.

Jiménez then played in Kanté, who went on a long run before passing to Pedro. Pedro passed to Gayà, whose half volley was saved by Valdés. Fry's long ball, however, was cut out by Camacho, who headed it to Kanté. Kanté then ran to the edge of the box before having an effort, which Valdés got across to tip wide.

Leadbitter then went into the book, for a foul on Kanté. Moses took the resulting free kick, but he sent it over the bar.

Pedro then played a one-two with Jiménez, before sending a shot wide.

As time ticked on, Chelsea kept coming forward. In the 73rd minute, Pedro played the ball to Kanté, who raced to the edge of the box before having a shot which was again saved by Valdés. Camacho was then replaced by Fabregas as Chelsea looked to increase their attacking options.

With ten minutes remaining, Chelsea took Kanté off for Chalobah. Jose Gaya then tried his luck, firing well wide from a tight angle. With six minutes to go, a Chelsea corner was cleared as far as Moses, whose low effort was turned behind by Valdés. Zouma then tried to take matters into his own hands from distance, sending the ball straight at Valdés.

With four minutes remaining, a long ball by Azpilicueta found Moses, who made a brilliant run into the area before hitting a hopeful looking shot which hit the side netting. Then, with a minute to go, Pedro had a pop from distance, which was saved by Valdés.

25th October 2016, 19:45: EFL Cup 4th round - at The Riverside Stadium, Middlesbrough

Middlesbrough 1-0 Chelsea (Ferreira 17)

Man of the Match: Flávio Ferreira

Elsewhere, Manchester City went through to the next round with a penalty shoot-out victory at the Emirates, while Swansea won 1-0 at home to Reading and Bournemouth won on penalties at Vicarage Road. Wednesday night saw West Ham win 3-0 at Burton Albion, while a Georges-Kévin Nkoudou brace saw Tottenham win 2-0 at Goodison Park. Sunderland pulled off a major shock at Old Trafford, going 2-0 up in the first half before winning 7-6 on penalties (they would be drawn at home to Manchester City in round 5) while Brentford won 1-0 at QPR.

 

 

Edited by Drogba11CFC

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Chelsea would play Liverpool on the 28th October, a year to the weekend since the corresponding fixture last season. In that fixture, Liverpool had won 3-1 and an interview with a fan channel had resulted in one Chelsea supporter losing his job at an insurance firm.

Spencer would meet the press a day before the match, and Sid Collingwood brought up the rivalry between the two clubs, which was competitive rather than geographic.

We've played Liverpool a lot down the years and it almost always meant something. I mean, who can forget the 3-2 in 2008? Or the 4-4 the following season, how can that not be great to experience?

Steven Moore of the Daily Mail then asked about the Manchester Derby.

I just can't see United winning that game. Not without Ibrahimovic.

Dan Levene of Get West London then asked about whether it might be hard to control the players passion.

They've been reminded of their professional requirements.

 

...kick off in that game is at eight o’clock, we will have live coverage here on BBC Radio London, and we now go to the tunnel at Stamford Bridge where our reporter Sam Drury is with George Spencer.

Thanks Nick. Mr Spencer, it's a big day all round; how much do you look forward to taking on your rivals?

Well, it's always a tremendous occasion and the atmosphere is something to behold. Hopefully we can harness the energy and intensity of the day and send the fans home happy.

 

So Jamie (Carragher), your prediction?

Well, I know this will come across as biased but I can't see anything other than a Liverpool win. Chelsea have been a bit shaky lately and the absence of Hazard will be crucial in my book. I think 2-1 Liverpool.

 

Chelsea

Courtois

Azpilicueta David Luiz Cahill Marcos Alonso

Matic Kanté

Willian Fàbregas Pedro

Diego Costa

Substitutes: Begovic Gayà Terry Camacho Moses Chalobah Batshuayi

 

Liverpool

Karius

Clyne Matip Lovren Moreno

Wijnaldum Henderson

Mané Lallana Coutinho

Firmino

Substitutes: Mignolet, Klavan, Milner, Origi, Can, Stewart, Lucas

 

Referee: Lee Mason

 

Liverpool attacked from the kick off and it nearly bore fruit. Philippe Coutinho played a one-two with Henderson before setting off on a run before passing back to Wijnaldum. Wijnaldum passed back to Matip, before finding Mané on the right. Mané cut inside, taking the ball to the edge of the area before shooting straight at Courtois. Chelsea looked to counter, but Costa was upended by Lovren, who received a yellow card.

 

In the fifth minute, a pass from Mané to Firmino was intercepted by Matic, who drove the ball ahead of Pedro. Pedro got away from Matip before cutting inside on the box and shooting from an acute angle, but Karius did well to tip the ball behind. A minute later, Fàbregas was upended by Moreno on the edge of the box, earning the Liverpool defender a yellow card. Willian's free kick was saved by Karius, although he couldn't hold onto it.

 

Chelsea had been looking to assert themselves, but the pendulum swung in the eleventh minute. Clyne angled a throw in down the line for Mané, who passed to Henderson. Henderson passed to Wijnaldum, who found Firmino. Firmino angled a 30 yard pass to Coutinho on the left, and Coutinho played it right to Wijnaldum. Wijnaldum found Lallana, who pinged it first time to Firmino. Firmino slipped the ball in to Mané, who fired a shot into the roof of the net, despite Courtois getting his fingertips to it, to cap off a superb team move, as Alan Smith on Sky Sports commented “Now that's football!

 

Liverpool then nearly made it two, as Henderson searched out Moreno first time. Moreno got past Azpilicueta before having a go from a tight angle, which Courtois did well to tip wide. In the twentieth minute, Coutinho pulled up with a calf strain.

 

Liverpool were on top, and in the 21st minute Sadio Mané's low cross nearly deflected into the net off Cahill, but the fingertips of Courtois diverted it and Azpilicueta cleared. In the 27th minute, Courtois had to be on hand to turn a Lallana shot behind.

 

Although Liverpool had the upper hand, Costa was still tormenting the defence, and Wijnaldum received a yellow card in the 29th minute for a foul on the target man.

 

Chelsea then started to look more dangerous, and in the 33rd minute Costa played a pass to Willian, who fed the ball to the left ahead of Fàbregas. Fàbregas played in Kanté, whose shot was secured by Karius.

 

In the 35th minute, Pedro found Fàbregas to his right. Fàbregas was dispossessed by Henderson, and Wijnaldum looked for a first time ball to Firmino. Cahill, however, made a great interception and sent a high, searching volley forward. Diego Costa timed his run to perfection and got into the area before hitting a first time volley into the net, giving Karius no chance and sending the crowd wild. As “Diego, Diego, Diego” reverberated around Stamford Bridge, Martin Tyler described the goal as “Glorious stuff, and the assist from Cahill deserves a second viewing as well”.

 

Right from the kick off, Liverpool lost possession as Willian intercepted a pass by Matip. He then found Costa, who looked for Kanté to his left. Kanté was dispossessed just inside the area, but Pedro got to the loose ball and shot from a tight angle, with Karius managing to save.

 

In the 42nd minute, a pass from Diego Costa found Fàbregas, who whose hopeful shot from distance was well wide. In the 45th minute, Mané played the ball to Lallana, who put a hopeful shot wide. Lallana then pulled up with a dead leg.

 

Lallana was taken off at half time and replaced by Origi, before Pedro hit a shot at Karius in the opening seconds of the half. Origi then looked to set up Mané, who played in Firmino. Firmino sent a bullet at the top corner which Courtois did well to save, before Mané's attempted cross back was cleared by David Luiz. Coutinho then sent a free kick sailing over the bar.

 

Coutinho had been playing on a calf strain since the 20th minute and pulled up in the 51st, forcing Klopp to replace him with James Milner. A Liverpool counter-attack then resulted in Origi hitting a first time effort which went harmlessly wide.

 

In the 58th minute, a trip on Origi earned Marcos Alonso a yellow card, with the Firmino sending the free kick at the wall before Alonso was able to dispossess Clyne and clear. Liverpool then had another free kick, which he sent too high.

 

In the 64th minute, a tackle by Matip on Kanté saw the ball break to Pedro. Pedro outpaced Clyne and wriggled away from Matip before crossing the ball to the far post, where Costa arrived to volley the ball home.

 

However, Liverpool attacked from the off. Clyne’s cross into the area was headed clear by David Luiz, but Lee Mason spotted a push on Milner by the defender and pointed to the spot, to the disbelief of the home supporters. James Milner stepped up and although Courtois went the right way, he couldn't get there.

 

Almost immediately afterwards, a pass by Matip found Clyne. Clyne passed it forward to Mané, who was tripped by Alonso. Lee Mason blew for a foul and was called Alonso over, pulling the yellow card - Alonso's second - out of his pocket as he walked towards the full back. Spencer opted to sacrifice Willian, bringing José Gayà on.

 

As Chelsea fans were wondering if things could get any worse, they almost did. Jordan Henderson sent the ball into the area and Matip seemed to have connected to give Liverpool the lead. However, Matip had been offside, and the goal was ruled out.

 

Chelsea then went up the other end, and Pedro's long ball found Costa. Costa, on a hat trick, was one-on-one with only Karius to beat, but he couldn't get enough on his attempt to chip Karius, and the Liverpool keeper caught it. Costa then fed in Pedro, whose shot sailed wide of the mark.

 

In the 72nd minute, Firmino had a great chance to score, but he sent his shot wide. Two minutes later, Henderson sent a free kick over the bar.

 

With fifteen minutes remaining, Kanté fed in Costa, who ran into the area before having an effort which Karius pushed away. Liverpool then made their third change, replacing Lovren with Klavan.

 

In the 79th minute, Milner played in Firmino, whose shot hit the side netting. The match ran out of steam in the last ten minutes, as Camacho replaced Fàbregas in the ninetieth minute, but a draw was arguably a fair result.

 

28th October 2016, 20:00: Barclays Premier League - at Stamford Bridge, London

Chelsea 2-2 Liverpool (Diego Costa 35, 64, Marcos Alonso s/o 66; Mané 11, Milner pen 65)

Man of the Match: Diego Costa

 

You were unlucky out there,” Spencer said in the dressing room after the match. “I felt that you were good enough to get three points. Diego, that was a superb performance.

He then beckoned to Marcos Alonso. “A word please, Alonso.

 

Getting yourself sent off like that was not acceptable,” Spencer said in the tactics room. “Not only was that your second sending off of the season, you were booked twice in two minutes. I gave you a warning the first time it happened, so you're fined a week's wages.

 

David Luiz made a mistake today which led to Liverpool's equaliser,” said Tom Clarke of the Mirror. “How do you think the incident will affect him?

He'll recover,” Spencer replied. “He'll bounce back better than ever.”

You must have been proud of how your side reacted to the red card,” put in Craig Charlesworth, “especially the spirit they showed in achieving that result.

Yes, it was a magnificent effort and I'm delighted. They worked their socks off and were rewarded for their efforts.

We all enjoyed Diego Costa's first goal,” said Steven Moore, “It must have been fantastic to see one of your players score a goal like that. How did you rate it?

That's what he's capable of - it was a magnificent strike from a magnificent player.”

And his performance?

He was the best player on the pitch and absolutely faultless.

Jurgen Klopp admitted that Liverpool needed “a bit of luck here and there” and also that Costa had been “a class apart”.

On social media, Chelsea fans also raved about Costa, one of them simply stating “I love Diego Costa.

 

The Manchester Derby on Saturday lunchtime saw United run out 4-1 winners at Old Trafford. Ander Herrera opened the scoring in the eighteenth minute, and although Leroy Sané equalised midway through the second half, United then blitzed their opponents with a brace from Anthony Martial and a goal from Chris Smalling, despite a late red card for Herrera. One Manchester City fan claimed that he “nearly threw my season ticket at Guardiola. Absolutely fuming.”, while another stated, “We should have our tickets refunded and the players should pay for it, disgraceful performance in a derby match.”

 

In the other games, Crystal Palace and Leicester played out a 1-1 draw at Selhurst Park, while Everton and Burnley drew 0-0 at Goodison. Stoke beat Hull 2-0 at the Britannia Stadium, while a brace from Troy Deeney was enough for Watford to beat Swansea 2-1. However, the North London Derby saw the occurrence of “Invincibles day” as an Eric Dier own goal proved the difference in Arsenal's 2-1 win at the Emirates.

 

Sunday's fixtures saw Bournemouth win the South Coast Derby 1-0 at St Mary's, while a late André Ayew winner saw West Ham win 2-1 at The Hawthorns. The Monday night game saw Sunderland win 1-0 at Middlesbrough.

League Table (October)

Pos

Inf

Team

Pld

Won

Drn

Lst

For

Ag

GD

Pts

1st

 

Man Utd

10

8

1

1

24

5

19

25

2nd

 

Man City

10

7

1

2

20

9

11

22

3rd

 

Watford

10

6

3

1

15

9

6

21

4th

 

Liverpool

10

6

2

2

27

14

13

20

5th

 

Burnley

10

5

3

2

11

9

2

18

6th

 

Tottenham

10

4

5

1

22

13

9

17

7th

 

Arsenal

10

5

2

3

16

7

9

17

8th

 

Chelsea

10

5

2

3

18

12

6

17

9th

 

Bournemouth

10

5

2

3

10

13

-3

17

10th

 

Southampton

10

4

3

3

17

14

3

15

11th

 

Leicester

10

4

2

4

10

20

-10

14

12th

 

West Ham

10

3

4

3

15

12

3

13

13th

 

Everton

10

3

2

5

11

14

-3

11

14th

 

Sunderland

10

3

2

5

6

12

-6

11

15th

 

Stoke

10

2

3

5

8

14

-6

9

16th

 

West Brom

10

2

2

6

14

16

-2

8

17th

 

Middlesbrough

10

2

2

6

5

14

-9

8

18th

 

Swansea

10

1

3

6

7

18

-11

6

19th

 

Hull

10

1

2

7

6

23

-17

5

20th

 

Crystal Palace

10

0

2

8

2

16

-14

2

In the Champions League, Tuesday saw Leicester demolish Shakhtar 5-1 in Lviv, while Tottenham defeated Legia Warsaw 5-0. Wednesday saw Manchester City win 3-2 away to Villarreal, while Arsenal survived an red card to draw 1-1 at home to Real Madrid. In the Europa League, Southampton defeated Fiorentina 2-1; the Daily Mail later published a story featuring the Fiorentina players training on the pitch of Southern League side Winchester City the following day. Elsewhere, West Ham lost 3-1 at home to Monaco. Manchester United won 4-0 away to Feyenoord. In the Friday night fixture, Bournemouth won 2-0 at Hull to briefly move into the top five.

Edited by Drogba11CFC

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Chelsea travelled to Sunderland badly needing a win to get their title aspirations back on track. However, not only would they be without Marcos Alonso, who was not only suspended for two games but out for a month with a hernia, but also Cesc Fàbregas, who had sustained a thigh strain in training. Spencer opted to drop the midfield slightly deeper, with Camacho behind Kanté and Matic.

 

Before the match, Sunderland mascot Bradley Lowery took a shot against Begovic, who theatrically dived the wrong way.

 

Chelsea asserted themselves from the start and in the fourteenth minute, a throw in by Gayà found Pedro. Pedro played a low pass to Camacho, who couldn't get his half volley on target.

 

In the nineteenth minute, Khazri fed the ball through to Defoe, who beat David Luiz before firing a shot which Courtois did well to turn behind. From the corner, Anichebe beat Kanté in the air, only to send the header off target.

 

In the 22nd minute, David Luiz intercepted a header by Anichebe and played the ball forward to Willian. Willian hit the ball left to Kanté, who ran into Cattermole. Camacho, however, intercepted, and played the ball to Diego Costa. Costa passed to Pedro, who sent a 30 yard ball to Willian. Willian ghosted past Carole before sending a cross to the far post, where Pedro tucked away the ball from a tight angle to give Chelsea the lead for his first goal of the season.

 

Four minutes later, a free kick from Cahill found Pedro, who cut inside before playing a one-two with Costa. He then fed the ball to Kanté, who found himself with plenty of space and lofted the ball over Pickford from the same position Pedro scored from to double Chelsea's lead.

 

Willian nearly made it three in the 32nd minute, firing a free kick straight at Pickford. In the 35th minute, Kanté passed the ball to Costa, whose shot was saved by Pickford.

 

Chelsea were rampant, and in the 36th minute, Kanté found the overlapping José Gayà, who sent a cross to the near post. Costa got to it, and saw his header skim the top of the bar.

 

A minute later, Cattermole was the first to enter Mike Jones’ book, for a foul on Cahill. Lescott followed four minutes later, for a trip on Costa.

 

Jermaine Defoe had been playing on an injury and was replaced by Bryan Oviedo for the second half. Sunderland had two chances in the opening five minutes, Carole hitting a speculative effort clean over the bar before Courtois saved a shot from Anichebe.

 

Sunderland then had a free kick, which was headed clear by Azpilicueta. Morales got to the ball first and crossed it back in, but David Luiz headed clear and Willian took the ball to the halfway line before passing to Azpilicueta. Azpilicueta passed to Kanté as Chelsea came forward with real purpose, and Kanté got to the edge of the area before Koné looked to clear. The clearance, however, deflected off Kanté into the path of Willian, who fired the ball into the net from the narrowest of angles for his fifth goal of the season.

 

In the 62nd minute, a long pass by Kanté found Diego Costa, whose shot was saved by Pickford.

 

In the 67th minute, a free kick by Khazri cannoned off Matic and was tipped over by Courtois.

 

With fifteen minutes left, a pass by Matic found Willian, who played in Costa. Costa hit an optimistic long-range attempt, which went flying over the bar. At this point, some of the Sunderland supporters had seen enough, and began to leave.

 

With thirteen minutes to go, Willian fed in Costa, whose snapshot was tipped behind by Pickford. That would be Costa's last contribution, as he and Matic were then withdrawn to make way for Batshuayi and Loftus-Cheek.

 

With six minutes left, Azpilicueta threw the ball to Loftus-Cheek, who found Kanté. Kanté had a shot, which hit the side netting. With four minutes left, Willian sent a cross to the far post. Pedro got up to head at goal, but his header missed the target.

