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It has been a start-stop second season for Antonio Conte at Chelsea, after a brilliant 2016-17 campaign that saw us get crowned as Premier League champions.

The Italian has been vocal in asserting his belief that 2017/18 will be very difficult, and indeed it has been one. Conte needed fresh players in the summer to boost his squad and although he got a few, they have struggled, barring the brilliant Alvaro Morata.

Summer acquisition from Monaco, Tiemoue Bakayoko has looked like a shadow of himself, while Danny Drinkwater has endured his own injury problems. Morata, who has 10 goals to his name, is currently nursing a back problem, which kept him out of the 3-1 win over Huddersfield.

The squad is weaker than last season and many would point out the sale of Nemanja Matic to Manchester United in the summer. Of course, the Serb was a vital cog in Conte’s team that won the Premier League last season and so it still baffles me to even think why we sold him to direct rivals United.

Also, some players have suffered a dip in form and quite a few of Chelsea’s title rivals have either copied our 3-4-3 formation or figured out a way to play against it. Though Conte has tweaked the 3-4-3 formation to 3-4-1-2, our defence has proved to be sloppy.

Alvaro Morata and Pedro

While Manchester City are in an unstoppable mode, it’s ridiculous to even think of overhauling them. We are 14 points shy of City, and three points short of their neighbours Manchester United.

So realistically, Conte should first catch his nemesis, Jose Mourinho, before even thinking about Pep Guardiola. To be honest, although we are 15 days away from New Year, it’s City’s title to lose. Until and unless there’s a miraculous breakdown in the team or any injury to an important player, I don’t think City would drop points. For now, let’s hope Spurs pull out a rabbit from the hat against the league-leaders on Saturday.

Back to us, we need to keep winning every game from here on. Following a superb win over Huddersfield, our next assignment is a home game against Southampton.

Football expert and columnist Paul Merson has made a prediction of the game.

The ‘Magic Man’ told Sky Sports:

“I thought Chelsea were brilliant at Huddersfield. I know Tottenham won easily there but Manchester United got beaten there and Manchester City didn’t win until late on. Chelsea embarrassed Huddersfield and I can’t see anything but another win here.”

“Chelsea have been inconsistent at times this season but if they show the form they have in certain games they can beat Barcelona in the Champions League. If they play like they did against Roma they will be out of the tie before you know it. Chelsea just need consistency and they will be a threat to anybody,” Merson added.

Merson predicts a 3-0 win and I am going with the same prediction. #KTBFF

 

 

A View From The Bridge

La Liga giants earmark Chelsea veteran star as surprise January target

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Frank Lampard praised "ultimate professional" Olivier Giroud after he scored 4 goals against Sevilla in the Champions League on Wednesday. (GETTY Images)

Chelsea star Olivier Giroud among those touted to replace Luka Jovic at Real Madrid

According to AS, Chelsea star Olivier Giroud is among the names Real Madrid could look at to strengthen their attack.

The La Liga giants are struggling for goals and are overdependent on Karim Benzema. The Frenchman is the club’s top scorer with 12 strikes this season, three times that of second-placed Casemiro and Luke Modric.(h/t BBC)

With Luke Jovic returning to Eintracht Frankfurt on loan, Zinedine Zidane has only Benzema and Mariano as recognised strikers. Bringing in a new striker would certainly reduce the burden on Benzema.

Chelsea star Olivier Giroud is among the names Real Madrid could look at to strengthen their attack.
Olivier Giroud is a dependable striker for Chelsea

At 34, Giroud is still racking up goals when called upon. Despite limited opportunities, he has been Chelsea’s most effective striker this season. (h/t BBC)

The Frenchman’s contract at Stamford Bridge expires in the summer and is expected to leave for a free. While there is some talk about an option to extend the deal by a year, whether it will be activated remains to be seen.

With Tammy Abraham now rediscovering his touch, Frank Lampard could be tempted to do business in January. While keeping the striker will be in our best interests, selling him now will ensure we get some sort of fee for parting with his services.

Real Madrid are overtly dependent on Karim Benzema
Real Madrid are overtly dependent on Karim Benzema

Having joined the club in 2018, Giroud has proven himself to be an excellent striker. A dependable option, he has often risen to the occasion when needed.

Giroud is not the only striker on Real’s radar. Others in the fray include Manchester City ace Sergio Aguero and Napoli outcast Arkadiusz Milik.

Timo Werner joined from RB Leipzig
Timo Werner has struggled to make an impact on the left wing

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Chelsea would be better served by keeping Giroud until the end of his season, even if it means losing him for free in the summer.

Timo Werner has largely failed to find the net while Abraham still has to polish his game. Losing Giroud at this point could leave us lacking tooth in the final third.

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Chelsea loanee involved in training ground bust-up with his club captain

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Chelsea loanee Michy Batshuayi involved in a training ground spat with Luka Milivojevic

According to the Daily Mail, Chelsea loanee Michy Batshuayi has been involved in a training ground bust-up at Crystal Palace.

The 27-year-old joined the Eagles on a season-long loan last summer. He has made 12 appearances so far but is yet to find the net. In contrast, he scored six goals in 13 games during his previous loan spell at Selhurst Park in 2018/19. (h/t Transfermarkt)

Batshuayi’s time at Palace has now come under further cloud after coming to blows with club captain Luka Milivojevic.

Chelsea loanee Michy Batshuayi involved in a training ground spat with Luka Milivojevic
Chelsea loanee Michy Batshuayi involved in a training ground spat with Luka Milivojevic

The confrontation was triggered by Milivojevic’s irritation at Batshuayi’s attitude during a passing drill. It involved the Palace players testing each other’s first-touches by kicking the ball at each other with increasing power.

