Superb response

It's been an excellent week for the Blues, culminating in a 4-0 win against Qarabag on Wednesday night to secure our spot in the knockout stage of the Champions League.

I think if you looked at what we wanted to achieve this season, the first attainable goal would have been to qualify from our Champions League group, and it's great we were able to do that with a game to spare. A win over Atletico Madrid will ensure we take top spot and I'm confident we can do that.

I thought our performance against them in Spain was one of the best displays I have seen by an English side in Europe, so we have every reason to be confident when we host them.

Obviously we stuttered against Roma. We should have won our home game against them, allowing a two-goal lead to slip before drawing 3-3, and the match in Rome was one of the most disappointing moments of our season thus far.

It goes to show that the Champions League is far from straightforward, and you just need to get yourself out of that qualifying group. When the competition resumes in the new year, it is a totally different kind of dynamic, with every match a big occasion.  We have shown historically that we have what it takes to shine in those kind of fixtures.

I must also credit the manager and players for the superb response they have shown since our defeat against Roma. The Manchester United result was outstanding. I am obviously biased, but I don't think United laid a glove on us really and that 1-0 flattered them quite frankly.

I was at The Hawthorns on Saturday to watch us put in a very impressive shift in a 4-0 win. We have subsequently seen that it was clearly a tough time at West Brom as they have parted company with Tony Pulis, but regardless of that, I thought we were in complete and utter control of the game. We were clinical and played some football that was really easy on the eye. Alvaro Morata's flick for Eden Hazard's goal was just sublime – reminiscent of Gianfranco Zola at his best.

The two of them combine very well and it appears Hazard is really relishing the role he's playing, which offers him a bit more flexibility.

I also think Morata has made one the smoothest transition into the Premier League – I can't think of anybody who has taken to it as well as he has. This guy has just come in, hit the ground running, and I think his contribution has been outstanding – he can only get better.

So we travel to Anfield on Saturday evening in high spirits and let's hope we can keep up our good run of form. Antonio Conte summed up our season so far very well in his post-match comments at The Hawthorns when he said there were challenges at the beginning of the campaign, not least with some injuries to key players.

No side would relish the thought of being without Hazard in their starting line-up and I think coaches might tell you that it is actually harder to get the right shape and blend to a side when you have got new defenders in the mix. We have now kept clean sheets in four of our last five matches and I feel we are getting back to the sort of solidity we saw for long spells last season.

Manchester City are obviously the team for everybody to catch, and there is no doubt they are an exceptional side, but we are not even a third of the way through the season and I've been around long enough to know fortunes can change very quickly, particularly during a very busy festive period. 

 Alan Birchenall

Speaking of how long I have been around, I am actually approaching a landmark moment in my time supporting Chelsea, as the Boxing Day fixture against Brighton will mark the 50th anniversary of my first-ever game at Stamford Bridge, which was against the Arsenal on Boxing Day 1967. We won 2-1, with Alan Birchenall scoring both our goals.

When I went to watch us play at Leicester earlier in the season, I was pleased to see the Birch was back to being fighting fit again after a difficult time, and we both had a laugh about that being my first game half a century ago.

I have to accept that, even with the extraordinary medical technology around today, I'm highly unlikely to be celebrating my centenary at the Bridge, so I'll make sure I enjoy the occasion thoroughly!

Finally, I'd like to congratulate Emma Hayes and Chelsea Ladies for progressing to the quarter-final stage of the Women's Champions League for the first time.

They acquitted themselves extraordinarily well to overcome two established European sides in Bayern Munich and Rosengard, and I look forward to seeing what they can achieve when the competition resumes.