Champions Chelsea make the long trip south to take on Bournemouth in what has become a must-win for both teams
The visitors, on one hand, need to bounce back from a string of poor results in the Premier League. Two losses in their last three in the league, resulting in falling 9 points behind leaders Manchester City means they come to the Vitality Stadium looking for nothing short of all three points.
After a horrendous start to the season, which saw them lose their first 4 games, things have started to look up for Eddie Howe’s men. A win over Stoke City last time around and advancing to the quarter-finals of the Carabao Cup in midweek means that they will also be looking for only a victory at the weekend. 4 wins in their last 7 in all competitions, and the extra motivation of playing the champions, Chelsea would be wary of taking the Cherries lightly.
Team news and tactics
Eddie Howe has confirmed the availability of talisman Jermain Defoe after injury. Ryan Fraser, however, has picked up a knock and will miss out. Norwegian striker Josh King remains a doubt for this match, with decision over his inclusion being left to the last minute.
The home side will be boosted by the return of Defoe, because it means that they can continue to field an attacking 4-4-1-1 lineup led by the England international. Benik Afobe, who deputised in his absence, might drop back to the bench.
While there is no doubt as to the mentality with which the team will play, especially given they are at home, we could still expect a more deep-lying midfield than usual to counter Chelsea’s attack. Former Chelsea players Nathan Ake and Asmir Begovic will be expected to be a part of the defence.
The Cherries can, perhaps, take a leaf out of Crystal Palace’s book when they faced the champions at home. Buoyed by their vociferous home crowd, the Eagles attacked a fragile-looking Chelsea defence and got their reward. They were direct, incisive and immensely motivated on the day and Bournemouth can look to do more of the same.
Probable lineups (4-4-1-1): Begovic (GK), Smith, Francis, Ake, Daniels; Ibe, Cook, Surman, Stanislas; Mousset, Defoe
The Blues also have a couple of key players missing through injury, namely N’Golo Kante and Victor Moses. Danny Drinkwater played a full hour against Everton in the Carabao Cup, which means he may drop to the bench for this one.
They will be expected to line up in their now usual 3-4-3 formation with Alvaro Morata to lead the line in attack. Tiemoue Bakayoko, the player with the most fouls to his name in the league, will be expected to sit in front of the defence. While his partner in midfield, expected to be Cesc Fabregas, will perform his usual “quarterback role” from a deep lying position behind the front-three.
Chelsea will be aware of the fact that, especially at home, Bournemouth under Howe are essentially an attacking side. But given the circumstances, they will sit further back than usual in hope of earning at least a point. The visitors, thus, will be expected to have most of the possession and in turn hope for more chances on goal.
The Blues have desperately missed Kante in the middle of the park, with his smart interceptions and breaking down of play being the focal point to turning defence to attack. Although Bakayoko is good defensively, he is no match for his diminutive compatriot.
Probable lineup (3-4-3): Courtois (GK), Rudiger, Luiz, Cahill; Azpilicueta, Fabregas, Bakayoko, Alonso; Pedro, Morata, Hazard
Player to watch out for
A player who is constantly underrated but comes up with the goods when required, Pedro fits the bill for being the game-changer come Saturday.
Apart from making it a habit of scoring stunning goals from outside the box, the Spaniard’s movement and intelligence mean that it is difficult for the defenders to mark him.
Finally hoping to get a good run of games under his belt, he will be looking to take his career to another level this season – from a ‘could-be’ to a superstar in this team.
- Chelsea could lose 2 Premier League away games in a row for only the first time since October 2015
- Jermain Defoe has scored against Chelsea for 4 different clubs (Spurs, West Ham, Sunderland and Portsmouth)
- Eden Hazard has scored 4 goals in as many games against Bournemouth
- Former Chelsea goalkeeper Asmir Begovic will appear in his 200th league game
- Bournemouth’s tally of 7 points from 9 games is their lowest ever at this stage of the season
1. Chelsea to win @1.61
2. Chelsea clean sheet – yes @2.62
1. Chelsea to win to nil @3.00
Bournemouth 1-2 Chelsea
Although they will make it tough, Bournemouth may just lose out on quality on the given day. Chelsea will also be wary of taking the home side for granted as they did against Palace, hence they will be a bit more stubborn defensively.
All in all, it would be expected of the champions to beat the Cherries if they have any hope of catching up to Manchester City in the title race.