Friday, 9 November 2018

Chelsea vs Everton Match Preview (08/11/18): Blues to Spit Out Homesick Toffees

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We got exactly what we wanted from Group L of the Europa League.

Progression to the knockout phase of the competition was the bare minimum of course, but to achieve that with two rounds of matches to spare is the ultimate reward for Maurizio Sarri taking the tournament seriously.

Now, he can rest players and get some game-time into squad members against PAOK (home) and MOL Vidi (away).

Early qualification was secured with a 1-0 win over BATE Borisov, who once again proved themselves to be game but limited opposition.

On the mark was Olivier Giroud, who rose to head home Emerson’s cross and give himself a real bolt of confidence heading into the second third of the campaign.

“I'm pleased for him,” Sarri said afterwards. “I know strikers want to score. And so for his confidence, I think it's very important.

“I don't want him to be worried about scoring, because for us he's very important, a very, very useful player for the team.”

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The Frenchman took the headlines then, but the bigger story was the return of Eden Hazard to the starting line-up.

The Belgian had missed the last three games, by and large, with a back injury, and so it was a relief to see him get through an hour or so against BATE. That little sharpener should stand him in good stead for a domestic return on Sunday.

Everton are the visitors to the Bridge on Remembrance Sunday, and while the Toffees are certainly a capable outfit they do seem to struggle somewhat on their travels, with only one win in five on the road this term.

As such, we are hoping that the Blues can land yet another win to maintain the pressure on Manchester City at the summit of the division.

Chelsea Team News

The good news with the approach that Maurizio Sarri has taken in the Europa League means that we always head into Premier League games in decent shape.

The first choice back four all got a rest on Thursday, and so messrs Azpilicueta, Luiz, Rudiger and Alonso will all come back into the side in front of the impressive Kepa between the sticks.

Cesc Fabregas has been ill this week, and that kept him out of the BATE Borisov game with Jorginho deputising.

Whether the Spaniard is fit for Sunday is touch and go, so we expect Ross Barkley, who was voted Man of the Match against the Belarussians, to continue alongside N’Golo Kante and Mateo Kovacic.

Hazard and Willian were both given lighter duties in midweek, so they will surely start on the flanks, while even the temptation to start Giroud, back among the goals, must be tempered to enable the flourishing Alvaro Morata to come into the side once more.

Chelsea vs Everton Head to Head

These two sides have been almost perennial top flight outfits in the past century or so, and so we shouldn’t be surprised that this will be the 180th competitive meeting between them.

We have the upper hand with 72 wins to 54 defeats (and 53 draws), and that’s a theme that tends to preside in the modern era, with Chelsea winning 11 of the last 17 encounters with the Toffees (W11 D2 L4).

Everton haven’t won at Stamford Bridge since 2011, and last season they lost twice in the space of eight weeks at our home ground; 0-2 in the Premier League followed by 1-2 in the Carabao Cup.

How the Match Will Be Won

There won’t be any surprises from Chelsea here; why change a winning formula?

We will pass the ball, dominate possession and look to create openings in wide areas courtesy of Hazard, Willian and the overlapping full backs.

Marco Silva hailed Everton’s 3-1 win over Brighton last weekend as their ‘best performance of the season), and yet these soft Toffees could only muster three shots on target during the game.

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They will play with a fairly traditional 4-2-3-1 formation, with Seamus Coleman and Lucas Digne offering width from full back and Michael Keane and Yerry Mina, making his first start for the club with Kurt Zouma barred from playing against his parent club, in the middle.

The midfield will be anchored by Andre Gomes and Idrissa Gana Gueye, with Gylfi Sigurdsson as the old-fashioned number ten in front of them.

Theo Walcott and Bernard will probe down the wings, while Richarlison – assuming he shakes off an ankle injury – will lead the line.

That’s all well and good, but with one win five away from home Silva clearly hasn’t found a working strategy for his side on their travels.

They lost 0-2 at Arsenal and 1-2 at Manchester United, in addition to dropping points at Wolves and Bournemouth.

Everton are a functional yet hardly life-affirming football team in their present guise, and you would have to back Chelsea to find a way past them on Sunday.

Tuesday, 6 November 2018

BATE Borisov vs Chelsea Match Preview (08/11/18): Blues to Advance in Style in Belarus

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We had wondered in last week’s preview of the Crystal Palace game just how long it would take us to make the all-important breakthrough.

Half an hour or so, all told, when Alvaro Morata – confidence seemingly returning – slotted home from Pedro’s pass.

But as we predicted, this was not an easy game, with the Eagles making life plenty difficult for us despite our overwhelming occupation of the ball.

Roy Hodgson’s side drew level in the second half when Andros Townsend got clear and fired home impressively, and at that point we really did need some divine intervention to find that second goal.

It came from the garden of Eden – well, his right foot actually, as Hazard’s introduction from the substitute’s bench brought an instant return. His free kick eventually found its way to Morata, who drilled home.

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We managed to complete the scoring when Pedro finished so emphatically from Marcos Alonso’s pass, and while it was tremendously hard work we still found a way to claim all three points against a stubborn Palace side. Victory took us above Liverpool on goal difference, and two points adrift of leaders Manchester City.

Our next Premier League outing comes on Sunday when we entertain Everton in the last game before the next international break, but prior to that there’s the matter of a trip to Belarus on Thursday to take care of.

A point or better against BATE Borisov will secure our passage into the knockout phase of the Europa League, and you sense that Maurizio Sarri will be desperate to clear that particular bridge at the first available opportunity.

Chelsea Team News

The manager has continued to field strong sides in this competition, and while he will surely take it easy with some there will still be game time for others.

Kepa has typically been the first choice keeper in the Europa League, so he may well start behind the rotated back four of, from right to left, Zappacosta, Christensen, Cahill and Emerson.

Getting the balance right in midfield will be key, and the fact that Ross Barkley was subbed off after 64 minutes suggests that either he or replacement Mateo Kovacic will join Cesc Fabregas and Ruben Loftus-Cheek in the middle of the park.

Will Sarri treat Hazard with kid gloves? There’s no real reason for him to start against BATE, and while he is likely to travel with the squad you would wager that Pedro and Willian are better options unless the Belgian’s skills are needed to break the deadlock late on.

Up front, the manager has a tough decision to make. Does he continue with Morata, who is starting to get among the goals again and who will want to keep his hot run going, or bring in the fit-again Olivier Giroud?

BATE Borisov vs Chelsea Head to Head

Chelsea’s 3-1 win over BATE Borisov a fortnight ago was the first meeting between the two sides.

Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s hat-trick did the damage in a match in which we won the shots on target count by a commanding 9-1.

How the Match Will Be Won

There wasn’t a huge amount about BATE Borisov at the Bridge the other week that suggests we need to be fearful ahead of the meeting in Belarus on Thursday.

