MOURINHO: IT WILL STAY TIGHT AT THE TOP

Jose Mourinho believes Sunday’s opponents Liverpool will remain in the title hunt this season for several reasons, including their fixture schedule.

The Christmas programme, in which this weekend’s game is the third of four in quick succession, is a period when all sides face similar exertions but unlike the other three clubs in the top four at the moment, the Merseysiders are not involved in European competition having finished seventh last season.

‘Liverpool can win the League because they have quality, ambition, because Brendan Rodgers is good and because they have time to prepare tactically because they are not in the Champions
League or even the Europa League,’ Mourinho said.

‘Chelsea players are going to play 60 matches and Liverpool players are going to play 40 matches. Brendan is doing fantastic but he is training every week in a calm way with one week to prepare every game which is a big advantage compared to other teams, not in terms of resting but in terms of work. I have not done many tactical work sessions since pre-season.’

Mourinho points out a manager must still work well to take advantage if a good amount of preparation time is available to him, and praises Rodgers’s solution for the absence of his captain Steven Gerrard who will again be unavailable on Sunday due to injury.

‘They are playing in a different way. The team is solid, three players in midfield, all of them positional. Henderson likes to go forward and come back and go and come back all the time and there is more freedom for the two guys on the side – either Sterling or Coutinho or whoever they play on the side, so I think Brendan was intelligent in the way he adapted the team without Steven Gerrard.’

Liverpool’s defeat against Manchester City on Thursday puts them three points behind leaders Arsenal and one behind Chelsea going into our meeting this weekend.

‘When there is a match between two of the sides at the top it is about the points you can get and the points you don’t give to a direct opponent, but it is also about the points you can lose in relation to the teams coming up from behind,’ warned Mourinho, ‘because I think this year it will be not just hard to win the title, it will also be hard to get in the top four.

‘Everton lost on Thursday so they go a little bit down but at the moment but everybody is there.

‘I think Man City is the big favourite to win it. Liverpool have one week to prepare a match which is an unbelievable advantage and Man United despite being a few points behind still have the reality of the last years.

‘Arsenal is like us, they play in the Champions League and they are trying to improve from the last years as for many years they are not at the top of the league. Chelsea won the league a few years ago but in the last two years were 24 and 14 points behind the leader.

‘So we try to finish in the top four and if we manage to do that, let’s see what else we can do.’

– It is the last chance this month to try to win a Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 with Score Predictor.

PRE-MATCH BRIEFING: CHELSEA V LIVERPOOL – PART ONE

It is the final game of 2013. Club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton keep the Christmas facts and figures coming…

TALKING POINTS
The first half of Boxing Day’s victory over Swansea City was arguably Chelsea’s best 45 minutes since the visit to West Ham in November.There was pressing high up the pitch, defensive anchor Mikel was marauding forward and many chances were created. The problem is that 1-0 was – yet again – only a fair reflection of the opportunities taken, not those on offer, of which there were nearly 20.

This match marks the turning point of the season, the last match of the first round against our Barclays Premier League opponents. At the halfway stage last season Chelsea had accrued 38 points – one more than the total before this game. Anything above that after this weekend from the opening 19 would represent the best return since the 2009/10 Double season.

Although the Blues have won 15 of the last 17 games at the Bridge, we have not beaten Liverpool in the Premier League for more than three-and-a-half years. It would require greater efficiency – especially in front of goal and away from home – to emulate the success of that season, but let us not yet rule it out.

The corresponding fixture in 2012/13 ended in a 1-1 draw. John Terry scored for the Blues from a Juan Mata corner but then left the field injured, Luis Suarez later heading an equaliser in the skipper’s absence. Suarez has hit 19 goals in 13 Premier League games this season.

 
Chelsea v Liverpool

Football teaches that few things are permanent. Liverpool, arguably the team of the ’70s and ’80s, have not won the league since 1989/90 but have finished runners-up twice in the last 12 years.

Chelsea actually won a European title, the 1971 UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup, two years before Liverpool’s first continental success, but the Londoners’ Champions League win in 2012 came seven years after the Reds’ most recent victory in the tournament.

