Saturday, 25 February 2017

Chelsea v Swansea Match Preview (25/02/17): Blues to Take One Step Closer to Title Glory

Into the quarter finals of the FA Cup and eight points clear at the top of the Premier League; things are going rather swimmingly for Antonio Conte and his team at present!

Such is the Italian’s confidence in the ability of his squad to cope with the modern football schedule that he decided to name a strong game for the FA Cup game at Wolves last time out, with the likes of Diego Costa, Eden Hazard and Victor Moses all getting the nod.

The result was a comfortable enough 2-0 victory that sends the Blues roaring into the quarter-finals of the competition and a date with Manchester United. Don’t expect Conte to take things easy against the Red Devils either.

It was another first team regular, Pedro, that broke the deadlock for Chelsea just after an hour, and that came after some spirited Wolves attacking play; it was reassuring to see the likes of John Terry and Kurt Zouma up to the task physically after spells of injury and inactivity.

Costa secured victory in the dying embers of the match and what was another satisfactory victory for the Blues against an up-for-it Wolves side. This was a potential banana-skin, and the Chelsea boys stepped over it with poise and grace.

Onto this week then and a return to league matters with the visit of Swansea to the Bridge. The Welsh outfit has been in good form of late and will have been cursing the interruption last week; the Swans long since departing the FA Cup.

Paul Clement will be hoping to nick another point as he guides his team towards Premier League survival, but can his players get the job done against the best side in the land?

Chelsea Team News

In what has been a feature of Chelsea’s campaign, Conte has no fresh injury worries ahead of the weekend and can name pretty much any starting eleven he likes.

Thibaut Courtois is suffering with illness and might not be well enough to don the gloves, but in Asmir Begovic the club boasts a more-than-adequate replacement. In this match, we don’t expect him to be too busy anyway.

All of the senior starters from the Wolves match came through unscathed, and so what has become the traditional Chelsea starting eleven in the league will once again take to the turf.

Chelsea v Swansea Head to Head

Bizarrely, Chelsea haven’t beaten Swansea in three meetings now (two draws, one defeat), and while that is a miniscule data set there is something slightly befuddling about that.

Prior to that the Blues had won five on the spin between April 2013 and January 2015, so at least there isn’t some kind of Welsh hex hanging over encounters between these two.

Remarkably, the visitors haven’t won a league match at Stamford Bridge since they were called Swansea Town way back in 1925!

In the last five league encounters between the two teams at the Bridge, Chelsea’s record reads W4 D1 L0 GF13 GA5.

How the Match Will Be Won

Clearly, the renaissance at Swansea under Clemet’s stewardship has to be referenced. Other than a 0-4 shellacking at the hands of Arsenal on his debut, the Welsh outfit have since won three of their four outings; victories over Liverpool, Southampton and Leicester backed by a narrow defeat at Manchester City.

There are caveats to that, however. Liverpool couldn’t defend for toffee on the day the two met, while we know how poor the Saints and the Foxes have been in recent times. Renaissance at Swansea? Yes, absolutely. But how they will fare against a Chelsea side for whom confidence is not a problem remains to be seen.

The Swans’ strength is in attack, where the clever Gylfi Sigurdsson links up well with powerhouse Fernando Llorente. The Icelander tends to be at the heart of all the good things that Swansea do, and so he will need to be monitored closely by the midfield pairing of Matic and Kante.

Thy will also deploy a pair of quick and tricky wingers, but nothing that Alonso and Moses aren’t up to marking out of the game.

The real boiling point of this game will come in Swansea’s half of the pitch. They just can’t defend; keeping one clean sheet since Christmas and just four all season. Has Alfie Mawson been thrown in a little bit at the deep end? Probably, and if Swansea’s plan for the rest of the season is to outscore their opponents – noble as that is – then it is a strategy presumably doomed to failure at the Bridge on Saturday.

The visitors may well find the net, they always seem to tend to, but we fancy a fresh and firing Chelsea attacking line to put the Swans to the sword.

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