Chelsea will look to maintain their perfect start to the 2018-19 Premier League campaign as they host a Bournemouth side that are also undefeated thus far.
Chelsea have not looked particularly pleasing on the pitch at all times. But, the improvements in footballing style is there for all to see. Maurizio Sarri has been taking it slow, which has allowed the Blues to be competitive on the pitch while also working towards succeeding under the system.
Bournemouth, on the other hand, look set for a good season. Eddie Howe has all the structure and players needed for a strong 2018-19 campaign. They have started strong, dropping just two points so far in the first three games – games that included wins over Cardiff and West Ham while the draw came against an in-form Everton side.
There are only seven sides who are yet to taste defeat this season and after the Chelsea vs Bournemouth game, we might see the number reduced by one.
Bournemouth’s last visit to Stamford Bridge in the Premier League was a fairytale, with the away side coming away with a clean 3-0 win over Chelsea. Ahead of the Saturday fixture, we take a closer look at the two sides.
Team News & Tactics
Maurizio Sarri is unlikely to make any changes to the winning formula. As far as injuries are concerned, Marco van Ginkel and Isaiah Brown are on the treatment table. Cesc Fabregas is doubtful, which could see Ruben Loftus-Cheek make the bench.
Kepa Arrizabalaga has been steady between the sticks, but Maurizio Sarri would hope for better performances, given the amount they have paid for the Spaniard. Gary Cahill cannot make the team or even the bench, with Maurizio Sarri stating that he needs to work more on his fitness.
Andreas Christensen will have to make do with a place on the bench. The midfield trio will remain the same. But, as far as the forward positions are concerned, Alvaro Morata will have to be on the scoresheet on a consistent basis, with Olivier Giroud breathing down his neck.
The change in play is also coming in nicely. Jorginho has enabled the smoothening of the transition to a great extent and Mateo Kovacic’s arrival has made the Chelsea midfield one of the best midfield trios in European football and an enviable one at that.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Kepa; Azpilicueta, Rudiger, Luiz, Alonso; Kante, Jorginho, Kovacic; Pedro, Morata, Hazard
Junior Stanislas, Marc Pugh and Lys Mousset are all sidelined and will miss the Chelsea game. Diego Rico and Jefferson Lerma both started in the EFL Cup win over MK Dons and could get a look-in against Chelsea.
Eddie Howe will have a tough choice to make as far as the right flank of the defence is concerned. Adam Smith has served his suspension and will be available for selection on the left. But, Diego Rico might just edge Charlie Daniels for a start on Saturday. The rest of the defence is likely to stay the same.
Jefferson Lerma should come into the starting eleven and ideally he should partner Andrew Surman in the middle of the park. But, if Eddie Howe wants more energy in the midfield to stifle Chelsea’s play, we could see Lewis Cook replace the veteran as part of the midfield two.
David Brooks and Ryan Fraser have performed well on the wings so far and should retain their spots. Callum Wilson and Joshua King should both start upfront, with Jermain Defoe a brilliant option on the bench, if need be.
Bournemouth will play on the counter. But, their ability to close spaces down has yielded results so far. Their gameplay will test Chelsea, who have looked susceptible at the back to an extent, especially to players with pace and dribbling ability.
Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Begovic; Smith, Steve Cook, Ake, Rico; Brooks, Lerma, Lewis Cook, Fraser; King, Wilson
1. Three’s the Charm – The last 3 meetings between Chelsea and Bournemouth at Stamford Bridge have seen 3 goals in the match.
2. Bournemouth are looking to register three Premier League away wins in succession for the first time.
3. Up and Away? – The away side have emerged victorious on 5 of the previous 6 meetings between Chelsea and Bournemouth.
4. Resilience – Bournemouth are the third-best team to convert losing positions into wins (9) since 2015-16, behind only to Liverpool (10) and Tottenham (12).
5. Eden Hazard has started the season in a strong manner, with a goal and 2 assists in 3 games thus far, despite starting just one of the matches.
Player to Watch
Chelsea’s gameplay depends a lot on their midfield, which makes Jefferson Lerma the lynchpin for Bournemouth. The defensive midfielder was handed his first start for Bournemouth during the midweek and it will be up to the record signing to diffuse most of the threats posed by the Blues.
A good performance from Lerma is needed for Bournemouth to get anything from the game.
Chelsea 2-2 Bournemouth
Bournemouth have been a breath of fresh air this season. While Eddie Howe has stuck to his tactics, they have been more forward-thinking so far, which seems to be working. The squad has been together for a while and the chemistry and understanding between the players is starting to really shine on the pitch.
Chelsea are still young in terms of philosophy and while they will not bow down easily, Maurizio Sarri’s team will find it difficult to break down Bournemouth. Their showing against Newcastle wasn’t exactly great and with Bournemouth boasting more quality than the Magpies, expect the away side to go away with something.