Wednesday 27 December 2017

Chelsea v Stoke City Match Preview (30/12/17): Eden to Sound Hazard Warning to Stoke

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It’s been a fairly satisfactory festive period for Chelsea so far, and victory against Stoke here – and a positive result against Arsenal on January 3 – would complete a very happy new year for Antonio Conte and his team.

Okay, so the performance levels in the 0-0 draw with Everton were below par, but we always expected the Toffees to be a stubborn opponent under new boss Sam Allardyce. We were rarely troubled, but struggled to find that killer touch in and around the Merseysiders’ goal.

So the return of Alvaro Morata against Brighton on Boxing Day was welcome, and the Spaniard once again showed he isn’t punching above his weight in the Premier League by notching the opening goal just after half time following excellent work from Cesar Azpilicueta.

Marcos Alonso then sealed the three points on the hour mark with a glancing header to secure a 2-0 win that we thoroughly deserved on the back of a much improved second half display.

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So that’s the first half of the festive quartet of fixtures completed with minimal fuss, and next up are a Stoke City side who appear to have rallied of late after defeating West Brom and taking a point at Huddersfield.

But a trip to Stamford Bridge is a completely different test, and Chelsea will be expected to complete another comfortable victory.

Chelsea Team News

Andreas Christensen was withdrawn from the Chelsea squad on the eve of the game against Brighton after he was deemed too unwell to start, and only time will tell if the young Dane is fit enough to start on Saturday.

If he doesn’t then you would expect Gary Cahill to continue in the middle of the back three between Antonio Rudiger and Cesar Azpilicueta.

Will Antonio Conte make further changes with one on Arsenal next Wednesday? It’s possible, and we would expect a couple of rotations to keep key players fresh.

So the likes of Danny Drinkwater and Davide Zappacosta could come in, with Cesc Fabregas and Marcos Alonso the most obvious players to be given a rest.

And given that Stoke are struggling defensively with injuries, Conte may want to be two goals or more to the good by half time so that he can substitute others and keep them fresh for the Gunners. So we expect the likes of Hazard and Morata to start, along with possibly Willian, but don’t be surprised if they are withdrawn at the earliest available juncture.

Chelsea v Stoke Head to Head

The Blues have typically enjoyed themselves against Stoke, and that is reflected in a formline of W17 D3 L3 against the Potteries based outfit in recent years.

You have to back to October 1995 to find the last time that Stoke won at Stamford Bridge; since then our record against the visitors reads an incredible W10 D1 L0 on home soil.

Mind you, a word of caution. In amongst our brilliant form from November 2016 to February 2017, it was actually Stoke who gave us one of our toughest tests at the Bridge on New Years Eve, where we eventually prevailed by four goals to two.

How the Match Will Be Won

Ordinarily when discussing how these matches will be won, we discuss tactics, strategy and form as three of the key factors determining where the points will go.

But for this contest, we can list the absent Stoke City defenders to give you a better guide of how this match will pan out: captain Ryan Shawcross has suffered a calf strain and will miss out, and he will be joined on the sidelines by fellow defenders Glen Johnson and Bruno Martins-Indi. Erik Pieters is ‘touch and go’ according to Stoke boss Mark Hughes, while Kurt Zouma can’t play against us under the terms of his loan deal.

So all of the above leads to a very makeshift back three/four for Stoke, and you can hardly blame Hughes if he sends out a side in full damage limitation mode on Saturday.

That will mean plenty of bodies behind the ball, and not for the first time this term the Blues players will be tasked with unlocking what will look to be a locked door for large swathes of the 90 minutes.

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So let’s hope that Conte opts to field as strong an attacking line-up as possible, with natural width and plenty of creative players in deep lying positions to help break down the red-and-white barrier in front of them.

And happily there is some very recent evidence that shows we can defeat sides who sit deep: just look at the win over Brighton last time out. The Seagulls defended in numbers, and while it took 45 minutes to work them out – Conte pushing Moses, Alonso and Bakayoko higher up the pitch – in the end we were comfortable winners.

So let’s hope for a showing of Groundhog Day at the Bridge on Saturday.

