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February: A Preview

February: A Preview

Chelsea kicked off 2013 with a sub-par run in January, knocked out of the Capital One Cup over two legs by Swansea City and dropping valuable points on the league front.

A London derby victory over Arsenal and a competent showing away to Stoke City were offset by an embarrassing defeat at the hands of basement dwellers QPR, and draws against Southampton and Reading.

An FA Cup draw away to Brentford kept our hopes of retaining the trophy alive, but it was a result that further soured supporters' attitudes towards interim manager Rafael Benitez and raised yet more questions about his short term viability as Chelsea manager.

Heading into February, it's absolutely vital that we get back onto a firm footing in the league by going on a good run of form and solidifying our position in the Champions League places.

We currently sit four points ahead of fourth place Tottenham Hotspur and five ahead of Everton in fifth, and whilst our win over Arsenal has brought us a bit of breathing space, the eight point gap between ourselves and Arsene Wenger's boys could be a lot slimmer come the end of the month if we don't get our act together.

We start this Saturday with a trip to Newcastle United. Alan Pardew's outfit have been disappointing this season, failing to build on last years impressive league campaign, and are currently embroiled in a relegation dogfight.

The Toon have yet again been active in the transfer market, bringing in a gaggle of French talent in an attempt to strengthen their squad and avoid the drop. After parting with Demba Ba, the club has splashed upwards of 17 million pounds on five new signings, and finished January with a vital victory over fellow strugglers Aston Villa.

We return to Stamford Bridge on the 9th for a match against Wigan Athletic. Latics boss Roberto Martinez has had a frugal January transfer window, bringing in young Chilean striker Angelo Henriquez on loan from Manchester United and MLS midfielder Roger Espinoza on a free transfer.

Like Newcastle, Wigan's last league victory came against bottom three side Aston Villa, but the team only picked up two points in January after draws away to Fulham and Stoke City.

Our Europa League début is next on the agenda, with an away trip to take on Sparta Prague in the round of 32. The Czech side are managed by former Sydney FC boss Vítězslav Lavička, who spent five years at the club over the course of three stints during his playing career.

Sparta currently sit third in their league, trailing leaders Viktoria Plzen by just three points.

Three days on from our European tie, we return home for the FA Cup fourth round replay against Brentford. The Bees earned many admirers after holding us to a 2-2 draw at Griffin park, and with nothing to loose they will no doubt be relishing the trip to Stamford Bridge.

We're straight back into Europa League action on the 21st with the second leg against Sparta Prague, and depending on the result in the opening fixture, this match could either be a dead rubber or a tense affair.

We wrap up February's league fixtures with a tough away trip to take on defending Premier League champions Manchester City on the 24th. Our last match against Roberto Mancini's side was Rafael Benitez's first in charge after Roberto Di Matteo's sacking, and it ended in a 0-0 stalemate.

Mancini has refrained from hitting the winter market thus far, but he has parted company with controversial Italian striker Mario Balotelli. A 0-0 draw away to QPR was the only blemish on an otherwise perfect January record in the league, and whilst the club currently find themselves trailing Manchester United by seven points they are still very much involved in a title race.

The fifth round of the FA Cup is scheduled to round off the month, and if we progress past Brentford an away trip to take on Middlesbrough is on the cards for the 27th.

Key players

Juan Mata:

The Spanish magician is the fulcrum of our team going forward. With Eden Hazard and Oscar still adjusting to life in the Barclays Premier League, creative responsibility continues to fall on the diminutive midfielder's shoulders and we struggle to notch up victories without him.

John Terry:

Rafael Benitez has been reluctant to throw John Terry in at the deep end as he returns from his injury spell, but the sooner he is bedded back into the starting line-up full time, the better. With David Luiz regularly being deployed in midfield Gary Cahill and Branislav Ivanovic have shouldered the bulk of the centre half duties lately, and have frequently been found wanting.

Petr Cech:

Without wanting to single out stand in keeper Ross Turnbull for our recent woes, the gulf in class between himself and our regular Czech shot stopper has been abundantly clear for all to see. It is imperative that Cech's recovery from his calf injury is expedited, and if he is not immediately available then Henrique Hilario should be given a run of starts in the meantime.

Prediction

On paper February looks like a very tame month in comparison to January's fixture list, and under normal circumstances six points in the league coupled with progression in the FA Cup and Europe would be more or less assured.