Milivojevic took exception to Batshuayi’s mannerism and responded by kicking the ball straight at the Belgian international from close range. 

Both players then came to blows, with Batshuayi throwing his teammate to the ground. They continued to have a go at each other and had to be separated by teammates.

Michy Batshuayi is on a season long loan at Crystal Palace
Michy Batshuayi is on a season long loan at Crystal Palace

The incident occurred in the build-up to last night’s game against Arsenal. The animosity was not on show on the pitch as they held the Gunners to a 0-0 draw.

Milivojevic played 89 minutes on the night while Batshuayi was an unused substitute.

Whether any action will be taken against Batshuayi remains to be seen. The incident comes at a poor time given the striker’s on-field troubles.

Batshuayi has failed to make any impact at Chelsea
Batshuayi has failed to make any impact at Chelsea

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Frank Lampard is keen to offload the Belgian permanently. However, they could also accept a loan deal. The 27-year-old joined Chelsea in 2016. He has however failed to meet the required levels and has spent three spells out on loan. (h/t Birmingham Mail)

He has done precious little this time around to show he has what it takes to succeed at Chelsea.

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Report – The major reason why Chelsea are stalling on a move for £80m star

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Chelsea suffer transfer blow as Manchester United, Manchester City, and Liverpool join the race to sign Declan Rice. (GETTY Images)

Chelsea stalling on Declan Rice thanks to Frank Lampard being on a slippery slope

According to The Athletic (Subscription Required), the uncertainty surrounding the future of Chelsea boss Frank Lampard is impacting the club’s pursuit of Declan Rice.

The West Ham United star has been heavily linked with a move to Stamford Bridge. While we failed to land him in the summer, rumours regarding a renewed interest continue to run strong.

The player for his part is also keen to return to Chelsea. Rice was initially on Chelsea’s books before being released by the club at the age of 14.

uncertainty surrounding the future of  Chelsea boss Frank Lampard is impacting the club's pursuit of Declan Rice.
Chelsea boss Frank Lampard is on thin ice

The Blues are coming off the back of a poor December that saw them fall away in the title race. A run of one win in six games has seen the Blues fall to 10th place in the Premier League.

This has called into question Lampard’s position as the manager. While he is set to be given time to set things right, Roman Abramovich is ensuring the club is ready if a change needs to be made.

The Russian oligarch has already created a five-man shortlist of candidates to replace Lampard if results don’t pick up. (h/t The Daily Mail)

Declan Rice has been linked with Chelsea
Chelsea will move for Declan Rice only if Lampard keeps his job (Getty Images)

Red flags galore?

A move for Rice was already difficult given West Ham’s massive £80million asking price. There is also no common stand at the club regarding a move for the midfielder.

Lampard for his part is a huge fan of the 21-year-old English international. The same cannot be said of the board, who have reservations. (h/t The Express)

They remain unconvinced if the youngster has the required quality and has the ability to step up to a Champions League level side. It would appear that at this point in time, any chance of us bringing in Rice rests on Lampard keeping his job.

uncertainty surrounding the future of  Chelsea boss Frank Lampard is impacting the club's pursuit of Declan Rice.
Lampard will need to convince the Chelsea board that Rice is worth it (GETTY Images)

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Chelsea take on Fulham next in the Premier League. A win should give Lampard some breathing space and the foundation to put together a run of good results.

It promises to be an interesting second half of the season.

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Transfer News: Chelsea receive a boost in the pursuit of prolific young European star

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Chelsea given a boost in the race for prolific star Erling Haaland

According to Football.london, Chelsea have been given a boost in their pursuit of Borussia Dortmund star Erling Haaland.

The 20-year-old is one of Europe’s best marksmen and has taken his game up a notch at Dortmund. So far, Haaland has an impressive 34 goals in 35 games for the Germans. (h/t Transfermarkt)

Frank Lampard had informed the Chelsea hierarchy that he is keen to add the Norwegian to his roster. The likes of Manchester United, Manchester City, and Real Madrid are all keeping tabs on the player. (h/t The Express)

Chelsea have been given a boost in their pursuit of Borussia Dortmund star Erling Haaland.
Chelsea have been given a boost in their pursuit of Borussia Dortmund star Erling Haaland. (AFP via Getty Images)

The lack of matchday revenue has impacted clubs’ ability to spend heavily in the transfer window. However, with fans hopefully set to return at least in a limited capacity towards the end of the season, there could be cash to spend in the summer.

The striker has a £70m release clause that kicks in next summer. To put it in context, it is lesser than what we paid for Kepa Arrizabalaga or Kai Havertz. (h/t The Mirror)

Haaland could be on the move come the summer. His agent Mino Raiola is keen to take him away from the German giants once the summer window opens. (h/t Football.london)

Timo Werner replaced Pulisic in the lineup
Timo Werner has not been among the goals of late (Getty Images)

Despite signing Timo Werner, the German has largely started on the left than up front for Chelsea.

With Olivier Giroud’s contract expiring and Tammy Abraham still developing, the Blues lack an infallible scorer up front. Signing Haaland would certainly be a coup and could secure our frontline for years to come.

Abraham is developing and Giroud’s contract is running out (Chelsea FC via Getty Images)

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Haaland has shown remarkable consistency and ability over the last couple of seasons. This has seen his reputation rise, winning him the Golden Boy award.

He has all the ability to turn into a leading striker in world football, if he isn’t already one. It would to be a dream to see him achieve it in Blue.

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