 

5th November 2016, 15:00: Barclays Premier League - at Stadium of Light, Sunderland

Sunderland 0-3 Chelsea (Pedro 22, Kanté 26, Willian 51)

Man of the Match: Willian

 

Can you explain Diego Costa's bad day in front of goal?” Chronicle Live’s Shaun Smith - notorious for being regarded as extremely boring - asked in the post-match press conference.

We'll just have to move on quickly. Even the best players have bad days at the office.”

 

In the lunchtime kick off, Manchester City comfortably dispatched Stoke 3-0, while Leicester defeated Everton 2-0. Watford, meanwhile, pulled off a major shock with a 3-2 win at Anfield, going 3-0 up before Liverpool scored twice to give their fans hope. Tottenham defeated Crystal Palace 2-1, ensuring that the Eagles were still winless, while Arsenal won 3-0 at Swansea. The Sunday fixtures saw Middlesbrough win 3-2 at the London Stadium, with Manchester United winning 3-0 at Turf Moor and West Brom beating Southampton 1-0 at The Hawthorns.

* * *

Spencer had been hoping for a quiet week with the international weekend, but on Monday there was a knock at his office door.

Come in.”

Diego Costa walked into the room. “Boss, I've become aware that Manchester City are interested in me and wanted to ask permission to speak with them if they make a bid. It would give me a chance of playing Champions League football.”

But a bid hasn't been made,” Spencer responded. “If you keep your head down and concentrate on your performances rather than thinking about bids that haven't been made, I don't see any reason why you couldn't play in the Champions League here.”

I can do that,” Costa answered. “I'll give it my all to help us qualify but if we fail I'm going to want a move.”

Not to them, you won't,” Spencer thought to himself. “I'm not going to be selling to a club in the same league, and I'll want a very hefty fee for you as well.”

He picked up the telephone.

Hello, Piet?” he said. “Could you please scout the following players for me: André Silva, Antoine Greizmann, Marcus Rashford, Andrea Belotti, Callum Wilson, Troy Deeney, Mauro Icardi and Domenico Berardi. You'll do that as soon as you can? Brilliant, thank you very much. I felt that we may need a contingency plan. OK, cheers. Have a good day.”

 

On a brighter note, the international fixtures saw José Gayà make his debut for Spain. Spencer rang him up after the match.

Hello boss, what is it?

José, I just wanted to say congratulations. It's always good to win your first cap, I remember my England debut against Australia.”

Thanks, it's a dream come true.”

Indeed, but remember that there are a lot of good players vying for your place, so you're going to have to keep playing well for club and country to keep it.

OK, I'll bear that in mind. See you back at Cobham.”

 

Spencer had hoped for a quiet weekend but his hopes were dashed on Sunday evening, when he received a call from Nemanja Matic. He groaned inwardly as he heard the exact same words that Costa had said to him.

I appreciate your honesty but you're going to have to put that to the back of your mind and get on with your football, I'm afraid, as I'll be rejecting any approach for you that comes in.”

I can't believe you're going to block my dream move, I'm not going to let you hold my career back.”

I'm sorry, but I cannot put one player's desires ahead of the needs of the team. You're staying here and you'll have to get used to it.

I think my teammates are going to be very interested to hear how their manager treats his players. You're going to regret holding me back like this.

This is ridiculous, there isn't even an offer on the table and it's come to this? I'm not discussing this any further until that situation changes.”

Spencer wondered what might happen if Matic told the press. He imagined two articles by Sid Collingwood on the back page of The Sun, one with the headline “MATIC THROWS HIS TOYS OUT OF THE PRAM” and the other with the headline “SPENCER LOSING THE DRESSING ROOM

 

In the press conference prior to the game against West Ham, however, Matic wasn't mentioned; instead, Spencer was asked how he felt about Watford being the feel-good story of the Premier League; the Hornets were 3rd in the table after their win at Anfield.

It's been really interesting to watch it unfold and there are lessons for all of us in how they play.”

Diego Costa has been tipped to be in with a shout of winning the Ballon d’Or. How do you rate his chances?

I think he deserves to win it. He's been absolutely brilliant and that sort of recognition doesn't come along very often so I hope he gets it.

And finally, you've been linked with Real Madrid defender Nacho. What are your thoughts on the story?

We have no interest in making a move for him.

 

Edited by Drogba11CFC

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Chelsea played West Ham in the first fixture of the weekend on Friday the 18th of November. The previous Seasons fixture between the two sides at Stamford Bridge had ended in a 2-2 draw thanks to a last minute penalty by Cesc Fabregas. The Hammers were lying 12th in the table, having won just three matches in the league so far, whilst Chelsea, who were 7th, would climb into the top four with a win.

 

Before the match, Spencer was approached by Tom Clark of the Daily Mirror.

Can you tell us why Nemanja matic isn't involved today?” he asked.

He's just being rested, it's nothing more than that.” Spencer responded.

"What's the thinking behind the inclusion of Cesc Fabregas instead?"

"I have complete faith in him to do the job that is required."

"You come into this one in good form while your opponents do not; do you perhaps fear complacency ahead of kickoff?"

"That's always in the back of my mind. yes. If we approach this game with anything less than 100% focus then we could quite easily come unstuck."

Chelsea

Courtois

Azpilicueta Zouma Cahill Gayà

Camacho

Fabregas Kanté

Willian Diego Costa Pedro

Substitutes: Begovic, David Luiz, Terry, Loftus-Cheek, Matic, Hazard, Batshuayi

 

West Ham

Adrian

Byram Reed Ogbonna Cresswell

Noble Obiang

Feghouli Lanzini Ayew

Calleri

Substitutes: Randolph, Collins, Töre, Sakho Antonio, Nordtveit, Snodgrass

 

Referee: Anthony Taylor

 

With both sides looking for bragging rights as well as league position, the game started quickly. With barely a minute gone, Anthony Taylor awarded West Ham a free kick for a foul by Jose Gayà. Mark Noble stepped up, but he sent the ball flying over the bar.

 

In the 3rd minute, Chelsea were awarded a free kick of their own. Willian lofted the ball into the area, but an unmarked Diego Costa couldn't get his header on target.

 

In the 5th minute, a cross by Cresswell found Andre Ayew, who sent his header over the bar. A minute later, Chelsea were dealt a severe blow as N'Golo Kanté went down with a twisted knee and required medical attention.

 

In the ninth minute, a long ball by Camacho found Diego Costa, who sent his shot wide. Costa had another chance in the fifteenth minute, but his shot went over the bar. Chelsea were then forced to make a change, replacing Kanté with Matic.

 

In the 22nd minute, Willian had a free kick blocked by Feghouli. Four minutes later, a corner was cleared but only as far as Pedro, whose shot went just wide of the post.

 

In the 38th minute, a corner from Pedro was met by the head of José Gayà, who headed straight at Adrian.

 

Chelsea looked to turn the screw as the first half drew to a close. In the 40th minute, a free kick by Willian found Costa, who sent his header wide. Two minutes later, Costa had another chance, sending a shot over the bar.

 

Mark Noble then picked up a yellow card, for a foul on Pedro.

 

Although Chelsea had dominated the first half, it was the visitors who drew first blood in the 45th minute. A long ball by Ayew found Lanzini, who sent a searching ball to Calleri. Calleri sent a pass to an unmarked Feghouli, who slipped the ball past Courtois to give West Ham the lead against the run of play.

 

Chelsea could have equalised in stoppage time. Willian's free kick found Zouma, whose header went over the bar.

 

West Ham came out in the second half looking for a second. In the 47th minute, Feghouli found Ogbonna, whose volley was saved by Courtois. A minute later, a sublime move by Lanzini found Calleri, whose shot hit the side netting. West Ham looked comfortable, and opted to take it easy.

 

It would be a big mistake. In the 50th minute, Diego Costa set up Pedro, whose shot barely missed the target. From the goal kick, Ayew was dispossessed by Azpilicueta, who sent a first time pass to Willian. Willian got by Cresswell and aimed a cross into the far post, and Costa charged in to head in from point blank range to bring Chelsea level with his tenth of the season.

 

Right from the kick off, Gayà intercepted a pass and played it to Matic. Matic found Camacho, before Fàbregas took over. Fàbregas played a long ball to Willian, who outpaced Cresswell before squaring the ball into the box, where Costa once again arrived to turn the ball in at the near post. Chelsea, having been 1-0 down, had turned the game around to lead 2-1 with two goals in less than a minute!

 

In the 56th minute, a long ball by Noble found Calleri, whose shot was saved by Courtois. Two minutes later, Willian passed to Pedro from a free kick. Pedro looked to release Costa with a first time pass, but Costa shot straight at Adrian from a tight angle. Pedro's corner found Zouma, who couldn't get his header on target.

 

In the 64th minute, Lanzini found Calleri, whose shot was tipped behind by Courtois. Calleri had been offside, however, and the goal wouldn't have counted if he'd scored.

 

In the 67th minute, a pass by Costa found Pedro, whose cross was deflected into the path of Matic. Matic had a shot, but couldn't direct it goalwards.

 

In the 69th minute, Cresswell was booked for a foul on Willian. Willian then played in Costa, whose shot was saved by Adrian.

 

Chelsea were looking for a third, but in the 72nd minute, they were dealt a severe blow. Lanzini got past the challenge of Fàbregas and found Ayew, who passed to Obiang. Obiang played the ball to Noble, but Matic got his tackle all wrong, jumping in with both feet. Anthony Taylor had no other choice, and sent Matic off. Spencer opted to sacrifice Pedro, bringing on Loftus-Cheek, while David Luiz came on to replace a tiring Cahill.

 

However, six minutes later, it looked like Chelsea had pressed the self-destruct button. As Nordtveit found Calleri, the Argentinian was on the receiving end of a poorly-timed and dangerous challenge by Loftus-Cheek, who went in with both feet. Anthony Taylor immediately showed him the red card, potentially bringing about a very long last twelve minutes for Chelsea.

 

However, West Ham created little, and in the 81st minute, José Gayà was fouled by Byram, who received a yellow card. Fàbregas took the free kick, which found the head of David Luiz. David Luiz headed the ball on to Zouma, whose header hit the post. Gayà pounced on the rebound, which deflected in off Zouma, his first goal since being injured the previous season. He looked absolutely delighted, and Chelsea, down to nine men, had surely put the game beyond doubt.

 

Calleri had a shot with five minutes remaining, but Courtois saved the shot. Indeed, the nine men of Chelsea looked more dangerous in stoppage time, as Willian saw a shot turned behind by Adrian before David Luiz hit the side netting.

 

18th November 2016, 20:00: Barclays Premier League - at Stamford Bridge, London

Chelsea 3-1 West Ham (Diego Costa 51, 52, Zouma 81, Matic s/o 72, Loftus-Cheek s/o 78; Feghouli 45)

Man of the Match: Diego Costa

 

Well, I asked for a response and I got it.” Spencer said in the dressing room after the match. “That was a superb comeback, well done all of you.”

 

What were you thinking?” Spencer said to Matic and Loftus-Cheek in the tactics room. “Matic, you should know better than to jump in like that, and you, Loftus-Cheek, were lucky not to cause serious injury! It's lucky that West Ham were so poor, so many teams would have taken full advantage! I'm fining both of you a week's wages.”

Both players nodded in acceptance.

 

Before we discuss the match, Stoke have been the surprise story for all the wrong reasons as their originally lofty ambitions have given way to considerable turmoil. What do you make of them?” asked Laurence Fox of the Evening Standard.

I don't think it's that much of a surprise. When you analyse their squad and playing style there are flaws everywhere.”

Dan Levene then brought up the attacking play. “Is that something we can expect to see more of from you?

I hope so. I have to strike a balance but I like to take the game to the opposition.”

Nemanja Matic's horror tackle in that match will get a lot of criticism from others, but what are your thoughts on the incident?” asked Jake Clark of the Guardian.

It was an ugly challenge. Nobody wants to see tackles like that, but sometimes players just get carried away.”

That was a sensational turnaround and a fantastic victory. You must be delighted?” asked Laurence Fox.

Of course. I have to take the blame for the bad start but once we'd adjusted and made a few changes we were magnificent and deserved to win.”

 

In the lunchtime game, Arsenal hammered Liverpool 4-0 at the Emirates, while Bournemouth held Manchester City to a 1-1 draw at Dean Court. Everton held Tottenham to a 1-1 draw, while Middlesbrough drew 0-0 at home to West Brom and Southampton drew 1-1 with Hull. In the evening kick off, four goals by Zlatan Ibrahimovic helped Manchester United to a 6-0 win over Leicester. Sunday saw Sunderland pull off a shock result with a 4-1 win at Watford, while Swansea won 1-0 at Selhurst Park to pile more misery on winless Palace. The Monday night game, meanwhile, saw Burnley win 1-0 at Stoke.

 

In the Champions League, Benfica held Manchester City to a 1-1 draw while Arsenal confirmed their qualification as group winners with a 2-0 with at Club Brugge. Wednesday's games saw Leicester confirm top spot in their group with a 2-0 win over FC Copenhagen, while Tottenham drew 2-2 with FC Porto to leave group D on a knife edge, although Barcelona only needed a draw to qualify as group winners. In the Europa League, West Ham defeated Rostov 1-0, while Manchester United won 2-0 at Ludogorets and Southampton beat Hertha Berlin 2-1 to guarantee qualification.

Edited by Drogba11CFC

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Chelsea's final fixture of November was away to West Brom at The Hawthorns. Spencer's hand was forced for this one; Kanté was missing following his twisted knee against West Ham, while Matic and Loftus-Cheek were both suspended and facing three match bans. Spencer opted to give Chalobah a start, while Eden Hazard made his first appearance since September.

 

West Brom:

Foster

Dawson McAuley Olsson Galloway

Yacob

Phillips Fletcher Morrison Chadli

 

Rondón

Substitutes: Myhill, Nyom, Livermore, Robson-Kanu, Wilson, Baiano, McClean

 

Chelsea:

Courtois

Azpilicueta David Luiz Cahill Gayà

Camacho

Fàbregas Chalobah

Willian Costa Hazard

Substitutes: Begovic, Marcos Alonso, Zouma, Terry, Moses, Pedro, Batshuayi

 

Referee: Mark Clattenburg

 

The first real chance came in the seventh minute, as a corner was cleared by Fàbregas but only as far as Phillips. Phillips aimed a cross at the far post, which was cleared. However, Yacob got to the ball first and hit a first time shot, which he couldn't direct goalwards.

 

Two minutes later, however, a free kick was passed by Morrison to Phillips, who controlled the ball on the edge of the area before hitting a powerful shot which gave Courtois no chance for his first ever West Brom goal. It was described as “sheer genius” by Darren Fletcher, commentating for BT Sport, and it gave the hosts a shock lead.

 

However, Chelsea hit back with the next major chance. Azpilicueta's throw in found Willian, who passed to Camacho. Camacho had a pop, which Foster could only palm against the inside of the post, off which it settled in the net. It was his first goal for Chelsea, and Steve McManaman described it as “a cracking effort”.

 

Chadli then became the first player to be booked, for a foul on Willian. Willian was then fouled by Galloway, but saw his free kick saved by Foster.

 

Gary Cahill then entered the book, for a foul on Phillips.

 

In the 37th minute, a cross by Gayà was cleared by Olsson, but only as far as Fàbregas. His shot, however, was charged down by Yacob.

 

Two minutes into the second half, Gayà landed awkwardly on his heel and required treatment. Rondón then found Chadli on the left, but his shot was diverted wide by Courtois. Fletcher then picked up an injury, and was replaced by Livermore.

 

In the 54th minute, Willian sent a free kick into the area. Eden Hazard controlled the ball before firing home from a tight angle to give Chelsea the lead for his first goal of the season.

 

However, in the 58th minute, a pass by Morrison found Phillips, who had gotten past Gayà. Phillips sent a cross in from the right, and Rondón beat David Luiz to head the ball in off the bar.

 

Chelsea were suddenly on the ropes, and and a pass from Livermore found Rondón, whose shot was charged down by Cahill.

 

Yacob entered the book for a foul on Hazard, but Camacho's header was saved by Foster. Morrison then set up Rondón again, but he sent his shot over the bar.

 

Chelsea then countered, and Fàbregas fed in Hazard, who found the run of Costa. Costa shot from a tight angle, but Foster tipped the ball behind. Two minutes later, a long clearance by Chalobah sent Costa free of the defence, but with only Foster to beat, he sent his shot wide, leaving the Chelsea fans shaking their heads in disbelief.

 

Chalobah then left the field, with Pedro coming on to replace him. West Brom had a free kick with nineteen minutes left, but Wilson sent it over.

 

With ten minutes remaining, Pedro played the ball to Hazard. Hazard produced a fine piece of skill to get away from Nyom, before teeing up Costa, whose shot was charged down by Galloway.

 

With three minutes to go, Camacho found Pedro. Pedro's ball was intercepted by Phillips, but Camacho intercepted it back and played the ball to Hazard. Hazard had a strike, but he didn't strike it cleanly and sent the shot wide. Gayà was then replaced by Marcos Alonso, who subsequently picked up a yellow card for a foul on Phillips. Phillips went down, although the Chelsea players claimed he was time wasting.

 

In stoppage time, Chelsea were awarded a free kick. Willian stepped up and fired in a shot, but Foster had no problem saving it.

 

26th November 2016, 12:45: Barclays Premier League - at The Hawthorns, West Bromwich

West Brom 2-2 Chelsea (Phillips 9, Rondón 58; Camacho 18, Hazard 54)

Man of the Match: Matt Phillips

 

That wasn't good enough,” Spencer said in the dressing room after the match. “We should have won that, and we let them in just after we'd scored. Especially you, Costa, you had the potential to make the difference and you let us down.”

 

In the later fixtures, Leicester ramped up the pressure on Mark Hughes with a 1-0 win at home to Stoke. Liverpool also increased the misery at Selhurst Park with a 2-0 home win over Crystal Palace. Manchester City also won, beating Hull 3-1, while Everton came from behind to beat Swansea City 2-1 at the Liberty Stadium. In the evening kickoff, Arsenal defeated Sunderland 2-0 at the Stadium of Light. In the Sunday matches, a brace from Shane Long saw Southampton win 2-1 at Middlesbrough, while Manchester United drew 0-0 at White Hart Lane and West Ham drew 2-2 with Watford.

