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 NewsThe 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 HeadCardiff 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 WonWhen 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.