CAHILL: PLAYING THE LONG GAME

Gary Cahill knows what to expect from West Ham on Saturday, and believes our defensive improvement will need to continue as we look to fend off a side earning a reputation for its direct style.

The defender has been an observer for our previous two outings, where clean sheets were achieved against Manchester City and Fulham, but is expected to come into the side tomorrow lunchtime with David Luiz suspended.

Facing him will be a West Ham team that under Sam Allardyce has been pragmatic rather than poetic, and a reliance on long balls to forward Andy Carroll has become a main characteristic of the Hammers’ play.

At Manchester United on Wednesday, and Spurs last Sunday, their most frequent pass combination has been from goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen into Carroll, though it is not just on their travels this tactic is used, it was also employed effectively in last month’s 4-1 win against Southampton at Upton Park.

‘Tomorrow will be a huge test, size wise we don’t have the tallest of teams by any stretch, and they look to get the ball forward quickly and play off the second ball, it’s the way Sam Allardyce likes to set his teams up, and the personnel is geared towards it,’ Cahill said.

‘It’s a noisy place to go too, so it will be a tough test and defensively we’ll be asked a lot of questions.’

The 26-year-old has been impressed with what he has seen defensively, since Rafa Benitez took over last week.

‘Defensively we’ve looked really good in the last two games. The new gaffer has come in and organised it so we’re not as open, which for the lads at the back is great.

‘He’s changed the mindset of the players when they haven’t got the ball, that’s the main thing.

‘At the start of the season we did it well and had a balance in the team and kept clean sheets while scoring goals, but we lost our way, especially at Juventus where we were so open. There’s no way we can keep clean sheets like that, so the mentality of getting back into a good shape when we lose the ball has returned, making sure everyone is the right side of the ball.’

Carroll has displayed a tendency to pull wide when receiving long balls, a tactic that suits the run of attacking midfielder Kevin Nolan, a player Cahill knows well from his Bolton days.

‘If he pulls onto the full-back then we have to win the second balls, if not we have to win the first down the middle, Iva and I are tall and can deal with it, but it will be tough.

‘With Nolan running through it’s about communication, the gaffer has brought in the importance of that. With different nationalities it’s not always easy but the midfielders and defenders need to speak to either track him or pass him on. We’ll have to be aware of Kev’s runs, he’s had a lot of joy from doing that.

‘I played with him at Bolton, and Jussi Jaaskelainen, Joey O’Brien, Ricardo Vaz Te, there are loads of former team-mates and it will be good to see them.’

NEWSFLASH: THREE STILL OUT

John Terry, Frank Lampard and Daniel Sturridge will not be available for the Saturday lunchtime game at West Ham.

All three have been named in the squad that will travel to Japan for the World Club Cup but speaking today (Friday) about his three injured players, Rafael Benitez reported:

‘Lampard was doing part of the training session, the warm-up and nothing else, and Terry and Sturridge are working hard with physios but they need some more time.’

PRE-MATCH BRIEFING: WEST HAM UNITED V CHELSEA

30.11.2012

PRE-MATCH BRIEFING: WEST HAM UNITED V CHELSEA

The first away game under new management requires only a 13-mile trip across London…

30.11.2012

YOUTH TEAM LOOK TO RETAIN THEIR TROPHY

The holders return to FA Youth Cup action on Saturday afternoon, when Chelsea visit Colchester in the third round, and coach Adi Viveash believes his youngsters are ready for the challenge.

30.11.2012

PRESS CONFERENCE LIVE THIS AFTERNOON

Chelseafc.com is offering fans the facility to watch Rafael Benitez’s pre-match press conference live on your PC…

29.11.2012

ROMEU: GOALS WILL COME

Oriol Romeu’s satisfaction at completing his first full 90 minutes in the league this season was tempered by our inability to strike a decisive blow in last night’s stalemate against Fulham…

29.11.2012

SQUAD FOR JAPAN ANNOUNCED

The 23-man list of Chelsea players available for selection by Rafael Benitez during the Club World Cup has been submitted to FIFA…

29.11.2012

GILES SMITH’S THURSDAY THOUGHTS

Columnist and season ticket holder Giles Smith this week turns his attention to European competition matters, continental names and he remembers the late Dave Sexton…