They tried to pass the ball around, but lacked the class to really make any inroads into our defence, and but for a bit of luck and some tigerish defending our 3-1 margin of victory would surely have been greater.

The boys from Belarus lined up in a compact 4-3-3, with former Arsenal man Aleksandr Hleb the focal point in the middle of the park.

In truth, they were simply trying to limit the damage by going man for man in the middle of the park, and it remains to be seen if they adopt a more progressive, front foot approach on home soil.

They were stuffed 1-4 by PAOK in their other home match in Group L so far, and so perhaps we need to focus less on them and more on what we do!

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The great thing about this Chelsea squad is that even with rotation, it’s still a tremendously strong set of players.

The back four is strong, and a midfield three of Kovacic, Fabregas and Loftus-Cheek is strong enough to grace any side in the Europa League.

Goals are not in short supply regardless of the front three Sarri names, and so the only conclusion we can draw is that Chelsea should win this game with the same level of comfort with which they triumphed in the reverse fixture.

Thursday, 1 November 2018

Chelsea vs Crystal Palace Match Preview (04/11/18): Eagles Preyed Upon By Bloodthirsty Blues

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It’s been a pretty good week for Chelsea FC by all accounts!

After extending our unbeaten run to ten in the Premier League, victory over Derby in the Carabao Cup in midweek sends us into the quarter-finals of that competition as well. A win over Crystal Palace on Sunday would round things off rather nicely!

The 3-2 triumph over the Rams was a strange old affair, but a win is a win and when it keeps our unbeaten run going who are we to argue.

All five goals came in the first half, with two of those own goals contributed by Derby players: Richard Keogh and the on-loan Fikayo Tomori, who did not enjoy the happiest of returns to Stamford Bridge.

After an early strike from Jack Marriott, the Rams fought back again through Martyn Waghorn, but Cesc Fabregas settled the tie before half-time with a trademark cool finish.

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David Nugent hit the post late on for the visitors, and so there was a sense of relief when the referee blew the full time whistle shortly after.

Victory takes us into the last eight of the Carabao Cup, where we have been drawn at home against Bournemouth.

Attention turns back to league matters and the visit of Crystal Palace. Roy Hodgson’s men have actually beaten us in two of our last three meetings, and so we simply cannot afford to rest on our laurels when the Eagles come to town on Sunday.

Chelsea Team News

Maurizio Sarri fielded a surprisingly strong side against Derby on Wednesday, with Willian, Alvaro Morata, Mateo Kovacic and N’Golo Kante all playing 90 minutes.

It hints that Eden Hazard will be fit to start on Sunday, and also that Ross Barkley will be given another 90 minutes as his development into an outstanding midfield player continues under Sarri.

Otherwise, Kepa will come in for Willy Caballero between the sticks and the traditional back four – Azpilicueta, Luiz, Rudiger and Alonso – will be reunited.

Barkley will join Jorginho and, presumably, Kante in midfield, with Hazard to the left and Willian, if his legs can handle a third game in a week, on the right.

Through the middle, Giroud might get the nod despite struggling with a niggling injury – unless Morata recovers well from the Derby outing.

Chelsea vs Crystal Palace Head to Head

As mentioned, Palace actually have a pretty good record against us.

They have won on two of their last three trips to the Bridge. The first came in August 2015, when a Radamel Falcao goal – remember him! – was cancelled out by strikes from Bakary Sako and Joel Ward.

Then, in April 2017, they triumphed by the same scoreline, with Zaha and Benteke doing the damage for the visitors.

We gained revenge back in March with a 2-1 win of our own, but those former defeats – allied to yet another 1-2 reverse at Selhurst Park in October 2017 – suggests we have reasons to go overboard in our confidence on Sunday.

How the Match Will Be Won

The thing about this Crystal Palace side is that, without Christian Benteke, they lack a genuine frontman to act as an ‘out ball’.

Wilf Zaha is a brilliant performer and a willing combatant when leading the line, but he tends to get isolated and that is reflected in Palace’s ‘goals for’ column so far this season: with just seven in ten, only Newcastle, Huddersfield and Southampton have notched fewer.

The challenge, as is the case against any Hodgson-led side, is to break down their well-drilled defensive lines, which starts with the back four and continues with the defence-orientated central midfielders in front of them.

That’s okay though, with Hazard returning and both Willian and Morata in sublime form at present. Kante will provide pace and directness from midfield, with Barkley joining him in albeit more technical fashion.

With Alonso and Azpilicueta marauding down their respective flanks, it will be something akin to the blue arrows when we spring forward.

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Our natural, possession-based style should also help to draw the Palace players out of their positions, and as long as we move the ball around quickly – rather than more pedestrianised, side to side football – we can get in behind them.

Zaha will be a nuisance in attack. He’s got such good feet, and a willingness to carry the ball, that Rudiger and Luiz cannot afford to rest for a single minute when the Ivorian is around. Happily, he won’t have too much support around him.

And so we’re expecting a Chelsea victory. It may take a while to fashion the necessary chances, but there’s no reason why our sublime passing won’t find a way through an admittedly well-organised Palace rearguard.

Monday, 29 October 2018

Chelsea vs Derby County Match Preview (31/10/18): Blues to Avoid Halloween Horror Show

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It is very satisfying to be a Chelsea FC supporter right now, and what a nice feeling it is to be able to type that.

We are playing some sublime football under Maurizio Sarri, and even without talisman Eden Hazard we are still capable of putting opponents to the sword.

The latest victims were Burnley, who we blitzed 4-0 on Sunday in a show of genuine attacking brilliance.

Goals from Ross Barkley, Alvaro Morata, Willian and Ruben Loftus-Cheek – his fourth of the week, will take the headlines, but in truth this was an outstanding performance from front to back.

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We restricted the Clarets to a solitary shot on target while crafting eight of our own. Morata looked reborn in attack, and could have had a hat-trick but for misfortune and some outstanding goalkeeping. Behind him Willian and Barkley, in particular, linked up superbly, and it would be fair to conclude that the 4-0 scoreline did not flatter us one iota.

Onwards we go into a new week, and one in which we will be looking to come out of the other side of with our unbeaten run intact. On Sunday we host Crystal Palace at the Bridge, but before then on Wednesday we have an EFL Cup date with Derby County to contend with.

Super Frankie Lampard is doing some excellent work at the Rams, and Mason Mount’s call-up to the England squad had plenty to do with Lamps’ tuition of his midfield protégé.

Derby have really impressed this term, particularly in the past couple of weeks, and their vibrant attacking play will ask questions of what will surely be a much-changed Blues side in midweek.

Chelsea Team News

It would seem as though Hazard is on the mend, but that the midweek game may come too soon for the Belgian, who is struggling with a back injury.

