By, Ayodeji Itasanmi (Twitter: @aryhorblueblood)
Stamford Bridge/October 21, 2017
The task at hand continues to be a daunting one with key personnel still missing from the team, none more so than Kante and Moses whose was felt on Wednesday night. It’s such a good thing that our next three games following the poor showing at Selhurst Park will be in the comfort of Stamford Bridge and the first of those against Roma on Wednesday night didn’t go according to plan, but still we managed to salvage a point after letting our two-goal lead slip. I don’t imagine us being able to salvage anything from that game, playing the way we played, if the game were to be an away game. Antonio Conte might have to find a different way of playing at least until some of our injured players return because we are finding the going so tough as teams seem to have finally find a way around our Kante-less system. I think if Conte gets his team selection and formation right we should still have enough in the tank to get the three points on offer and move up the table because one thing we don’t need is the team to continue spiraling down the wrong end of the table, and with Watford having amassed 10points from the 12 available from their away games this season we will need to bring our A-game to get the desired result.
Chelsea and Watford have faced off 31 times in all competitions a large chunk of which came in the old second division with Chelsea winning 16 of those against Watford’s 9 victories with the remaining 6 ending in draws. Watford has not won any of our last meetings in all competitions (L3 D2) and they have won just one of our encounters in the Premier League (L5 D2) their only victory coming in the first match between the two teams in the Premier League era back in September of 1999. Watford scored two and three goals in their last two visits to Stamford Bridge (L1 D1) but this season they are yet to lose any of their four matches away from home (W3 D1). The Hornets have conceded the most goals of the teams in the top half of the table and they have scored the fourth most goals this season with 13 from their first eight matches an average of 1.63 per game, a record they share with Chelsea. They also seem to have found a knack for late goals of late with three goals from their last three matches coming in the 90th minute or beyond meaning they have 7 points from the 9 on offer.
Chelsea fans and the team alike are finding out the hard how very valuable N’Golo Kante is to the Chelsea set up as the team continues to struggle, especially in midfield, in his absence. The deployment of David Luiz in midfield failed to make up for the absence of the diminutive Frenchman against Roma on Wednesday night and now even the Brazilian might be potentially unavailable at the weekend because of a calf strain he sustained on Wednesday making Antonio Conte’s job a lot more difficult. The Italian said after the match on Wednesday that he got his formation wrong by starting with a 3-5-2 formation which he later reverted to his favoured 3-4-3 formation by taking off David Luiz for Pedro but that move did little to stop Roma overrunning us. Towards the end of the match Conte brought on Toni Rudiger in place of Zappacosta to combat the aerial ability of Edin Dzeko switching Azpilicueta to the wing back position and he might retain the German for the weekend’s game knowing Watford carries some aerial threat of their own. Conte reported in his post-match conference that both Bakayoko and Luiz are carrying knocks hence they are both doubtful for the visit of Watford at the weekend. Should either or both Bakayoko and Luiz be unavailable, then one of Rudiger or Christensen might be drafted into midfield. Musonda may also get another chance to impress following his 25mins cameo against Palace that he almost capped with a goal being something of an unknown quantity hence it’ll be hard for Watford to prepare for him. Alonso has been calling for a rest with his below par performances in the last couple of games and hopefully Conte will see the need to grant the Spaniard’s wish by springing a surprise and starting Kenedy in his stead. Azpilicueta has also not been himself during the last two games, against Palace and Roma, and if not for the injuries to key personnel I will have suggested that he also be made to sit this game out to give him time to get back to the Dave of old. Willian and Pedro, while not battling with any injury, have both being below par this season and that ball in for Hazard’s equalizer on Wednesday night has been the highlight of Pedro’s season for me, and that’s saying a lot about his contributions this season. Willian has been deployed in midfield before and should Conte feel the need to do it again I’m sure he won’t hesitate if both Bakayoko and Luiz aren’t available for the weekend.
Last 5 matches: DLLWW
Injuries: Danny Drinkwater (Calf) –Doubt; N’Golo Kante (Hamstring) –Out; Victor Moses (Hamstring) –Out; David Luiz (Calf) –Doubt; Tiemoue Bakayoko (Groin) –Doubt;
Courtois; Azpilicueta, Christensen, Cahill; Zappacosta, Bakayoko, Fabregas, Alonso; Hazard, Musonda; Morata
Watford has begun life under Marco Silva in impressive fashion amassing 15 points from their first 8 Premier League matches. The team seems fitter as well as opposed to last season as they are more competitive towards the end of games this season. Silva has set his team up in an expansive 4-3-3 formation with the tendency to close the gap and deny the opposition space and hit them on the counter. They are able to push up towards the end as was displayed in their last three games when they scored three goals in the 90th minute and beyond to gain an additional 7 points. Nathaniel Chalobah would have relish a return to Stamford Bridge but his return would have to wait because he’s out injured at the moment with Etienne Capoue, who scored in both our matches last season, to replace him as he’s done in their last three matches with Tom Cleverly and Abdoulaye Doucoure completing the midfield. Injuries have meant changes were made to their defensive line-ups recently but the quartet of Kiko Fermenia, Adrian Mariappa, Christian Kabasele and Jose Holebas should get the nod to guard Heurelho Gomes’ post with the trio of Andre Carillo, Troy Deeney and Richalison completing their line-up.
Last 5 matches: WDWLW
Injuries: Sebastian Prodl (Hamstring) –Doubt; Younes Kaboul (Thigh) – Out; Nathaniel Chalobah (Knee) –Out; Craig Cathcart (Knee) – Out; Isaac Success (Knee) – Out;
Gomes; Fermenia, Mariappa, Kabasele, Holebas; Capoue, Doucoure, Cleverly; Richalison, Deeney, Carillos
Cesc Fabregas vs. Etienne Capoue
Fabregas’ play has dropped somewhat in the last couple of games but if there’s a game we need his football artistry then it’s this big one at the weekend. Etienne Capoue will shoulder the responsibility of stopping the Spaniard, I personally hope he fails though for the sake of the three points at stake.
Davide Zappacosta vs. Richarlison
This sure has the prospect of an interesting duel with both new to the league but the Brazilian has settled better of the two. Zappacosta hasn’t been great defensively in the matches he’s been involved so far but he has this burst of pace to contribute to the offensive play and that’s likely to be the order of play on Saturday but he needs to pay close attention to Richarlison as well.
Andreas Christensen vs. Troy Deeney
Andreas Christensen surprisingly was not in his usual element on Wednesday night but that tends to happen once in a while especially when you’re up against a seasoned veteran like Eden Dzeko but he’ll need to have his wits about him on Saturday because Troy Deeney is just as experienced, if not spectacular, a campaigner as Dzeko.
This a must-win game for Chelsea and that’s putting it mildly. I’m sure Conte will have been drumming it into his squad as the three points on offer is very pivotal. Watford has won 3 of their four away games this season drawing the other 1 and they will be so confident going into this match. With the injury in the squad both Musonda and Kenedy should get their chance if not in this game then in the next one against Everton in the Carabao Cup. Whoever gets the chance to play on Saturday, the three points on offer is not negotiable and hopefully we’ll be celebrating at the end of the day. Until midweek, Keep The Blue Flag Flying High!
Thumbnail image courtesy of: The Sun
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