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Chelsea: The impossible job

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There goes another one then, and this one has got the Champions League trophy to negotiate over in the divorce settlement.

Roberto di Matteo joins Claudio Ranieri, Jose Mourinho, Avram Grant, Big Phil Scolari, Carlo Ancelotti and Andre Villas-Boas on Roman Abramovich’s big managerial scrapheap, with the Russian having apparently grown tired of a boss who finally delivered him the trophy he prizes above all others six months ago.

But the Munich memories have faded, with the FA Cup final win over Liverpool apparently a mere footnote in Abramovich’s relentless thirst for success.

They were triumphs which should have bought Di Matteo the time to build and mould a squad in his image, but he always had that air of temporary boss about him; the assistant who stepped into the breach at the club’s hour of need and got lucky.

At most if not all other clubs that would have bought him space and leeway, but Chelsea ceased being like other clubs when Abramovich walked through the door in 2003, with the Russian’s thirst for success never apparently satisfied – much like his approach to riches off the field.

Di Matteo arguably paid the price for losing the same players that Villas-Boas was asked to help Chelsea move away from, with John Terry, Ashley Cole and Frank Lampard all missing from many of the last few matches for all manner of reasons. Chelsea looked spineless without them, and none more so than in Turin on Tuesday night when their Champions League fate was snatched out of their own hands.

Ultimately that’s perhaps what Di Matteo looked like to Abramovich – spineless. A former boss of MK Dons and West Bromwich Albion who doesn’t bring the CV and glamour to job that Pep Guardiola would.

The Russian will undoubtedly move for the ex-Barcelona boss now – although Rafael Benitez would make an interesting and sensible alternative – but whoever enters Stamford Bridge next will undoubtedly be aware of just what the consequences are if they don’t impress the main man.

Abramovich has created a ruthless atmosphere in his corner of West London; home to what has long been the impossible job.   

@Mark_Jones86

Chelsea: Three is the magic number

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For Chelsea fans, the good things are coming in threes.

The club have won three of the last eight Premier league titles, there’s only been once this season when they didn’t take three points from a league game, and they’ve only conceded three goals at home and three goals away during their unbeaten first eight league fixtures.

Key to that success has been the terrific trio of attacking midfielders who appear to have the fate of their side at their feet.

In Juan Mata, Eden Hazard and Oscar the Blues possess the kind of talents that the rest of the Premier League can only dream of owning.

They don’t come cheap of course – with the trio costing around £80million to unite – but with Mata the oldest at 24 and Hazard and Oscar both just 21 it’s not inconceivable to believe that they’ll all be strutting their stuff at Stamford Bridge for the best part of the next decade. If you’re a Chelsea fan and that didn’t get you licking your lips then I suggest you might like to try another sport.

All three stars have taken the spotlight at some stage already this season, with Hazard shining in his first weeks in English football, Oscar delivering a scintillating Champions League debut at home to Juventus and Mata currently enjoying the limelight thanks to a series of impressive displays and goals over the past few weeks.

The Spaniard had a restricted beginning to 2012/13 following a 12 months which saw him complete his debut Premier League campaign, become an FA Cup and Champions League winner, score in and win the Euro 2012 final and then compete for his country at the Olympic Games, but now his true quality is shining through and Chelsea are reaping the benefits.

The manner in which his two goals transformed last weekend’s 2-1 deficit at Tottenham into a 3-2 lead had a kind of quality about it that you often only associate with championship winning teams, and if Chelsea carry on like this for much longer then it surely can’t be long before they are installed as favourites to win the league ahead of the Manchester clubs.

The chance to get one over on one of them comes on Sunday when Manchester United visit Stamford Bridge for probably the biggest game of Hazard and Oscar’s fledgling Chelsea careers so far.

The Belgian and the Brazilian might have been playing second and third fiddle to Mata’s leading man in recent weeks, but all three have the quality to decide a game which, given United’s recent defensive problems, looks to be Chelsea’s for the taking regardless of their Champions League loss in Donetsk on Tuesday night.

The attacking nature of his trio might have led Roberto di Matteo to occasionally rein them in, but the platform provided by the solidity of John Obi Mikel and the energy of Ramires behind them allows Chelsea’s fab three to be let off their leashes. It is a setup which means that the pressure to score goals isn’t suffocating Fernando Torres the way it used to do, whilst it’s also made Frank Lampard realise that he might as well start getting comfortable on the substitute’s bench.

Di Matteo has fielded the three stars in matches at Arsenal and Tottenham this season, and so a home game against Sir Alex Ferguson’s side isn’t likely to see him abandon the approach.

Beat United and Chelsea suddenly go seven points clear of them, whilst increasing their opponents’ league defeats this season to three.

There’s that number again. Chelsea fans won’t tire of seeing it throughout the season.

By the end of it though, if their star trio can keep on performing there is every chance that they’ll see their team at number one.   

@Mark_Jones86

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