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HULL CITY

v

CHELSEA

KC Stadium, Hull

January 10, 2014; 12:45 GMT

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Chelsea have a chance to go to the top of the table when they travel to Hull City on Saturday. Hull had demolished Fulham 6-0 in their last home game, but Chelsea will be a different proposition altogether.

Chelsea have won their last 3 games in the league and are motoring along smoothly in their quest for recapturing the Premier League title, irrespective of what Jose Mourinho says.  They went in with a clear objective against Arsenal, but when push came to shove, they convincingly defeated Liverpool at home. Swansea and Southampton were defeated in a routine manner in the festive period and today they tie third in the table with 43 points from 20 games, 2 behind first-placed Arsenal. With the teams above them playing on Sunday/Monday, they stand a chance to top the table with a win at Hull.

Hull, on their part, have done reasonably well this season to be in the 10th position on the table after 20 games. They have lost only to Crystal Place and Manchester United at home and after their resounding win over Fulham at home, they lost to Liverpool before securing a 0-2 away win Middlesbrough in the FA Cup. Huddlestone and Livermore have been crucial players for them since their transfer and Steve Bruce will expect them to lead the way against Chelsea on Saturday as well.

Team News and Tactical Brief

Hull City

Steve Bruce will be without the services of Paul McShane, Sone Aluko, and Robbie Brady, who are all unavailable for this match, while a section of the squad has been suffering from flu leading up to the game against Chelsea.

Bruce is expected to stick to the 4-5-1 shape, with McGregor standing between the posts. The defence is expected to comprise of Rosenior (right-back), Chester, Davies (centre-backs), and Figueroa (left-back). The central midfield will comprise of Livermore, Koren and Huddlestone, while Boyd will be deployed on the left wing, with Elmohamady playing on the right. Sagbo is likely to lead the attack for the Tigers.

Hull are generally dangerous from set-pieces as Tom Huddlestone’s deliveries into the box are quite good and because of the presence of the ex-Tottenham midfielder, they tend to take their shots from outside the area. Hull also like to play through the wings by delivering crosses, but their conversion rate is nothing to write home about. On the contrary, they are quite composed defensively and don’t allow a great number of shots on their goal. They will have to track the runs of the likes of Hazard, Oscar, Willian and Torres (or anyone else in the attacking band for that matter) and if Chelsea get too much space between the lines, they are bound to hurt the opposition through their intricate passing and movement.

Probable Starting Line-up (4-5-1): McGregor; Rosenior, Chester, Davies, Figueroa; Livermore, Koren, Huddlestone, Boyd, Elmohamady; Sagbo

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Chelsea

Marko van Ginkel appears to be the only long-term casualty at Chelsea, but Branislav Ivanovic and Frank Lampard are also expected to be out for this month with injuries. Other than them, the rest of the squad is available for selection.

Mourinho is expected to retain the 4-2-3-1 shape for the game, with the back five comprising of Cech, Azpilicueta, Cahill, Terry and Cole. Mikel and Ramires appear to be the best possible double pivot for the manager in the absence of Lampard. Ahead of them, the attacking band is all but certain to feature Hazard and Oscar on the left and centre, with Willian, in all likelihood, starting on the right. Fernando Torres is likely to spearhead the attack for the Blues.

Probable Starting Line-up (4-2-3-1): Cech; Azpilicueta, Cahill, Terry, Cole; Mikel, Ramires; Hazard, Oscar, Willian; Torres

Key Facts

  1. Chelsea are unbeaten in their last six games against the Tigers, five of which have been in the Premier League era.
  2. The Tigers have won just one of their last seven games in the Premier League (W1, D3, L3).
  3. The Blues have picked up 14 points from losing positions – winning four and drawing two games.
  4. Jose Mourinho’s side have won four of the last five league games.

Statistics courtesy BBC Football.

Player To Watch Out For

Eden Hazard (Chelsea)

Eden Hazard is one of the first names on the team sheet in Jose Mourinho’s second reign and the talented Belgian has established himself on the left flank of the 4-2-3-1 system. While Mata, Willian, Schurrle and De Bruyne have also been rotated by the manager, Hazard, along with Oscar, remains integral to Chelsea’s plans on a weekly basis. Of late, Hazard has provided Chelsea with a moment of brilliance whenever required, more often than not, and is slowly establishing himself as a spearhead of their attack. During his time in France, Lille was heavily depended on Eden and this hasn’t been the case at Chelsea since his move to the Premier League, as he has taken a reasonable amount of time to adjust to life in England, but with the defensive demands that Mourinho has placed on him, he has grown into a much more complete player in his eighteen or so months in West London. Today, he appears more ready and more eager to do justice to his enormous potential than ever before and Hull will have to be vary of the treat he poses to their defence.

Prediction

Hull City 1-3 Chelsea

Although Chelsea have won just once in their last three games on the road, they are expected to return from the KC Stadium with all three points. Two points from the top, Jose Mourinho can’t afford to drop points in such games and Chelsea will not like to lose ground to City or Arsenal.

Blast From The Past