Chelsea sent out a clear message of intent to their title rivals by thumping Arsenal 6-0 at Stamford Bridge Saturday lunchtime.
Samuel Eto’o put the hosts in front on five minutes, and their advantage was doubled just two minutes later through Andre Schurlle – both goals coming from clinical counter-attacking from Jose Mourinho’s side.
Then, on seventeen minutes, the Blues were awarded a penalty after Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain tipped an Eden Hazard shot away with his fingertips.
The incident led to a sending off, it was defender Kieran Gibbs who was dismissed after referee Andre Marriner appeared to have mistaken him as the culprit.
Hazard duly converted the penalty, before Oscar made it 4-0 three minutes before the break.
The Brazil international then scored his second and his sides fifth on sixty-six minutes before substitute Mohamed Salah completed the Gunners’ misery with his first goal for the club five minutes later.
The result sees Chelsea remain four points of clear of second place Liverpool, who beat Cardiff City 6-3 later in the day.
The Merseyside club will have the chance to reduce that gap when they host Sunderland on Wednesday evening, while Chelsea will now turn their attention to Saturday’s trip to Crystal Palace before they host Paris Saint Germain, who they were drawn against in the quarter finals of the Champions League.
Chelsea head into tonight’s game against West Ham United looking for the three points that could see them return to the top of the Premier League.
Leaders Arsenal were held to a 2-2 draw at Southampton yesterday evening, giving both the Blues an Manchester City the opportunity to leapfrog them this evening.
City travel to Tottenham Hotspur, and anything less than three points for Manuel Pellegrini’s men will see Chelsea move into first place if they emerge victorious.
Fernando Torres and Marco van Ginkel are the Blues’ only absentees, though Mohamed Salah will have to wait for his debut as he is not currently in the country.
Meanwhile, Luke Shaw will hold out for a move to Chelsea rather than sign for Manchester United, the Mirror understands.
Both clubs have been strongly linked with a move for the Southampton left-back, who has emerged as one of the hottest English talents in the Premier League.
Premier League champions United are keen to finalise a deal for the eighteen year old before Friday’s transfer deadline having already broken their transfer record with the £37.1m signing of Juan Mata.
However Shaw is willing to remain at St Mary’s for the rest of the season, safe in the knowledge that the Blues will pounce in the summer.
Chelsea will use the money they received from Manchester United for Juan Mata to try and beat them to the signature of Southampton defender Luke Shaw, according to the Mail Online.
With Ashley Cole now 33 and yet to be offered a new contract, the Blues are keen on bringing in the highly rated left-back while United are looking to continue rebuilding after breaking their transfer record at the weekend by bringing in Mata.
The club are still in a £20m profit this month despite bringing in Nemanja Matic and Mohamed Salah, and are confident they have the financial muscle to get a deal for Shaw over the line.
However, the Daily Star understands that the South Coast club have absolutely no intention of selling the 18 year old.
Manager Mauricio Pochettino has reiterated that the Saints are keen to keep hold of all of their star players this month.
Elsewhere, reports in Spain suggest that an agreement has been made between Chelsea and Atletico Madrid for a swap deal for Thibaut Courtois and Diego Costa, the Mail Online understands.
Courtois has spent the last three seasons on loan with the La Liga side, while Costa, who is currently the second top scorer in La Liga behind Cristiano Ronaldo, is wanted by a host of European clubs.
Brazil international Oscar scored a stunning free kick as Chelsea booked their place in the fifth round of this season’s FA Cup with a 1-0 victory over Stoke City at Stamford Bridge yesterday afternoon.
The midfield’s curled effort from twenty-five years was enough to see the Blues through to this stage for the fourteenth time in fifteen seasons.
However, they could hardly have been handed a tougher challenge, being picked away at favourites for the competition Manchester City, who they will face on the weekend of February 15/16.
Meanwhile, the club have completed the signing of Egyptian winger Mohamed Salah from Basel for a fee believed to be in the region of £11m, the Mail Online understands.
The 21 year old, who will wear the number 15 shirt vacated by Kevin De Bruyne, becomes Jose Mourinho’s second signing of the month following Nemanja Matic’s return from Benfica.
Elsewhere, Michael Essien is set to complete his transfer to AC Milan, according to the Independent.
The Ghana international has been used sparingly by Mourinho this season, making just nine appearances in all competitions since returning from Real Madrid, where he spent the majority of the last campaign on loan.
Chelsea’s progression the knockout stages of the Champions League has been secured despite them losing to a late goal in Basel yesterday evening.
Mohamed Salah, who netted the equaliser when the sides met at Stamford Bridge in September, scored late on to secure back to back wins over the Blues for Murat Yakin’s side.
Petr Cech kept the visitors, who only mustered one attempt on goal throughout the whole match, in the game with several saves.
However, thanks to Steaua Bucharest’s goalless draw with Schalke in Group E’s other fixture means that Jose Mourinho’s men cannot drop to third place, regardless of the results on match day six.
The club will now turn their attention to Sunday afternoon’s Premier League clash with Southampton, where they will be looking to keep pressure on leaders Arsenal who they meet next month.
Meanwhile, the Daily Star have reported that both Manchester United and Liverpool have taken to Twitter to call for their respective clubs to sign Juan Mata.
The Spain international has been strongly linked with a move away from Stamford Bridge after falling down the pecking order since Jose Mourinho returned to the club.
He has completed ninety minutes just one this season – the Capital One Cup third round victory over Swindon Town in September.