Thursday 21 December 2017

Everton v Chelsea Match Preview (26/12/17): Blues to Tough It Out Against In-Form Toffees

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If you can make seven changes to your starting line-up and still win a game of football, then you must be doing something right.

That’s exactly how Chelsea fared on Tuesday night in their 2-1 win over Bournemouth….although the truth is that the performance was befitting of a much-changed side.

The Blues looked disjointed at times as they struggled to see off a game Bournemouth outfit, although that’s not to say there weren’t bright spots. Willian and Cesc Fabregas’ link-up play was excellent all night, with the Spaniard laying on the pass for the Brazilian to open the scoring.

And when we signed Ethan Ampadu from Exeter, there will have been plenty of raised eyebrows, but the dreadlocked defender was outstanding on Tuesday night. He slotted into the sweeper role in the heart of the back three and looked like a seasoned pro, performing his defensive duties admirably and distributing the ball with aplomb. This is a kid with a bright future.

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Antonio Conte clearly wasn’t happy with his side though, and that’s perhaps why he sent on Eden Hazard, Alvaro Morata and Tiemoue Bakayoko within the space of ten second-half minutes. It worked – Morata bagging a late winner – but he then foolishly celebrated like he had just won the World Cup and was booked for his troubles. That means he will miss Saturday’s trip to Everton.

And that’s a huge shame, because Sam Allardyce’s men are in a fine run of form since the burly gaffer took charge. We could have done with our full compliment of players to make the trip, but will have to make do without our prized frontman.

Can the Blues kick on regardless?

Chelsea Team News

As mentioned, Morata is out after accumulating five yellow cards this season – hopefully a moment of madness that won’t come back to haunt him/us.

In brighter news Marcos Alonso will come back into the starting eleven after missing out against Bournemouth courtesy of his own suspension, and others that missed the game against the Cherries – Andreas Christensen, Cesar Azpilicueta, Victor Moses, Thibaut Courtois – will presumably walk back into the side.

Everton like to pack the centre of the pitch, so don’t be surprised if Conte reverts back to that modified 3-5-1-1 system this week. A midfield trio of Bakayoko, Fabregas and N’Golo Kante combines brains with brawn, while in attack Eden Hazard – becoming more and more comfortable in the false nine role, should be ably supported by the in-form Willian.

Everton v Chelsea Head to Head

Chelsea’s recent resurgence in form against Everton is most welcome, with four straight wins coming at a goal difference of +11. The most recent of those was the 2-1 victory in the Carabao Cup clash just a matter of weeks ago.

The history books are generally rather kind to us as well, with 72 wins compared to the Toffees’ 54 and 52 meetings ending in stalemate.

That said, we’ve never overwhelmingly taken to the Goodison Park turf: a formline reading W4 D1 L5 tells its own story.

How the Match Will Be Won

The Everton we take on this week will be a very different outfit to the one we beat in the Carabao Cup back in October, that’s for sure. Big Sam hasn’t reinvented the wheel there, but clearly gone back to basics with his tactics and, from a psychological point of view, reminded his players just how talented they are.

So even without a recognised frontman, the Toffees have been able to compile a five-game unbeaten run in the Premier League with four wins and a draw.

What perhaps should be mentioned, for the sake of balance, is that the four victories have all come against sides in the bottom half of the table, and the one match in which Allardyce-era Everton have played a top-half team was the 1-1 draw at Anfield; where they were very lucky to escape with a point.

The bottom line here is that the Merseysiders are much improved under their new management team, but far from unbeatable.

That Liverpool game was eye-catching because Everton’s left back, Cuco Martina, was ripped to shreds by Mo Salah. Now, there’s no shame in that as Salah is an extraordinary talent, but it shows that Martina hasn’t quite adapted to his switch of sides. Hopefully Willian, if he starts, can ensure another nightmare afternoon for the full back.

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Defensively the Toffees have improved – just two goals conceded in five games under Big Sam, which has been driven by the return to form of Ashley Williams, the emergence of Jonjoe Kenny, and a hard-working midfield shield in Idrissa Gueye and Morgan Schneiderlin/Tom Davies.