Given our current run of form though, it would take a brave man to bank on any Chelsea match this month. With the board rumoured to have spelled out to Rafa Benitez in very plain terms the primacy of the push for a top four spot, expect to see a lot of rotation for the Europa League double header against Sparta Prague.

The away trip to Manchester City at the end of the month will be a real test of our mettle, but if Rafa presides over any more slip ups in the league then he could very well find himself out of a job before our trip to the Eastlands.

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Click here to join in the debate on the club forum.

Writer:Lofty 1905
Date:Thursday January 31 2013
Time: 9:54AM

Comments

0
this is definitely a good one...first of its kind..thanks@Lofty...'ll see if something happens for us before the window closes...I have little hope though....and then i can put febuary into perspective...when I am putting things in perspective regarding my team...i need to mention that my considerations totally excludes...Rafa...call it unrealistic..but its my call....i am not sure he will not be here come summer if he continues to press the acclerator in the path he currently treads...I wish my team the very best of luck...and anything will do for rafa...!..dont like him..honestly!
layorh12
31/01/2013 10:03:00
0
all the french players are leaving france since joey barton started playing there...that guy is genius in making people insane...and about RAFA... .......The word TACTICIAN has been removed from oxford dictionary.....because it cant take all the abuse it has been receving world wide in the name of RAFA....
shlok27
31/01/2013 10:06:00
0
@ shlok27 - Poor Joey lool...either that or St james park should now be renamed little Paris...
JohnnyOz
31/01/2013 10:42:00
0
i see that as three premier league games, Newcastle away, Wigan at home & Man City away...lucky for RB that we only play one home game in February, if he remains! Not really too fussed about the Europa league tbh, i think we should play our academy in that tournament. I'm finding it hard to be positive atm, and that is very unusual for me...Oh well - bring on the Toon. C'mon you chels :)
JohnnyOz
31/01/2013 10:46:00
0
Who watched Essien last night ? U see how foolish we were to loan him out? After this ask urself will Lampard get into the starting line up for Madrid in el clasico? Food for thought!!!!!!!!!!!!
AMENS
31/01/2013 10:52:00
0
@Johnny i think in future France would consider naming Newcastle as their capital...i think most of the french people reside there..
shlok27
31/01/2013 10:54:00
0
No TRANSFER DEADLINE thread on Vc?? Wow.....it shows how unserious our 3 foolishly wise men(Emenalo, Buck and Gourley) have become. This three mugs are killing chelsea, sacked better mangers but gave us shocking one. Loaned out 22 players and leave us with a depth-less squad. How stupid!
munich Glory
31/01/2013 12:34:00
0
@ munich glory - the reason we threw away an 87th minute 2 nil lead to a relegation bound side is nothing to do with the three "wise men" imo...its the manager & the players....That team was more than adequately equipped to have taken all 3 points..
JohnnyOz
31/01/2013 13:20:00
0
It is the boards fault for appointing Rafa the gafa (as shlok says lol) tho' so i suppose the buck stops with them...
JohnnyOz
31/01/2013 13:23:00
0
If rafa lose to newcastle and tottenham win, I have a mind he'll be handed his sack letter the way carlo was dismissed. Carlo look like a genius when compared with tubby, I am not sure is we'll win any of this games except ofcourse if hazard plays and oscar along with mata get there form back, the way they are doing under rdm, only if rdm have insisted on falcao or ba in the beginning of the season, we'll be counting down to lift the BPL by may, oh my oh my
Desmondadonis
31/01/2013 13:46:00
0
He wil win I mean*
Desmondadonis
31/01/2013 13:53:00
0
Come across this email written by @Dansilvs73 to Bruce Buck. —————————————————————————————————————- From: Dan Silver Sent: Wednesday, January 30, 2013 10:56 PM To: <;;;;;;;;; Bruce <;;;;;;;;; Subject: A very upset& disgruntled fan Gentleman As I am sure you are aware 99.9% of Chelseafans are at this current juncture extremely frustrated, angry and upset with the state we find ourselves in. After the euphoria of Munich, we now find ourselves as upset as we were happy. Roman has been quite fantastic for us, that isan understatement, without him the last fewyears which have been amazing would not have been possible. I have been a fan for 33 years and the club have been in my family for 90 years. This is the worst period I have experienced, it tops the play-off defeat to Middlesbrough, 94 Cup Final, Moscow etc. It is not an over reaction I promise, this a measured response from a long term fan. The problem is the