Stamford Bridge, London
Saturday, 5th December; 1730 GMT
A 108-mile journey northeast awaits AFC Bournemouth and its fans, as they head to the capital to take on the reigning Premier League champions Chelsea at their home ground since 1905.
A lot has already been written about Chelseaa s poor start to the season a their worst since the 1999 season. That, however, could be set to change with three encouraging results in the past 3 matches a all being points with clean sheets. The only talking point coming out of a drab 0-0 draw at White Hart Lane last weekend was Diego Costaa s antics on the bench. It will be interesting to see if the Spaniard is handed a start or is made to sulk further on the bench. Jose Mourinho has experience of handling players with egos but needs his striker to be firing before it all turns into a farce.
Bournemouth have found life in the top division of England to be tough. It was, however, no less than what they expected. Currently sitting in one of the relegation spots level on points with fellow strugglers Newcastle, they have given a good account of themselves in the past few weeks.
Case in point being a thrilling 3-3 home draw against Everton last weekend that included a last-minute goal from Junior Stanislas to earn a point. They have been on the wrong end of two 5-1 defeats at the hands of Manchester City and Tottenham and like most teams coming to the Premier League, their defence looks like their weakest link. A tough fixture out of which they are expected to get nothing is up next but given their hostsa form this season, an unexpected result may ensue.
Team news and tactics
Diego Costa has yet again been in the news for the wrong reasons and could expect another bench role this time around. On the injury front Falcao, John Terry and Ramires are ruled out of this match. The big news though, was the return to full fitness of Thibaut Courtois who could start straight away this weekend.
The home side will be expected to line up in a 4-2-3-1 formation with Eden Hazard leading the attack yet again in a false nine position. The Belgian came close to breaking his scoring drought in the last match and much of the same will be expected of him this time around. With Terry missing out Gary Cahill and Kurt Zouma should start in the middle of defence. The attacking midfield could be subject to change given Hazarda s shift up the field. Cesc Fabregas could line up behind the Belgian while Willian and Pedro take up the flanks.
Although it seems they have turned a corner, Chelsea need to start picking up three points from relatively weaker opponents a a feat they have not been able to achieve this season so far. They are looking increasingly more confident in defence which will only help the attackers to play more freely.
Of all the injury concerns ahead of this match, the one that will concern Eddie Howe most is that of his goalkeepers. Both Adam Federici and Artur Boruc look likely to miss out, which means third-choice Ryan Allsop could make his first Premier League start. Apart from them, Marc Pugh and Harry Arter also look likely to miss out, while Callum Wilson is a long-term absentee.
The visitors are expected to line up in a 4-4-1-1 formation with Glenn Murray leading the line in attack. Last weeka s man of the match Joshua King will be a part of the 4-man midfield with Matt Ritchie also expected to start. Given that this is an away match and with Chelseaa s prowess in midfield, they would be forgiven for sitting back and hoping to score on the counter. Stanislas will be expected to slot in behind Murray in an attacking midfield role.
Howe sounded positive in his pre-match press conference stating the importance of momentum gained from last weekenda s thriller and the need to continue it. They also expect to catch Chelsea cold given their poor home record this season.
Player to watch out for
Eden Hazard (Chelsea)
The diminutive Belgian seems to be returning to his form from last season and the timing couldna t be better for the Blues. With four home games coming up in December and a crucial away trip to Manchester United on the horizon, it seems crucial to the teama s fortunes that Hazard is on song.
- Bournemouth have won on 3 of their last 4 league visits to London.
- Chelsea are unbeaten in their last 43 matches against newly-promoted teams, their last defeat coming in 2001 against Charlton.
- The visitors are the only club to use 14 English players in their teams so far this season
- Chelsea have won their last 3 league fixtures against Bournemouth without conceding a goal.
Chelsea 2-0 Bournemouth
All said and done, Chelsea should be able to win this one quite comfortably. With them turning a corner and also requiring all points they can gather, the men in blue will be gunning for the three points.