A front four of Calvert-Lewin, Rooney, Sigurdsson and Lennon has goals in it, but it’s not the kind of attack that will have the Chelsea defenders awake all Friday night. Instead, a clean sheet is likely for us, and victory will be determined by whether we can break down this Everton backline or not. Our guess is that we will.

Tuesday 19 December 2017

Chelsea v Bournemouth Match Preview (20/12/17): Blues to Take One Step Closer to Wembley Date

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Antonio Conte made a very valid point in his post-match press conference following the 1-0 win over Southampton on Saturday.

The Italian suggested that the Blues’ excellent form is being overlooked due to the exploits of Manchester City, and really that seems fair enough. But he shouldn’t take it personally, because after eight wins in ten Premier League starts the good ship Chelsea is well and truly back on course.

Even though the scoreline suggests differently, this was a comfortable, routine victory for the Blues against a Southampton side with containment on their mind. A whopping 24 shots at goal yielded a solitary strike – Marcos Alonso’s sublime free kick on the stroke of half time, and while we completely dominated the course of the match it is always twitchy when you don’t get the second goal to kill off a game.

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Happily, the Saints offered very little going forward, enabling us to pick up a very handsome eighth win in ten and 25 points from a possible 30. With Manchester United flattering to deceive, second place this term is starting to look like a very viable outcome.

There’s a slight change of emphasis this week with the latest instalment of the Carabao Cup pairing us with Bournemouth in the quarter-final, and it’s a match that – even allowing for a much-changed starting eleven ahead of the hectic festive schedule – we would expect to be winning nine times out of ten.

And then, another Wembley jaunt would be one fixture away….

Chelsea Team News

Obviously a competition like the Carabao Cup depends on teams taking it seriously as far as their team selection and motivation levels are concerned, and so far Antonio Conte has shown the cup a healthy level of respect.

Sure, players have been rested in each round, but a decent quota of regular starters have been selected. And that trend looks set to continue this week.

“I want to continue to give the chance to players that are not playing with regularity,” he said. “I want to continue this way, but at the same time we want to reach the semi-final.”

So we can expect a decent eleven to take to the field on Wednesday. Players will be rested – Eden Hazard almost certainly, and probably the likes of Gary Cahill and Thibaut Courtois, while Marcos Alonso is suspended after picking up his fifth booking of the season at the weekend.

But those with a ticket and those watching on from the sofa will be treated to a strong Chelsea line-up with all eyes trained on a Wembley final appearance.

Chelsea vs Bournemouth Head to Head

When Chelsea defeated Bournemouth 1-0 back in October it was the tenth time that the two sides have met – the Blues extended their hoodoo over the Cherries by racking up their eighth win.
An Eden Hazard goal separated the two sides on that occasion, and continued a fine run for the Londoners over the South Coast club.

Indeed, Chelsea have won eight of their last nine games against Bournemouth; the only anomaly being the surprise 0-1 defeat during the disastrous 2015/16 campaign.

How the Match Will Be Won

How Bournemouth approach this game will largely be dictated by the strength of the starting eleven that Eddie Howe decides to select, but right now his priorities must lie elsewhere as his side slips towards a relegation battle.

A run of six outings without a win (W0 D3 L3) has once again witnessed the Cherries slipping perilously close to the bottom three, and their next four league fixtures – away trips to Manchester City and Brighton, home dates with West Ham and Everton – will go a large way to determining how the rest of their season unfolds.

So we wouldn’t be hugely surprised if the Cherries’ boss makes changes for this match, and that a second-string Bournemouth outfit will take to the Stamford Bridge turf on Wednesday.

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And so complacency may just be Chelsea’s worst enemy, although if we too make a couple of changes then the motivation of our own fringe players to put in big performances - and try to force their way into the first team picture – will actually be a bonus.

Bournemouth don’t play an expansive brand of football, hence why only Brighton, Swansea and West Brom have scored fewer goals than them this season, and so it may be Chelsea’s mission to simply break them down.

That will test the likes of Batshuayi and Musonda, and it will be interesting to see if they can rise to the challenge.

But really there is nothing to suggest that this won’t be anything other than a hard-fought Chelsea win….the semi-finals beckon!