 

The month's awards recognised the club's good form; Willian came third in the Player of the Month award, behind Alexis Sanchez and winner Aleksandar Kolarov, while Spencer finished runner up to Arsène Wenger in the manager of the month award, with José Mourinho coming third.

 

In the press conference before the Middlesbrough game, Spencer was asked by Sam Drury about Ronald Koeman’s decision to place Romelu Lukaku on the transfer list. Spencer responded, “Well, I was surprised to hear that piece of news because he's a fantastic player. It must have taken something very serious indeed for this to happen.”

You're clearly a fan of the player; can we expect a transfer bid to be lodged in the near future?” Drury continued.

Any manager would love to have a player of Romelu’s calibre at their disposal - except Ronald, I guess - but it's too early to really say anything for certain.

Koeman, upon hearing about Spencer's response, stated that “I don't believe any manager should put a player above the needs and priorities of the club, no matter how good they might be.

Sam Drury then relayed the statement to Spencer by phone, to which Spencer responded, “It seems to be happening and I can't help but think there's going to be a queue of suitors. I know I'd love him here!

When asked if he thought Chelsea's interest was legitimate, Koeman responded, “I believe they are genuinely interested, but they're not the only ones. Anyone who wants Romelu is going to have to stump up the cash.

 

The Friday night game saw the Merseyside Derby end in a 0-0 draw at Goodison. In the Saturday fixtures, Southampton pulled off a major shock with a 2-1 home win over Manchester City, while Bournemouth and Leicester shared the spoils in a 1-1 draw at Dean Court. Crystal Palace lost yet again, being beaten 2-1 at home by Sunderland, while Hull pulled off a shock win over Burnley at the KC Stadium. Stoke lost 1-0 at home to Tottenham, which proved the final straw for Peter Coates. The visiting supporters had serenaded Mark Hughes with a chorus of “Sacked in the Morning” throughout the match, but Coates was considerably less patient, and gave Hughes his P45 barely an hour after the final whistle. The evening kick off saw Arsenal move into second with a 3-1 win over West Ham.

Edited by Drogba11CFC

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Chelsea faced Middlesbrough on the first Sunday of December. The Blues had lost 1-0 at the Riverside Stadium back in October, but Spencer picked his strongest side for this one. He was able to call upon N’Golo Kanté again, but Loftus-Cheek and Matic were suspended for the next one and two matches respectively.

 

Chelsea:

Courtois

Azpilicueta David Luiz Cahill Gayà

Camacho

Fàbregas Kanté

Willian Diego Costa Hazard

 

Substitutes: Begovic, Alonso, Zouma, Terry, Chalobah, Pedro, Raúl

 

Middlesbrough:

Valdes

Barragán Chambers Gibson Friend

Stuani Clayton De Roon Downing

Gastón

Negredo

 

Substitutes: Guzan, Bernardo, Traoré, Bamford, Ferreira, Ayala, Forshaw

 

Referee: Roger East

 

The match started slowly but came to life in the twelfth minute. A headed clearance by Clayton was intercepted by Camacho, who hit the ball forward to Kanté. Kanté found Hazard, who passed right to Fàbregas. Fàbregas exchanged passes with Willian, before finding Costa. Costa found Kanté, who played a smart one-two with Hazard before threading the ball to Willian. Willian got away from Friend with ease before sending in a cross which Diego Costa headed home from close range, capping off what Martin Tyler described as “sheer magic” and “a superb team goal”.

 

Middlesbrough looked to equalise, and four minutes later Negredo ran onto a pass from Gastón before sending a shot straight at Courtois.

 

De Roon then entered the book for a foul on Willian, before Diego Costa saw a shot blocked by Clayton.

 

In the 27th minute, however, De Roon found Downing, who played the ball to Gastón. Gastón found Clayton, who played a one-two with Chambers before finding Gastón. Gastón found Negredo, who passed back to De Roon. De Roon found Gastón, who found Negredo on the edge of the area. Negredo turned and fired a shot into the net from 20 yards to equalise with his first Middlesbrough goal.

 

A minute later, Willian sent a free kick over the bar. The match entered a dry spell, but in the 43rd minute Willian saw a free kick blocked by Stuani. Willian had another free kick on the stroke of half time, which deflected off De Roon for a corner.

 

Middlesbrough actually started the second half stronger, as Azpilicueta charged down a shot by Clayton in the 50th minute. In the 62nd minute, however, Chelsea had their first main attack. Fàbregas found Kanté, who set off on a run before passing the ball into the area for Willian to run onto. Willian was tackled by Friend, but the ball came loose to Costa, who took full advantage of the Middlesbrough defence's inattention to restore Chelsea's lead.

 

Middlesbrough then took Stuani off, replacing him with Forshaw, before Ayala replaced Chambers. Azpilicueta then found Costa, who spread the play to Kanté. Kanté found Hazard, whose shot was blocked by Gibson. Kanté then had a shot, which was also blocked. Willian then saw a shot blocked by Gibson, before Clayton was replaced by Ferreira.

 

Chelsea were dominant, and in the 71st minute Kanté found Hazard, who took the ball to the D before having a shot which Valdes did well to save.

 

In the 75th minute, a Middlesbrough corner was caught by Courtois, who punted the ball up the pitch to Costa. Costa headed the ball to Hazard, who sent it to Kanté. Kanté slipped the ball into the box for Willian, who fired a shot past Valdes into the opposite corner to surely settle the result. Chelsea then made two changes, bringing Zouma and Chalobah on for David Luiz and Camacho.

 

Willian had a chance with a free kick in the 88th minute, but he sent it over the bar.

 

4th December 2016, 13:30: Barclays Premier League - at Stamford Bridge, London

Chelsea 3-1 Middlesbrough (Diego Costa 12, 62, Willian 76; Negredo 27)

Man of the Match: Diego Costa

 

The other Sunday result saw Manchester United put Swansea to the sword at Old Trafford with a 4-0 win, while the Monday Night game saw West Brom win 1-0 at Vicarage Road.

Pos

Inf

Team

P

Won

Drn

Lst

For

Ag

GD

Pts

1st

 

Man Utd

14

11

2

1

37

5

32

35

2nd

 

Arsenal

14

9

2

3

28

8

20

29

3rd

 

Man City

14

9

2

3

28

13

15

29

4th

 

Chelsea

14

8

3

3

29

16

13

27

5th

 

Tottenham

14

6

7

1

26

15

11

25

6th

 

Watford

14

7

4

3

21

18

3

25

7th

 

Bournemouth

14

7

4

3

17

17

0

25

8th

 

Liverpool

14

7

3

4

31

21

10

24

9th

 

Southampton

14

6

4

4

22

18

4

22

10th

 

Burnley

14

6

3

5

14

16

-2

21

11th

 

Leicester

14

6

3

5

14

27

-13

21

12th

 

Sunderland

14

5

2

7

12

19

-7

17

13th

 

West Brom

14

4

4

6

18

18

0

16

14th

 

Everton

14

4

4

6

14

18

-4

16

15th

 

West Ham

14

3

5

6

21

23

-2

14

16th

 

Middlesbrough

14

3

3

8

10

21

-11

12

17th

 

Stoke

14

2

3

9

8

20

-12

9

18th

 

Swansea

14

2

3

9

9

27

-18

9

19th

 

Hull

14

2

3

9

9

29

-20

9

20th

 

Crystal Palace

14

0

2

12

4

23

-19

2

Edited by Drogba11CFC

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On Monday evening, Spencer settled down to watch one of the most important events in the English football calendar.

 

“Hello, and welcome to the draw for the FA Cup third round. The balls to watch out for are:

Number 2, Arsenal

Number thirteen, Chelsea

Number fourteen, Crystal Palace

Number sixteen, Everton

Number 23, Liverpool

Number 24, Manchester City

Number 25, Manchester United

Number 39, Tottenham Hotspur

Number 52, Dagenham & Redbridge

Number 55, Portsmouth or Barrow

And number 58, Bromley

 

So the first ball out is…”

 

“Number 4.”

 

“Number 4 is Barnsley, and they are at home to…”

 

“Number 64.”

 

“At home to Milton Keynes Dons or Fleetwood Town.”

 

“Number 48.”

 

“Peterborough United or AFC Wimbledon.”

 

“Number 50.”

 

“And the winner of that replay will be at home to Bristol Rovers.”

 

“Number 62.”

 

“Number 62 is Carlisle United. And they will play…”

 

“Number 40.”

 

“Carlisle United will play Watford.”

 

“Number 8.”

 

“Brighton and Hove Albion.”

 

“Number 58.”

 

“Are at home to Bromley.”

 

“Number 3.”

 

“That is Aston Villa.”

 

“Number 17”

 

“And they will play Fulham.”

 

“Number 59.”

 

“Morecambe or Walsall.”

 

“Number 14.”

 

“Will play Crystal Palace.”

 

“Number 42.”

 

“West Ham United.”

 

“Number 38.”

 

“Are at home to Swansea City.”

 

“Number 18.”

 

“Huddersfield Town.”

 

“Number 12.”

 

“Will play Cardiff City.”

 

“Number 54.”

 

“Shrewsbury Town.”

 

“Number 6.”

 

“And they will face Blackburn Rovers.”

 

“Number 30.”

 

“That's Preston North End.”

 

“Number 32.”

 

“And they will play Reading.”

 

“Number 49.”

 

“Blackpool.”

 

“Number 7.”

 

“Are at home to Brentford.”

 

“Number 33.”

 

“That is Rotherham United.”

 

“Number 36.”

 

“Will play Stoke City.”

 

“Number 57.”

 

“Millwall.”

 

“Number 37.

 

“Will play Sunderland.”

 

“Number 35.”

 

“Southampton.”

 

“Number 29.”

 

“Are at home to Nottingham Forest.”

 

“Number 19.”

 

“Hull City, finalists in 2014.”

 

“Number 26.”

 

“Will play Middlesbrough.”

 

“Number 10.”

 

“Burnley.”

 

“Number 23.”

 

“Are at home to Liverpool.”

 

“Number 56.”

 

“Coventry City.”

 

“Number 21.”

 

“And they will play Leeds United.”

 

“Number 24.”

 

“Manchester City, who are at home to…”

 

“Number 31.”

 

“Queen’s Park Rangers.”

 

“Number 51.”

 

“Bolton Wanderers.”

 

“Number 28.”

 

“Will play Norwich City.”

 

“Number 45.”

 

“Crewe Alexandra or Southend United.”

 

“Number 61.”

 

“Are at home to Scunthorpe United.”

 

“Number 1.”

 

“AFC Bournemouth.”

 

Number 53.

 

“Will play Cheltenham Town.”

 

“Number 47.”

 

“Port Vale or Sheffield United.”

 

“Number 22.”

 

“Are at home to Leicester City.”

 

“Number 41.”

 

“West Bromwich Albion.”

 

“Number 60.”

 

“Will play Plymouth Argyle.”

 

“Number 55.”

 

“Portsmouth or Barrow, that one going to a replay at Holker Street.”

 

“Number 15.”

 

“Are at home to Derby County.”

 

“Number 9.”

 

“Bristol City.”

 

“Number 52.”

 

“And they will play Dagenham & Redbridge.”

 

“Number 44.”

 

“Wolverhampton Wanderers.”

 

“Number 25.”

 

“And they will play Manchester United.”

 

“Number 5.”

 

“Birmingham City.”

 

“Number 11.”

 

Are at home to Burton Albion.”

 

“Number 20.”

 

“Ipswich Town.”

 

“Number 63.”

 

“Will play Gillingham.”

 

“Number 34.”

 

“Sheffield Wednesday.”

 

“Number 13.”

 

“Are at home to Chelsea.”

 

“Number 2.”

 

“Arsenal…ooh, my word.”

 

“Number 39.”

 

“Are at home to Tottenham Hotspur!”

 

“Number 46.”

 

“Charlton Athletic.”

 

“Number 43.”

 

“Will play Wigan Athletic.”

 

“Number 16.”

 

“And finally, Everton.”

 

“Number 27.”

 

“Will play Newcastle United.”

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On Wednesday, Spencer was taken aside by Ian Taylor during lunch.

I had a chat with Kurt yesterday and he would like to discuss an improved contract. I spoke to the backroom staff and they advised me to suggest giving him a new contract.”

Shortly after lunch, Zouma entered Spencer's office.

I feel I deserve a new contract to reflect the fact that I am a much better player now than when I agreed to my current deal.” Zouma explained.

Fair enough,” Spencer replied. "We'll kick things off in the near future.”

 

Unfortunately for Spencer, he was to endure a much more difficult conversation two days later, when Eden Hazard came into his office.

I've been thinking for a while that I might need to move in order to play in the Champions League and, having learned of Man City's interest in me, I'd like your permission to discuss terms with them if a bid is made.”

I don't want to lose you,” Spencer replied, “What will it take to keep you here if a bid is made?

I need to be playing in the Champions League. If you can offer me that here then I'll be happy to stay.”

I assure you that we can definitely do that this season.”

OK, but I'll be leaving for sure if it doesn't happen.” Hazard said.

Not to Man City, you won't,” Spencer thought, “not unless Guardiola is willing to part with Kevin De Bruyne in exchange.”

 

The Friday night game saw eight goals shared between Swansea and Stoke as the Swans ran out 5-3 winners in a thrilling match in South Wales. Arsenal also scored five at the Hawthorns, but without reply. Leicester played out a 0-0 draw with Hull, while Middlesbrough pulled off a surprise 3-1 victory over Watford, who had now picked up just one point in their last four matches. Everton, perhaps distracted by Lukaku going on the transfer list, went down 5-1 at Sunderland, while Tottenham defeated Bournemouth 3-1. Man City won 2-1 at Turf Moor to keep up the pressure on Man Utd.

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Chelsea went into their match with Southampton looking to keep up their recent form. However, the Saints were no pushovers themselves, having defeated Manchester City 2-1 in their last match. Ruben Loftus-Cheek returned to the bench following his suspension, but Nemanja Matic was still banned.

 

Chelsea:

Courtois

Azpilicueta David Luiz Cahill Gayà

Camacho

Fàbregas Kanté

Pedro Diego Costa Hazard

Substitutes: Begovic Alonso Zouma Terry Loftus-Cheek Willian Raúl

 

Southampton:

Forster

Cedric van Dijk Yoshida Kongolo

Romeu

Clasie Davis

Redmond Gabbiadini Tadic

Substitutes: Hassan, Caceres, Boufal, Rodriguez, Ward-Prowse, Calabria, Højbjerg

 

Referee: Neil Swarbrick

 

Both sides forced corners early on but the first real chance came in the seventh minute when a shot by N'Golo Kanté was tipped behind by Forster. Two minutes later, Chelsea won another corner. Fàbregas lofted the ball into the box, but it was intercepted by Romeu. Diego Costa won possession back, however, and passed to Fàbregas. Fàbregas sent the ball back to Kanté, who hit a left-footed volley, which deflected off Pedro and into the net.

 

Chelsea nearly doubled their lead almost immediately, as Diego Costa saw his shot blocked by Yoshida. Southampton then looked to equalise, with Gabbiadini sending a shot wide.

 

In the sixteenth minute, Chelsea won another corner. Van Dijk beat Cahill in the air but David Luiz was first to the ball and played it back into the area to Camacho. Camacho passed to Diego Costa, who fired a snapshot into the net.

 

David Luiz then sent a free kick over the bar, before Southampton had a few chances of their own, Clasie sending the ball clean over the bar before Gabbiadini had a header saved by Courtois.

 

In the 30th minute, Eden Hazard saw a shot saved by Forster, before David Luiz sent a header narrowly over.

 

However, in the 35th minute, a Chelsea attack broke down and Davis found Redmond on the right. Redmond played the ball back to Cedric, who passed to Davis. Davis fed the ball left to Tadic, who passed it to Clasie. Clasie brought Tadic into play, and Tadic sent the ball right to Davis. Davis found Clasie, who passed to Tadic. Tadic played it back to Yoshida, who sent a long ball into the box. Clasie outpaced Luiz and volleyed the ball beyond Courtois to reduce the deficit.

 

Chelsea looked to restore their two goal advantage, and in the 38th minute, Pedro found Hazard, whose shot was tipped wide by Forster.

 

In the 43rd minute, Southampton were awarded a free kick. Davis passed to Redmond, who led Tadic onto the ball. Tadic centred the ball into the box, and Gabbiadini struck it on the volley. Courtois got a hand to it, but not enough to tip the ball wide, and Chelsea suddenly found themselves pegged back after going 2-0 up.

 

What on earth just happened?” Spencer exclaimed in the dressing room. “You were brilliant in the opening half hour and then you go and chuck it away. I expect better in the second half, and I expect us to have the three points when the final whistle goes.”

 

Chelsea looked to assert themselves in the second half but it wasn't until the 57th minute when they really threatened. Kanté got past Redmond and found Gayà, who put a cross into the area. Costa rose imperiously to beat Yoshida in the air, but sent his header just over the bar. Southampton attacked from the goal kick, with Clasie having a shot from distance which Courtois gathered easily.

 

In the 63rd minute, Azpilicueta tripped Tadic, earning him a yellow card which would rule him out of the game against Watford, but ensure that he'd be able to face Arsenal the following weekend. A minute later, Azpilicueta won the ball cleanly from Tadic, and and found Fàbregas. Fàbregas played a square ball to Kanté, who launched a searching pass to Pedro. Pedro raced into the area and and whipped the ball in to Costa, who volleyed it past Forster into the opposite corner to restore Chelsea's lead.

 

Pedro then had a chance to get on the scoresheet himself in the 70th minute. Gabbiadini held onto the ball for too long and lost possession after being put under pressure by Costa. Pedro found Camacho, who passed to Kanté. Kanté sent a lovely ball to Pedro, who got free in the area before his shot from a narrow angle was tipped wide by Forster.

 

Chelsea won a free kick two minutes later, which was saved by Forster.

 

Chelsea took Hazard off with five minutes to go, bringing Willian on to replace him. David Luiz then saw a free kick blocked by Clasie.