“I want Hazard in every match if it's possible because we have a lot of very good players but Hazard, I think, is something different,” Sarri said.

“I am very happy because the team was able to score seven goals in two matches without Hazard. It's a very good sign. I want Eden as soon as possible. I don't know for Wednesday, but I hope for Sunday.”

Another player on whom we await further details is Pedro, who was substituted after half an hour against Burnley. It later emerged that the Spaniard was struggling with stomach cramps, although the insinuation is that he should be fine for the Derby game.

Mind you, Sarri will surely want to find a way in which to get the in-form Barkley and Loftus-Cheek into his side, and so perhaps Pedro will start on the wing with Willian given the night off.

Mateo Kovacic sat out the Burnley game – he will surely come in against the Rams – while there’s a chance that Sarri will field his complete second choice backline.

Chelsea vs Derby County Head to Head

Given that Derby’s occupation of the top flight has been rather sparse in recent years, it will come as no surprise to learnt hat our two meetings with the Rams in the past decade have both come in cup competitions.

The Blues triumphed in both: 2-0 in the FA Cup back in January 2014, and 3-1 in the League Cup in the December of that year.

Overall, the head-to-head is a close 39 wins to 38 in Chelsea’s favour, but don’t forget that Derby have had periods of excellence – particularly in the 1940s and 70s – which skews the overall picture.

How the Match Will Be Won

The on-loan duo Mason Mount and Fikayo Tomori will be allowed to take their places in the Derby team against us on Wednesday.

It will give the Stamford Bridge faithful an opportunity to see the midfield schemer and the athletic centre half in close quarters. They are both ones to watch, that’s for sure.

It will be tough on the legs, though, with this being Derby’s fourth game in the space of eleven days. Okay, so Chelsea have had an equally draining period of league, continental and cup action, but clearly our squad is rather deeper than the Rams’.

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So we don’t quite know how Derby will set up, with a tough Championship encounter against Birmingham to come on Saturday. Which match will take precedence?

What we do know is that Lampard will probably set up his side in a 4-5-1 system that becomes 4-3-3 when attacking. The wide men, principally Martyn Waghorn and Tom Lawrence, will filter inside to support a lone frontman, while in midfield Mount and Harry Wilson are normally given licence to roam with Tom Huddlestone sitting centrally behind them.

They are a side that is comfortable playing on the counter attack, and that will suit them against our possession-based style.

But we are expected to win the match by all parties, really, and while Derby will put up a good fight the Blues’ class will surely tell in the end.

Friday, 26 October 2018

Burnley vs Chelsea Match Preview (28/10/18): Blues Prepared for Battle of Turf Moor

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There’s knocking on the door, and then there’s crashing through it headfirst.

Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s hat-trick against BATE Borisov on Thursday serves as a timely reminder of the England international’s talents, and while Maurizio Sarri is fairly certain about his first choice midfield trio, Loftus-Cheek’s forward surges could become crucial to the Blues in matches where they are finding opponents rather tricky to break down.

Like Burnley, on Sunday, for example. The Clarets are well drilled under Sean Dyche, an breaking through a packed midfield will require ingenuity, sheer force of will or a little bit of both.

The 3-1 victory over the Belarussians was as comfortable as it gets, and while the scoreline doesn’t necessarily reflect as such it shouldn’t go unmentioned how well the BATE keeper played. He made great saves from Davide Zappacosta and Olivier Giroud to keep the scoreboard respectable. With 69% possession and ten shots in target, our dominance cannot be questioned.

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Indeed, it bodes well when the worst thing your manager can moan about is shipping a consolation goal. “When we conceded the goal I didn't like it very much. I don't know why but I prefer the clean sheet,” Sarri said.

“We played very well for 65 minutes and not very well in the last 20 minutes. It was a good match.”

The win leaves us six points clear at the top of Group L after MOL Vidi surprisingly defeated PAOK, and so even a point in our next outing would all but see us through to the knockout stage of the Europa League.

And that’s thirteen games unbeaten, all in all, this term now under Sarri. Let’s hope the lads can make it fourteen in Lancashire on Sunday.

Chelsea Team News

The big news is that Eden Hazard is suffering with a painful back injury at the moment.

The Belgian has missed training all week and sat out the BATE tie, with Sarri saying in his press conference that ‘he [Hazard] has a back problem’.

“We are trying to solve the problem for Sunday, [but] I think it is not very easy [for him to recover in time].”

That will set alarm bells ringing, although Pedro – who played an hour on Thursday – is ready to deputise.

Loftus-Cheek’s heroics are unlikely to be enough to earn himself a place in the starting eleven at Turf Moor.

There could well be a change in midfield, however, as Mateo Kovacic played 77 minutes against BATE on Thursday.

The Croat is struggling to compete 90 minutes after an exhausting summer at the World Cup, and it is quite possible that Ross Barkley will deputise alongside N’Golo Kante and Jorginho against Burnley.

Otherwise, Sarri will be able to field his first choice defence, with Alvaro Morata again likely to get the nod in attack.

Burnley vs Chelsea Head to Head

Those of you with decent memories will remember the first game of last season, when as champions we were brought back down to earth with a bump in a 2-3 defeat to the Clarets.

We gained a semblance of revenge at Turf Moor later in the season with a 2-1 victory, an that closed the overall gap to 35-38 in Burnley’s favour in the head-to-heads.

Of course, most of those losses came in the first half of the 20th century when Burnley were an outstanding side, and in modern times – since the Clarets first reached the Premier League back in 2009 – our results against the Lancastrians read W5 D2 L1.

How the Match Will Be Won

The good thing about playing Burnley is that you know there aren’t going to be any surprises.

They will play a narrow game with plenty of bodies behind the ball, an at least one strong, combative striker like Sam Vokes through the middle.

A tight midfield three – probably messrs Hendrick, Cork and Defour – will work hard and minimise the amount of space given to their counterparts wearing blue.

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They will double up on the flanks too, with the wingers – presumably Lennon and Gudmundsson – tracking back and supporting their full backs.

One bit of good news is that with patient attacking play, the Clarets can be breached. Manchester City put five past them last week, and at other times this season they have conceded four against Fulham and three against Watford.

That suggests that if we play our natural attacking game, we should be able to create plenty of opportunities – Hazard or no Hazard.

Tuesday, 23 October 2018

Chelsea vs BATE Borisov Match Preview (25/10/18): Blues Eye Knockouts Against the Boys from Belarus

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Saturday’s game against Manchester United had everything….apart from the result, that is.
We dominated the first period, and took a deserved lead when Antonio Rudiger lost Paul Pogba at a corner and powered a header home.

But United came out swinging in the second half, and a pair of goals from Anthony Martial appeared to have taken all three points.