While the lack of any European football at Anfield this season is indicative of their reduced circumstances, it may have aided their bright showing in the Premier League while their rivals have other matters to attend to.

Nevertheless the campaign has taken its toll and Steven Gerrard is out of Sunday’s game with a hamstring injury. As we all know, he came very, very close to joining Chelsea in the summer of 2005. Since being convinced out of the move he has won the FA Cup once with his hometown club.

Had he made the switch he would have won the Premier League twice, the Champions League once, the Europa League once, the FA Cup four times, the League Cup once. If selected, of course.

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers returns to face the club that helped launch his coaching career, looking after the youth and then the reserve team.


Barclays Premier League fixtures

Saturday
West Ham v West Brom 12.45pm – Sky Sports
Aston Villa v Swansea 3pm
Hull v Fulham 3pm
Manchester City v Crystal Palace 3pm
Norwich v Manchester United 3pm
Cardiff v Sunderland 5.30pm – Sky Sports
Sunday
Everton v Southampton 1.30pm
Newcastle v Arsenal 1.30pm – Sky Sports
Chelsea v Liverpool 4pm – Sky Sports
Tottenham v Stoke 4pm

Top Pld Gd Pts
1 Arsenal 18 +18 39
2 Liverpool 18 +32 38
3 Chelsea 18 +15 37
4 Man City 18 +22 36
5 Everton 18 +12 34
6 Newcastle 18 +6 33
7 Tottenham 18 +9 31
8 Man United 18 -5 31

Top Pld Gd Pts
1 Man City 7 +18 18
2 Everton 7 +1 12
3 Newcastle 6 -1 10
4 Liverpool 6 +3 8
5 Arsenal 6 -1 8
6 Chelsea 6 -2 6
7 Man Utd 7 -5 5
8 Tottenham 7 -13 3

* Points earned from games between the current top eight teams

CHELSEA STATS
Chelsea have won 15 and drawn three of our last 18 home Barclays Premier League games since QPR won at Stamford Bridge on 2 January.

Chelsea have gained 11 points from losing positions this season, the best record in the Premier League.

Jose Mourinho is unbeaten at Stamford Bridge in all his 84 domestic games in open play. In the Premier League it’s 69 unbeaten.

Dec 7 Stoke (a) L 2-3
Dec 11 Steaua Bucharest (Champions League h) W 1-0
Dec 14 Crystal Palace (h) W 2-1
Dec 17 Sunderland (Capital One Cup a) L 1-2 aet
Dec 23 Arsenal (a) D 0-0
Dec 26 Swansea (h) W 1-0

Premier League scorers (33)
Hazard 7 (1 pen), Oscar 5, Lampard 4 (1 pen), Schürrle 3, Eto’o 2, Terry 2, Torres 2, own goals 2, Ba 1, Cahill 1, Ivanovic 1, Mikel 1, Ramires 1, Willian 1.

League games since
A home win: 0
A home draw: 3
A home defeat: 18

Wed 1 Jan Southampton away 3.00pm
Sun 5 Jan Derby (FA Cup) away 2.15pm
Sat 11 Jan Hull away 12.45pm

MILESTONES
Petr Cech requires one clean sheet to equal Peter Bonetti’s club record 208 in all competitions.

If selected, Fernando Torres will make his 150th appearance for the Blues.

Frank Lampard’s next converted penalty will be his 50th for the Blues.

Frank’s next goal will be his 250th in his club career (Chelsea 209, West Ham 39, Swansea 1).

LIVERPOOL STATS
Formed
1892

Major trophies
18 League championships, last in 1990
7 FA Cups, last in 2006
8 League Cups, last in 2012
15 FA Charity/Community Shields (5 shared), last in 2006
5 European Cups, last in 2005
3 UEFA Cups, last in 2001
3 UEFA Super Cups, last in 2005

Their last top-flight championship win was in the old First Division over 23 years ago when a points total of 79 was enough to lift the trophy in 1990.