 

As the game moved into stoppage time, Chelsea looked to make it safe. Firstly, Diego Costa pounced on the rebound from Pedro's cross only for Kongolo to throw himself in front of the shot, before Willian ran onto an excellent ball by Costa and raced into the area only to shoot over the bar.

 

Sunday 11th December 2016, 16:00: Barclays Premier League - at Stamford Bridge, London

Chelsea 3-2 Southampton (Pedro 9, Diego Costa 16, 64; Clasie 36, Gabbiadini 43)

Man of the Match: Pedro

 

The victory saw Chelsea move back above Tottenham into the Champions League places. The other games had seen Crystal Palace lose yet again, going down 2-0 at West Ham. Yohan Cabaye was sent off after eleven minutes for an appalling challenge on Nordtveit, while Steve Mandanda suffered an injury, leaving Palace without their first and second choice goalkeepers. Sam Allardyce, channeling the José Mourinho of the previous season, sniped at Bilic in the press conference after the match, claiming “West Ham would be mad to keep him”, while also hinting at a referee conspiracy. As for Mourinho, Manchester United went to Anfield - a place where Mourinho was, in the words of Sid Collingwood, “About as welcome as a Big Mac in the chairman's office at Forest Green Rovers” - and lost 3-0. All three goals came in the first half as Paul Pogba received two yellow cards in as many minutes.

Edited by Drogba11CFC

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Chelsea travelled to Watford barely 48 hours after facing Southampton. Spencer had complained about this to the FA, but nothing had come of it. He branded it “a disgrace” when asked about it prior to the match. With Azpilicueta suspended, Ola Aina made his Premier League debut. Nemanja Matic, returning from suspension, came in for Fàbregas, while Raúl Jiménez replaced Diego Costa. Watford were still seventh in the table, but had picked up just one point in four games since winning at Anfield.

 

Watford

Gomes

Cathcart Prödl Britos

Züñiga Pereya Watson Doucouré Holébas

Niang Deeney

Substitutes: Pantilimon, Kaboul, Amrabat, Okaka, Zárate, Janmaat, Success

 

Chelsea

Courtois

Aina David Luiz Cahill Gayà

Camacho

Matic Kanté

Pedro Raúl Hazard

Substitutes Begovic,Terry, Alonso, Zouma, Fàbregas, Willian, Diego Costa

 

Referee: Michael Oliver

 

Chelsea looked to continue their momentum and in the fifth minute, David Luiz sent a shot wide.

 

Ten minutes later, Gomes caught a cross from Gayà ahead of Jiménez. The former Tottenham keeper sent the ball upfield to Niang, who found Pereya. Pereya found Holébas, who passed to Doucouré. Doucouré passed forward to Deeney, who played it to Holébas. Holébas found Doucouré, who played in Pereya. Pereya found Doucouré, who played a lovely ball to Deeney. Deeney set up Niang in the box, whose shot was tipped over by Courtois at full stretch.

 

A minute later, Matic outpaced Doucouré and passed to Kanté. Kanté went off on a run before passing through to Pedro. Pedro lost the ball to Britos but won it back almost immediately before passing to Kanté. Kanté played the ball into the area for Hazard, whose shot was charged down by Cathcart.

 

In the 24th minute, Cahill fed the ball to Kanté, who found Hazard. Hazard cut inside before passing to Matic, who passed to Kanté. Kanté found Hazard, who who took the ball to the D before passing short to Pedro. Pedro whipped in a cross and Hazard raced into the area to slot home at the far post, capping off a fine move.

 

Ben Watson then became the first player to be booked, for a trip on Jiménez.

 

In the 30th minute, a counter-attack by Chelsea saw Pedro play in Kanté. Kanté pulled the trigger from 25 yards, but Gomes did well to turn it around the post.

 

In the 33rd minute, a Watford attack saw Deeney have a go, but the forward - who Spencer was considering as a potential replacement for Diego Costa - sent his shot wide.

 

In the 37th minute, David Luiz was shown a yellow card for a trip on Deeney. Holébas took the free kick, which cannoned back off the bar before Chelsea were able to scramble it clear.

 

Four minutes later, a free kick by David Luiz was received by Cahill. Cahill turned and shot, but only found the side netting.

 

In stoppage time at the end of the first half, Doucouré found Holébas on the left. Holébas squared the ball into the box, and Niang fired a left footed shot into the net off the bar.

 

In the 50th minute, Hazard played a lofted ball to Kanté, whose shot from 20 yards was gathered easily by Gomes.

 

Züñiga then sustained a bruised head, forcing his withdrawal and replacement by Janmaat. Janmaat was then booked for a foul on Gayà, before Younes Kaboul came on for Britos. Spencer then made a change of his own, replacing Jiménez with Diego Costa.

 

Watford then attacked, with Courtois saving a shot from Deeney before Doucouré tried his luck, with Courtois only able to push the shot away. Holébas then had a free kick, which was secured by Courtois.

 

Courtois was called into action again in the 76th minute as Amrabat, on for Deeney, got free of David Luiz before hitting a piledriver which Courtois managed to turn behind. Fàbregas was then brought on, replacing Camacho.

 

It was all Watford, and a minute later Doucouré had a shot which Courtois gathered easily. Then, in the 79th minute, Holébas hit a long range volley narrowly over the bar. A rare Chelsea attack then saw Pedro have a shot saved by Gomes.

 

With eight minutes to go, Niang had an optimistic effort which fizzed past the post as Watford took the game to Chelsea, before Matic was booked for a trip on Niang. Amrabat then had a shot which was easily gathered by Courtois.

 

However, it was Chelsea who finished the game stronger. In the 88th minute, Fàbregas sent a half volley sailing over the crossbar. Then, in the 90th minute, Pedro failed to strike the ball cleanly and sent it wide.

 

13th December 2016, 19:45: Barclays Premier League - at Vicarage Road, Watford

Watford 1-1 Chelsea (Niang 45+1; Hazard 24)

Man of the Match: José Holébas

 

In the other match that evening, Swansea City responded to a Callum Wilson goal on the stroke of half time with four goals of their own. The Wednesday night fixtures saw Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain break a stubborn Middlesbrough's resistance in stoppage time, while Crystal Palace finally got a win by beating West Brom 1-0 thanks to a goal by Jason Puncheon. A late equaliser by Abel Hernandez secured a point for Hull at home to Tottenham, preventing them from overtaking Chelsea, while Manchester United defeated Sunderland 4-1 to remain top of the table. Southampton beat Burnley 2-0, while Liverpool won 4-3 at managerless Stoke. At the Etihad, Leicester came within touching distance of three points before being denied by a Leroy Sané equaliser in the 90th minute.

 

In the draw for the knockout stage of the Champions League, Leicester were drawn to face Real Madrid. Arsenal's reward for finishing top of their group was a tie against Juventus, while Manchester City would face Porto. In the Europa League, Southampton were drawn against Ajax, while Manchester United would face Braga. Tottenham, who had been eliminated from the Champions League after losing their final group match against Barcelona, would face Red Bull Salzburg.

Edited by Drogba11CFC

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In their final match prior to Christmas, Chelsea were to host Arsenal. It was a clash between the two most in-form sides in the league; Chelsea were unbeaten in their last eight matches, while Arsenal had won their last eight matches. In his weekly column in the Sun, Sid Collingwood pointed out that “Spencer has picked up just one point in matches against top six opposition so far this season. A win today is imperative, or Chelsea could, ironically enough, turn into another Arsenal; good against lower sides, but coming up short against the big guns.” As if to add more pressure on the Chelsea manager, Arsenal would go top with a win if the margin of victory was big enough. However, while Spencer had a full squad to pick from, Arsenal were missing Coquelin, Welbeck and Giroud through injury, with Sanchez heading a list of walking wounded. The fixture the previous season had been a very bad-tempered affair. Santi Cazorla and Gabriel had both been sent off as Chelsea won 2-0 while Diego Costa's indiscretions had seen him receive a 3-match ban from the FA and ArsenalFanTV call for a boycott of Costa Coffee.

 

The day dawned barely above freezing with hail showers, which Des Kelly mentioned in a pre-match interview. Spencer, however, wasn't fazed, answering, “My players can adapt to any situation; a little bit of weather won't affect us.” He did, however, appreciate Arsenal's recent form, stating, “Any victory is going to be well-earned.”

 

Chelsea:

Courtois

Azpilicueta David Luiz Cahill Gayà

Matic

Fàbregas Kanté

Willian Diego Costa Hazard

Substitutes: Begovic, Terry, Marcos Alonso, Zouma, Camacho, Pedro, Batshuayi

 

Arsenal:

Cech

Bellerín Mustafi Koscielny Monreal

Ramsey Cazorla

Oxlade-Chamberlain Özil Iwobi

Sanchez

Substitutes: Ospina, Gibbs, Xhaka, Malen, Dragomir, Gabriel, Walcott

 

The first real chance of the game fell to Chelsea in the ninth minute. A counter-attack saw José Gayà whip in a cross which was met by the head of Costa. Cech, however, was equal to the effort.

 

Alexis Sanchez then went into the book, for a foul on Fàbregas.

 

Arsenal's first chance came in the eighteenth minute. A superb pass by Bellerín connected with Iwobi, whose shot was saved by Courtois.

 

In the twentieth minute, a Chelsea corner was cleared by Mustafi, but only as far as Cahill. Cahill’s cross was headed clear by Mustafi, but Hazard intercepted and exchanged passes with Willian before he went down. Mike Dean adjudged him to have been pushed by Monreal, and pointed to the spot, much to the fury of the Arsenal full-back. Hazard stepped up, but hit his penalty far too close to Cech, who tipped it around the post.

 

Arsenal then looked to assert themselves on the game. In the 24th minute, Cesc Fàbregas was booked for a foul on Iwobi. Santi Cazorla took the free kick, but it was saved by Courtois. A minute later, Sanchez chased the ball down the left before crossing it into the area for Iwobi, whose shot ended up in the side netting.

 

With half an hour gone, Chelsea looked to get back on top. A run by Iwobi was cut out by Azpilicueta, who sent a long pass down the right to Willian. Willian sent a cross into the area for Costa, whose shot was blocked by Koscielny.

 

Two minutes later, Koscielny was penalised for impeding Willian after an error by Monreal. From 20 yards out, Willian stepped up and fired the ball around the wall and into the top corner of the net, beyond the outstretched hand of Cech, to give Chelsea the lead.

 

In the 37th minute, a counter-attack by Arsenal saw Monreal tee up Özil, who sent his shot wide. A minute later, a foul on Diego Costa by Mustafi Chelsea awarded another free kick, but Willian sent it clean over the bar.

 

In the 39th minute, an excellent sliding tackle by Kanté set up a Chelsea attack. Costa sent the ball to Hazard, who played a one-two with Kanté before racing to the edge of the area and hitting an effort which Cech had to be at full stretch to turn over the bar. Less than a minute later, Willian played in Costa, whose effort was also tipped over by Cech. Costa then headed wide from the resulting corner as Arsenal scrambled to contain a rampant Chelsea.

 

Chelsea continued to dominate as the first half drew to a close. A header by Willian found Costa, whose cross was headed over by Hazard. Chelsea then won a corner, from which a David Luiz header was diverted wide by Cech.

 

Sanchez had been walking wounded through the first half and was replaced at half time by Theo Walcott, also walking wounded. Gayà was booked two minutes into the second half, for a trip on Walcott.

 

Chelsea could have been three or four goals up by half time and in the 51st minute, Fàbregas played in Costa, who exchanged passes with Willian before having a shot which was tipped wide by Cech. From the resulting corner, Gary Cahill headed the ball over the bar.

 

In the 57th minute, Arsenal replaced Koscielny with Gabriel. Four minutes later, Fàbregas played in Gayà, whose shot was saved by Cech.

 

Arsenal replaced Monreal with Kieran Gibbs - mistakenly sent off in Arsenal's 6-0 defeat at Stamford Bridge three seasons previously - in the 67th minute. Two minutes later, Courtois was called into action, saving an audacious shot by Chamberlain. Kieran Gibbs then escaped with a warning for a shove on Willian, much to the fury of the Chelsea supporters.

 

In the 71st minute, Willian set up Costa, who raced into the area before hitting the side netting. Two minutes later, Kanté sent a shot wide.

 

For all Chelsea's dominance, they hadn't converted their chances into goals, and in the 76th minute, Cazorla found Bellerín on the right. Bellerín passed to Chamberlain, whose cross was deflected to Ramsey. Ramsey fired off a shot which left the frame of the goal shaking, before Azpilicueta cleared the ball to the relief of the home supporters.

 

With ten minutes left, Fàbregas found Costa, who once again saw his shot tipped around the post by Cech. Chelsea then replaced Matic with Camacho.

 

With eight minutes to go, Ramsey once again looked to equalise for Arsenal, but having intercepted a header by David Luiz, he hit it first time on the volley and sent it considerably wide.

 

With five minutes left, Fàbregas robbed Cazorla and played an excellent ball to Costa. Costa, with only Cech to beat, let fly from 25 yards and sent a powerful shot into the net, surely putting the result beyond doubt.

 

A minute later, Chamberlain was booked for a foul on Hazard, before Chelsea replaced David Luiz with Zouma.

 

Arsenal looked to get back into the match, and with three minutes left, a cross from Iwobi found Özil, who couldn't get his header on target.

 

In the 89th minute, Kanté dispossessed Chamberlain and searched out Costa with a long ball. Gabriel intercepted, but Zouma regained possession and headed the ball back to Costa. Costa passed right to Willian, who took the ball to the byline and whipped in a cross which Costa headed home at the near post to secure a massive victory for Chelsea.

 

17th December 2016, 12:45: Barclays Premier League - at Stamford Bridge, London

Chelsea 3-0 Arsenal (Willian 32, Diego Costa 85, 89, Hazard m/pen 20)

Man of the Match: Diego Costa

 

We were excellent, and thoroughly deserved the win,” Spencer said in the press conference after the match. “That's my Christmas present to the supporters.”

 

Arsenal Fan TV did not disappoint after the match. One fan, on a massive rant, claimed that the result had “ruined Christmas” for him, while another suggested that the weather had been too cold for the team to play properly. A day later, several regulars from the channel released a video urging their fellow Gooners to once again boycott Costa Coffee.

 

In the 3 o'clock games, Burnley defeated Leicester 3-1 at the King Power Stadium. A brace from Gudmundsson set the Clarets on their way, with Jeff Hendrick sealing the win after Slimani had pulled a goal back for the home side. Bournemouth stunned Liverpool at Anfield, with Steve Cook and Callum Wilson putting the visitors 2-0 up before Daniel Sturridge gave hope for Liverpool in the 75th minute. Crystal Palace were beaten 2-0 at Middlesbrough, as Guedioura and Negredo both scored for the hosts and both sides were reduced to ten men. Sunderland and Stoke shared the spoils in a 1-1 draw at the Stadium of Light, while West Brom beat Everton 1-0 at The Hawthorns. In the evening kick off, a 1-1 draw between Tottenham and Man City allowed Chelsea to stay third in the table. In the Sunday fixtures, Watford beat Southampton 2-0 at Vicarage Road to keep their European credentials going, before West Ham pulled off a major shock at the London Stadium by beating Man Utd 1-0 thanks to a 9th-minute José Fonte goal, while Paul Pogba once again picked up two yellow cards in quick succession. While United were still top of the league, Arsenal were three points behind with Chelsea and Man City a point further back. The Monday night match was a drab 0-0 draw between Swansea and Hull.

Edited by Drogba11CFC

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Chelsea's Boxing Day fixture was against bottom club Crystal Palace. The Eagles sat 11 points adrift of safety, having picked up 5 points all season. Spencer picked the same side which had beaten Arsenal, while Palace were missing several players through injury. In addition, Yohan Cabaye was serving a five match suspension.

 

Crystal Palace

Hennessey

Ward Dann Tomkins Sakho Souaré

Puncheon Flamini McArthur Zaha

 

Benteke

Substitutes: Speroni, Delaney, Townsend, Wickham, Sako, van Aanholt, Appiah

 

Chelsea

Courtois

Azpilicueta David Luiz Cahill Gayà

Matic

Fàbregas Kanté

Willian Diego Costa Hazard

Substitutes: Begovic, Terry, Marcos Alonso, Zouma, Camacho, Pedro, Batshuayi

 

Chelsea looked to attack from the get-go and in the second minute, Kanté won a free kick. Willian stepped up, but couldn't direct it goalwards. The Brazilian had a similar chance four minutes later, but his shot was fisted away by Hennessey.

 

Palace had a free kick in the tenth minute, but Puncheon sent it over the bar. A minute later, Willian sent a free kick wide.

 

Willian was tormenting the home side with his free kicks, and in the nineteenth minute another one was saved by Hennessey.

 

It seemed as if a goal was inevitable, and in the 24th minute, the deadlock was broken. Scott Dann was penalised for holding onto Hazard's shirt. Willian took the resulting free kick, which deflected off the wall and into the net, completely wrong-footing Hennessey.

 

José Gayà was then booked for a trip on Puncheon in the 26th minute. The free kick, however, came to nothing, and Matic launched a counter-attack which saw Kanté get past Flamini with ease and play a one-two with Costa before his shot was blocked by Dann.

 

With half an hour gone, Chelsea came forward again. Hazard found Fàbregas, whose shot whistled just over the crossbar. From the goal kick, Puncheon climbed above Gayà, who went down holding his head. Following a brief discussion with his assistant and physio, Spencer took Gayà off and replaced him with Marcos Alonso.

 

Puncheon then sent a free kick clean over the bar, before Matic was booked for upending Benteke. In the 40th minute, Willian had a free kick, which Puncheon threw himself in front of.

 

Chelsea had been on top in the first half but Courtois had to be alert to save a Puncheon free kick just before half time.

 

The second half was barely underway when McArthur fouled Kanté, earning him a yellow card for an accumulation of fouls. Willian lofted the ball over the wall, and Diego Costa got in behind the Palace defence before jumping up to loft a header over Hennessey and into the net for his 50th Chelsea goal.

 

Former Arsenal midfielder Flamini was then booked for a foul on Kanté. Willian passed to David Luiz, who sent a shot wide.