In the dying embers of injury time a cross was slung in and after David Luiz hit the post and Rudiger was denied by David de Gea, Ross Barkley smashed home to secure a point for the Blues which, on the balance of play, was probably deserved.

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There was still time for some antics on the touchline as our technical assistant Marco Ianni danced a little jig of celebration in front of Jose Mourinho. It was perhaps a bit over the top, but then Mourinho is hardly a stranger to shows of exaggerated emotion himself.

Onwards and upwards to the Europa League on Thursday, when we welcome Belarussian outfit BATE Borisov to the Bridge. Victory would take us on to nine points with three wins from three, and that would surely be enough to see us into the knockout stage. At that point we could rest key players for these midweek games, which would be a huge bonus for our Premier League efforts.

So there is plenty to sink our teeth into on Thursday against a solid enough opponent but one that is there for the taking nonetheless.

Chelsea Team News

What we have learned from Chelsea’s adventures in the Europa League so far this term is that Maurizio Sarri is taking the competition seriously.

In the opener against PAOK he fielded a really strong side, and against MOL Vidi last time out there was plenty of class on show once more.

The Italian will make plenty of changes against BATE, you would fancy, with a completely different back four on show, should he repeat the selection of that MOL Vidi encounter.

A midfield trio of Cesc Fabregas, Mateo Kovacic – who was subbed off after 69 minutes against United – and Ross Barkley is top drawer, while in attack we could see Pedro coming in from the right, Ruben Loftus-Cheek from the left in a role he occupied with some success for Crystal Palace last term, and the seemingly-deposed Olivier Giroud through the middle.

Chelsea vs BATE Borisov Head to Head

It may come as no surprise to learn that Chelsea and BATE Borisov have never met before.

We do have some kind of frame of reference, however, in that they were drawn in the same Europa League group as Arsenal last season, losing 2-4 and 0-6.

How the Match Will Be Won

We don’t know a huge amount about BATE Borisov, although we do know they are handy enough given that they have won the Belarussian league 12 years in a row.

Okay, so the standard is poor, but such success breeds confidence, and they will travel to London without fear.

And they won’t park the bus, either. Their results in last season’s Europa League – 0-6 at Arsenal, 2-5 at Koln, 1-1 at Red Star – don’t strike you as those of a side that will sit back and hope for the best.

They gave PSV Eindhoven a good game in Champions League qualifying in the summer too, going down 2-3 on home soil.

If the visitors do play on the front foot they should play their part in an entertaining contest, although of course an open game suits our style. We will spray the ball around, and if we can pull the BATE defensive players out of position then there will be tons of space to exploit.

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Assuming we are near the money with our line-up prediction above, there’s goals in this team particularly from the midfield and front three, with Victor Moses also around to inject some pace into proceedings. His trickery down the right, and crosses to the head of Giroud, could be one route to goal.

Chelsea’s biggest enemy on nights like these is complacency, but we haven’t shown any in the competition so far, and with a decent prize on offer that will benefit our overall season if we get three points here, we would expect a focused and committed display from the Blues.

Thursday, 18 October 2018

Chelsea vs Manchester United Match Preview (20/10/18): Blues to Hammer Final Nail in Mourinho’s Man Utd Coffin?

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The international break is a nervous old time for club managers.

They must sit by the phone and dread it ringing with the news that one of their key players has been injured while representing their country.

Happily, the good news is that on this occasion at least, Chelsea appear to have escaped scot-free from the international fixtures without any major injury headaches.

That means that Maurizio Sarri can focus on selecting his strongest eleven, just about, for this fixture against Manchester United.

It’s a game swimming with narratives. Clearly, even at this juncture, any points accrued against rivals for a top four finish are essential, and the Blues must be confident against a United side lacking in confidence and struggling with a few injuries.

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And then, of course, there’s the Special One himself. Old Jose was given the dreaded vote of confidence prior to the break, and while his side signed off with a win lest we forget they were 0-2 down to Newcastle on home soil.

You wonder, mischievously, if defeat on Saturday lunchtime might spell the end of Mourinho in Manchester.

And so Saturday’s encounter could be a cagey old affair, with Chelsea enjoying the bulk of possession and United sitting deep with bus parked and handbrake on as tight as it will go.

It won’t be one for the neutral, but there’s three key points in the offing for Chelsea.

Chelsea Team News

As mentioned, there are no new injury concerns for Sarri to mull over, and the only first team regular on the treatment table is Antonio Rudiger, who you may recall picked up a hamstring strain in the dying embers of the win over Southampton.

The German stayed behind to get treatment during the international break, and he probably won’t be risked against the Red Devils.

That leaves a straight choice between Gary Cahill and Andreas Christensen at centre back, with Cahill’s greater physicality possibly getting the nod as we look to shackle Romelu Lukaku.

Various players have been off on international duty around Europe, and so we don’t have to worry about jet lag. Our only South American stars, Willian and David Luiz, did not travel with the squad and instead went off on holiday to Dubai together. Nice work if you can get it!

Chelsea vs Manchester United Head to Head

With 180 prior meetings in the bank, you might think we’d have a clear understanding of who the better team was, historically, between Chelsea and Manchester United.

Yes, United have the better record dating back to the early 1900s, but when it really counts – in more recent times – the Blues have had the upper hand.

If we look at the last 15 encounters, we note that Chelsea have lost just twice. Extend that to matches played at Stamford Bridge, and our record reads a rather rosy W7 D1 L0.

The last time we met was in the FA Cup final back in May, where Eden Hazard’s penalty was enough to secure a trophy in Antonio Conte’s final game as manager.

How the Match Will Be Won

Just how will Mourinho set up his Manchester United side? That seems to hold the key to how this match will pan out.

We think he will try to bully the midfield battle by picking a physical trio: Nemanja Matic, Marouane Fellaini and Paul Pogba. The object here will be to stop our boys from playing, and dish out a few bruises along the way.

It’s possible that Alexis Sanchez has won his trust after netting the dramatic last minute winner against Newcastle, and he may start from one flank and Anthony Martial, who also scored against the Magpies, on the other.

One battle that excites us as Chelsea supporters is Eden Hazard against either Antonio Valencia or Ashley Young down our left flank. Neither of that pair are the most rock-steady defenders, and can you see Sanchez or Martial tracking back to offer support?

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Hazard was fairly subdued for Belgium during the international break, but that’s fine by us: he should have plenty of gas in the tank for this match instead.

This won’t be pretty for those watching on Sky Sports, with Chelsea recycling possession and United looking to sit deep and hit on the break with Lukaku pulling out to the right and aided by supporting winger.

But keep an eye on Hazard here. He may play quite wide in order to stay clear of the midfield maelstrom and isolate himself against United’s right back. It’s a tactic which may make all the difference in a tight and conservative affair.

