Chelsea will look to continue mounting on the pressure on other teams in the race for top four when they travel to Wales to take on Cardiff City on Sunday.
Two of the three relegation spots are almost set in stone and Cardiff are looking to avoid making it 3/3 for as long as possible, if not escape the relegation zone entirely. The Welsh club is on 28 points, which has been possible only due to a recent flurry of wins, with Cardiff recording 3 wins in their last six.
Chelsea have lost their grip on the fourth spot. But, the Blues will be looking to maintain pressure on Arsenal and Manchester United. Maurizio Sarri has seen his side bounce back into form only to lose it straight away and accumulate just one point from their last two games.
Chelsea will have to be aware of the fact that fixtures like these at this point in the Premier League campaign are often tricky affairs. Chelsea’s last visit to Cardiff earned them a 2-1 win and Maurizio Sarri will hope the Blues can avoid the usual international break hangover and record a win on Sunday.
We now take a look at the two squads.
Team News & Tactics
Cardiff are in with an additional luxury in preparation for the Sunday fixture. The club has not played since early March and will be well-rested for the match against Chelsea. There are still concerns over the involvement of Joe Bennett and Harry Arter, both of whom are doubts for the clash.
Sol Bamba and Callum Paterson are out for the remainder of the season. Neil Etheridge will be the man in goal as usual, with a quite similar back four. Lee Peltier, Bruno Ecuele Manga and Sean Morrison are penciled in but we could see Greg Cunningham come in on the left, should Joe Bennett be unfit to start.
Joe Ralls and Aron Gunnarsson are likely to be the ones holding the pivot role in midfield, with Victor Camarasa playing the number 10 role. Junior Hoilett and Josh Murphy will aim to provide width to the Cardiff attacks while they will rely on Oumar Niasse to convert the chances.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Etheridge; Peltier, Manga, Morrison, Cunningham; Ralls, Gunnarsson; Murphy, Camarasa, Hoilett; Niasse
Davide Zappacosta, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Ethan Ampadu are unlikely to play a role, with all three doubtful for the clash against Cardiff. Emerson and Marcos Alonso have both been performing at an equal pedestal but the latter should be afforded the start on the left on Sunday.
The rest of the back four should remain the same, along with Kepa Arrizabalaga in goal. Ross Barkley should be preferred over Mateo Kovacic in midfield alongside N’Golo Kante and Jorginho after the English international’s displays for England in the international break.
Pedro and Eden Hazard should be the designated wingers, with Callum Hudson-Odoi unlikely to be given a start, despite impressing equally for England in what was his first senior call-up and subsequently, debut for the Three Lions.
Gonzalo Higuain should start upfront for Chelsea, with the Argentine struggling to find fitness and form at Stamford Bridge thus far.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Kepa; Azpilicueta, Luiz, Rudiger, Alonso; Kante, Jorginho, Barkley; Pedro, Higuain, Hazard
1. Both Teams to Score – YES @ 1.90
2. Chelsea Clean Sheet – NO @ 1.72
1. Cardiff Draw No Bet @ 6.00
1. Cardiff have scored in each of their last four matches against Chelsea in all competitions.
2. Cardiff have conceded 11 goals in their last five Premier League games while scoring just 5.
3. Chelsea have kept three clean sheets in their last six games in all competitions.
4. Chelsea have won their last four matches against Cardiff in all competitions.
5. There have been at least 3 goals in each of Chelsea’s last four meetings with Cardiff in all competitions.
Player to Watch
The English international showed promise and some more during the international break, perhaps hinting that he can be the solution to the third midfielder problem Chelsea seem to be having. The central midfielder is likely to be the one to start alongside N’Golo Kante and Jorginho.
Barkley needs to seize the opportunity on Sunday and convince Sarri to start him more often towards what is the business end of the 2018-19 Premier League campaign.
Cardiff 1-2 Chelsea
Chelsea’s record against Cardiff does carry some weight but it also shows their inability to keep the hosts from scoring. With Southampton and Burnley both winning, the pressure will be on Cardiff to perform and get a positive result on Sunday. Chelsea will have a similar thought in mind, with Manchester United winning their tie against Watford.
Expect both teams to go at it, with neither team likely to be able to land a clean sheet on Sunday. We are going with a narrow 2-1 win for Chelsea, a repeat of the scoreline from their last visit to Cardiff.