 

In the 55th minute, a header by Costa was headed clear by Dann. Costa hit an effort on the volley from way out, but Hennessey saved the shot.

 

In the 64th minute, Fàbregas played in Costa, whose shot fizzed past the post. Marcos Alonso was then booked, for a foul on Puncheon.

 

In the 67th minute, a cross by Alonso was deflected into the path of Willian. Willian looked to shoot, but Dann got in the way. In the 69th minute, Delaney and Wickham replaced Tomkins and Benteke.

 

Diego Costa then ran onto a loose ball before seeing a shot tipped wide by Hennessey. The target man was then booked, for repeated fouls.

 

With fifteen minutes left, Palace replaced Souaré with former Chelsea full back van Aanholt, before Camacho came on to replace Matic. Palace then had perhaps their best chance of the match, as Wickham connected with van Aanholt's cross before letting fly with a shot which Courtois did well to tip behind. Puncheon then saw a free kick tipped over the bar.

 

With two minutes left, Willian blazed a free kick over the bar, before Hennessey once again tipped a Diego Costa shot behind.

 

26th December 2016, 15:00: Barclays Premier League - at Selhurst Park, London

Crystal Palace 0-2 Chelsea (Willian 24, Diego Costa 48)

Man of the Match: Willian

 

When asked by Steven Moore about what he thought of the opposition's style of play, Spencer responded, “There's assertive and then there's Crystal Palace; Gayà won't be the first nor last to suffer. If it's technically within the rules, then I don't think there's much anybody can do, but perhaps a change of heart is needed; I know that I'd have issued Hunt and Sonko with lengthy bans.” Sam Allardyce, when asked about the criticism of his side's playing style, stated “I’m not even going to dignify that with an answer.” Allardyce would also be the subject of a subsequent 442oons sketch, in which Messi, Suarez and Neymar (complete with strings instruments) sang “Sacked in the morning” at him (which had been a regular refrain from opposition fans at recent Crystal Palace games) before Suarez followed it up with “You're just a **** Neil Warnock” before realising that they weren't doing the second verse.

 

In the other games, Arsenal defeated Watford 2-1 with goals from Sanchez and Walcott before Okaka pulled a goal back for the hornets. A Callum Wilson brace in the second half helped Bournemouth dispatch Sunderland 4-1, while Everton hammered Middlesbrough 4-0 as Boro’s Adam Clayton was sent off for a shocking two-footed lunge on Lukaku. The game of the day, however, was at the KC Stadium, where Hull City and Liverpool played out a 4-4 draw in which Hull took the lead four times. Manchester City comfortably beat Swansea 2-0, while Manchester United put West Brom to the sword with four second half goals at Old Trafford. Leicester came from a goal down to win 2-1 at Southampton, while Stoke drew 0-0 with West Ham. In the evening kick off, Tottenham slipped to their third consecutive draw, being held 0-0 at Burnley.


 

Edited by Drogba11CFC

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Chelsea faced Everton just before the New Year. The fixture last season had seen Chelsea come back from 2-0 down before John Terry scored a dubious late equaliser in a 3-3 draw in the 8th minute of stoppage time. Chelsea came into this match on a ten match unbeaten run, while Everton were struggling for form. However, Spencer was without Jose Gaya, who had sustained a head injury at Crystal Palace. Asked about Koeman’s job security in the press conference before the match, Spencer said “It’s not something I need to concern myself with, nor is it my job to show solidarity with other managers. This is a very ruthless industry and managers get sacked on a regular basis.”

 

Chelsea

Courtois

Azpilicueta David Luiz Cahill Marcos Alonso

Matic

Fàbregas Kanté

Willian Diego Costa Hazard

Substitutes: Begovic, Terry, Aina, Zouma, Camacho, Pedro, Batshuayi

 

Everton

Stekelenburg

Williams Funes Mori Jagielka

  Baines             Gueye        Coleman

Schneiderlin McCarthy

 

Barkley

Lukaku

Substitutes: Robles, Garbutt, Bolasie, Koné, Barry, Holgate, Mirallas

 

Interviewed in the tunnel before the match, Spencer said of Eden Hazard, who was making his 150th league appearance, “He's a wonderful player and a fine example of the sort of person we want at this club.”

 

The game started slowly and the first chance came in the twelfth minute. A corner from Fàbregas was headed away by Funes Mori but only as far as Costa. Costa turned and shot, but couldn't direct the ball goalwards.

 

Martin Atkinson was looking to assert his authority early on, and Azpilicueta and Baines were both shown yellow cards for fouls Schneiderlin and Willian respectively.

 

In the seventeenth minute, Schneiderlin played in Lukaku, with the former Chelsea player seeing his shot tipped wide by Courtois.

 

In the 22nd minute, Fàbregas, forced wide, played in Willian, who crossed the ball low and hard to Hazard, whose shot was hit straight at Stekelenburg. From the corner, Funes Mori headed the ball clear, but Marcos Alonso headed it back in. Lukaku cleared, but Alonso intercepted and passed to Kanté, who wasted the opportunity by shooting over the bar.

 

Two minutes later, Fàbregas found Costa, who tried to turn and shoot, but his shot was saved by Stekelenburg.

 

Everton were giving as good as they gave, however, and in the 27th minute, Coleman got past Alonso and fired off a shot from a narrow angle, which struck the leg of Courtois and then the post before David Luiz cleared. Four minutes later, Chelsea won a corner, from which Cahill headed wide.

 

In the 40th minute, Azpilicueta played in Willian, who got to the byline and looked to cross. The cross, however, had to be tipped away by Stekelenburg.

 

There was also a cagey start to the second half as the first chance came seven minutes in. Lukaku set up Barkley, who hit a left footed shot over the bar. Six minutes later, Leighton Baines hit a free kick over the bar.

 

There was a distinct nervousness around Stamford Bridge but in the 62nd minute, an aerial pass from Alonso was headed into the area by Fàbregas. Costa raced onto it, but didn't strike his volley cleanly. Two minutes later, Matic intercepted the ball and passed to Willian out wide. Willian lofted the ball to Fàbregas, who passed to Matic. Matic moved the ball onto Kanté, who sought out Costa. Costa hit a hopeful shot from 25 yards, which hit the inside of the post and settled in the net to give Chelsea the lead.

 

A tiring Matic was then replaced by Camacho, before Everton replaced Jagielka with Holgate. Barkley would then come off, making way for Mirallas.

 

As Chelsea looked to double their lead, Fàbregas found a wide-open Willian, but the Brazilian shot straight at Stekelenburg. Camacho then received a yellow card for a trip on Lukaku.

 

From the free kick, Baines found Funes Mori, whose header was saved by Courtois. Spencer, thinking of Manchester United on the horizon, then withdrew Costa, replacing him with Batshuayi.

 

Willian then had another chance, but his free kick deflected out off the wall. As the clock ticked on, Baines was replaced by Garbutt.

 

With eight minutes left, Chelsea won another free kick, with Willian coming agonisingly close as the ball skimmed the top of the bar. The Brazilian would have another free kick two minutes later, which he didn't strike cleanly.

 

A tiring Fàbregas was replaced by Zouma as Chelsea looked to shut up shop, but with two minutes remaining David Luiz conceded a free kick. Mirallas’ ball was intercepted by Cahill, but Garbutt got to it and took a shot which took a deflection to wrong-foot Courtois and bring Everton level with his first goal for the Toffees.

 

In the 90th minute, a throw in by Azpilicueta found Camacho, who passed to David Luiz. Luiz hit a long range effort which skimmed the top of the bar.

 

With time almost up, Everton won a free kick. Garbutt sent the ball into the box, but Courtois came out to claim the ball ahead of Lukaku.

 

31st December 2016, 15:00 - at Stamford Bridge, London

Chelsea 1-1 Everton (Diego Costa 64, Garbutt 88)

Man of the Match: Diego Costa

 

It's a disappointing result, and the late equaliser will hurt,” Spencer told Alan Bowyer of the Liverpool Echo after the match, “But the players will take the lesson and learn from it.” He also praised Diego Costa's goal, calling it “a magnificent strike from a magnificent player”.

 

In the other games, Liverpool beat Man City 2-1 with goals from Wijnaldum and Firmino. A goal from Carrick and a brace from Anthony Martial saw Man Utd win 3-0 at the Riverside, while Sunderland beat Hull by the same scoreline. Burnley picked up a 1-0 win at Swansea, while Tottenham were held to another draw, 1-1 at Leicester. Watford beat Crystal Palace 3-1, putting even more pressure on Sam Allardyce (who had stormed out of the press conference before the match) while West Ham beat Bournemouth 1-0. Arsenal were held to a 0-0 draw at St Mary's.

 

Chelsea had enjoyed a good month and as a result, Spencer edged out Wenger and Mourinho to win the Manager of the Month award. Diego Costa won Player of the Month.

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The first game of the new year saw José Mourinho make his much-anticipated return to Stamford Bridge. Manchester United led the table, five points ahead of Arsenal with Spencer's Chelsea another point further back. Tensions had been stoked in the day prior to the match; in his pre-match press conference, Spencer had called Mourinho “a bit of a dinosaur” and suggested that United's style of football was “from another century” - an accusation ironically levelled by Mourinho himself at Sam Allardyce after a 0-0 draw between Chelsea and West Ham in 2014. Mourinho, for his part, hit back, calling his former player “a waste of everyone's time”. The rivalry did not go unnoticed on social media either; the YNFA Facebook page posted a comparison image of Mourinho yelling at physio Eva Carneiro during the opening match of the previous season and Spencer consulting his physios during the game at Selhurst Park after José Gayà had sustained a concussion. On a related note, Spencer had managed to convince Carneiro to return to Stamford Bridge.

 

With only 48 hours since the Everton game, Spencer did have to make changes. José Gayà returned to the side, while Kurt Zouma, who had suffered a season-ending injury in the corresponding fixture the previous season, came in for Gary Cahill. Camacho replaced Fàbregas, while Pedro replaced Willian.

 

Chelsea:

Courtois

Azpilicueta David Luiz Zouma Gayà

Camacho

Matic Kanté

Pedro Diego Costa Hazard

Substitutes: Begovic, Terry, Alonso, Cahill, Fàbregas, Willian, Batshuayi

 

Man Utd

De Gea

Valencia Bailly Marcos Rojo Darmian

Blind

Ander Herrera Pogba

Mata Ibrahimovic Martial

Substitutes: Romero, Jones, Mkhitaryan, Rashford, Lingard, Carrick, Rooney

 

Referee: Lee Probert

 

The game was sold out and the first chance fell to the visitors in the fourth minute. Pogba slipped the ball to Mata from a free kick, and the former Chelsea winger played in Martial. Martial hit a curling shot from the edge of the area, which Courtois was able to save. A minute later, Camacho tried to find Kanté, but the midfielder was fouled by Ibrahimovic. The striker, sent off at Stamford Bridge two seasons previously, received a yellow card. The free kick was 35 yards out but that didn't stop David Luiz trying his luck, hitting a shot straight at De Gea.

 

The next chance came from another United free kick, which clattered off Eden Hazard.

 

Chelsea won a corner in the thirteenth minute. Hazard sent the ball into the area and Zouma rose imperiously, only for his looping header to be cleared off the line by Valencia. The ball fell to Blind, who looked to clear it behind, but his clearance struck Matteo Darmian and deflected into the net.

 

Chelsea looked to capitalise and in the fifteenth minute, David Luiz sent a free kick into the stands, before intercepting a header from Pogba and hitting a shot straight at De Gea two minutes later.

 

As the game approached the half hour mark, the visitors looked to equalise. In the 28th minute, Ander Herrera had a crack from long range which Courtois had no trouble dealing with. In the 30th minute, Anthony Martial curled a shot wide, before connecting with a cross from Mata and rifling in a half volley which Courtois had covered a minute later.

 

Chelsea countered, and a minute later Hazard set Gayà free down the left. Gayà crossed the ball to Costa, who hit it straight at De Gea. De Gea spilled the ball, but gathered it at the second attempt.

 

A minute after that, United were awarded a free kick. Mata passed to Ibrahimovic, who fed in Herrera. Herrera had got free in the box, but didn't strike the ball cleanly.

 

Herrera then picked up a yellow card for a trip on Kanté in the 36th minute, before Darmian was booked a minute later for a foul on Pedro. From the resulting free kick, David Luiz saw his shot blocked by Herrera. Ibrahimovic then passed to Martial, who ran all the way to the Chelsea area before being stopped by an expertly timed tackle by Azpilicueta.

 

In the 39th minute, Camacho brought down Pogba. The midfielder passed the ball to Blind, who sent it left to Martial. Martial unleashed a volley from distance, but the ball fizzed past the post.

 

Three minutes before halftime, Mata got into the Chelsea half before passing to Ibrahimovic. Ibrahimovic fed Martial on the left, who got to the edge of the area before trying an audacious shot which was saved by Courtois.

 

It had been an end to end game so far and both sides looked capable of scoring as halftime approached. In the 45th minute, a De Gea goal kick was intercepted by Gayà, who passed to Hazard. Hazard took the ball into the United half before playing a low forward pass to Costa. Costa laid the ball off to Matic, who found Kanté to his left. Kanté was fouled by Blind, but Lee Probert played advantage and Gayà took over. Gayà passed to Hazard, who got into the box before sending a low pass to the right. Costa latched onto the ball and fired it past De Gea to double Chelsea's lead for his 20th goal of the season.

 

As the visitors tried to regroup, Chelsea won a throw in. Gayà threw the ball to Hazard, who headed it back. Gayà lofted a pass to Matic, who laid it back to Zouma. Zouma looked ahead to Pedro, who cut inside before passing to Kanté. Kanté timed his run to perfection, beating the offside trap before firing a shot under De Gea. Commenting for Sky Sports, Martin Tyler described Chelsea as “rampant” and added “United's fans must be wishing they'd stayed at home!” On the touchline, Spencer jumped for joy, while Mourinho looked as though he'd swallowed a lemon. On Twitter, 442oons released a short video of Mourinho in a crashed bus while the other managers in the Premier League (along with Louis Van Gaal and Eva Carneiro) sang “Ha ha Mourinho” at him.

 

Mourinho opted to make all his substitutions at half time, bringing Rooney, Mkhitaryan and Rashford on to replace Herrera, Mata and Ibrahimovic. Spencer elected to replace a tiring Matic with Fàbregas.

 

Rooney nearly made an instant impact, as Camacho was booked for a foul on Pogba. From the free kick, Rashford set up Rooney, who sent a shot wide. A minute later, a long ball by Zouma was cleared by Marcos Rojo, but only as far as Pedro. Pedro raced into the area before unleashing w left footed shot which Bailly threw himself in front of. Azpilicueta was then shown a yellow card for a trip on Rashford.

 

United were looking to get back into the match and in the 51st minute, Pogba fired a free kick over the bar, before Rashford connected with Martial's pass and hit a left footed shot which was saved by Courtois.

 

In the 54th minute, a clearance by Azpilicueta found Marcos Rojo. Rojo played a forward pass to Rooney, who passed to Mkhitaryan. Mkhitaryan sent in a cross, and Rashford rose above Azpilicueta to head the ball past Courtois and pull a goal back for the visitors.

 

Some supporters might have remembered the match in February 2012, where alleged Man Utd fan Howard Webb gave United two penalties after Chelsea went 3-0 ahead, but Chelsea attacked straight from the kick off and Hazard hit a shot straight at De Gea. United then forced a series of corners, before Chelsea were awarded a free kick for a push on Costa by Blind. David Luiz came close, the shot skimming the top of the bar.

 

A minute later, Valencia crossed the ball into the area. David Luiz headed clear, but Pogba got to the loose ball and tried his luck. It was a powerful shot, but Courtois was able to turn it behind.

 

In the 68th minute, a cross by Rashford was headed clear by Zouma. Martial got to the ball before Camacho, but Gayà headed clear. Bailly intercepted the clearance, and passed to Rooney. Rooney had a shot, which was easily gathered by Courtois.

 

A minute later, Kanté made a great interception deep in the United half and dribbled to the D before trying an audacious attempt which was saved by De Gea.

 

With twenty minutes left, Gayà conceded a free kick. Rooney's ball was met by the head of Martial, whose effort went harmlessly wide. Chelsea then brought Cahill on to replace David Luiz.

 

With eleven minutes to go, a long ball from Rooney to Rashford was intercepted by Cahill. Cahill found Kanté, who played the ball to Fàbregas. Fàbregas sent a great ball long to Pedro, who got free in the area before tucking the ball home. With United's fading hopes of getting a result snuffed out, Chelsea fans couldn't resist gloating, and “**** off Mourinho” and “You're not special anymore” were directed at the former Chelsea manager, while the opposing supporters got “You only live round the corner”, “You've had your day out, now **** off home” and “Is this a fire drill?

 

Willian came on for Hazard as Chelsea looked to rub salt into Mourinho's wounds. In the 82nd minute, Gayà headed wide from a Willian free kick, while a minute later a header by Willian was hacked clear.

 

In the 90th minute, Diego Costa saw a shot saved by De Gea and cleared by Valencia. Pedro headed the ball back into the area, where Costa was clearly held by Rojo. Lee Probert, however, waved play on, leaving Chelsea aggrieved. Azpilicueta was then harshly penalised for a foul on Rashford, and Camacho, seemingly forgetting he was on a yellow card, chose to argue with Probert, who gave him his marching orders.

 

At the death, Rashford found Martial with a pinpoint pass, but the Frenchman's hopeful shot was saved by Courtois, denying him a consolation. In the end, Pedro's brilliance and an abject performance by the visitors inspired Chelsea to a vital win.

 

2nd January 2017, 17:30: Barclays Premier League - at Stamford Bridge, London

Chelsea 4-1 Man Utd (Darmian og 13, Costa 45, Kanté 45+1, Pedro 79, Camacho s/o 90; Rashford 54)

Man of the Match: Pedro

 

Asked about Camacho's red card in the tunnel, Spencer responded, “He was just a bit silly. As soon as he's served his suspension, he'll be back in the squad.” In the press conference after the match, Spencer said, “I think Mourinho was rattled by someone actually expressing a frank opinion about him and it showed in his side's performance.” Indeed, Gary Neville on Sky Sports had not held back, branding the United's performance “a disgrace” and comparing it to the 6-1 defeat by Manchester City in October 2011. Sid Collingwood, in his match report in The Sun, went for the low-hanging fruit with the headline “NO WAY JOSÉ”.