Friday, 5 October 2018

Southampton vs Chelsea Match Preview (07/10/18): Blues to Prove No Saints on the South Coast

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When we previewed the Europa League tie with MOL Vidi, we asked for three things: a win, a clean sheet and a goal from Alvaro Morata.

We actually got the full house with the Blues triumphing 1-0 with a goal from the Spaniard, and so from that point of view the game was a complete success.

The performance was rather dis-jointed, however, as you might expect from a starting eleven containing a number of fringe players.

Both Eden Hazard and Ross Barkley were summoned from the bench, such was our inability to break down the plucky Hungarians, and it was a huge relief when Morata blasted home after 70 minutes.

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The win is the thing, as they say, and so we’ll bag the three points and move promptly.

It’s back to league action at the weekend with the final game before the international break. We head to the south coast on Sunday to take on Southampton, and with Liverpool taking on Manchester City later in the day we know at least one, if not both, of the sides above us in the table will drop points.

Opportunity knocks then!

Chelsea Team News

There are no new injury concerns for Maurizio Sarri, and so his job is to decide who comes back into the side after the midweek outing.

The Italian alluded to early fixture congestion in his post-match press conference following the MOL Vidi match. He said:

“It is a very important in this period of the season to get results, it is not easy but I will have to change a lot players for Southampton and it is not easy to prepare the next match tomorrow - a lot of players will be tired.

“We have to play every three days, it is very difficult and so we have to have a great mentality. There is a risk to arrive at a match without the mental power and energy.”

Even so, his first choice back four of Cesar Azpilicueta, Antonio Rudiger, David Luiz and Marcos Alonso had a nice break in midweek, and they will surely join N’Golo Kante and Jorginho on the team sheet.

Both Mateo Kovacic and Cesc Fabregas played 90 minutes against MOL Vidi, which is good for their development but less so for their chances of starting on Sunday.

Hazard will naturally come in on the left, and Sarri looks set to persevere with Olivier Giroud through the middle for the foreseeable future.


Southampton vs Chelsea Head to Head

It’s six wins on the spin for the Blues against the Saints, and just one defeat in our last eleven meetings.

A rudimentary 1-0 win at the Bridge last season was followed by a pulsating 3-2 victory at St Marys, where three goals in eight minutes from Giroud (x2) and Hazard overturned a 0-2 deficit.

And then just a week later we triumphed 2-0 in an FA Cup semi-final at Wembley. That man Giroud was on the mark again, before Morata notched a second deep into the second half.

How the Match Will Be Won

They say the league table never lies, and as such Southampton should be there for the taking given their lowly status in the Premier League.

They’ve lost four of their seven outings so far, and perhaps most worrying for Mark Hughes is that they have conceded at least two goals in five of those seven.

The manager has to take some responsibility given how attacking he sets his team up. Last week they travelled to take on a decent Wolves side with Charlie Austin, Danny Ings, Nathan Redmond and Mohamed Elyounoussi in the starting eleven – those are all attacking players and no mistake, with a fragile midfield two of Mario Lemina and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg attempting to shield the back four.

The 0-2 defeat that followed at Molineux was as predictable as it gets.

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Will Hughes line up in such an offensive manner against Chelsea? It seems unlikely, an you would expect one or more of Oriel Romeu, Steven Davis or Stuart Armstrong to come back into the starting eleven to beef up the midfield.

But a lack of clarity and consistency from the manager is hurting this Saints side, and it’s little wonder that they have failed to win a single match on home soil this term, with draws against Burnley and Brighton sandwiched by a defeat to Leicester.

Southampton have only played one top six this term, and that was a derisory 0-3 loss at Liverpool where they basically gave up and the Reds stopped playing after running up a comfortable half-time lead.

There are big problems ahead for the Saints, and there’s absolutely no reason why the Blues won’t add to them on Sunday.

Tuesday, 2 October 2018

Chelsea vs MOL Vidi Match Preview (04/10/18): Blues Have the Stomach to Take Down Men from Hungary

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Football is often a game of opinions and subjectivity, but here’s a simple fact that cannot be ignored: Chelsea were one moment of magic away from beating Liverpool twice in the space of 72 hours.

Daniel Sturridge’s fantastic late goal rescued a point for the Reds at the Bridge on Saturday as we once again showed we can mix it with a side predicted to be there or thereabouts in the title shake-up by many.

Eden Hazard’s wonderful left-footed goal, just desserts for his endeavour and quality, looked to have sealed the points for the Blues, but Sturridge had other ideas. He curled home a 25-yarder in the 89th minute to nick a point for the Merseysiders.

As it stands, we’re just two points behind Liverpool and Manchester City at the summit of the Premier League, and so all is good right now in the camp.

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There’s a slight change of tact this week with the return of the Europa League, and on Thursday we welcome the Hungarian champions MOL Vidi to the Bridge.

Can they threaten our unbeaten start to the campaign? You would like to think not, and their 0-2 defeat to BATE Borisov in the opening round of fixtures suggests they are out of their depth at this level.

That said, let’s not rest on our laurels and instead claim a victory which would already put one foot in the knockout phase of the competition.

Chelsea Team News

Maurizio Sarri showed plenty of intent in the 1-0 win at PAOK last time out in this tournament, fielding a strong starting eleven that suggested he fancies a good run at it.

But after three games in a week, you suspect he will make changes to his line-up with a trip to Southampton looming on Sunday.

Fringe players will be given a go, but that’s not as problematic as it sounds. The likes of Davide Zappacosta, Gary Cahill, Cesc Fabregas and Ross Barkley aren’t going to let us down.

Sarri may also choose to give game time if Pedro, Andreas Christensen and Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who have all been struggling with injury or illness lately, although a substitute’s role is probably more likely for the latter.

In attack, let’s hope Alvaro Morata is given the nod against what will be a weaker opponent than the norm; the Spaniard desperately needs a goal.

Chelsea vs MOL Vidi Head to Head

It perhaps won’t come as any surprise to learn that the two teams have never met before!

But Vidi, who used to be called Videoton up until the start of this season, have been in and around the qualifying stages of the Champions League and Europa League before, which at least offers some context.

Last year they beat the French side, Bordeaux, on aggregate in qualifying for this competition, and held Partizan Belgrade to a 0-0 draw in the away leg there.

They were involved in the early qualifying rounds for the Champions League this season, beating Malmo on aggregate and going down by a single goal to AEK Athens.

In short, Chelsea should win but their Hungarian opponents won’t be complete pushovers by any means.

How the Match Will Be Won

So how will this match be won? It’s an interesting question given that we know very little about MOL Vidi.

Clearly, they are going to defend in numbers and then look to hit us on the break, with Danko Lazovic, who has played in the World Cup for Serbia, their obvious dangerman.

The Vidi coach, Marko Nikolic, has managed extensively in continental competition, primarily at Partizan and Olimpija, so don’t expect a naïve, eyes wide open style performance from the visitors.

