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Friendly rivalry

In his latest blog for the official Chelsea website, Stephen Rea explains what it's like watching the Blues in America alongside rival fans...

I love going to different American cities to see Chelsea games. After 15 years watching the Blues at the same pub it’s great to experience a new perspective, and to meet fellow fans from other regions of the USA.

Last weekend I was in Denver for three nights. It had been more than two decades since I’d visited the Mile High City, and I was looking forward to meeting a new supporters’ group.

However, after I booked the trip, our match was switched to Monday night and I was back in New Orleans at my local football bar by the time we defeated West Ham (however with Colorado on Mountain Time, seven hours behind London, a 3pm Saturday kick-off would have translated to 8am there. So maybe it was just as well).

The best I could manage instead was a scouting trip to see our next Premier League opponents and on the Friday afternoon I went to the pub where the Liverpool followers were based for their contest against Southampton.

Here in the Big Easy, as in most similar-sized cities in the States, there are not enough fans for every big English club to have their own pub. We share one neutral bar, with rivals side-by-side or intermingled. Denver, however, is almost twice the size of New Orleans. Around 30 customers were in this place: all were wearing Liverpool gear; scarfs and flags hung on the walls; the staff decked out in replica shirts.

In contrast, for our game at my local Irish pub, I sat at the bar beside another Chelsea supporter who regularly comes in to watch the Londoners. It was the pair of us and two more Blues followers I didn’t recognise sitting behind us.

But on my other side were two West Ham fans, one of whom is my friend (I know, right?). That’s what I’m used to - the banter and conversation between mates who are enemies for 90 minutes, then go back to being pals.

Is that better or worse? Would you rather have exclusive use of a pub, crammed with Chelsea supporters singing and chanting? Or do you prefer the atmosphere generated by a mix of fans from different teams?

Either way, our game against Liverpool on Sunday is huge, no matter where - and with whom - you will be watching it.

By Stephen Rea, Blogger from America

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