 

In the three o'clock games, Liverpool beat Burnley 3-1 at Anfield, while Stoke won 2-1 at The Riverside. Swansea and Leicester played out a 1-1 draw in South Wales, while Ben Watson's late goal saw Watford beat Everton 1-0 at Vicarage Road. Bournemouth won 2-0 at The Hawthorns, while Jonathan Calleri and Abel Hernandez both scored a brace as West Ham drew 2-2 with Hull City. There were also three games kicking off at eight o'clock; Southampton held Tottenham to a goalless draw, while Arsenal beat Crystal Palace 4-0 at The Emirates to leave Sam Allardyce in a precarious position. Sunderland held Manchester City to a goalless draw at the Stadium of Light.

 

League Table:

Pos

Inf

Team

Pld

Won

Drn

Lst

For

Ag

GD

Pts

1st

 

Man Utd

20

14

2

4

49

14

35

44

2nd

 

Arsenal

20

13

3

4

40

12

28

42

3rd

 

Chelsea

20

12

5

3

43

21

22

41

4th

 

Man City

20

11

5

4

36

19

17

38

5th

 

Liverpool

20

11

4

5

48

32

16

37

6th

 

Watford

20

10

5

5

30

25

5

35

7th

 

Bournemouth

20

10

4

6

27

27

0

34

8th

 

Tottenham

20

7

12

1

32

19

13

33

9th

 

Burnley

20

8

4

8

20

24

-4

28

10th

 

Leicester

20

7

7

6

21

35

-14

28

11th

 

Southampton

20

7

6

7

27

25

2

27

12th

 

West Ham

20

6

7

7

28

27

1

25

13th

 

Sunderland

20

7

4

9

23

29

-6

25

14th

 

Everton

20

6

5

9

22

27

-5

23

15th

 

West Brom

20

5

5

10

20

31

-11

20

16th

 

Middlesbrough

20

5

3

12

16

32

-16

18

17th

 

Swansea

20

4

5

11

19

35

-16

17

18th

 

Stoke

20

3

6

11

18

32

-14

15

19th

 

Hull

20

2

8

10

16

39

-23

14

20th

 

Crystal Palace

20

1

2

17

6

36

-30

5

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(A/N: @CFuller will definitely enjoy this one...)

 

The final game of a hectic festive schedule saw Chelsea host Bournemouth at Stamford Bridge. The Cherries had won this fixture last season, and Spencer was keen to avoid a repeat. Cesc Fàbregas came back into the side for the suspended Camacho, while Ruben Loftus-Cheek returned to the bench.

 

Chelsea

Courtois

Azpilicueta David Luiz Cahill Gayà

Matic

Fàbregas Kanté

Pedro Diego Costa Hazard

Substitutes: Begovic, Terry, Alonso, Zouma, Loftus-Cheek, Willian, Batshuayi

 

Bournemouth

Federici

Smith Francis Cook Daniels

Gradel Arter Wilshere Fraser

Wilson King

Substitutes: Allsop, Letizia, Surman, Ibe, Pugh, Rekik, Stanislas

 

Referee: Mark Clattenburg

 

The Blues took charge of the game from the outset and in the fourth minute, David Luiz sent a free kick just over the bar. Four minutes later, Kanté exchanged passes with Pedro before hitting a left-footed shot wide. Kanté had another shot a minute after that, hitting a powerful shot which Federici saved.

 

It took until the 14th minute for Bournemouth to have a chance. A clearance by Courtois was headed by Arter to Wilshere, who attempted to emulate David Beckham and lob Courtois from his own half. However, unlike Charlie Adam two years previously, his shot went safely wide. Arter conceded a free kick three minutes later, which David Luiz couldn't get on target.

 

In the nineteenth minute, Costa intercepted a clearance and played the ball to Pedro. Pedro's cross was met by the head of Hazard, whose header was turned behind by Federici.

 

The first yellow card was shown in the 30th minute, as Harry Arter tripped Costa. Four minutes later, a corner from Fàbregas found David Luiz, whose header was just wide.

 

In the 38th minute, a long pass by Kanté found Pedro, who sent a cross in from the byline. Costa got up well, but his header went just over.

 

Chelsea had dominated the first half and their best chance came in the 40th minute. Chelsea were awarded a free kick for a foul on Costa. David Luiz stepped up and sent the ball crashing back off the crossbar, before King cleared. Three minutes later, a corner by Fàbregas was headed over by Kanté.

 

Eddie Howe replaced Pugh with Gradel at half time, but in the 48th minute, a pass by Kanté found Gayà. Gayà got to the byline before centring the ball to the near post, where Costa arrived to stab home from close range in front of the Matthew Harding stand.

 

In the 52nd minute, Matic was booked for a foul on Fraser. Harry Arter went for goal from the free kick, but missed the target. Azpilicueta then went into the book, for a foul on Fraser.

 

Chelsea attacked again on the hour mark and Pedro found Kanté, who couldn't get his shot on target. A minute later, Bournemouth won a free kick, which was blocked by Matic.

 

Chelsea were still dominant, and in the 63rd minute, a cross from Azpilicueta found Costa, whose header was saved by Federici. What little chances Bournemouth were having were being consistently dealt with by the aerial dominance of David Luiz.

 

In the 66th minute, Kanté found Costa, who played a one-two with Hazard before sending a shot just wide of the post. With just under twenty minutes to go, Costa fed in Pedro, who somehow saw his sitter turned behind by Federici. Rekik then came on, replacing Cook.

 

In the 73rd minute, David Luiz sent a free kick just over the bar, before Surman replaced Harry Arter. Spencer also replaced Pedro with Willian.

 

With ten minutes left, Bournemouth had arguably their best chance. A long ball by Azpilicueta was intercepted by Wilshere, who played a one-two with King before playing it forward to Wilson. Wilson moved the ball back to Surman, who found Wilshere. Wilshere fed the ball forward to King, who sent it to Smith on the right. Smith played a one-two with Pugh who crossed the ball into the area. King forced a header goalwards, but Courtois had no problem saving it.

 

A minute later, Hazard tried an audacious shot, which Federici waved wide. Matic was then taken off, with Loftus-Cheek replacing him. With four minutes left, Kanté sent a shot wide.

 

In stoppage time, David Luiz gave away a free kick. Surman played it short to Fraser, who unleashed a long range effort which was straight at Courtois. It was the last chance of a match in which Chelsea deserved their win, despite being below their best.

 

5th January 2017, 19:45: Barclays Premier League - at Stamford Bridge, London

Chelsea 1-0 Bournemouth (Diego Costa 48)

Man of the Match: Gary Cahill

 

The big story of the night, however, came from The Emirates, where Arsène Wenger got his first league victory over Mourinho in spectacular style. A goal up after Giroud scored in the seventeenth minute, Arsenal's task was made easier when Paul Pogba saw red - his third sending off in the space of a month - for a shocking two-footed lunge on Bellerín. From then on, it was plain sailing for the Gunners and a second from Giroud was followed by goals from Bellerín, Sanchez and Koscielny as Arsenal replaced United at the top of the league. Not only was it Mourinho's heaviest defeat since losing El Clasico to Barcelona in 2010, it was United's heaviest away defeat since losing 5-0 at Stamford Bridge in 1999. Mourinho called Wenger “impossible to deal with” and said he'd be “very happy to see the back of him”. One person posted a comment on twitter, which read "This is the S*n's coverage of Matic's red card versus Pogba's red card. I wonder what the differential factor might be...", to which Sid Collingwood, who had reported on both matches, replied "Matic kept his nose clean after the West Ham game, while this is Pogba's third red card in a month. But I'd expect nothing less from someone who unironically retweeted an article accusing Thomas the Tank Engine of 'spreading fascist propaganda."

 

Elsewhere, Leicester won 4-0 at Sunderland, while Watford got their European credentials back on track with a 3-1 win over Stoke City. West Brom came from behind to pull off a shock win over Man City, while West Ham beat Burnley 3-0. Tottenham secured a double over Liverpool, Harry Kane's six minute brace earning a 3-1 win at Anfield. Everton somehow failed to win at Selhurst Park, while Southampton beat Swansea 2-1.

 

Edited by Drogba11CFC

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The FA Cup third round saw Chelsea travel to Hillsborough for the second time that season. Spencer decided to rotate his squad, and Begovic, Alonso and Batshuayi all came into the side. However, Chelsea's bench was still a strong one, with Luiz, Hazard and Diego Costa all featuring.

 

Sheff Wed

Wildsmith

Palmer Lees Loovens Pudil

Hutchinson

Abdi Lee

Adelaide Fletcher Reach

Substitutes: Westwood, Sasso, Bannan, Rhodes, Jones, Hunt, Forestieri

 

Chelsea:

Begovic

Azpilicueta Zouma Cahill Marcos Alonso

Camacho

Kanté Matic

Willian Batshuayi Pedro

Substitutes: Courtois, Luiz, Gayà, Hazard, Terry, Fàbregas, Diego Costa

 

Referee: Paul Tierney

 

Chelsea were dealt a severe blow as early as the seventh minute when Pedro twisted his knee and had to be replaced by Hazard. In the tenth minute, Batshuayi was brought down by Hutchinson, the former Chelsea defender earning a yellow card.

 

It was Hazard who had the first chance, as he received the ball from Matic before letting fly with a shot which Wildsmith got up to tip over the bar. Two minutes later, Willian crossed the ball to Alonso, who whose shot was also tipped over by Wildsmith. From the corner, Batshuayi had a shot which was charged down by Loovens.

 

Willian was the next player to have an effort. His free kick was headed clear but he regained possession and got past Hutchinson before shooting straight at Wildsmith.

 

Another chance came in the 33rd minute, when Marcos Alonso's free kick was cleared by Loovens. Hazard intercepted the clearance and passed to Kanté, who hit a first time shot over the bar.

 

Sheffield Wednesday had been on the back foot but in the 37th minute, Abdi let fly from 25 yards with a shot which Begovic managed to turn behind. Abdi had another chance in stoppage time, which  Begovic tipped behind, while Adelaide couldn't get a header on target.

 

Sheffield Wednesday started the second half quickly, as Fletcher saw a shot tipped behind by Begovic before sending a header wide. Forestieri then replaced Reach, before Rhodes replaced Fletcher.

 

Midway through the second half, Lee saw a volley turned behind by Begovic, before Chelsea replaced Batshuayi with Diego Costa. Pudil was then booked for a foul on Willian.

 

With eleven minutes left, Fàbregas came on to replace Camacho. However, two minutes later, Diego Costa pulled up with a groin strain.

 

With three minutes to go, Willian sent a free kick wide.

 

In the dying seconds, Sheffield Wednesday won a corner. Begovic came out to claim it and launched the ball upfield to Costa. Costa headed back to Hazard, who sent an intelligent pass forward to Willian. Willian raced to the edge of the area before hitting a powerful shot which came within inches of winning the tie.

 

7th January 2017, 15:00: FA Cup third round - at Hillsborough, Sheffield

Sheff Wed 0-0 Chelsea

Man of the Match: Marcos Alonso

 

In the other games involving Premier League sides, Burnley held Liverpool to a 2-2 draw at Turf Moor. Watford were held to a 1-1 draw at Carlisle United, while Sunderland came from behind to win 2-1 at Millwall. Stoke won 1-0 at Rotherham, while Man Utd won 3-1 at Molineux. The Sunday matches saw Everton suffer a shock 5-1 defeat at home to Newcastle, while Southampton came back from 2-0 down at home to Nottingham Forest to earn a 2-2 draw. West Brom beat Plymouth 4-1, while a late Routledge equaliser earned Swansea a 2-2 draw at West Ham.

 

Outside of the Premier League, Aston Villa dispatched Fulham 2-0, while Birmingham could only draw 0-0 with Burton Albion. Barnsley beat MK Dons 2-1, while Brentford won 2-1 at Blackpool. Norwich won at Bolton by the same scoreline, while National League sides Bromley and Dagenham & Redbridge lost 3-0 at Brighton and Bristol City respectively. A Will Grigg goal saw Wigan win 1-0 at Charlton, while Coventry had to come back from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 with Leeds United. Huddersfield lost 1-0 at home to Cardiff, while a late equaliser saw Gillingham earn a 1-1 draw at Ipswich. Portsmouth pulled off a major shock with a 3-0 win at home to Derby County, while Reading won 3-1 at Preston North End. Shrewsbury beat Blackburn 3-0, while Southend beat Scunthorpe 1-0.

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On Monday night, the draw for the 4th round of the FA Cup was made. Several ties had yet to be played; Arsenal vs Tottenham would not take place for over a week due to TV scheduling, while an outbreak of food poisoning at Loftus Road had seen QPR's game at Manchester City postponed. Several other ties, including Leicester's match at Port Vale, had fallen victim to the weather.

"So, the first ball out is..."

"Number 18."

"Number 18, Manchester City or Queen's Park Rangers...wow."

"Number 26."

"Will play Manchester United!"

"Number 32."

"Newcastle United."

"Number 7."

"Will play West Ham or Swansea City."

"Number 22."

"Port Vale or Leicester City, that one rained off..."

"Number 16"

"Will play Burnley or Liverpool."

"Number 6."

"Walsall or Crystal Palace."

"Number 20."

"Are at home to Southend United."

"Number 25."

"Bristol City."

"Number 5."

"Will play Aston Villa."

"Number 12."

"Stoke City."

"Number 28."

"Will play Ipswich Town or Gillingham."

"Number 31."

"Wigan Athletic."

"Number 15."

"Will face Hull City or Middlesbrough."

"Number 29."

"Sheffield Wednesday or Chelsea."

"Number 17."

"And the winners of the replay will play Coventry City or Leeds United."

"Number 30."

"Arsenal or Tottenham Hotspur."

"Number 3."

"Will play Carlisle United or Watford."

"Number 23."

"West Bromwich Albion."

"Number 19."

"Are at home to Norwich City."

"Number 10."

"Reading."

"Number 4."

"Will play Brighton & Hove Albion."

"Number 21."

"AFC Bournemouth or Cheltenham Town."

"Number 24."

"Will be at home to Portsmouth."

"Number 27."

"Birmingham City or Burton Albion."

"Number 2."

"Will play Peterborough United or Bristol Rovers."

"Number 1."

"Barnsley."

"Number 13."

"Are at home to Sunderland."

"Number 9."

"Shrewsbury Town, who will play..."

"Number 14."

"Shrewsbury Town will play Southampton or Nottingham Forest."

"Number 11."

"Brentford."

"Number 8."

"Are at home to Cardiff City."

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Chelsea travelled to Stoke facing a potentially dicey situation. Pedro was still being treated for a twisted knee sustained at Sheffield Wednesday, while Kurt Zouma had suffered a broken nose and Diego Costa a groin strain in the same match. Marcos Alonso started, largely due to a man of the match performance in his previous appearance, but also because José Gayà was out for at least five weeks with a double hernia. This fixture was one of many that Chelsea had lost under Mourinho the previous season.

 

Stoke:

Grant

Johnson Shawcross Indi Muniesa

Lafita Allen Imbula Arnautovic

Shaqiri

Crouch

Substitutes: Given, Bardsley, Whelan, Jokelainen, Cameron, Gallacher, Adam

 

Chelsea:

Courtois

Azpilicueta David Luiz Cahill Marcos Alonso

Matic

Fàbregas Kanté

Willian Batshuayi Hazard

Substitutes: Begovic, Aké, Terry, Musonda, Loftus-Cheek, Camacho, Jiménez

 

Referee: Stuart Atwell

 

Chelsea started brightly and in the fourth minute, Willian sent a free kick into the area. David Luiz rose highest, but his header went just wide. Barely three minutes later, Willian played a pass to Batshuayi, who didn't strike the ball cleanly.

 

In the eighth minute, Alonso passed the ball forward to Kanté. Kanté played forward to Batshuayi, whose shot was blocked by Imbula.

 

In the eighteenth minute, Fàbregas played the ball to Batshuayi, whose shot was again blocked, this time by Shawcross. Two minutes later, Marcos Alonso got away from Shaqiri and passed to Fàbregas. Fàbregas found Batshuayi, whose hopeful shot was hit straight at Grant.

 

In the 23rd minute, Indi conceded a free kick. Willian looked to shoot, but scooped the ball well over.

 

It wasn't until the 28th minute that Stoke had their first chance. Joe Allen passed to Crouch, whose long range effort went over.

 

In the 30th minute, a ball into space by Fàbregas was cleared by Glen Johnson. The former Chelsea defender's header was intercepted by Kanté, who took the ball past Allen and passed to Hazard. Hazard set off on a surging run before letting fly. His shot looked destined for the top corner, but Grant turned it against the post and behind as Stoke struggled to weather the Chelsea storm.

 

Ten minutes later, Cahill passed to Alonso on the left. Alonso found Kanté, before Fàbregas took over. Fàbregas played in Matic, who passed to Kanté. Kanté passed to Hazard, who beat two Stoke players before sending a shot wide.

 

In the 42nd minute, a long ball by Muniesa was intercepted by Matic. Matic headed the ball to Kanté, who sent a glorious ball to Hazard. Hazard, with all the time in the world, found Batshuayi, who, with an open goal, hit a low shot into the bottom corner.

 

Chelsea replaced a tiring Matic with Camacho at half time as they looked to start the second half as they'd finished the first. Less than two minutes in, Hazard Hazard set off on another run to the byline, where he turned Indi before sending in a cross. Batshuayi headed the ball goalwards, but Grant somehow kept it out, tipping it against the underside of the bar.

 

In the 53rd minute, Batshuayi rose above Shawcross and headed the ball on to Hazard. Hazard set off on another run to the D, before shooting wide again.

 

Five minutes later, Johnson was booked for a trip on Hazard, as Stoke replaced Lafita and Imbula with Cameron and Whelan. Willian stepped up and sent the ball into the net off the bar with a great strike. Gary Neville, commenting on Sky Sports, stated that Chelsea were “looking unbeatable at present”.