29.11.2012

CHELSEA TV HEADLINES: BETWEEN DERBIES

The latest Blues News headlines report from Cobham where a balance is being struck between recovery from Wednesday night’s game against Fulham and preparations for the visit to Upton Park on Thursday…

29.11.2012

WHEN MUAMBA MET MAKA

Fabrice Muamba has spoken of the time he first met compatriot Claude Makelele during a Barclays Premier League game against Chelsea…

28.11.2012

FINAL WHISTLE VERDICT: TOO SLOW, BUT SOLID

Rafael Benitez would like to see the team move the ball more quickly in attack following a second successive stalemate at Stamford Bridge…

28.11.2012

MATCH REPORT: CHELSEA 0 FULHAM 0

It was a consecutive stalemate at the Bridge and in similar fashion to Sunday’s match, mostly sound defending at one end was in contrast to a shortage of attempts on-target at the other…

28.11.2012

MATCHDAY PROGRAMME NOTES

You can read tonight’s matchday programme notes online…

28.11.2012

CHELSEA TV EXCLUSIVE: CECH LOOKS AT FULHAM

Petr Cech has spoken to Chelsea TV off the back of his clean sheet on Sunday and ahead of tonight’s match against Fulham…

28.11.2012

CHELSEA SIGNS WITH AZIMUT

Chelsea Football Club is delighted to announce a three-year relationship with Azimut Hotels as our new official European hotel partner.

28.11.2012

PRE-MATCH BRIEFING: CHELSEA V FULHAM – PART TWO

Club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton complete their preview of tonight’s London derby with a look at strategy and stats…

28.11.2012

OSCAR: TURNING IT AROUND

Four months into his inaugural Premier League season, Oscar has proved an inspired acquisition…

28.11.2012

BENITEZ: FINE ADJUSTMENTS

Rafael Benitez has outlined two areas he will be working on with Fernando Torres and other squad members to bring about an improvement in performances…

28.11.2012

PRE-MATCH BRIEFING: CHELSEA V FULHAM – PART ONE

It is once more down to the Bridge for our second home game in four days. Club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton look local…

28.11.2012

CHELSEA TV HEADLINES: READY FOR THE NEIGHBOURS

Chelsea TV will be on air at 6.30pm this evening with Matchnight Live, and ahead of that programme the latest Blues News headlines come from pitchside at Stamford Bridge.

27.11.2012

JOINT STATEMENT FROM CHELSEA FC, THE PREMIER LEAGUE AND PGMOL

A meeting took place on Monday afternoon at St George’s Park between Professional Game Match Officials Limited, the Premier League and Chelsea Football Club…

27.11.2012

BENITEZ: WORKING HARD

After getting his reign in charge of the Blues off to a solid start at the weekend, Rafael Benitez is confident we can revert back to winning ways against Fulham…

27.11.2012

PAT NEVIN: OPEN EYES, OPEN MIND

In his column this week, Pat Nevin pays tribute to the first Chelsea manager he remembers who passed away at the weekend, and looks at the start of a new tenure at the Bridge…

27.11.2012

LEEDS UNITED TICKET DETAILS ANNOUNCED

The ticket selling arrangements for our Capital One Cup fifth round match against Leeds United have been announced…

YOUTH TEAM LOOK TO RETAIN THEIR TROPHY

The holders return to FA Youth Cup action on Saturday afternoon, when Chelsea visit Colchester in the third round.

Having lifted the trophy with a two-legged victory over Blackburn Rovers last season, Adi Viveash’s squad are looking to pick up where they left off at the Weston Homes Community Stadium, and the coach believes they are in the perfect condition to do so, having gone through the 2012/13 season as yet unbeaten.

‘It’s nice to go in as holders, but there is an added expectation around the Youth Cup at this club,’ Viveash said. ‘It’s when we get the best players together, and I’m confident we have a very good group of players. The difference we have this year is that the youth team is performing to a very high level, and results and confidence have been good.

‘The Saturday team is young and this team will be a mixture, with the five who have played this season with Dermot for the Under-21s who are still available for the Youth Cup trying to find the balance. They’re all good lads, and seem really up for it.

