Chelsea will fancy their chances of keeping their winning run going as they host Cardiff City at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.
Chelsea have started life under Maurizio Sarri way better than what they did under Antonio Conte. The Blues have not really had to struggle too much for wins, despite a narrow scoreline two of their four victories so far, over Arsenal and Newcastle United, respectively.
Cardiff, on the other hand, have not really hit the ground running on their return to Premier League football. While their defence looks compact, their inability to find the back of the net is what will be concerning for Neil Warnock and his backroom staff.
Chelsea are one of the three teams to boast a perfect record thus far, and could, relying on results elsewhere, remain the only one by the end of the day.
Cardiff were handed a 4-1 thrashing on their last Premier League visit to Stamford Bridge, with Eden Hazard scoring a brace for Chelsea. The fans would hope for the Belgian to emulate his 2014 performance against Cardiff.
We take a closer look at the two teams.
Team News & Tactics
Ruben Loftus-Cheek is out with a foot injury and Cesc Fabregas is still sidelined, which means we could see Ethan Ampadu make the bench. Davide Zappacosta and Emerson Palmieri are also doubtful due to illness and are unlikely to make the matchday squad.
As far as the other players are concerned, everyone has returned to training without injuries or niggles, which means Maurizio Sarri will have a full-strength squad to choose from. The only area of contention will be the wing, where Willian and Pedro are fighting to start alongside Eden Hazard as the two designated wide men.
Pedro’s industry and influence in attack might see him get the nod ahead of Willian on Saturday. Andreas Christensen will have to remain patient for a while, it seems, before being afforded a start by the manager. Olivier Giroud is waiting to pounce on the opportunity to stake his claim in the starting eleven. But, Alvaro Morata should start again for the Blues.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Kepa; Azpilicueta, Rudiger, Luiz, Alonso; Kante, Jorginho, Kovacic; Pedro, Morata, Hazard
Cardiff would have welcomed the international break with open arms. Neil Warnock is likely to have added a few layers to their attack, which has looked very drab apart from the narrow defeat to Arsenal just before the international break.
Aron Gunnarsson continues his spell on the sidelines, as does Nathaniel-Mendez Laing. Josh Murphy remains a doubt and will likely sit this one out as well.
Junior Hoilett will command the left wing in the absence of Josh Murphy while summer arrival Harry Arter will look to partner Joe Ralls in the middle of the park, with Aron Gunnarsson absent.
The attack is something that needs changing. Danny Ward looked impressive when started against Arsenal and should retain his spot upfront, with Bobby Reid likely to partner him in attack.
Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Etheridge; Manga, Morrison, Bamba, Bennett; Camarasa, Arter, Ralls, Hoilett; Ward, Reid
1. Cardiff Asian Handicap +2.0 @ 1.940
2. Chelsea Clean Sheet – NO @ 2.20
3. Alvaro Morata to score anytime @ 1.66
1. Full Time Result – Draw @ 8.00
1. Maurizio Sarri could become the fourth manager to win his first five league games in charge.
2. Barrier to Victory – Chelsea have won 50 of their last 51 home games against promoted teams in the league.
3. Both the teams have managed to score in each of their last 3 meetings.
4. Chelsea have scored 2 goals or more in all of their league matches this season.
5. Pedro is set for his 100th appearance for Chelsea. The Spaniard has scored three goals in his last 4 league games for the Blues.
Player to Watch
The Cardiff stopper has been immense for his team, with saves from the penalty spot already during the season. Etheridge has had to face a barrage of shots at his goal, but has been upto the task on most occasions. The goalkeeper will have to be alert again and expect another long day guarding Cardiff’s goal, especially with Chelsea currently in form.
But, a heroic showing at Stamford Bridge could really go a long way towards cementing his name as one of the top goalkeepers in the league.
Chelsea 2-1 Cardiff City
Cardiff’s woes are expected to continue. But, as was the case against Arsenal, Neil Warnock’s side should put up a brave fight against Chelsea. Maurizio Sarri though, looks well on his way to record five wins on the trot.
Cardiff are expected to ruin Chelsea’s hopes of keeping a clean sheet. And, if there is some rustiness in the stars after the international break, Cardiff could even go so far as to snatch a draw. But, a win looks a prospect that is out of the equation. We predict a narrow win for Chelsea.