 

However, Stoke nearly got back into the game almost immediately. A free kick by Shaqiri was headed clear by Camacho, and then Willian, but Muniesa got to it and hit it first time to Shaqiri. Shaqiri’s header found was intercepted by Cahill, but Cameron played a quick pass to Shaqiri in the area. Shaqiri found Whelan, who was wide open, but didn't strike the ball cleanly.

 

Chelsea searched for a third and in the 63rd minute, Willian headed the ball to Batshuayi. Batshuayi played a square ball to Hazard, who passed to Willian. Willian passed to Batshuayi, who played in Hazard, but Hazard's shot was blocked by Shawcross. Muniesa’s clearance was intercepted by Luiz, who headed the ball on to Camacho. Camacho found Kanté with a forward pass, and Kanté found Hazard, whose shot was blocked by Indi.

 

With fifteen minutes left, Allen got past Camacho and sent a cross into the area. Crouch got there ahead of Luiz and volleyed the ball past Courtois to give Stoke a glimmer of hope.

 

Right from the kick off, Chelsea attacked. Cahill found Batshuayi with a good pass, and Batshuayi found Willian out wide. Willian took the ball past Muniesa before sending a cross into the area which Grant caught. Then, Fàbregas found Willian, who was too quick for Muniesa and passed to Fàbregas. Fàbregas played in Kanté, who slipped the ball to Hazard. Hazard's shot from a narrow angle was turned around the post by Grant. Chelsea then replaced Kanté with Loftus-Cheek.

 

With ten minutes to go, Bardsley was booked for a trip on Hazard. Willian looked to double his tally, but sent the shot sailing over the bar.

 

With four minutes left, Hazard sent a cross into the box, but Martins Indi once again blocked Batshuayi’s shot.

 

Whelan was then booked for a foul on Camacho before Aké came on to replace Cahill. From the free kick, Shawcross and Indi blocked efforts from Willian and Hazard.

 

With time almost up, Muniesa passed to Cameron, who played it back 30 yards to Indi. Indi passed to Whelan, who played it to Cameron. Cameron found Shaqiri, who gave it back to him, before passing to Whelan. Whelan went for goal, with a shot which whistled just wide of the post, although Courtois had it covered.

 

15th January 2017, 16:00: Barclays Premier League - at bet365 Stadium, Stoke-on-Trent

Stoke City 1-2 Chelsea (Crouch 75; Batshuayi 42, Willian 58)

Man of the Match: Willian

Attendance: 27,594 (2,774 away)

 

In the Friday night game, Burnley drew 2-2 with Sunderland.

 

The Saturday lunchtime game saw Arsenal travel to Goodison. Giroud gave Arsenal a half time lead, but Kevin Mirallas equalised shortly after the break. Leighton Baines then missed a penalty with twelve minutes left, before Seamus Coleman was sent off with five minutes left for a foul on Sanchez in the box. Oliver Giroud fired the ball into the top corner to give Arsenal the three points and keep them top of the league.

 

Bournemouth beat Middlesbrough 4-0 to remain in contention for a European place, while Southampton could only draw at Crystal Palace. A wonderful strike by Coutinho saw Liverpool win 1-0 at Leicester, who had Wes Morgan sent off in the nineteenth minute for going in on Can with both feet. Tottenham notched up a 3-0 win at home to Swansea. In the 5:30 kickoff, early goals from Yaya Touré and David Silva saw Man City beat West Ham 2-0 to remain in the top four. The other Sunday game saw Hull beat West Brom 2-0 to move out of the relegation zone thanks to two Berbatov penalties, but the big news was at Old Trafford the following night. Man Utd dominated Watford, with Ander Herrera missing an early penalty, but in the 89th minute Amrabat opened his Watford account, firing a low shot into the opposite corner, to give Watford the points. It was Mourinho's first home defeat as United manager, and his third successive defeat in the league. He took it with incredibly bad grace, once again branding Watford "lucky" and Walter Mazzari "bitter". Having previously been six points clear at the top, United were now in third, with Arsenal leading Chelsea by one point.

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Chelsea's FA Cup replay with Sheffield Wednesday would take place on Wednesday night. Spencer had decided to leave nothing to chance and field the strongest side he had at his disposal, having played in Chelsea's cup defeat at Barnsley and attended the defeat against Bradford City two years earlier. Costa was still out, but Pedro was in with a chance, and Spencer had asked the first physio he encountered to report back to him the result of the winger's fitness test.

 

Two hours before kick off, Eva Carneiro was the physio who knocked on the door of Spencer's office.

Well?” Spencer asked.

I don't think he's ready.” Carneiro responded.

Damn,” Spencer retorted. “In that case, we'll just have to go with what we've got.”

 

The game between Arsenal and Tottenham had been snapped up by BBC1 and Radio 5 Live, with BT Sport taking Liverpool against Burnley, so any Chelsea fans would have to make do with score updates or BBC Radio London.

 

Chelsea:

Courtois

Azpilicueta David Luiz Cahill Marcos Alonso

Matic

Fàbregas Kanté

Willian Batshuayi Hazard

Substitutes: Begovic, Aké, Terry, Musonda, Loftus-Cheek, Camacho, Jiménez

 

Sheff Wed:

Wildsmith

Palmer Lees Loovens Pudil

Hutchinson

Adelaide Abdi Lee Bannan

 

Fletcher

Substitutes: Westwood, Sasso, Forestieri, Rhodes, Jones, Hunt, Wallace

 

Even the most optimistic Owls fan would have suspected that the writing was on the wall after seeing the Chelsea lineup and it took just seven minutes for Chelsea to have their first chance, a free kick which Willian sent over the bar. Sheffield Wednesday did force a corner, which came to nothing.

 

In the 21st minute, Hazard raced into the box, but was dispossessed. The clearance, however, only found Alonso, who passed to Matic. Matic passed to Kanté, who found Fàbregas. Fàbregas threaded the ball into the path of Batshuayi, who fired it past Wildsmith to give Chelsea the lead. Lees was livid, and told the referee that it was clearly offside, but Batshuayi had timed his run perfectly.

 

In the 26th minute, Chelsea attacked again. An excellent ball from Matic found Batshuayi, who raced to the edge of the area before hitting a shot straight at Wildsmith. Two minutes later, Kanté found Batshuayi with a forward pass, and the Belgian played a one-two with Hazard before getting into the box and hitting another shot at Wildsmith, much to his disbelief.

 

Chelsea had dominated and it wasn't until the 32nd minute that the visitors had a sniff at goal. Adelaide sent a lofted ball into the area for Fletcher, whose header was no problem for Courtois.

 

In the 35th minute, Lees entered Stephen Tomlinson's book for obstructing Batshuayi. Willian came close, his free kick skimming the top of the bar.

 

Chelsea continued to dominate, and in the 41st minute, Willian sent a cross into the area. Loovens impeded Fàbregas, and Stephen Tomlinson had no hesitation in pointing to the spot. Hazard stepped up and blasted the ball into the top corner, sending Wildsmith the wrong way.

 

The second half started quietly, with nothing much happening until around the hour mark, where Chelsea replaced Matic with Camacho and the visitors brought on Rhodes and Jones for Fletcher and Hutchinson. In the 62nd minute, a wonderful pass from Hazard found Batshuayi, whose shot from a narrow angle was palmed away by Wildsmith. Chelsea then won a corner, from which Willian headed inches wide, before the visitors replaced Adelaide with Wallace.

 

Midway through the second half, Wednesday did manage to get an attack in, but Kanté blocked Wallace's cross. A minute later, a free kick was cleared by Luiz, and Marcos Alonso found himself the furthest man upfield. The Spaniard eluded Pudil before launching a hopeful strike from 35 yards, which went some way wide.

 

In the 70th minute, Camacho cut out a pass by Loovens and passed to Kanté. Kanté took the ball into the Wednesday half before moving it left to Alonso. Alonso passed to Fàbregas, who passed forward to Kanté. Kanté brought Hazard into play, and Hazard passed to Batshuayi. Batshuayi played in Willian, whose left footed shot found the bottom corner to effectively end the game as a contest with his tenth goal of the season. Spencer then opted to bring on Musonda for Hazard.

 

With eighteen minutes remaining, Cahill gave away a free kick. Jones’ shot was headed clear by Fàbregas, but only as far as Wallace. Wallace went for goal, but Courtois got across to tip the shot wide.

 

With eleven minutes left, Chelsea were awarded a free kick just outside the box. Willian made no mistake, hitting a powerful shot over the wall and into the net to put the icing on the cake.

 

Two minutes later, Chelsea were awarded another free kick. Willian sent the ball into the area, but Abdi cleared it behind.

 

With three minutes left, Loftus-Cheek came on to replace Kanté, as Chelsea booked their place in the fourth round.

 

18th January 2017, 19:45: FA Cup third round replay - at Stamford Bridge, London

Chelsea 4-0 Sheff Wed (Batshuayi 21, Hazard pen 42, Willian 70, 79)

Man of the Match: Willian

 

The other replays had seen Liverpool come back from 2-0 down to draw 3-3 with Burnley before eventually winning 5-4 on penalties. An early goal by Llorente saw Swansea eliminate West Ham, but the big news came from the City Ground, where Nottingham Forest crushed Southampton 5-0, which included two goals from former Arsenal striker Nicklas Bendtner. To add insult to injury, Southampton had fielded a relatively strong side.

 

A brace from Afobe helped Bournemouth to a 2-1 win over Cheltenham, while Peterborough United dispatched Bristol Rovers 2-0. Leicester City had to rely on a late equaliser from Nampalys Mendy to earn a replay against Port Vale after going 2-0 down, while Walsall held Crystal Palace to a 1-1 draw. The pick of Wednesday's games was Arsenal against Tottenham. A seesaw clash saw Tottenham take the lead after three minutes through Kane, only for Arsenal to lead 2-1 after fifteen through a brace from Sanchez. Erik Lamela equalised after the break and Kane's second gave Tottenham the lead, but Oxlade-Chamberlain rescued the Gunners with five minutes left. Elsewhere, Hull City took a 2-0 lead against Middlesbrough with less than ten minutes to go, but Boro fought back to earn a replay. Man City, meanwhile, comfortably beat QPR 2-0.

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Chelsea travelled to Hull for their next match. Costa had failed a fitness test so he was still out of the squad, but Batshuayi had scored on his last two appearances so he started. With Matic on a yellow card and Manchester City looming, Spencer opted to play Camacho behind Kanté and Fàbregas.

 

Hull City

Marshall

Elabdellaoui Maguire Ranocchia Robertson

Henriksen Huddlestone

Markovic Evandro Grosicki

Berbatov

Substitutes: Jakupovic, Davies, Clucas, Mbokani, Mason, Dawson, Keane

 

Chelsea

Courtois

Azpilicueta Luiz Cahill Alonso

Camacho

Fàbregas Kanté

Willian Batshuayi Hazard

Substitutes: Begovic, Aké, Zouma, Matic, Loftus-Cheek, Pedro, Jiménez

 

The match, however, started disastrously for Chelsea and Gary Cahill. Huddlestone searched out Markovic on the right, and Markovic got past Alonso before knocking the ball towards the far post. Cahill tried to intercept, but instead managed to send it past Courtois into his own net after just 24 seconds.

 

Chelsea's first chance came after just 14 minutes. Willian sent a free kick into the box. David Luiz got his head to it, but sent it wide.

 

In the 18th minute, Cahill made up for his error, charging down a shot from Evandro.

 

In the 21st minute, Chelsea won a corner. Fàbregas aimed at the far post, but Robertson cut the pass out. Alonso headed the ball to Kanté, who hit a low shot straight at Marshall. A minute later, Willian got past Robertson and passed to Batshuayi whose shot from six yards hit the side netting.

 

In the 35th minute, a pass from Kanté found Batshuayi, whose shot was deflected wide off Ranocchia for a corner.

 

In the 39th minute, a throw in by Alonso found Hazard. Hazard sent the ball to Fàbregas, who launched a powerful shot into the top corner to bring Chelsea level.

 

It took just two minutes of the second half for Chelsea to attack. Willian sent a free kick into the area, where David Luiz headed wide. Two minutes later, Batshuayi tried his luck, being played in by Fàbregas before firing wide.

 

In the 51st minute, a Hull corner was claimed easily by Courtois. Courtois sent a long ball upfield to Batshuayi, who rose above Robertson and nodded the ball to Willian. Willian passed to Kanté, who sent a long ball to Hazard on the wing. Hazard outpaced Elabdellaoui before sending a cross from the byline, which Willian met with a bullet header to give Chelsea the lead. Hull then withdrew Markovic, replacing him with Clucas.

 

In the 59th minute, Henriksen was booked for a foul on Fàbregas. Willian took the free kick, but sent the ball over the bar. Two minutes later, Hull replaced Evandro and Berbatov with Mason and Mbokani.

 

In the 62nd minute, Kanté passed through to Hazard, who couldn't get his shot on target.

 

With fourteen minutes left, Chelsea replaced David Luiz with Zouma. Zouma made an impact with ten minutes to go, blocking a shot by Ryan Mason.

 

With seven minutes left, Zouma was penalised for a trip on Mbokani. However, Huddlestone sent the free kick wide. Chelsea then replaced a misfiring Batshuayi with Jiménez.

 

As time ran down, Chelsea replaced Fàbregas with Matic, but Hull barely threatened.

 

21st January 2017, 15:00: Barclays Premier League - at The Circle, Hull

Hull City 1-2 Chelsea (Cahill og 1; Fàbregas 39, Willian 51)

Man of the Match: Eden Hazard

 

At the final whistle, Spencer and his players went over to the away end to applaud the visiting supporters, who had spent much of the second half singing a chant from two years prior, “We're top of the league”. In the lunchtime kickoff, Stoke City had come from behind to beat Arsenal 2-1 at the bet365 Stadium, allowing Chelsea to go two points clear at the top of the table - the first time that they'd been top since May 2015. Garry Baker summed up the fans’ views with “Delighted to see us back on top. Now to stay there for as long as possible.”

 

In the other games, Burnley beat West Brom 2-0 despite a red card for James Tarkowski. A second half goal by Nolito saw Man City squeeze past Middlesbrough and move back above Watford, who had briefly moved into the top four after winning 1-0 at Dean Court on Friday Night, while Tottenham slipped further out of sight with a 0-0 draw at home to Sunderland. In the evening kickoff, Man Utd won 3-0 at home to Crystal Palace. Sunday saw Leicester beat West Ham 1-0, while Swansea eased the pressure on manager Paul Clement with a 2-1 win over Liverpool thanks to a late Routledge goal. The blue half of Merseyside fared better on Monday night, beating Southampton 4-0. Monday also saw two FA Cup replays take place; Middlesbrough beat Hull 1-0 while Tottenham beat Arsenal 2-0 at White Hart Lane.

 

There were numerous games taking place in midweek. Tuesday saw Sunderland win 1-0 at Barnsley in the FA Cup fourth round; the FA’s decision to play ties involving Premier League sides in midweek had united the football community in righteous indignation, summed up by Sid Collingwood under the headline “IS NOTHING SACRED?”. In the EFL Cup, Manchester City overturned a 1-0 first leg deficit with a 4-1 win over Bournemouth.

 

Wednesday's FA Cup games saw Leicester book their place in the fourth round with a 3-0 win over Port Vale. In the fourth round, Stoke lost 4-2 at home to Ipswich while West Brom could only draw 1-1 with Norwich. In the EFL Cup, Tottenham beat Middlesbrough 2-1 on the night and 3-1 on aggregate to advance to the final. Thursday's FA Cup tie saw Crystal Palace beat Walsall 4-1.

Edited by Drogba11CFC

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Chelsea looked to stay top of the league when Manchester City came to Stamford Bridge. Although City had won their last three league games against Chelsea, they were missing both Gabriel Jesus and Agüero through injury. They had also won just one of their last five away games, while Chelsea were unbeaten in the league since October. Although Costa was back from injury, Spencer elected to start Batshuayi.

 

Chelsea

Courtois

Azpilicueta Luiz Cahill Alonso

Matic

Fàbregas Kanté

Willian Batshuayi Hazard

Substitutes: Begovic, Aké, Zouma, Camacho, Loftus-Cheek, Pedro, Costa

 

Man City

Bravo

Zabaleta Kompany Otamendi Clichy

Fernandinho

Gündogan Touré

Sané De Bruyne Silva

Substitutes: Caballero, Stones, Nolito, Sterling, Fernando, Brooks, Ambrose

 

Referee: Martin Atkinson

 

The visitors had won the previous season's corresponding fixture 3-0 but a repeat looked unlikely as early as the fourth minute when Claudio Bravo had to throw himself in front of the ball to ensure that a cross from Willian wouldn't go into the net. A minute later, it took a last ditch tackle by Otamendi to stop Batshuayi from getting a shot.

 

In the eighth minute, Batshuayi looked to turn provider, finding an open Hazard whose shot from a tight angle was cleared by Clichy.

 

In the thirteenth minute, Fàbregas won the ball from Gündogan and fed the ball to Hazard. Hazard played a great ball to Batshuayi, who got in the clear but was denied by brilliant save by Bravo.

 

Chelsea won three corners in quick succession and from the third one, Fernandinho headed clear. Fàbregas won the ball back and lofted it to Matic, who passed to Kanté. Kanté tried his luck from 20 yards, but was denied by Bravo. Fernandinho was then shown a yellow card for a trip on Batshuayi.

 

Chelsea were dominant, and in the seventeenth minute a Manchester City corner was cleared by Cahill. Fàbregas took the ball out of the area before sending a long ball to Batshuayi on the right Batshuayi played a good pass to find Hazard on the left, and Hazard drove the ball ahead of Batshuayi. In acres of space, Batshuayi took the ball into the area before striking a low shot under Bravo and into the opposite corner of the net for his fifth goal of the season, prompting the Chelsea fans to break out an adaptation of the theme tune from the 1960s Batman TV show.

 

The visitors looked to respond straight away, and two minutes later some good build up play saw Sané try his luck, only to be denied by Courtois, who had been sent off in the previous season's fixture. City attacked again, and De Bruyne played a one-two with Touré before shooting high.