Instead, the onus will be on us to break them down; a task we failed when tackling West Ham the other week.

But the Sarri template is getting nice and ingrained amongst the players, and with confidence high after the double-header against Liverpool you would have to expect the Blues to win comfortably enough.

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The pace of Moses, the ingenuity of Pedro, the craft of Fabregas….whichever starting eleven Sarri opts for, it will be jam-packed with the kind of attacking players who can open the door against a defence-minded opponent.

We will be a danger from set plays too, as ever, and if we enjoy larges volumes of possession as expected then we should, at some point, make it count.

A victory, a clean sheet and a goal for Morata would be the perfect result on Thursday.

Thursday, 27 September 2018

Chelsea vs Liverpool Match Preview (29/09/18): Blues to Prove Possession is Nine-Tenths of Football Law

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We can argue about the merits of a run in the Carabao Cup until we’re blue in the face, but one thing everyone can agree on is that winning football matches – no matter which competition they’re in – is crucial to long-term success.

The naysayers will say ‘well, what do we want to be in the Carabao Cup for!?’ It’s a fair question, given that a top four finish, a decent tilt at the Europa League and even the FA Cup take precedence.

But when you have a new manager who is looking to instil a different tactical dynamic, not helped by the pre-season disruption caused by the World Cup, game time becomes essential in those strategies being deployed and ‘accepted’ by the players.

So yes, there was plenty of value in the 2-1 victory over Liverpool in midweek. Not only was it another opportunity to bed in the new 4-3-3 system and give crucial minutes to fringe players, it was a chance to get one over on a side we again meet on Saturday at the Bridge.

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The win at Anfield was underscored by an absolutely dreamy goal from Eden Hazard, who seems to be getting better and better with each passing campaign. He has already spoken of his happiness under Sarri, and the benefits are being felt on the pitch in the Belgian’s performances.

Gianfranco Zola, Sarri’s assistant, believes Hazard is operating on another level at the minute. “It's a fantastic goal. Not only the beauty of it but for the time he scored it,” he said.

“Not only is Hazard one of the best in the Premier League - if not the best - but he is one of the best in Europe and the world.

“In my opinion we haven't seen the best of him yet. He is remarkable.”

Let’s hope Hazard can produce another world class performance against the Reds on Saturday.

Chelsea Team News

Sarri made eight changes to his starting eleven for the midweek game; some out of necessity, and others to rest key figures and hand game time to those on he fringes of first team action.

The likes of Kepa, Marcos Alonso and David Luiz will come into the backline, while Cesar Azpilicueta should hopefully be able to start at right back despite his midweek exertions; the Spaniard is known for his ability to stack up plenty of consecutive appearances.

The fitness of Antonio Rudiger, who has a groin injury, will come under scrutiny, and with Andreas Christensen limping off in midweek let’s hope the German has a rehabilitative couple of days.

N’Golo Kante and Mateo Kovacic shared the midfield load on Wednesday, and so hopefully they will be fit enough to join Jorginho in the centre of the park on Saturday.

Cesc Fabregas, who looked excellent against Liverpool and should enjoy the possession game favoured by Sarri, is perhaps not yet fit enough to start two games in the space of three days.

Hazard and Willian will surely start on the flanks – particularly with Pedro still struggling with a shoulder injury, while up front you suspect Olivier Giroud will be the go-to man.

He started against West Ham last time out in the league, while Alvaro Morata was given the booby prize of a Carabao Cup appearance.

Chelsea vs Liverpool Head to Head

Apparently, Chelsea vs Liverpool is the most played game between two English teams since 1900.

There has been 180 meetings, which takes some topping, with Chelsea improving their record to W63 D40 L77 against the Reds with that midweek triumph.

We’ve lost just two of the last fifteen as well, and the last time we met Liverpool at the Bridge we delivered a masterclass in keeping their vaunted front three quiet: Giroud nodding the winner in a 1-0 victory.

How the Match Will Be Won

The BT Sport big cheeses don’t need to hire any studio pundits for this one: we all know how this match will pan out.

Chelsea will dominate possession, as is rule one of ‘Sarri-ball’, with lots of sideways and backwards to passing to recycle the ball and keep it away from Liverpool’s dangerous attacking forces.

The Reds will press high up the pitch, and attempt to spring the likes of Mane and Salah clear on the counter attack.

The winner of the contest will be the side that best deploys their strategy on the day, and like a boxing match where the two fighters serve up wildly contrasting styles, it may come down to one key moment to break the deadlock.

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In Hazard we have one of the most obvious match winners on the pitch, while the Reds will look to get in behind our defence with a quick, incisive through ball.
It is also worth noting that Liverpool have scored more goals from set pieces than any other side so far this term.

It’s a match that has a 50/50, pick ‘em feel to it, and so hopefully Chelsea’s fantastic head-to-head record with Jurgen Klopp’s side may just be the defining factor.

Tuesday, 25 September 2018

Liverpool vs Chelsea Match Preview (26/09/18): Team Selection Key to Colossal Carabao Cup Clash

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As we know, there are many different ways to play the beautiful game.

In the good old days the general tactic was to get the ball from back to front as quickly as possible; the genesis of ‘route one’ football.

In more modern times, through the great Dutch sides of the 1970s through to Barcelona’s tiki taka revolution, the desire to keep possession at all costs has infiltrated the sport.

It’s all horses for courses, of course, and both can be successful.

The problem comes when you adopt a specific strategy but without the key dynamics that underpin it. Barca, for instance, do play a lot of meaningless sideways passes, but the objective is to tire the opposition and then hurtle forwards with slightly longer passes that break the lines and turn an opponent around.

In Chelsea’s lacklustre 0-0 draw with West Ham on Sunday, you saw outstanding ball retention without the killer touch going forward.

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The excellent Barney Ronay in The Guardian wrote in depth about Jorginho, who broke the Premier League record for most successful passes in a match. But what kind of passes were they? The kind that split defences in two, or the clever sort that get a winger in behind a full back?

No, they were largely sideways or backwards, retentive at best, that offered the Blues little in the way of dynamism of progression.

In the same column Ronay writes that a midfield without a genuine attacking force – we all know N’Golo Kante is not a real number eight – is causing huge problems to the evolution of ‘Sarri-ball’.

It cost us the game against the Hammers too, who recognised that all they needed to do, if we are being honest, was ensure Eden Hazard was doubled up on when in possession. Lo and behold, we couldn’t find a breakthrough with the Belgian stifled.

Indeed, West Ham could have won but for Andriy Yarmolenko’s head-scratching miss, and for all the impressive possession statistics – 72% for what it’s worth – did Chelsea look like they were ever going to win this match?

There’s lots for Sarri to work on then, but unfortunately his training ground regime will be disrupted this week by a Carabao Cup fixture on Wednesday night against Liverpool at Anfield.

