A brief look at some of the weekend football of Chelsea interest away from Stamford Bridge…
Three new players last week joined the legion out gaining experience on loan and here we report on their first appearances for the clubs they have joined temporarily, but first, a look at the form of the three clubs with whom we share a Champions League group.
The one we need to beat next week, FC Nordsjaelland, had their quest for successive Superliga titles take a blow on Sunday as they succumbed to a 1-0 defeat away at Esbjerg, Steffen Ernemann's solitary goal enough to settle a game in which the hosts dominated.
The Farum-based club trail league-leaders Copenhagen by nine points, and will be hoping they can reignite their domestic challenge in the upcoming match against Brondby prior to their visit to Stamford Bridge for our final group-stage game.
Beating Kasper Hjulmand's side is vital if we are to secure progression to the next round of the Champions League; however, qualification also depends on the outcome of December's game between Group E leaders Shakhtar Donetsk and second-placed Juventus, both of whom require only a draw to qualify first and second respectively.
Juventus are struggling to reconcile their recent domestic form with that in Europe, spurning the chance to go seven points clear over Fiorentina in Serie A with a defeat by Massimo Allegri's AC Milan. The match's single goal was scored in controversial circumstances, with Mauricio Isla adjudged to have handled the ball in the penalty area, despite replays confirming it had in fact struck him in the ribs. Robinho converted the resulting penalty to inflict Juventus's second league defeat of the season.
Chelsea will be hoping Shakhtar Donetsk can take advantage of the Turin club's recent inconsistency when the two clubs meet next month, with Mircea Lucescu's team, the Ukrainian Premier League leaders, responding to a surprise domestic loss to Arsenal Kyiv two weeks ago by obliterating Hoverla-Zakarpattia 5-1 on Saturday, a good sign perhaps.
Chelsea Under-21 squad players Patrick Bamford, Todd Kane and Conor Clifford were all sent out on loan last week, joining League One clubs Mk Dons, Preston North End and Crawley Town respectively.
Striker Bamford ensured a winning start to his time in Milton Keynes, assisting Luke Chadwick's opener and drawing a penalty in a 5-1 win over Colchester United. MK manager Karl Robinson was impressed by the England Under-19 international's performance, telling reporters that: 'Patrick's got the number nine shirt now and he's got to keep that until his performances deteriorate.'
Meanwhile, Kane made his debut for Preston North End against Leyton Orient but despite starting the match, was unable to prevent the Lancashire club slipping to a 2-0 defeat. The loss did not, however, stop Preston's head coach Graham Westley from singing the young full-back's praises: 'He had a good debut on the whole and showed what he's all about. He's a good athlete, he's tenacious and he's got good footballing qualities.'
Irish midfielder Clifford began his loan at Crawley Town with an appearance from the substitutes' bench against Crewe Alexandra. Clifford's introduction in the 84th minute was too late for him to influence the result, however, with the Reds also losing 2-0.
Elsewhere, it was another good week for Romelu Lukaku, as the Belgian continues his successful loan spell at West Bromwich Albion. The 19-year-old scored Albion's third goal in Sunday's 4-2 victory over Sunderland from the penalty spot with an assured finish, before providing the assist for the West Midlands club's fourth. This latest strike brings Lukaku's total so far to four goals in eight appearances.
Looking ahead this week and the big event away from the pitch takes place on Friday afternoon at Stamford Bridge with the 17th Annual Lunch when supporters and many past players and fans will gather to celebrate Chelsea history and to raise money for the Chelsea Foundation and the Past Players' Trust.