Thursday 14 December 2017

Chelsea v Southampton Match Preview (16/12/17): Blues Ready to March to Three Points Against the Saints

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Will the real Chelsea FC please stand up? After the derisory 0-1 defeat to West Ham at the weekend we returned to winning ways immediately with a resounding 3-1 win over Huddersfield on Tuesday evening.

Goals from Tiemoue Bakayoko, the impressive Willian and Pedro sealed the deal for the Blues, and a very satisfying win it was too given that a away day at Huddersfield bears all the hallmarks of the classic ‘banana skin’ fixture….just ask Manchester United.

It was an eye-catching performance, with an attacking flair clear for all to see with Pedro, Willian and Eden Hazard linking up as a makeshift front three. It is that enterprise that we have been crying out for, with Antonio Conte’s flirtation with a 3-5-1-1 system okay when playing the big boys but simply not offensive enough when taking on sides we really should be beating – the West Ham debacle being the perfect case in point.

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A switch back to the 3-4-3 shape that guided us to the Premier League is necessary, and against a Southampton side who come to Stamford Bridge on the back of a 1-4 defeat to Leicester it’s something of a no-brainer!

Chelsea Team News

The Saints game starts a run of six fixtures in just 18 days for the Blues, so there will be some rather necessary squad rotation to come from Conte.

Will the Italian mix things up against Southampton? Perhaps not: the players will have had a full four days to recover from their trip to Yorkshire, and a much more sensible candidate for rotation will be the League Cup quarter-final against Bournemouth on Wednesday.

So we don’t expect too much tinkering on Saturday, although it may be the case that Alvaro Morata is given the afternoon off. He missed the Huddersfield match with a combination of a niggling back injury and tiredness, and if that twinge lingers on then there is simply no reason to risk him against the Saints with so many games coming up in the next few weeks.

Then the choice for Conte will be a straight decision between drafting in Michy Batshuayi, who played the last 20 minutes against the Terriers, as a straight swap, or continuing with that exciting front three of Pedro, Willian and Hazard. Personally we’d prefer the latter, but that’s not for us to say!

Cesc Fabregas had the night off in midweek and should return here, probably at the expense of Bakayoko, with Gary Cahill also set to feature ahead of Antonio Rudiger.

Chelsea vs Southampton Head to Head

Despite a rare blip in the 2000s, Southampton have by and large been a top flight team for the past few decades, and so it’s no surprise to note that this will be the 100th meeting between Chelsea and the Saints.

With our terrible maths that at least enables us to offer you some win percentages: Chelsea triumphing in 42%, Southampton in 30% and the draw occurring in 28% of encounters.

The modern era has been particularly kind to the Blues, and our record of W12 D5 L3 certainly stands up to scrutiny.

Against Southampton at Stamford Bridge, our last ten record reads W5 D3 L2.

How the Match Will Be Won

Southampton’s recent form of W1 D3 L4 will not exactly have the club’s supporters going wild in the aisles, although some mitigation can be sought. In amongst that eight they have played Manchester City, Arsenal, Liverpool and of course Burnley – all top seven sides in the Premier League.

So for the sake of context we can say that they have had a pretty unlucky run of fixtures, although we must note that they saved their worst performance of the season for Wednesday in that 1-4 defeat to Leicester.

It has to be said that the way Southampton set up suits our style to the ground. They play with out-and-out wingers (probably Dusan Tadic and Sofiane Boufal) but they drift inside, which will see them running into plenty of blue traffic. Cedric Soares and Ryan Bertrand will provide the width for the Saints, but that will put them in a one-on-one battle with our wing backs.

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Up front Charlie Austin – a brilliant finisher, lacks the pace to get in behind, meaning Conte can pick Cahill and Rudiger if he so chooses, and a midfield containing the likes of Oriel Romeu – another who, like Bertrand, plays against his former club, and Steven Davis is combative but lacking guile.

But, as is often the case, our joy will come in those half spaces between the midfield and defence, and also just to the sides of Southampton’s defensive midfield pairing. A front three of Hazard, Pedro and the in-form Willian really could make mincemeat of the visitors.

It’s a match tailormade for a comfortable Chelsea victory.

Monday 11 December 2017

Huddersfield Town v Chelsea Match Preview (12/12/17): Can Chelsea Banish the Winter Blues in Yorkshire?