Liverpool have won 12 points on the road from a possible 27 this term. Three wins at Aston Villa, Sunderland and Tottenham, three draws at Swansea, Newcastle and Everton and three defeats at Arsenal, Hull and Man City.

The Reds are the Premier League’s second top scorers behind Man City.

Liverpool have only failed to score in one away game this season which was against Arsenal in November

They have won 11 of the 13 games when they have opened the scoring, drawing one and losing to Man City on Thursday but haven’t won any of the five games their opponents scored first.

Manager Brendan Rodgers
Days in charge: 576
Played 74
Won 37
Drawn 18
Lost 19

Pts Pos
2003/04 60 4th
2004/05 58 5th
2005/06 82 3rd
2006/07 68 3rd
2007/08 76 4th
2008/09 86 2nd
2009/10 63 7th
2010/11 58 6th
2011/12 52 8th
2012/13 61 7th
Dec 1 Hull (a) L 1-3
Dec 4 Norwich (h) W 5-1
Dec 7 West Ham (h) W 4-1
Dec 15 Tottenham (a) W 5-0
Dec 21 Cardiff (h) W 3-1
Dec 26 Man City (a) L 1-2

Premier League scorers (43)
Suarez 19, Sturridge 9, Gerrard 3 (2 pens), Sterling 3, Coutinho 2, own goals 2, Flanagan 1, Henderson 1, Moses 1, Sakho 1, Skrtel 1.

PMB

League games since
An away win: 1
An away draw: 3
An away defeat: 0

THE MAN IN THE MIDDLE
Howard Webb is the referee for his third Chelsea match this term. He was the official for our games at Everton and at home to Manchester City.

OTHERWISE ENGAGED
Ramires is suspended (one match) for reaching five yellow cards this term. Victor Moses is ineligible due to the terms of his loan.

David Luiz is one domestic booking away from a suspension having received four yellow cards this season. He will miss the game against Southampton if he is booked against Liverpool.

Liverpool is the last game before five yellow cards will not result in a ban. From 1 January players will only receive a warning

Visit again tomorrow for more Briefing.

– Chelsea TV’s ‘Pre-Match at the Bridge’ show is free to view for Sky customers on channel 421

CHELSEA TV EXCLUSIVE: IVANOVIC ON THE DEFENSIVE

Branislav Ivanovic spoke to Chelsea TV following the 1-0 win over Swansea and in a clip that can be viewed above, discusses the importance of consecutive clean sheets having also not conceded against Arsenal. 

In the full interview which is available now via the channel’s online access, the right-back also gives his view on having played in every Barclays Premier League and Champions League game so far this season, and he looks ahead to Sunday’s visit by Liverpool, a match with important implications on the top of the table.

IF I WAS HOME FOR CHRISTMAS

Two years ago the official Chelsea website asked some of our overseas players to tell us about Christmas traditions in their homeland. With new players from different countries at the club this winter, it is time to ask some more…

Eden Hazard
In Belgium we celebrate Christmas on the 25th with all the family. Everyone is together, cousins, uncles, aunts, brothers, sisters. We have a Christmas tree, we call it a sapin. There are just a few presents under the tree. Before Christmas we each pick a piece of paper out of a hat which will have a family member’s name on it. We then buy a present for that person, so everybody gives one present and everybody receives one present. For food, we eat a traditional meal called a raclette. You heat some cheese with a special machine so it melts and then you scrape off the melted cheese. We have potatoes and dried meats with it. That’s a normal Belgian Christmas!

Mark Schwarzer
A traditional Australian Christmas for me would involve hot weather and a barbecue, but not on the beach because I’m from the west. We all sit around the Christmas tree in nothing but a pair of shorts because it’s so hot. We get our presents on Christmas Eve, which is the German tradition. We have dinner, clean up, open our presents and then go out. In terms of what we eat, it would usually be a roast. We used to have our own ducks and geese so that’s what we would eat.