Chelsea Team News

The Carabao Cup is one of those competitions where team selection – a reflection of how much/little a team is prioritising the tournament – ultimately governs success.

This is Sarri’s first taste of the cup and we have little idea of how seriously he will take it. That said, it is notable that Napoli did not progress beyond the last eight of the Coppa Italia in his two seasons at the club.

Consequently, we can expect changes to the starting eleven.

Both Pedro and Antonio Rudiger are thought to be struggling with injuries, so they are unlikely to feature anyway, and otherwise it’s take your pick of who starts and who doesn’t.

Cesc Fabregas needs game time – if he’s fit, he may get the nod, while Alvaro Morata may be summoned after dropping to the bench against the Hammers.

Liverpool vs Chelsea Head to Head

Two of the most iconic teams in English football will meet for the 180th time on Wednesday.

Chelsea have hit the bullseye on 62 occasions, losing 77 and with 40 ending in stalemate.

In modern times, the Blues have had the wood on the Reds, losing just two of the last fourteen meetings (W5 D7 L2).

Last season, we beat them 1-0 at the Bridge in the league following a 1-1 draw in the reverse fixture at Anfield.

How the Match Will Be Won

Without knowing the starting elevens, it is hard to get an accurate picture of how this match will pan out.

Mind you, regardless of the personnel on show we know how the two teams will play: Liverpool, as ever, at 1000mph with pace and guile even if messrs Firmino, Salah and Mane are given the night off.

And we will attempt to control possession and dictate play, which as we know is Sarri’s preference.

Actually, this is probably the best way to stifle the Reds: simply don’t let them have the ball!

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We’re making dangerous assumptions, but you could argue that Liverpool’s second string isn’t up to all that: for instance, if you swap out Salah, Firmino and Keita for Shaqiri, Sturridge and Lallana, clearly that is a severe weakening of their obvious attacking force.

Chelsea’s fringe players are rather more interchangeable, and perhaps that gives us the edge. In truth, with assaults on four different competitions each, this match is something of an annoying sideshow.

Thursday, 13 September 2018

Chelsea vs Cardiff City Match Preview (15/09/18): Blues to Shake Off International Cobwebs in Style

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It may feel like a lifetime ago, but Chelsea have actually made a rather good start to the 2018/19 campaign!

The international break can have a dizzying, almost concussive impact upon club football supporters, but cast your mind back a few weeks and you will recall the Blues serving up a 100% record from four league games played thus far.

Ten goals scored, just three conceded….it’s all good so far from Maurizio Sarri’s men.
The most recent victims were Bournemouth, who themselves headed to Stamford Bridge prior to the international break in good spirits.

The Cherries proved tough to break down, but Chelsea’s metronomic passing – we enjoyed 73% possession of the ball – was enough to eventually tire out the visitors. Eden Hazard and Pedro got the goals to secure a 2-0 win and maintain the perfect start to the season.

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Tellingly, the last time we won the first four games of the campaign was back in 2014/15, when we went on to win the title.

But talk of silverware is a long, long way off in the future, and instead we should simply enjoy the scintillating football that the Blues are often playing under Sarri’s canny stewardship.

To be honest, fixtures on a return from an international break don’t get more cushty than Cardiff at home, and while Neil Warnock’s men will be combative and well organised, you would expect Chelsea to beat nine times out of ten on home soil.

Chelsea Team News

The beauty of having a team made up largely of Europeans, rather than South Americans or Africans, is that they have less distances to travel during the rounds of international matches.

So while Liverpool wave goodbye to their Egyptians, Brazilians and Senegalese, we can sit pretty knowing that our boys never have to travel further than the continent.

The only exception is Willian, who has been off representing Brazil against the USA and El Salvador. But given Pedro’s inspired start to the season, it would not be the end of the world if Willian’s jet lag keeps him sidelined on Saturday.

No new injury concerns have been reported, and so Sarri has a full deck to work with bar Cesc Fabregas, whose rehab from a knee injury stepped up this week when he trained with the team for the first time in a while.

We don’t foresee any major changes in personnel or shape, so expect to see the vibrant 4-3-3 system employed once more.

Chelsea vs Cardiff City Head to Head

Cardiff have made a habit of yo-yoing up and down from the top flight in recent years, and so the head-to-head record is sketchy at best.

Indeed, the last time they met was in May 2014, when Chelsea bagged a 2-1 win in the Welsh capital.
The history books show 43 meetings between the pair over the years, with Chelsea holding a surprisingly slender W18 D10 L15 lead.

Mind you, seven of those defeats came between 1921-1952, and since the turn of the Millennium Chelsea have won all three encounters.

How the Match Will Be Won

When your playing style has been given it’s own name, you know you’re doing something right.

‘Sarriball’ is an affectionate moniker, rather than say ‘Pulisball’, and it’s one which reflects the slick passing and movement that have been ever-present in the Blues’ performances so far.

Those dynamic transitions were Sarri’s trademark at former club Napoli, and it’s exciting to see the same developments in our boys too.

The manner in which we can zip the ball around should aid us against a Cardiff side likely to park the bus on Saturday.

They will play two solid banks of four, with an attacking midfielder – probably Bobby Reid – just sitting in behind a lone frontman.

The two central midfielders for Cardiff will sit deep and protect the back four, while the wide midfielders will tuck in ad look to outnumber Chelsea in midfield.

So how do you beat teams set up like that? Well, first things first we need to move the ball around quickly; as soon as the pace goes out of the game, the Cardiff players can get into position and snuff out the danger.

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We need our players to be brave in possession too; either trying that killer through ball or carrying the ball with the risk of being hacked to the ground. Happily, we have some courageous sorts like Kante, Hazard and Pedro in our side.

And patience, as ever for the Blues at home, will be key. We took our time to break down Bournemouth last time out at the Bridge, but we got there in the end.

That’s a cautionary tale ahead of another great opportunity to extend our perfect start on Saturday.

Thursday, 30 August 2018

Chelsea vs Bournemouth Match Preview (01/09/18): Blues Face Potential Banana Skin Against the Cherries

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The changes that Maurizio Sarri has made to Chelsea were clear for all to see in the 2-1 against Newcastle on Sunday.

We enjoyed 81% possession of the ball against the Magpies – staggering when we think back to the second season of Antonio Conte’s reign, and while we didn’t exactly carve out countless chances we did more than enough to win the game.

It did need an own goal from DeAndre Yedlin, who turned a shot from Marcos Alonso, to seal the deal, after Eden Hazard’s penalty was cancelled out by Joselu.

Otherwise, Antonio Rudiger hit the crossbar and that was the sum of our efforts in front of goal.

It was a game packed with positives, however, not least because it maintained our 100% record in the 2018/19 campaign thus far.

