77 min N’Golo Kante has pulled something and is coming off. Billy Gilmour replaces him.
76 min A triple change for Chelsea. Tammy Abraham, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Callum Hudson-Odoi replace Giroud, Mount and Willian.
75 min Hughes’ outswinging free kick from the left is headed over by Dawson, under pressure from Zouma. It was a half chance at best.
74 min Masina’s long-range shot is comfortably held by Arrizabalaga.
72 min A better attack from Watford. Cleverley plays a good pass down the right to Sarr, whose excellent cross is put behind by Christensen at the near post.
68 min Zouma’s towering header, from the resulting corner, is comfortably saved by Foster.
68 min A good effort from Willian, who zips infield from the left and curls a shot towards the far corner that is pushed behind by the diving Foster.
64 min Two more changes for Watford. Tom Cleverley and Adam Masina replace Kiko Femenia and Troy Deeney.
63 min Giroud’s shot is blocked. This is absurdly one-sided, like watching a Manchester City game.
62 min Azpilicueta’s cross is headed down by Giroud to no-one in particular, and Watford clear. But the ball keeps coming back at their defence.
59 min Willian’s pass deflects through to Giroud, whose low shot from a tight angle is blocked by Foster.
58 min Watford have barely crossed the halfway line in the second half. In an attempt to make something happen, Nigel Pearson brings on Danny Welbeck for Etienne Capoue.
56 min Mount combines with Pulisic and crosses dangerously into the six-yard box, where Dawson stretches to put the ball behind for a corner.
50 min “Bob,” says Mac Millings. “Please could you stop saying things like ‘I still think Watford will stay up’. It is a scientific fact that you are the Hornets’ biggest jinx, with this, from the January 4th FA Cup 3rd Round Clockwatch, being Exhibit bleedin’ A:
“‘GOAL! Watford 3-1 Tranmere (Jennings 65)
Connor Jennings gets a consolation goal for Tranmere.’
“I wonder how that worked out, Rob? Or how about this: ‘Tranmere have worked hard, and their travelling support have been tremendous, but Watford simply have too much quality for them.’ That gem was from a half-time report sent in by…oh. That was me. As you were.”
49 min Mount’s adroit volley from the edge of the area is well blocked by Kabasele.
47 min Pulisic slaps a shot over the bar from the edge of the area.
“I agree with Rob Coughlin about Pulisic,” says Benjamin Park. “The feeling I get is similar to when Hazard got the ball – excitement, though obviously not yet at Hazard’s level. What gets me every time is the accent. Not that I have a problem with it (says every racist ever), I’m just not used to it. American accent in a top team in the Premier League.”
“Is it me, or is Pulisic the best player on Chelsea?” says Rob Coughlin. “An American, the best player on Chelsea? And I don’t mean that to slight the other CFC talent. It’s pretty obvious.”
He’s certainly been their best attacking player in the past few weeks, by a fair distance. He’s a brilliant player, with a lovely direct simplicity to his play.
Half time chit chat “Seems to me that despite Man U’s recent performances, Chelsea will be challenging Liverpool & Man City before them,” says Mike MacKenzie. “Lampard has the right approach and with Ziyech & Werner arriving they should have much stronger attack. If Abramovich funds more transfers, Chelsea could be very competitive. As Lampard says, though. they need to be consistent which takes time to develop.”
Yeah, I think both teams are still a fair way off challenging for the title, certainly another season. They are going in the right direction, though, and there’s a lot to admire in the way both Lampard and Solskjaer have prioritised youth.
Half time: Chelsea 2-0 Watford
Peep peep! A very comfortable half for Chelsea, who lead through a smart finish from Olivier Giroud and a penalty from Willian. It’s hard to see Watford getting back into the match from here.
45 min I still think Watford will stay up. They should beat Norwich at home in their next game, and I can’t see Bournemouth or Aston Villa picking up too many points for the rest of the season.
GOAL! Chelsea 2-0 Watford (Willian 43 pen)
Willian scores with aplomb, and Chelsea are going back into the top four.
PENALTY TO CHELSEA! Pulisic scurries into the area and cuts back inside Capoue, who just runs him over. A gormless piece of defending, and a clear penalty.