Fernando Torres
It’s a family day, for some people Santa comes on Christmas Eve, but for others it’s Christmas morning. We have a big dinner on Christmas Eve and then another big lunch on Christmas Day. What you eat really depends on what part of Spain you come from. In the north, where my wife’s family and my father’s family are from, they just eat seafood, so lots of fresh fish and things like that. In Spain turkey isn’t very popular so we normally eat chicken after we’ve had some cold starters. We love food in Spain so that day is a big day for us, we eat too much, non-stop from Christmas Eve all the way through Christmas Day. We also enjoy drinking red wine, white wine and champagne. I have all my family coming over for a week as it’s hard for me to get back there because of all the fixtures in England. My brothers and all their kids will come and we will celebrate Christmas, then we celebrate New Year with my wife’s family.

Kevin De Bruyne
When I am able to be back home for Christmas I spend it with my friends and family. In my town in Belgium New Year is celebrated more than Christmas, so there is always a lot going on around that. A lot of people in Belgium like fondue, so that, along with vegetables, is very popular at Christmas.

Marco van Ginkel
In Holland Christmas isn’t as big as it is in England or Germany, where you have all the nice Christmas markets. A lot of people in Holland go to Germany or England because in those countries it’s such a big event, but a lot of things are similar. On Christmas Day you have dinner with your family, so it’s always nice to be all together. The city I’m from is very small, but it’s close to Utrecht. I’ve been to Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park which I really enjoyed, I’ve never been to a Christmas market like that so it was a lot of fun for me.

Tomas Kalas
In the Czech Republic, like everywhere, it’s all about family. My parents are divorced so I spend the 23rd with my mother, 24th with my father and 25th with all the grandparents, so it’s like I have three Christmas Days. In my city, Olomouc, the population is only 100,000, so compared to London it’s just like a tiny village, but in the main square there are lots of decorations and that sort of thing, so it’s very festive, a bit like Winter Wonderland. We have fish on Christmas Day, which is the tradition. Some people eat meat, although nobody has turkey, it’s not something we eat in Czech Republic.

Cesar Azpilicueta
We have a big dinner on the evening of the 24th with all the family, which is when we receive our presents as well. The food we eat is not what you would class as traditional Christmas food, we don’t really eat turkey, like they do in England. We usually have fish, which is very popular where I come from in Spain. It’s just a nice time to spend with all your friends and family.

Samuel Eto’o
In Cameroon, there is a gathering with all the family on the 24th and we celebrate in the evening, the people drink beer, and on the 25th, they go to the church. Chicken is the traditional food and most of the people eat that. When you give presents depends, some are to the family the night before, on the 24th, and some wait until the 6th January. The decorations are the same as in England, a lot of lights on the streets.

Oscar
These days are very important for the people in Brazil and they stay in their houses and celebrate at home with their family. They decorate the houses inside with little lights and in the streets there are big lights. The children find presents under the bed in the morning on Christmas Day. For food the people eat chicken or pork but not beef and dessert is something like ice cream, nothing special. This year my family are with me in London.

HAZARD HAPPY TO HELP

Having provided the telling contribution during yesterday’s 1-0 victory over Swansea, Eden Hazard was simply delighted to have secured three more points.

It was the Belgian’s ninth goal of the season that separated the sides after another tightly-fought Stamford Bridge contest. In his assessment of the match, Hazard was keen to stress the significance of the victory, even if the performance was not as strong as it might have been.

‘In the first half we created a lot of chances,’ the 22-year-old pointed out. ‘If we had scored one or two more goals it would have been easier for us, but the most important thing was the three points so we can continue to stay near the top of the table.

‘Swansea played very well. We tried to stay compact defensively and move forward on the counter-attack. We tried to find the style. Sometimes we play well, sometimes we play less well but in football you can play badly and still win the game. You just need one goal more, and we did that yesterday.’

From a personal perspective, the season continues to go from strength to strength for Hazard. The winger is already just four goals shy of the total he managed during the whole of the last campaign, his first in west London, and he acknowledged his pleasure at sending the supporters home happy with a belated Christmas present.

‘It was a very important win for us, but also for the fans. Boxing Day in this country is very special,’ he said.

‘I try to score or make assists every game so it was good for me, for the team and for the fans. At this moment I feel good on the pitch, I’m always trying to improve and to give my best to help the team.’