manager. His anti-Chelsea diatribes will not be forgotten, it was always going to be an uphill struggle for him but the inept displays,the inept substitutions and tactics and the inability to change a match when teams come and defend is simply not good enough. His presence at the club is divisive, the true fans are angry and upset, he is hindering our progress. We have some outstanding talent at the club, we just need the right manto take us forward - Rafa is not that man. He was unemployed fortwo years post Inter, which to me suggests that he can't cut the mustard, top coaches are not out of work for long unless it's by choice. Substitutions at Swansea, Brentford etc werewrong; Swansea we were 2-0 down & needing goals; you take a chance throw on Fernando, switch to three at the back (they could cope with Michu) and go for it, not centre back for centre back. I am not a qualified coach nor an expert but that change was obvious. In my humble opinion Rafa should go beforehe does too much damage. I don't know if you will even read this or acknowledge me but I am so upset and angry I had to write a measured, sensible email without profanities! Thank you Your Sincerely Dan Silver —————————————————————————————————————- You can follow Dan on Twitter @DanSilvs73 Now considering the frustrations of all Chelsea fans, I'm sure you'll agree this must have been a very restrained email. Now here's the reply, which gives me a little more confidence that they accept the severity of the issue. Not because of what Bruce says, more due to that fact he says anything at all. He could easily have ignored Dan's message and no me would have complained. —————————————————————————————————————- From: "Buck, Bruce M" <;;;;;;;;; Date: 30 January 2013 23:06:06 GMT To: "' <;;;;;;;;; Subject: Re: A very upset & disgruntled fan Dan, Thank you for your email. Contrary to your expectation, I have read it. You will appreciate that I cannot respond to the specific points you raise but the Board and Roman are as frustrated as you are withsome of the recent results. We are all working as hard as we can to change thingsaround. I hope you will continue your support of the club as the boys really need your backing now. Regards, Bruce —————————————————————————————————————-
BlueNigerian
31/01/2013 14:21:00
0
@Blue Nigerian ...thats a nice one..thanks!
layorh12
31/01/2013 14:45:00
0
bluenigerian where do you get that? u sure it's really bruce buck reply?
chelsea44
31/01/2013 15:07:00
0
We should start a petition to get Emenalo out, he is the advisor to the board. If we still had Essien and Mereiles, we would have not have thrown yet another lead away last night. We have not got one midfield player, apart from Mikel that is a natural defender. Does this man not understand that collecting little tricky attacking forwards will not succeed in the Premier League, the Champions League, or any other competition for that man. The club needs to bring in someone with some football experience, before it implodes completely. We are being run like Billy Smarts Circus, it is embarrassing.
Blueheart9
31/01/2013 15:29:00
0
surely it must have been Di Matteo that decided who was part of his 25 man squad or not...hence those decisions i.e RDM, Essien, Meireles would have been RDM's. I'm absolutely sure of that. Having said that I agree that Michael Emenalo doesnt have the pedigree to be Technical director for the European champions (even as dodgy as that sounds - i can hear the reading fans singing...who are ya ...who are ya? as i say that)...He is an excellent scout firstly ( i believe his role should be this at cfc i.e chief scout) and Roman's yes boy 2ndly...he got the Technical Director job becos he could kiss RA's arse the best and the longest lol, but this happens not only in chelsea...even where i work now & previous roles, the better you are at kissing ar*e - the higher you go....#simples
JohnnyOz
31/01/2013 15:38:00
0
I submited an article about us as fans signing a petition or letter on how we would like the club to move forward. Hopefully Merlin will publish it!
european_champions
31/01/2013 16:00:00
0
Its so, so suprising how our season has turned out to be a mess after a promising and electrifying start. The administrative confusion at chelsea is going from bad to worse as the days breaks, it seems everyone associated with chelseafc could do anything. No-one knows who is a scout or a football director, who sign and sell players. What actually is going on?
BlueNigerian
31/01/2013 16:17:00
0
Willian to Anzhi for 34million pounds!!!!!.....now that is what I call SICK!!!!.....very very overpriced...God help us!
layorh12
31/01/2013 16:17:00
0
Piece of good news Hazard wont be doing more than the 3 match bann....best news of today i guess...source:Sky sports
layorh12
31/01/2013 16:42:00
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