41 min Deeney fouls Kante 25 yards from goal. Mount’s free-kick hits the wall.
40 min James’ cross just evades the stretching Giroud and is palmed away by Foster. Chelsea are well on top now.
37 min Giroud is fouled by Kabasele, 22 yards from goal. It’s slightly to the right of centre, a great position for Willian.
35 min Sarr’s low cross is put behind by James. Set-pieces are probably Watford’s best chance of a goal tonight.
33 min Dawson plays an excellent pass to Femenia, whose cross is headed away by Kante. Chelsea look comfortable in defence.
30 min Pulisic’s looping header is comfortably saved by Foster.
Ross Barkley made the goal with a nice, short pass into the area towards Giroud. He dragged a first-time shot on the turn that took Foster by surprise and rolled gently into the far corner. It looked like Dawson had Giroud covered, but he slid to block a near-post shot and had gone past the ball when Giroud reversed it towards the other corner.
GOAL! Chelsea 1-0 Watford (Giroud 28)
What a clever finish from Olivier Giroud!
25 min Chalobah clips a poor free-kick high over the bar. Time for a drinks break.
24 min Mount fouls Capoue on the edge of the D. It looked a bit soft but Kevin Friend gave it, and this is a decent chance for Watford.
19 min: Good save from Foster! That was nice play from Chelsea. The menacing Pulisic angled a fine pass down the inside-left channel to release Giroud, whose low shot across goal was kicked away by Foster.
18 min Deeney is down after taking a knee in the back from Zouma. He’s going to carry on, though he’s moving gingerly.
17 min Watford are working very hard defensively, and at the moment Chelsea are struggling to create opportunities.
15 min After a good break from Chelsea involving Barkley and Pulisic, Willian’s deflected shot is comfortably held by Foster.
13 min Dawson, still up the field after a Watford set-piece, drags a shot well wide from 25 yards.
10 min Pulisic turns smartly and dinks a pass over the defence to find Giroud on the left of the area. His lobbed cross is headed away.
8 min Mount wins the first corner down the Chelsea left. Willian takes it short to Mount, whose overhit cross goes straight out of play.
5 min After a minute and a half of faffing, Giroud slams the free-kick into the wall.
3 min Barkley is fouled just outside the area by Capoue. The free-kick is a fair way to the right, so it’ll probably be a cross rather than a shot.
“Rob, since when is 2-0 a thrashing, surreal or otherwise?” says M Stapleton. “It was Chelsea v Liverpool B in the FA Cup: a competition which barely registers a blip (or even a bleep) on Klopp’s radar. Not so much wearing your bias on your sleeve as carving it into your forearm.”
I was talking about Watford’s 3-0 win over Liverpool. And yes, I accept your apology.
Chelsea (4-3-3) Arrizabalaga; James, Christensen, Zouma, Azpilicueta; Barkley, Kante, Mount; Willian, Giroud, Pulisic.
Substitutes: Caballero, Rudiger, Alonso, Gilmour, Jorginho, Loftus-Cheek, Pedro, Abraham, Hudson-Odoi.
Watford (4-2-3-1) Foster; Mariappa, Kabasele, Dawson, Femenia; Chalobah, Capoue; Sarr, Doucoure, Hughes; Deeney.
Substitutes: Gomes, Masina, Cathcart, Holebas, Cleverley, Pereyra, Welbeck, Joao Pedro, Gray.
Referee Kevin Friend.
Chelsea are a funny old team. This season they have beaten Liverpool, Manchester City, Leicester, Wolves and done the double over Spurs. They have also taken one point from a possible 12 against Bournemouth and West Ham. Tonight’s match against Watford, which Chelsea need to win to return to the top four, is not a foregone conclusion.
Watford need points even more than Chelsea. They have been in dodgy form either side of lockdown, with that surreal thrashing of Liverpool their only win in the last nine games. They are still outside the relegation places thanks to the winlessness of the teams below them, but that’s a dangerous thing to rely on. Watford have two big home games after this, against Norwich on Tuesday and Newcastle on Saturday. Anything tonight would be a bonus.
Kick off 8pm.