Quiet contenders



Ross Barkley of Chelsea celebrates with Alvaro Morata. PICTURE: GETTY IMAGES

Tim Harrison

By Tim Harrison

Everything’s clicking for Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester City... but unbeaten Chelsea are quietly going about their business and (whisper it) are still league contenders.

On the last two occasions the Blues were undefeated in their first 10 games – 2005-06 and 2014-15 – they won the title.

New gaffer Morrie Sarri, combined with the people skills of his deputy Gianfranco Zola, are working a little miracle behind the scenes, turning Ross Barkley and Ruben Loftus-Cheek from squad fodder into first-teamers… even when talisman Eden Hazard is out with a back niggle.

The Belgian wizard aims to be in the starting line-up again when Palace visit the Bridge on Sunday afternoon, but it’s Chelsea’s away form that is really starting to catch the eye.

Victories at Huddersfield, Newcastle, Southampton and Burnley may not sound earth-shattering, but while there are sterner tests ahead, it’s the manner of the wins that is impressing.

Strong, keen and almost clairvoyant in his anticipation, Barkley played a pivotal role as the Blues overwhelmed Burnley last weekend, although the home side gave Chelsea more space than they’re used to.

Sarri now calls him a ‘complete player’ after he scored one and teed up a further two in the 4-0 win at Turf Moor.

Even Alvaro Morata scored. Barkley slid the ball in for the striker to jab past Joe Hart in the 22nd minute, while Loftus-Cheek added another to his midweek Europa League hat-trick feat. Bring on Palace.

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and unless specifically stated are not necessarily those of Hammersmith & Fulham Council.

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