Saturday, 17th January 2015; 1500 GMT
Liberty Stadium, Swansea
While there has been a sort of a breather for all Premier League teams from the busy festive period due to the FA Cup, this weekend sees all 20 clubs return to league action. One of those matches will see the Chelsea faithful will make their 300-km cross-country journey westwards on the M4 to take on Swansea City.
For the visitors, it will be the first of 5 matches before the end of this month while the hosts only play 3 during that time. That could very well be a factor when both managers pick their teams. Swansea come into this on the back of the departure of their star-striker Wilfried Bony who left the club to join Manchester City. The hosts have had a patchy season so far with their last game at home being a 1-1 draw against West Ham. On the other hand, the relatively well-rested Chelsea – who haven’t made any movement in this transfer window – are on somewhat of a recovery after the 5-3 thrashing at the hands of Tottenham on New Year’s day. Two comfortable wins during that time means that they have now opened up a 2-point gap over City who dropped points at Everton.
Team news and tactics
Garry Monk has a lot to worry about. With the departure of Bony and Ki Sung-yeung being unavailable for selection, the manager could face a selection headache. To make matters worse, Jonjo Shelvey is suspended for this match. Jefferson Montero continues to recover from injury.
Swansea, who were famously christened Swansalona last season owing to their slick passing game, have found it difficult to live up to the standards set last time around. They are expected to line up for this match in their usual 4-2-3-1 formation similar to Chelsea’s. Tom Carroll and Leon Britton will perform the holding role in midfield, in front of a back four that will include Neil Taylor and Ashley Richards as full backs. Bafetimbi Gomis will be expected to replace Bony upfront in attack with Wayne Routledge and Nathan Dyer on the wings and Gylfi Sigurdsson just behind the main striker.
The Swans are always a tough team to beat at home and the form-book goes out of the window when their home faithful start cheering them on. Jose Mourinho and his men will come to Wales expecting a fight on their hands and up for the challenge. After all, they need to turn around their poor away record off-late if they harbor hopes of beating City to the title.
Possible lineup (4-2-3-1): Fabianski (GK), Richards, Fernandez, Williams, Taylor; Britton, Carroll; Routledge, Sigurdsson, Dyer; Gomis
The Blues, on the other hand, have fewer injury concerns coming into this match. Only Cesar Azpilicueta is expected to be unavailable for Chelsea through a hamstring injury. Thibaut Courtois is available for selection after missing out the last game through a finger injury.
Chelsea will line up in their now traditional 4-2-3-1 formation with Nemanja Matic and Cesc Fabregas performing the holding midfielders role. Petr Cech could yet keep his place thanks to a splendid performance against Newcastle last weekend. Gary Cahill, however, will expect to win his place back in the back four to partner his fellow Englishman and club-captain John Terry. Felipe Luis will fill in for Azpilicueta at left-back while Branislav Ivanovic will take his usual place at right-back. Up front, Diego Costa will make his first trip to Wales to lead the line for the Blues with the usual suspects Eden Hazard, Willian and Oscar supporting him from just behind in midfield.
Mourinho has been quiet coming into this match (mainly due to the FA’s charge against him) but will expect his boys to do the talking on the pitch. Most importantly, with Man City facing a relatively tougher tie at home to Arsenal, the Blues have to make sure that they take advantage of any slip-up by the current champions.
Possible lineup (4-2-3-1): Cech (GK), Ivanovic, Terry, Cahill, Luis; Matic, Fabregas; Hazard, Oscar, Willian; Costa
Player to watch out for
Eden Hazard (Chelsea)
The Belgian has really hit the stripes in the last few weeks and is expected to be involved in almost every Chelsea attack in this match. With his unique dribbling skills and a burst of pace, Swansea’s full backs are sure to have a tough time against the diminutive winger.
- Chelsea are unbeaten in the last 22 of their 24 fixtures so far this season in the Premier League.
- Swansea have dropped more points from winning position (16) and have hit the woodwork more than any other team (14) in the League this season
- Chelsea have won their last 4 matches against Swansea in all competitions
Swansea 0 – 1 Chelsea
The Blues will be expected to grind out a hard-fought victory given their title ambitions and also partly due to their opponent’s now depleted striking options.