By, Ayodeji Itasanmi (Twitter: @aryhorblueblood)
Stamford Bridge/December 26, 2017
As expected, it was a frustrating afternoon at Goodison Park at the weekend with the home side playing ten players behind the ball. Nonetheless we created enough chances to win the game, but we found Jordan Pickford in inspired form. There’s no time to think too much over spilled milk especially since those around us didn’t take advantage of our slip up. Chris Hughton hasn’t performed badly with his team but even he will know that it’s a daunting task that faces his team when he brings them to Stamford Bridge on Boxing Day and I’m sure Antonio Conte and his charges will be looking to right the wrong of the weekend by claiming all three points on offer.
Chelsea vs. Brighton is not the most popular on the football calendar of either club with their being just eight encounters between them prior to this weekend the first of which came in the FA Cup during the 1932/33 season which Chelsea lost 2-1. That has proved to be Chelsea’s only loss to Brighton in our eight encounters against them (W6 D1). Chelsea have never failed to score against Brighton and Antonio Conte will be hoping that run continues on Tuesday with his having drawn a blank at Goodison Park last Saturday. Chelsea is on a run of 6 consecutive wins against Brighton having not lost any match against them in seventy-four years.
Antonio Conte has Alvaro Morata back after the Spaniard was missing in action at the weekend after his bizarre yellow card against Bournemouth in the Carabao Cup, and that should be music to the Italian’s ears. Captain Gary Cahill also had the weekend off and should be in contention for a starting place on Boxing Day. Having started virtually all of our matches before December Cesc Fabregas hasn’t start any of our last three matches in the league but should also get a recall especially with the way the game against Everton went. Hazard worked his socks off and got kicked from every angle possible but ultimately we came up short and the Belgian should be well recuperated to go again against Brighton who might also set up to limit his impact on the game. Willian has called for more playing time and he seems to have finally gotten the attention of the coaching crew with him starting each of our last four matches and lasting the entire duration in three of those matches but he looked spent at Goodison Park on Saturday, and personally I’d be surprised if he’s to make the starting lineup on Tuesday. Danny Drinkwater hasn’t been involved much recently, and with us still having two more matches to play before the year is out, the English midfielder should also get a look in against Brighton. Considering his impact from the bench last season, none more so than at the Hawthorns where he scored the title winning goal, it’s hard to fathom why Michy Batshuayi is yet to earn the trust of the coach and that seems to have affected his confidence with his last two performances not being up to scratch but he should at least be considered for a place on the bench. Cesar Azpilicueta, Andreas Christensen, Antonio Rudiger, Victor Moses and Marcos Alonso all did enough against Everton to retain their places in the team except of course if the coach thinks differently and decides to freshen the team up ahead of the remainder of the season.
Courtois; Azpilicueta, Christensen, Cahill; Moses, Kante, Fabregas, Bakayoko, Alonso; Hazard, Morata.
Last Five Matches: DWLDW
Injuries: David Luiz (Muscle) –Out.
Brighton & Hove Albion
Chris Hughton hasn’t rotated his squad too much when he’s had a fully fit team, a fact emphasized by his three changes to the team that drew against Burnley to the one that won so comfortably against Watford at the weekend with Gaetan Bong Songo, Shane Duffy and Glen Murray, who missed a penalty, making way for Markus Suttner, Connor Goldson and Tomer Hemed. Chris Hughton likes to set his teams up in a 4-2-3-1 formation with both Lewis Dunk and Shane Duffy his preferred central defensive choice and Bong Songo and Bruno or Ezequiel Schelotto completing the back four. Dale Stephens and Davy Propper more often than not anchors the midfield with the trio of Pascal Gross, Solly March and Anthony Knockaert playing behind whoever is chosen to lead the line between Tomer Hemed and Glen Murray. Record signing Columbian Jose Izquierdo has found adapting to the Premier League difficult given that he’s often content with a place on the substitutes’ bench but what better way to finally introduce himself than against the defending champions on their own patch if the coach decides to thrust him into the thick of the action at Stamford Bridge on Boxing Day.
Ryan; Bruno, Duffy, Dunk, Bong; Propper, Stephens; Knockaert, Gross, March; Hemed.
Last Five Matches: WDLLL
Injuries: Steve Sidwell (Back) –Out.
Alvaro Morata vs. Lewis Dunk
Alvaro Morata will have had extra time to rest and recuperate after missing the trip to Goodison Park at the weekend but if respite is what he’s looking for he might find that difficult to come by against a physical and athletic Lewis Dunk. The English defender will stick to the Spaniard like his shadow through 90 minutes I’m sure.
N’Golo Kante vs. Pascal Gross
Pascal Gross has been Brighton’s most creative player since his arrival from the Bundesliga in the summer and has been responsive for almost two third of their goals. The German got the only goal of the game against Watford at the weekend. It’s pretty simple if you’re able to stop the German you’ve most certainly stop Brighton and who better to get the job than the diminutive Frenchman.
Andreas Christensen vs. Tomer Hemed
Andreas is sure to have his hands full if, as I’m expecting, Chris Hughton choses Tomer Hemed to spearhead his attack ahead of Glen Murray. The Turk is an epitome of physicality and has even served a three-match ban for elbowing an opponent so the Danish Prince must be on top of the Turkish striker at all times if he’s to come out victorious.
With back to back home matches against Brighton and Hove Albion and Stoke City preceding the trip to the Emirates Antonio Conte and his team has the opportunity to take six points before facing one of their direct rivals for the Champions’ League spots. Three points on Tuesday will be the perfect start to the end of the year in the Premier League for Chelsea. Just a third of their points total (7points) has come from their travels with victories over West Ham and Swansea and a draw at the Vicarage road earlier in the season. What will represent a perfect end to the year for me personally is three points from our next three Premier League assignments. Merry Christmas Blues and remember to Keep The Blue Flag Flying High!
Thumbnail image courtesy of: Zimbio
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