Eden Hazard also made his first starting appearance of the season after being given extended leave following the World Cup, and the Belgian hit the ground running alright. His link-up play with Mateo Kovacic and N’Golo Kante was a joy to behold at times.

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That duo, alongside Jorginho, have revolutionised the Chelsea midfield. They play fantastic little triangle passes, and Kante appears to be a man reborn after being given freedom to roam.

This week we tackle Bournemouth, a side who have impressed so far. They have scored two goals in each of their trio of matches so far, and so they must not be underestimated. Eddie Howe has them playing some adventurous football this term, and in Callum Wilson they possess one of the most natural finishers in the division.

But this is another chance to see how the revolution of Chelsea under Sarri is developing, and we cannot wait!

Chelsea Team News

There are no new injury concerns for the Blues, with Cesc Fabregas the only absentee with an undisclosed leg injury.

And so Sarri has a full deck to work with, and you suspect the eleven that started against the Magpies is his preferred selection.

Cesar Azpilicueta and Marcos Alonso are perfect full backs in the Italian’s expansive system, while Antonio Rudiger and David Luiz offer physicality but smarts with the ball at their feet too.

Kovacic, Jorginho and Kante will continue their partnership in midfield, while Hazard and the rejuvenated Pedro provide the guile on the flanks. Up front, Alvaro Morata looks sharp and hungry after falling out of favour under Conte last season.

Oh, and we’ve not even mentioned Kepa yet! The new keeper has looked an assured presence so far, but even so let’s hope he won’t be too busy on Saturday.

Chelsea vs Bournemouth Head to Head

Incredibly, these two teams have only met 12 times in history, with the first coming as recently as 1988.

That’s to do with Bournemouth’s late to the party stance as a top flight outfit, and so far the Cherries have not enjoyed the best of their head-to-head matches with Chelsea.

We have been on the winning side nine times, including twice last season in the Premier League and in the EFL Cup. However, it’s not all been one way traffic, and on January 31 they demolished us 0-3 at the Bridge.

But this is a new dawn under Sarri, and with confidence flowing we can expect a continuation of our fine record against the South Coast outfit.

How the Match Will Be Won

Bournemouth tend to line up in a 4-4-1-1 system, with David Brooks supporting Callum Wilson through the middle and Josh King and Ryan Fraser providing the pace in wide areas.

It’s a side designed to counter attack with gusto, and we must be on our guard with that in mind.
But we know that Sarri won’t compromise for anyone – we saw that in his time at Napoli – and so once again we will be playing on the front foot and attacking in numbers.

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The good news is that Adam Smith, Bournemouth’s excellent right back, is suspended, and so Simon Francis is likely to deputise. Hoe doesn’t have the burst of pace that Smith has, and Eden Hazard down our left hand side should have plenty of joy with Alonso overlapping on the touchline.

The Cherries went 0-2 down against Everton despite their opponents being reduced to ten men, and be under no illusions Chelsea will not be as forgiving as the Toffees.

Expect the Blues to take the spoils in a loosely-fought encounter.

Wednesday, 22 August 2018

Newcastle United vs Chelsea Match Preview (26/08/18): Blues Must Be Willing to Grind in the North East

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The 3-2 win over Arsenal last Saturday was so chaotic it is hard to know where to start in analysing it.

The positive news is that we ripped through the Gunners’ backline at will, making the most of their high line to fly into a 2-0 lead courtesy of the rejuvenated Pedro and Alvaro Morata.

But defensive lapses – a result of the switch to four at the back? Perhaps – allowed Arsenal to draw level through Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Alex Iwobi.

The second half was rather nip and tuck, but one moment of class settled matters and that came from substitute Eden Hazard, whose trickery created a crossing chance from which Marcos Alonso duly obliged.

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It would be erroneous to suggest that Chelsea deserved to win the match conclusively, but we had more of the ball and ‘won’ the shots on target count 11-6, so we always looked the more likely.

In summary, Maurizio Sarri said: “We did very well for 75 minutes but, inside that, 15 minutes were horrible.

“It was very, very difficult because we lost the distances between the players and we were unable to cover the lost balls and press like a team, so we were really in trouble. But I think the players were really very good because at 2-2 it was not easy with Arsenal.”

Either way, our 100% record in 2018/19 remains intact, and you could probably argue that there’s a chance we could take a perfect nine points from nine from Sunday’s trip to Newcastle.

The Magpies take no prisoners but do lack somewhat in quality, so maybe the Sarri revolution will continue at pace in the North East.

Chelsea Team News

The manager opted for an unchanged side against the Gunners, and was duly rewarded with the win.

But there were some rather hefty question marks about our efforts defensively, and while it is unfair to make a scapegoat perhaps Andreas Christensen will come in for Antonio Rudiger on Sunday.

The midfield three of Kante, Jorginho and Ross Barkley is gelling nicely, although you wonder how classier we will look once Mateo Kovacic is back to full fitness.

The on-loan midfield metronome was given an extended break following Croatia’s heroics at the World Cup, but once he is back up to speed he will presumably come into the side for Barkley – this may be a week too soon, however.

Sarri continues with William and Pedro either side of Morata, but surely it’s only a matter of time before Hazard returns to the starting eleven….right?

Newcastle United vs Chelsea Head to Head

The first recorded fixture between these two teams came more than a century ago in 1907, when Newcastle ran out 1-0 winners.

Since then there have been more than 160 meetings between the Blues and the black-and-white stripes, with Chelsea boasting a 71-53 win/loss record.

We’ve won four of the last six contests, although all of those were played at Stamford Bridge. At St James’ Park, our record is a rather more cumbersome W1 D1 L4 in recent times.

Last season we met on three occasions, with 3-0 and 3-1 wins on home soil in the league and FA Cup, followed by a 0-3 trouncing in the North East in the return league date.

If you were planning on having a bet on Sunday, here’s an interesting titbit: only one of the last 13 meetings between the pair have ended in a draw.

How the Match Will Be Won

We don’t have a great record at St James’ Park, but this is a bright and exciting version of Chelsea under Sarri, and all that has gone before can be ignored.

The Blues look an attacking force to be reckoned with, with a narrow front three supported from deep and in wide areas by the marauding Alonso and Azpilicueta.

At times we swarmed all over Arsenal, and while Newcastle will have plenty more bodies behind the ball, we can hope for a numerical advantage in advanced parts of the pitch.

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The Magpies offer very little going forward, compounded by the loss of the not-prolific but still dangerous Dwight Gayle, and so hopefully we will be on a sounder footing defensively than we were on Saturday.

We expect our attacking prowess to pay dividends, but this will be a scrap and we need to be up for the physical battle that will undoubtedly ensue on Sunday.

If we can match Newcastle in that department, we have all the ammunition required to claim the three points.