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It’s hard to really pick the bones of Saturday’s 0-1 defeat at West Ham. We neither dominated the game nor deserved to lose; we struggled to create chances without ever looking in trouble at the back.

It just so happens that the one moment of quality during the game came from West Ham’s Marko Arnautovic, whose goal sealed the three points for his side in yet another hammer-blow for our hopes of retaining the title – especially with Manchester City beating their local rivals United to extend their lead to eleven points.

And yet, to some extent, our downfall was our doing. Antonio Conte spoke of tiredness in the ranks after the game, so why did he pick essentially the same side as that who battled with Atletico Madrid in the pulsating Champions League clash last week?

“Our start was bad but we played a bit tired. To face one game every two days always with the same players is very difficult. And we have just started this period,” he said afterwards.

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So why didn’t he make any changes? The situation is that now, realistically, with three points dropped on Saturday we have to head north to take on Huddersfield Town with probably a much-changed side, with the Terriers themselves enjoying a good win at the weekend.

That four-hour journey could be hellish with the current weather doing the rounds, and so really we face a hiding to nothing against the buoyant Yorkshire outfit. It could be a baptism of fire at the John Smith’s Stadium on another bitterly cold night.

Chelsea Team News

Surely Antonio Conte will make changes to his side for this game? If suggestions of tired legs are true then a dust-up with an up-for-it Huddersfield on a cold northern night is not the best medicine.
The only two squad members who are struggling for fitness are David Luiz (knee) and Danny Drinkwater, who missed out against the Hammers at the weekend after being struck down with illness.

But even so, there are plenty of options for Conte. Victor Moses will surely return in place of Davide Zappacosta, while the quick turnaround may mean that Gary Cahill is rested.

And let’s hope that Conte plays a much more attacking shape against Huddersfield, with Cesc Fabregas – if he starts – enjoying a far more advanced role than the withdrawn figure he was at the Olympic Stadium on Saturday.

It would be folly to rest both Eden Hazard and Alvaro Morata during the same game – that’s the majority of our goal threat wiped out right there, so expect the former to be given a watching brief from the substitutes bench, with Pedro possibly pipping Willian to a starting role.

Huddersfield Town vs Chelsea Head to Head

This is Huddersfield Town’s first ever season in the Premier League and their first in the top flight since the 1970s, so it’s no wonder we haven’t met in a league game since 1984!

There have been three meetings between the sides since then, with Huddersfield wining a League Cup clash in 2009 before succumbing to FA Cup defeats against the Blues in 2006 (1-2) and 2008 (1-3).

How the Match Will Be Won

Huddersfield are a big side, and Chelsea will need to match them both in the physical battle and in terms of endeavour.

A side effect of their height and power is their threat from set pieces: both of their goals against Brighton on Saturday came directly or from a second phase of a set piece. We need to be aware of their routines and runs, and be prepared to match them when the ball comes in.

It is going to be a cold night in Yorkshire, and the boys in blue will need to be up to the challenge. The hosts will put a few tackles in to try and unsettle us, and their supporters will be boisterous and rowdy in an attempt to throw us off our natural game.

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Nine times out of ten Chelsea beat Huddersfield Town, but this fixture has the feel of one of those odd occasions where the conditions level the playing field. The Blues, whether a first choice starting eleven is selected or otherwise, will need to match their opponents’ passion early on and quieten the crowd.

Because over the course of 90 minutes we should, realistically, be winning this match. The Terriers are decent at home but resounding defeats to Tottenham (0-4) and Manchester City (1-2) are an indicator of what may just happen if Chelsea take their A-game to Yorkshire.

Thursday 7 December 2017

West Ham v Chelsea Match Preview (09/12/17): Expect Blues to Dish Out Capital Punishment to the Hammers

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It wasn’t quite meant to be for Chelsea on Tuesday evening, and despite dominating against Atletico Madrid in the Champions League we couldn’t quite make our authority pay.

The 1-1 draw with the Spaniards wasn’t enough for the Blues to top Group C – that honour went to Roma, who defeated Qarabag as expected – and so we know face a last 16 clash against one of PSG, Barcelona or Besiktas. But this is the most elite club tournament in the world, and so there are no easy games in the latter stages.

