Club Focus – Chelsea – True test of champions to come with Blues’ month on the road

Victory over Blackburn at Stamford Bridge on Saturday helped reigning Premier League champions Chelsea move back into the top four as they look to embark on a run of wins to battle back into the title race. The Blues 2-0 win saw them leapfrog Tottenham into fourth place as their London rivals were held by 10-man Manchester United on Sunday – a result that helped Chelsea close the gap on table-topping United to seven points, although the unbeaten Red Devils have a game in hand.

Branislav Ivanovic scored a late winner against Blackburn in October as the Blues came from 1-0 down to take all three points and the centre-back was the scourge of Rovers fans again as he broke the deadlock after a frustrating goalless first half for the hosts. In the 57th minute, Chelsea captain John Terry rose to flick Florent Malouda’s corner on to Ivanovic, who finished coolly to score his fifth goal in all competitions this season. He then played a part in the goal that wrapped up the vital victory, as his goal-bound header was turned in from close range by Nicolas Anelka to give Chelsea only their third win in 12 Premier League matches. After the game, Ivanovic suggested a victory and important clean sheet were the first steps to the Blues getting back their form as they seek to resume their customary winning ways: “We got back to our intensity and we are very happy that we have not conceded a goal. We have to work defensively very hard. This is the way for winning every game,” the Serbian international told the clubs’ official website.

With Chelsea’s next three fixtures on the road – Premier League visits to seventh-placed Bolton and sixth-placed Sunderland sandwiching the FA Cup fourth round trip to Everton – the Blues will need to end a seven-game winless streak away from Stamford Bridge immediately in order to keep pace with the teams above and around them. In fact, five of Carlo Ancelotti’s side’s next six games come away from Stamford Bridge, including the resumption of the Champions League against last 16 opponents FC Copenhagen in February. Curiously enough, the last side Chelsea beat on their own patch were Saturday’s opponents Blackburn – that 2-1 win at Ewood Park coming back on October 30. Since then, the Londoners have lost four League games – at Liverpool (2-0), Birmingham (1-0), Arsenal (3-1) and Wolves (1-0) – whilst also losing their 100 percent record in Europe with a 1-0 Champions League loss to Marseille. If they are to harbour any realistic hopes of retaining their crown of English champions, Chelsea surely cannot continue to falter on the road. Worryingly, they have taken just 12 points and won only three of their 11 Premier League away matches so far.

Meanwhile, reports suggest the Blues have moved closer to the signing of Benfica defender David Luiz, with a deal to transfer the versatile Brazilian potentially to be wrapped up by the end of the week. With starting centre-back Alex ruled out until February, Chelsea are said to have increased their bid for the 23-year-old to £22million, including Paulo Ferreira in any deal to persuade the Portuguese champions to part with one of Europe’s most coveted defenders.

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