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CHELSEA

Liberty Stadium, Swansea
April 13, 2014, 16:07 GMT

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While Man City and Liverpool face each other, in what might be a title-decider, it is possible that if permutations pan out their way, Chelsea could be the big winner of Super Sunday, 13th April. The Blues are riding high after their mid-week comeback against PSG in the Champions League quarterfinals but domestically, they have  terrible away form, having won none out of their last three on the road (having scored only one goal). As for the Swans, it isn’t much better, with only one win in their last 8 matches in the Premier League.

Team News and Tactical Brief

Swansea

There is no notable absentee (certainly not to the standard of the opposition’s) from the Swansea squad, with only Kyle Bartley’s hamstring problem still persisting. Monk however, looks to shuffle his lineup from the on that went down 1-0 to Hull last weekend. Jose Canas, Pablo Hernandez and Nathan Dyer look to get back in to the starting XI while Michu faces a very high chance of being dropped.

Though Rangel was publicly berated by his manager for his performance v Hull, he looks likely to continue in the starting XI, with no apt replacement jumping out. Consequently, the back 5 will be retained – Vorm in goal, shielded by Rangel, Chico Flores, Williams and Ben Davies. In midfield, Jonjo Shelvey’s understanding with Britton does not seem to be there yet, and hence, the ex-Liverpool man could be relegated to the bench in favour of the more defensive Jose Canas. Ahead of them, Michu cuts a frustrating figure after his lengthy lay-off and Jonathan de Guzman seems a fish out of water, played out wide. As a result, de Guzman could be moved centrally while Pablo Hernandez slots into the right wing position. Routledge and Bony should be expected to keep their positions.

In possession, Swansea tend to transition into a 2-4-4 from their 4-2-3-1 with their fullbacks pushing up high to attack, which could be exploited by Chelsea’s high-press system and speedy players who prefer quick, direct, attacks.

Probable starting line up (4-2-3-1): Vorm; Rangel, Chico, Williams, Davies; Canas, Britton; Hernandez, de Guzman, Routledge; Bony.

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Chelsea

The victory against PSG midweek was no doubt, sweet for Chelsea, but there might yet be a tinge of bitter to it, coming in the form of Eden Hazard’s calf injury, which could see him spend upto 2 weeks on the sidelines. He did not seem in extreme pain and was able to walk off the field by himself, so it seems the substitution was precautionary and was in good measure. Though his influence had dwindled in the last couple of weeks, he still is perhaps, Chelsea’s biggest game-changer at the moment. The Belgian scored the only goal of the game on Boxing Day, when the two sides met at Stamford Bridge.

After three dismal performances vs Villa, PSG and Palace, the Chelsea defence is looking solid again, managing to keep a cleansheet vs PSG midweek and generally, looking in control. Hence, the reliable back 5 of Cech, Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry and Azpilicueta can be expected. Azpilicueta has been Chelsea’s most reliable and most consistent player this season – in a position that he isn’t used to – and this is vital, considering the majority of Swansea’s attacks tend to come from the right side. Eligible again, Nemanja Matic will surely start, though his partner is up for contention. Both of Wednesday’s starters could be rested, and Jose could choose to go with Ramires. Even without Hazard, it is safe to say Chelsea have sufficient replacements in attacking midfield. January signing Mohamed Salah has got two goals and two assists in his last three Premier League games and though his introduction has been slow and gradual, he looks set to torment Premier League defenders with his pace and nimble feet. Following his impressive recent goalscoring run, Schurrle will take up his more-natural left wing place in Hazard’s absence, as he did midweek. The central position is between Willian – who scored a beautiful dink from there last weekend – and Oscar. Up front, Eto’o looks to start again, though Demba Ba might be wondering if he would have a shout-in after his heroics vs PSG.

Chelsea tend to press high and hard, and do not allow the opposition to hold too much of the ball in their half. Especially with Nemanja Matic, the London side now tend to intercept the ball in midfield and immediately turn on the offence, with speedy-gifted midfielders able to capitalize on even just a bit of space behind the defence.

Possible starting lineup (4-2-3-1): Cech; Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta; Matic, Ramires; Salah, Oscar, Schurrle; Eto’o. 

Player to watch out for:

Nemanja Matic (Chelsea)

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The Serb has been arguably the signing of the January window, having not only seamlessly slotted back into life in England, but actually becoming the very spine of this new, young Chelsea side. 25 years of age and of considerable experience now, Matic has been extremely consistent since his return to the Bridge. The quintessential defensive midfielder – one which Chelsea were lacking previously -, Matic can cover ground, is a great ball-snatcher, has a giant’s frame (drawing comparisons to Yaya Toure) and does have a very good attacking side to him too. He provided a brilliant ball over the Arsenal defence to set up Mohamed Salah for his goal and vs Stoke, dribbled all the way to the byline before cutting back precisely to Salah, again, who was on scene to finish. Having Matic behind them to tie loose ends and clean up ensures more expression of creativity from Chelsea’s more attacking players. Matic’s worst performance in a Chelsea shirt so far, has coincided with perhaps Chelsea’s worst performance of the season, which only underlines his significance to this side. He will again look to boss the middle of the park, coming up against players like Leon Britton, who can hold on to the ball and pass around well.

Prediction:

Swansea 0-1 Chelsea

Chelsea’s away form isn’t spectacular but unlike Villa or Palace, Swansea are a bit more open, more free-flowing in their football which allows Chelsea to run in behind their players, doing what they do best. Chelsea will go into the match already in possession of knowledge of the result at Anfield, but regardless of that, the Blues must ensure they win every single one of their games hereon, if they want to remain in the title race til the very end.