Well, what a difference a week makes. We fancied Chelsea to triumph against Leicester last Saturday, but what we hadn’t anticipated was the dramatic fallout of the Diego Costa vs Antonio Conte situation. These scenarios often play out with plenty of ‘smoke and mirrors’, so whether there is a back injury – as Conte claimed – or a potential move to Chelsea has turned Costa’s head, which is the media view, it was refreshing to see the elven players that did make it onto the pitch in the Midlands produce a fine performance.
As West Ham found in their first outing since the Dimitri Payet debacle, these situations can often have a galvanizing effect on a squad of players, and from their efforts on the pitch you certainly wouldn’t know that these Blue boys had experienced a trying end to the week.
They were magnificent against Leicester, and while a debt of gratitude goes to unlikely goal here Marcos Alonso – the Spaniard could have had a hat-trick but in the end settled for a brace, in truth all eleven were outstanding. Pedro, enjoying the freedom of a false nine role in the absence of Costa, was sensational.
Much of the speculation this week will centre around Costa’s future and whether he will return to the squad against Hull, but let’s take a moment to commend last week’s starting eleven and say that, on the balance of things, they should start against Hull City on Sunday afternoon.
Chelsea Team News
Will he or won’t he? Our understanding is that Diego Costa WILL return to the Chelsea squad this weekend having undergone clear the air talks with the gaffer on Tuesday, although he is likely to have to take a watching brief from the bench as Conte stays loyal to the starting eleven that performed so admirably against Leicester last time out.
With that situation resolved, the great news for Conte is that he has an otherwise clean bill of health to call upon, and as such there will be no desire to deviate from last week’s starting eleven.
Chelsea v Hull City Head to Head
There has been just ten prior meetings between these two sides, and unsurprisingly it is Chelsea that have more often than not come out on top with eight wins and two draws.
The Blues have won five on the bounce since August 2013, scoring at least two goals in each and keeping four clean sheets. We really do seem to have the wood on the Tigers, although obviously that’s not a huge surprise given the relative status of the two clubs
Al in all, Chelsea’s goal difference in ten encounters with Hull is +17, and that is the best indicator of all of their dominance. With the Northerners struggling for form and the fitness of their players, a similarly comfortable Chelsea win is expected.
How the Match Will Be Won
What do we know about Hull City? We expect them to line up in a similar 3-4-3 style to us, with their midfield line dropping deep to prevent Pedro and Eden Hazard picking up those little pockets of space.
Sam Clucas and Andrew Robertson will be one on one against Victor Moses and Marcos Alonso, and with the Chelsea wing backs pushed high up the pitch this could offer a genuine opportunity for the Blues to ‘get round the back’, as John Barnes used to love rapping. The Hull pair are unlikely to get much cover from Robert Snodgrass and Adama Diomande.
Hull’s best attacking outlet will be set pieces, with Robert Snodgrass’ devilish left-footed delivery creating chances for the Tigers’ three big centre backs: Michael Dawson, Curtis Davies and Harry Maguire. Chelsea will need to be on their mettle at corners and free kicks.
But in truth we expect Chelsea to have lots of the ball, and that will aid us in creating smart triangular movements to help break through the stubborn Hull rearguard. Both Costa and Cesc Fabregas may be called for off the subs bench; Costa to provide a more physical presence and Fabregas to orchestrate attacks from deeper positions in an attempt to draw the Tigers out from their deep lying positions.
It could be an afternoon where patience is required, as Hull will work hard to stifle our build-up play. But we simply don’t expect them to be able to hold us out for 90 minutes, and so a Chelsea victory to nil is anticipated.