Saul Niguez opened the scoring against the run of play for Atleti, and that goal was a cruel blow at a time when the Blues were really dominating proceedings. The midfield trio of N’Golo Kante, Tiemoue Bakayoko and Cesc Fabregas were well on top of their opponents, and Eden Hazard was looking likely to make something happen every time he got the ball.

Saul’s goal was a real kick in the teeth then, and when Antonio Conte sent on both Pedro and Willian it was all-out attack from his men as wave after wave of blue-shirted hordes charged forward.

Thankfully, our aggression was rewarded as Stefan Savic scuffed Hazard’s cross into his own net to give Chelsea a much-deserved point – to be honest, all three would have been justified such was our dominance over Diego Simeone’s side.

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No matter: the draw makes life more difficult in the next round, but then there were some high quality sides finishing second in their group as well, so topping the pile would not have guaranteed an easier time of it anyway.

With the Champions League done and dusted until the new year, attention now turns back to league matters. We have another Saturday lunchtime kick off this week, and our hosts will be beleaguered West Ham in the ever mouth-watering derby.

The Hammers are without a Premier League win since September and have lost four of their last five, so Chelsea can relish the prospect of rubbing their opponents’ noses in it yet further at the weekend.

Chelsea Team News

There is a set of Premier League fixtures in midweek, with Chelsea travelling to Huddersfield on Tuesday evening. That may just help to inform Conte’s team selection here.

After an energetic battle with Atletico we can expect some changes to the starting eleven on Saturday. What those will be precisely remains to be seen, but we can expect Marcos Alonso, Danny Drinkwater and Antonio Rudiger to come in. Davide Zappacosta, Cesc Fabregas and Gary Cahill are the most likely to make way.

Conte may decide to hand a rest to one or both of Alvaro Morata and Eden Hazard too. The Italian will be reluctant to make wholesale changes, but a chance to give one or two of his key performers a day off will not be taken lightly.

The only definite absentee is David Luiz, who is still working hard to rehabilitate his injured knee.

West Ham vs Chelsea Head to Head

This is a well-storied rivalry that dates back nearly a century, with more than 100 meetings taking place in all that time.

It’s not a massive surprise to note that Chelsea boast a head-to-head lead of 49 wins to 39, aided by a remarkable run in this past decade or so. Since January 2006, the Blues’ record against the Hammers reads W16 D4 L3!

Chelsea also did the double over West Ham last season – with the Iron gaining a tiny amount of revenge with a win in the League Cup. Hazard and Diego Costa bagged the goals in a 2-1 at the Olympic Stadium back in March.

How the Match Will Be Won

West Ham’s struggles can be attributed partly to their lengthy injury list, which has foiled David Moyes’ attempts to name a full strength side ever since he took over at the helm.

This week the Hammers will be without Jose Fonte, James Collins and Sam Byram in defence, with Winston Reid struggling with a tight hamstring. The combative Cheikh Kouyate has a hamstring strain of his own and won’t take part, while Andy Carroll’s knee injury keeps him sidelined too.

So rather than facing a trial by air as we might have done had Carroll been fit, instead West Ham’s strategy will change with Michail Antonio and Manuel Lanzini as their main attacking outlets. Edimilson Fernandes and Arthur Masuaku will provide the width, and the rest of the Hammers will be tasked with shutting down the middle of the pitch and restricting Chelsea’s chances.

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So there’s no harm in Antonio Conte being a bit more adventurous with his team selection, posting Pedro and Willian high up the pitch to occupy the deep-lying West Ham rearguard. They will play something akin to a 4-4-1-1 formation, and so our best hope of breaking them down will come from occupying the space between the lines.

We can push on our two wider centre backs as well when in possession, allowing Marcos Alonso and Victor Moses to play as orthodox wingers. As such, we will hopefully get round the back of West Ham’s defence, with low crosses and cutbacks our likely route to goal.

With minimal attacking threat coming from the opposition, the onus will be on Chelsea to make their dominance count once again.