‘We’ve a few injuries, Jeremie Boga missing is a blow, Alex Kiwomya has an ankle problem and Dion Conroy got knocked out at Middlesbrough and won’t make it, but we have a big pool of players and I just hope the players can do the job, then they can challenge for places in the next round if we’re in it.’

One of those players who have this season stepped up to the higher level, but who will be in the line-up against Colchester in Essex, is Lewis Baker.

The midfielder (pictured above) admits there is always an air of anticipation as Youth Cup games approach, regardless of previous successes.

‘Everyone wants to win and it’s the biggest competition for us as youth players, so everyone is excited and buzzing for Saturday’s game, and hopefully we can get the win away and see what happens after that,’ he said.

‘I think we’ll all always remember last season, it was a great occasion for us, continued the 17-year-old. ‘A couple of times during the run we fell behind in games but always showed the team spirit we needed to come back.

‘This season I’ve had a good run of games with the Under-21s, and I’ve scored a couple of goals which is one of my aims for the season, but everyone here trains at a high standard at all levels, it’s just as sharp, but coming back down we have to play for the team and remember what’s important.

‘We’ve had a couple of days together, Adi is a great coach and makes us work hard, and he keeps us on the ground.’

Looking around his squad, the coach is clearly pleased with what he sees ahead of the match, and has laid down the challenge to his youngsters.

‘There’s a steely determination when I’ve challenged them to see if they have the will to retain the trophy,’ Viveash said.

‘Winning it is a superb achievement, but there aren’t many teams who retain it. We’ve got a good enough group of players to do that if they play to their max, and they will need to do that from the off.’

Saturday’s game at the Weston Homes Community Stadium kicks off at 1pm. Admission is available on the door, with prices £7 for adults, £5 concessions, £3 under-14s and £1 under-8s.

ROMEU: GOALS WILL COME

Oriol Romeu’s satisfaction at completing his first full 90 minutes in the league this season was tempered by our inability to strike a decisive blow in last night’s stalemate against Fulham.

The Spanish midfielder, having featured as a late substitute on Sunday against Manchester City, was handed a start by Rafael Benitez for the west London derby, playing alongside Ramires as one of the two deep-lying midfielders, with John Mikel Obi dropping down to the bench.

Romeu was understandably pleased with his performance on a personal level, but acknowledged that the collective disappointment at missing out on securing three points dampened his spirits.

‘I was happy to be involved for the whole game, but the main thing I want is for the team to win, which we didn’t,’ Romeu tells the official Chelsea website. ‘We didn’t concede a goal, which was positive, but a club like Chelsea should always be focused on winning the game, so it was disappointing.

‘Every player needs to be ready when a chance comes along. Obviously it’s not as easy as you would like when you haven’t been playing regularly, but it’s just about going out there and playing football in the way you always have done.’

It was roughly at this time a year ago when the 21-year-old first forced his way into the side – at the time under the stewardship of Andre Villas-Boas – and instantly caught the eye with his tough-tackling in midfield and ability to retain possession.

Romeu was an integral part of the side as the Blues enjoyed a decent run leading up to the festive period, with crucial wins against the likes of Newcastle United, Manchester City and Valencia, before his involvement was curtailed after he sustained an injury.

He is hopeful, however, that this December – injuries permitting – will follow a similar pattern.

‘That’s what I want, and hopefully this time around I won’t get any injuries so that I can keep playing throughout the months ahead,’ he explains.

‘I always try to train hard and stay fit, but the main thing when you have an opportunity is to play well in order to help the team.’

Our fifth successive draw against Fulham means we are now without a win in the league since last month’s 4-2 win against Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane.

On Saturday we face another London derby, this time when we take on West Ham United at Upton Park, and Romeu believes it’s imperative we make our quality in the final third shine through if we harbour any realistic ambitions of remaining in the title hunt.

‘Once you are solid at the back the quality in attack has to come through,’ he says. ‘It hasn’t happened for the last two games but I’m sure with the players we have the goals will start to come again.

‘This part of our game has to improve, but you also know that if you are not conceding any goals, you only have to score one to get the three points, and that’s the most important thing.’

You can hear more from Romeu in an exclusive post-match interview with Chelsea TV via the channel’s online access.