 

Fernandinho sent a shot wide in the 22nd minute, which would prove to be costly. A minute later, a corner by Fàbregas was caught by Bravo, but his long ball to David Silva was intercepted by Azpilicueta, who headed the ball to Fàbregas. Fàbregas passed back to Azpilicueta, who sent a pass down the line for Willian. Willian took the ball down the right before passing to Kanté. The ball was intercepted by Touré, but he was then caught napping by Batshuayi, who passed to Hazard. Hazard sent a shot looping over Bravo to double Chelsea's lead.

 

A minute later, David Silva sent a shot over the bar.

 

In the 25th minute, Alonso passed back to Courtois, who sent a long ball to Willian. Willian played an even longer ball into space for Batshuayi to run onto. Batshuayi looked to score again, but was denied by Bravo. Ten minutes later, De Bruyne played a one-two with Sané before hitting the ball wide.

 

Gael Clichy’s name was taken in the 37th minute for a foul on Willian, before Marcos Alonso was booked in the first minute of stoppage time for a trip on Sané. Guardiola made a change at half time, replacing Touré with Fernando.

 

Chelsea started the second half as they'd started the first, and it took less than two minutes for Hazard to play a one-two with Batshuayi before having a shot which went flying over the bar. A minute later, a header by Kompany was tipped over the bar by Courtois. From the resulting corner, De Bruyne sent a header over. Sané was the next to try his luck, with a header which was saved by Courtois.

 

In the 50th minute, Chelsea won a free kick. Fernandinho cleared, but only as far as Fàbregas. Fàbregas beat Gündogan and passed to Batshuayi, who found Hazard. Hazard squared the ball to Willian, whose shot was turned behind by Bravo. Three minutes later, Clichy sent a cross to Fernandinho who, from 20 yards out, hit a volley which took a slight deflection off Alonso and cannoned back off the bar before Cahill hacked it clear.

 

In the 55th minute, Azpilicueta threw the ball in to Willian. Willian, from a tight angle, played the ball to his left, and it hit the post before being cleared behind by Otamendi. Three minutes later, a cross from Zabaleta was cleared by Cahill but only to Gündogan, who volleyed the ball over the bar.

 

As the clock passed the hour mark, Willian sent a long ball to Batshuayi, who skipped past Otamendi before sending a cross to the far post. Kompany headed clear, but Kanté intercepted, volleying the ball over the bar. Two minutes later, Kanté sent a long ball to Hazard, whose shot from a tight angle hit the side netting.

 

In the 65th minute, a lovely pass by Batshuayi found Willian, who took the ball into the area before letting fly. The ball seemed destined for the top corner, but Bravo got across with a good save. Manchester City then made a double change, replacing Zabaleta with Stones and Gündogan with Sterling.

 

With twenty minutes left, Kanté played a superb pass to Hazard, whose shot was tipped away by Bravo. Hazard was running the show and with eleven minutes left, he tried a shot from a tight angle which was denied by the frame of the goal.

 

With eight minutes left, Spencer replaced Fàbregas with Camacho before Kanté put a shot wide with six minutes remaining. A John Stones cross was headed wide by Silva with five minutes to go, before Chelsea went straight to the other end and Batshuayi was denied a second goal as Bravo tipped the shot over the bar.

 

Spencer replaced Alonso with Nathan Aké as the clock ticked down, but a dominant performance saw Chelsea pick up another massive victory and briefly move five points clear of Arsenal.

 

28th January 2017, 12:45: Barclays Premier League - at Stamford Bridge, London

Chelsea 2-0 Man City (Batshuayi 17, Hazard 23)

Man of the Match: Eden Hazard

 

In the press conference after the match, Spencer said, “We were excellent and thoroughly deserved this win, I'm really proud of the team.”

 

Chelsea twitter was buzzing after the match; Ava Jenkins posted “Man City looked broken by the end of that, think we're actually gonna do it you know!” while Steve Ashforth wrote “Huge moment in the title race, what a win! George Spencer is a mastermind!” The mood was a lot more sombre on the opposing side; Bob Haynes posted “Really thought we'd win today, a draw wouldn't have been the end of the world but a defeat is a complete disaster, gutted.” Dennis Ward stated “That's it, title hopes are over. Congratulations to Chelsea.

Sid Collingwood, meanwhile, was just as critical of City's... interesting choice of third kit as he was of their performance. However, he was full of praise for the home side, saying “A stark contrast to Mourinho's parked bus, it looks as though Spencer is just what Chelsea needed. They looked dangerous every time they went forward, and this was without Diego Costa in the side.

 

In the Friday night game, a Yannick Bolasie equaliser saw Everton hold Man Utd to a 1-1 draw at Goodison. Arsenal cut the gap back to two points with a 3-1 victory over Bournemouth, while two penalties and an own goal saw Stoke win 3-0 at Crystal Palace. This proved to be the final straw for the board, and the board (including Jeremy Hosking, who was negotiating the purchase of another steam locomotive, 60532 Blue Peter), after a quick meeting, sacked Sam Allardyce.

Swansea and Sunderland played out a goalless draw in South Wales, while Leicester won 2-0 at West Brom. In the 5:30 kickoff, Southampton came from behind to beat Liverpool 2-1. New signing Marcel Sabitzer opened the scoring for the reds, but Charlie Austin equalised after half time before Nathan Redmond got the winner in the 89th minute. In the Sunday games, three goals in the opening 21 minutes saw Burnley on their way to a 3-2 win at Middlesbrough, while a last minute own goal by Winston Reid denied West Ham victory over Tottenham. On Monday night, Watford beat Hull 2-1 to move into the top four.

 

It was perhaps unsurprising that Spencer was named Manager of the Month for the second month running. Chelsea had won all five of their league games, although Walter Mazzari had also guided Watford to a similar record. The award was decided on goal difference, while Arsène Wenger came in third.

Pos

Inf

Team

P

W

D

L

F

A

GD

Pts

1st

 

Chelsea

24

16

5

3

50

23

27

53

2nd

 

Arsenal

24

16

3

5

51

16

35

51

3rd

 

Man Utd

24

15

3

6

53

21

32

48

4th

 

Watford

24

14

5

5

37

27

10

47

5th

 

Man City

24

13

5

6

40

23

17

44

6th

 

Tottenham

24

9

14

1

39

21

18

41

7th

 

Liverpool

24

12

4

8

52

39

13

40

8th

 

Bournemouth

24

11

4

9

32

32

0

37

9th

 

Leicester

24

10

7

7

28

36

-8

37

10th

 

Burnley

24

10

5

9

27

31

-4

35

11th

 

Southampton

24

9

7

8

32

32

0

34

12th

 

West Ham

24

7

8

9

32

31

1

29

13th

 

Everton

24

7

7

10

28

30

-2

28

14th

 

Sunderland

24

7

7

10

25

35

-10

28

15th

 

West Brom

24

6

5

13

22

38

-16

23

16th

 

Stoke

24

5

6

13

25

38

-13

21

17th

 

Swansea

24

5

6

13

22

41

-19

21

18th

 

Middlesbrough

24

5

4

15

19

41

-22

19

19th

 

Hull

24

3

9

12

21

44

-23

18

20th

 

Crystal Palace

24

1

4

19

7

43

-36

7

 

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On Monday evening, Spencer sat down to watch the draw for the FA Cup 5th round.

 

“The first ball out is... number 5.”

 

“Aston Villa, and they are at home to…”

 

“Number 12.”

 

“Bournemouth or Portsmouth.”

 

“Number 14.”

 

“Sunderland.”

 

“Number 6.”

 

“Are at home to Ipswich Town.”

 

“Number 1.”

 

“Manchester City or Manchester United.”

 

“Number 3.”

 

“Will play Leicester City or Liverpool.”

 

“Number 15.”

 

“Shrewsbury Town or Nottingham Forest.”

 

“Number 9.”

 

“Are at home to Tottenham Hotspur or Watford.”

 

“Number 7.”

 

“Wigan Athletic or Middlesbrough.”

 

“Will play number 13.”

 

“And that is Peterborough United.”

 

“Number 8.”

 

“Chelsea or Leeds United.”

 

“Are at home to number 11.”

 

“And they are at home to Brighton and Hove Albion.”

 

“Number 16.”

 

“Cardiff City, will play…”

 

“Number 2.”

 

“Newcastle United or West Ham United.”

 

And finally, number 10.”

 

“West Bromwich Albion or Norwich City.”

 

“Number 4.”

 

“Are at home to Crystal Palace or Southend United.”

 

In the FA Cup, Bournemouth beat Portsmouth 4-1 on Tuesday night. Wednesday's games saw Crystal Palace dispatch Southend 2-0, while in the Manchester Derby, Jetro Willems marked his £10.25M move from Ajax with an own goal to give United victory. Watford pulled off a shock, winning 1-0 at Tottenham thanks to an 89th minute goal by Christian Kabasele.

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Champions Leicester came to Stamford Bridge in the Friday night game. The Foxes were on a very good run of away form, having not lost on the road since a 6-0 defeat at Old Trafford in November. Chelsea, however, were unbeaten in sixteen matches and off the back of a 2-0 win over Manchester City.

 

Chelsea

Courtois

Azpilicueta Luiz Cahill Alonso

Matic

Fàbregas Kanté

Willian Batshuayi Hazard

Substitutes: Eduardo, Aké, Zouma, Camacho, Loftus-Cheek, Pedro, Costa

 

Leicester:

Zieler

Simpson Morgan Huth Fuchs

Bentacur Drinkwater

Carrillo Pereira Mahrez

Vardy

Substitutes: Schmeichel, Wagué, King, Slimani, Okazaki, Belouane, Gray

 

Referee: Michael Oliver

 

Chelsea looked to continue their winning run and in the fourth minute, Hazard took the ball down the left, beating Simpson, before delivering a cross to Batshuayi. Batshuayi's header was powerful, but Zieler was able to get a hand to it and tip it behind. From the resulting corner, Fàbregas’ cross was headed by Simpson but only to Willian, who centred the ball back in. David Luiz got up well, but steered his header wide.

 

In the eighteenth minute, Chelsea were awarded a free kick for a foul on Batshuayi by Morgan. Willian stepped up, but his effort was deflected behind by Bentacur. Fàbregas sent a hanging ball over from the corner, which Cahill headed across goal to David Luiz, who headed home from close range with Zieler stranded.

 

Three minutes later, Chelsea were awarded another free kick for a foul by Fuchs. Willian's effort was ambitious, but went wide.

 

Leicester had a chance to equalise in the 36th minute, but having run onto the pass from Pereira, André Carrillo shot straight at Courtois.

 

Chelsea then looked to turn up the pressure, and Fàbregas had a shot blocked by Huth, before Gary Cahill had a header saved by Zieler. Azpilicueta was then booked, for a foul on Mahrez.

 

Leicester then forced two corners in the 43rd minute. From the second one, Fuchs sent an outswinging ball, which was intercepted by Matic. However, the attempt at a clearance behind fell onto the head of Huth, and the former Chelsea defender nodded home from practically on the goal line.

 

Leicester had the first chance of the second half in the 53rd minute. Mahrez aimed a cross at the far post, which was met by the head of Vardy but sent well wide. Both sides made a change in the 62nd minute, with Gray replacing Mahrez while Pedro replaced Willian.

 

Two minutes later, Chelsea won a free kick. Marcos Alonso stepped up, but put it just over. Batshuayi then chanced his arm, but was robbed just as he took the shot. Leicester then replaced Pereira with Okazaki, before Costa replaced Batshuayi and Slimani replaced Vardy.

 

In the 74th minute, Marcos Alonso's throw in found Costa, who passed to Hazard. Hazard sent a cross in for Pedro, which was headed clear by Wes Morgan. Kanté headed the ball back in, but Diego Costa was pushed by Huth. Michael Oliver pointed to the spot, much to the fury of the Leicester players, although it was the correct decision. Hazard stepped up, but hit it too close to Zieler, who palmed the ball away.

 

With seven minutes remaining, Danny Drinkwater was booked for a foul on Hazard. Marcos Alonso took the free kick, but sent it over the bar.

 

In the last minute of normal time, Matic passed the ball into the area for Pedro, but the Spaniard put his shot wide from a tight angle to bring a drab second half to a close.

 

3rd February 2017, 20:00: Barclays Premier League - at Stamford Bridge, London

Chelsea 1-1 Leicester City (David Luiz 18, Hazard m/pen 75; Huth 43)

Man of the Match: David Luiz

 

It was disappointing to concede when we did,” Spencer told Dan Levene in the press conference after the match, “But I'm confident that we can push on and put the disappointment behind us. Arsenal have Manchester City tomorrow, so we may well stay top of the league.

 

Chelsea did indeed stay top of the league, as Nolito scored the only goal in the 51st minute at The Emirates to put Manchester City back in the top four. Crystal Palace beat Hull 1-0 thanks to an early goal by van Aanholt, while Southampton drew 1-1 with Sunderland. Watford capitulated against Burnley, as an early Tom Heaton own goal was responded by with an equaliser from Brady and then four second half goals by André Gray before Isaac Success added some respectability to the scoreline. West Brom beat Swansea 2-0, while Man Utd beat Stoke 3-0 to move into second. Sunday's games were both high scoring, as Everton beat Bournemouth 4-0 before West Ham edged Liverpool in a seven goal thriller. On Monday night, a brace from Harry Kane saw Tottenham see off Middlesbrough at The Riverside.

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With less than 48 hours between the FA Cup fourth round tie against Leeds Utd and the Premier League game at Burnley, Spencer was forced to rotate his squad. Only Courtois, Cahill, Fàbregas and Batshuayi, the former due to Begovic sustaining a gashed leg the previous week, remained from the game against Leicester, while Nathan Aké, Ola Aina, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Charly Musonda were handed starts.

 

Chelsea

Courtois

Aina Cahill Zouma Aké

Camacho

Loftus-Cheek Fàbregas

Musonda Batshuayi Pedro

Substitutes: Begovic, Alonso, Kanté, Moses, Luiz, Hazard, Costa

 

Leeds Utd

Silvestri

Ayling Jansson Bartley Berardi

Bridcutt

Sacko Phillips Grimes Dallas

 

Wood

Substitutes: Green, Cooper, Hernandez, Barrow, Pedraza, Vann, Viera

 

The match was only five minutes old when the first chance came, as Batshuayi surged past Bartley before his shot was blocked by Jansson and cleared by Berardi ahead of an onrushing Musonda. Two minutes later, Fàbregas hit a free kick over the bar.

 

In the ninth minute, Aké passed to Fàbregas, who sent a long ball forward to Pedro. Pedro sent in a low, hard cross, which Batshuayi tucked home.

 

In the thirteenth minute, Loftus-Cheek brought down Chris Wood, and was shown a yellow card by Lee Mason. Kalvin Phillips took the free kick, but it was headed clear by Musonda.

 

Leeds attacked again, and in the eighteenth minute, a free kick from Phillips found Wood, who headed wide. Liam Bridcutt then conceded a free kick, which Camacho sent well wide.

 

In the 28th minute, a free kick from Grimes was saved well by Courtois. But that was Leeds Utd's only shot on target and Chelsea would soon make them pay. In the 30th minute, a corner from Fàbregas was intercepted by Bartley. Aké intercepted the clearance, however, and headed the ball down to Pedro, who sent the ball into the top corner.

 

Things very nearly got even worse for the visitors three minutes later, as Zouma beat Jansson in the air and forced a save from Silvestri. Camacho was booked in the 37th minute for a foul on Wood. Chelsea were dominant, with Pedro running Leeds ragged, and two minutes before halftime Fàbregas sent a free kick just over the bar.

 

Chelsea suffered a setback just after halftime, however, as Fàbregas was tackled by Phillips. It was a superb sliding tackle, but Fàbregas went down holding his leg. Eva Carneiro was waved on to treat him, and following confirmation of a gashed leg, he was withdrawn for N’Golo Kanté.

 

Kanté then almost made an immediate impact, as he set off on a run from his own half to the edge of the Leeds area, before sending the ball over. Leeds then replaced Chris Wood and Stuart Dallas with Modou Barrow and Pedraza, before Ronaldo Viera replaced Grimes a minute later. In the 59th minute, a corner from Phillips found Barrow 25 yards out, but he was unable to strike the ball cleanly.

 

In the 63rd minute, Bridcutt was booked for a foul on Pedro. Chelsea clearly wanted more, and in the 69th minute, Kanté fed the ball to Batshuayi, whose shot was saved by Silvestri.

 

In the 71st minute, Aina threw the ball to Camacho. Camacho passed back to Aina, who shifted the focus to Kanté. Kanté got past Phillips before sending a piledriver into the bottom left corner of the net for what Jonathan Pierce called “a brilliant goal” on Radio 5 Live.

 

As Leeds looked to try and keep the scoreline respectable, Chelsea came forward again. Another Aina throw in found Loftus-Cheek, who volleyed it back. Aina passed the ball to Musonda, who sent it to Aké. From just outside the area, Aké shot on the volley, which took a slight deflection into the net for his first ever goal for Chelsea, which was fully deserved for the effort he'd put in.

 

Aina then received a yellow card, for a foul on Pedraza. David Luiz replaced Loftus-Cheek with three minutes left, but the last few minutes passed without incident as Chelsea booked a home tie against Brighton in the fifth round.

 

9th February 2017, 19:45: FA Cup 4th Round - at Stamford Bridge, London

Chelsea 4-0 Leeds Utd (Batshuayi 9, Pedro 30, Kanté 71, Aké 73)

Attendance: 37,411

Man of the Match: Nathan Aké

 

The other games, played on Wednesday had seen Liverpool blitz Leicester with four goals in the last twelve minutes to win 5-1, while Newcastle saw off West Ham 3-1 and Wigan beat Middlesbrough 1-0.

 

FA Cup 5th round draw in full:

Aston Villa vs Bournemouth

Sunderland vs Ipswich Town

Manchester United vs Liverpool

Nottingham Forest vs Watford

Wigan Athletic vs Peterborough

Chelsea vs Brighton & Hove Albion

Cardiff City vs Newcastle United

Norwich City vs Crystal Palace


 

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