Monday 4 December 2017

Chelsea v Atletico Madrid Match Preview (05/12/17): Blues to Secure Top Spot at the Bridge

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On the face of it, there is very little to be gained from Chelsea’s Champions League encounter with Atletico Madrid on Tuesday evening.

Progress to the last 16 has already been secured, and with Antonio Conte speaking of tiredness in the ranks of late there is perhaps more to be gained by rotating his squad and keeping legs fresh ahead of the hectic festive schedule.

But on the flipside, you could look at it another way: if the Blues finish top of Group C, they will avoid a meeting with the other first-placed finishers in the next round – a list which features the likes of PSG, Barcelona (probably) and Manchester City, while serving up potential clashes with one of Porto/RB Leipzig, Shakhtar Donetsk, Sevilla or Basel/CSKA Moscow. So to that extent, there is plenty of value in making sure we give it our all on Tuesday.

Another reason for not taking Atleti lightly is the confidence that maintaining our unbeaten run will give the players. That’s seven games without defeat now in the Premier League following Saturday’s resounding 3-1 win over Newcastle.

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The Magpies took a surprise early lead, but that only served as a wake-up call to the Blues, whose intensity increased exponentially thereafter. Eden Hazard produced a nigh-on flawless performance, netting twice – including a Panenka-style penalty – to go with a strike from Alvaro Morata which secured a comfortable three points.

Let’s hope the boys can take that level of performance into Tuesday’s clash with the belligerent Spaniards.

Chelsea Team News

As far as the current injury list goes, only David Luiz is a player that would be considered a first team option at this moment in time.

The Brazilian has a sore knee caused by fluid on the joint, and it may be a couple of weeks before he is spied in a blue shirt again.
Charley Musonda and Kenedy – the most obvious replacement for Marcos Alonso, are both also sidelined.

Otherwise Conte can pick and choose who he likes, and the assumption is that Hazard, Cesc Fabregas and Andreas Christensen will all start against Atletico as they were subbed off against Newcastle on Saturday; presumably to give them a bit of rest.

So we anticipate a midfield three of Fabregas, N’Golo Kante and Tiemoue Bakayoko, with Hazard playing just off the shoulder of possibly Michy Batshuayi, probably Alvaro Morata.

Is Victor Moses it enough to play 180 minutes in the space of four days? He may not be, so don’t be surprised if Davide Zappacosta gets the nod on the right, while at the back the preferred defensive trio of Christensen, Gary Cahill ad Cesar Azpilicueta is likely to be deployed.

Chelsea v Atletico Madrid Head to Head

There have been six prior meetings between these two sides, and the records show a perfectly symmetrical W2 D2 L2 run for both.

Chelsea’s 1-2 win in Madrid was our first win against Atleti in five attempts however, and the last time the teams met at Stamford Bridge it was the Spaniards who triumphed 3-1.

How the Match Will Be Won

The very fact that Atletico must win this game to have any chance of progressing to the last 16 should inform us of how it will play out, but don’t expect the Spaniards to charge forward with a gung-ho strategy.

That really isn’t their style under the conservative Diego Simeone, who has built a brilliant side that has reached Champions League finals in two of the last four years based upon sound defensive principles.

So they are more likely to win this match 1-0 as they are by any other scoreline, and it will be up to the boys in blue to make sure that doesn’t happen.

Both of Atleti’s away dates in this Champions League campaign have ended 0-0 (Roma and Qarabag), and that suggests chances will be at an absolute premium. And that’s why we really rate Chelsea’s chances of winning this match: they have a creator (and finisher) in Eden Hazard who is in red hot form at present, plus a striker in Alvaro Morata who rarely requires more than one invitation to find the net.

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So can Chelsea break the Spaniards’ stranglehold? Absolutely, and as such they will simply need to stop an impressive Atleti forward line from finding the net. The outstanding Antoine Griezmann will be supported by one or more of Kevin Gameiro, Angel Correa, Yannick Carrasco and that man Fernando Torres, so our back three will have their work cut out.

But we can reference the game against Roma at Stamford Bridge, which we bossed, to give us confidence. The Blues ran up a 2-0 lead against a in-form Italian outfit, and we really should have won that match comfortably. Surely we won’t make the same mistake again on home soil….