By, Ayodeji Itasanmi (Twitter: @aryhorblueblood)
Stamford Bridge/January 31, 2017
The recovery from that disappointing loss to Arsenal last midweek started pretty well with a convincing 3-0 win over a surprisingly determined Newcastle United team, at least in the first twenty-five minutes of the match but in the end the superior quality of the Chelsea players told all, and they strolled into the fifth round of the FA Cup where Hull City awaits. Bournemouth are in the relegation dog fight once again and hence every point matters so I’m not expecting a straight forward victory because Bournemouth will not go down without a fight that’s for sure.
This certainly isn’t the most popular fixture on either team’s football calendar as this fixture has only taken place 11 times before Wednesday night and an interesting statistic is that the fixture has never ended in a draw irrespective of the venue or the competition. Alvaro Morata made sure that sequence continued the last time these two teams met at Stamford Bridge back in December in the Carabao Cup quarter-final match when he scored an injury time winner after Dan Gosling scored a 90th minute equalizer to cancel out Willian’s early opener. Bournemouth won their first ever Premier League match at Stamford Bridge during the 2015/2016 season albeit it was through a pretty contentious Glen Murray goal but they haven’t won against Chelsea since that match home or away. The two times Chelsea has failed to score a goal against Bournemouth they ended up losing and so Antonio Conte will hope his attackers have their scoring boots on on Wednesday night.
David Luiz missed the FA Cup match against Newcastle United on Sunday with an ankle injury and he’s almost certain to miss this game as well joining Willian, Thibaut Courtois and Alvaro Morata on the sidelines. Even though the Belgian goalkeeper has started light training I expect Willy Caballero to continue in goal for this one. Having been rested for the weekend’s match Cesar Azpilicueta should return to the back three alongside Gary Cahill and Andreas Christensen with Antonio Rudiger likely to get a deserved rest after playing five games in a row. Victor Moses should also make a return in the RWB position even though I think Davide Zappacosta was impressive against Newcastle at the weekend. With Cesc Fabregas available after a month out, Antonio Conte has a big decision on his hands to determine how he lines up in midfield and who the chosen personnel will be with all his midfield options available for selection. Ross Barkley can play as a central midfielder as well as further forward as one of our attacking trio depending on what role Antonio Conte assigns to him but I think we’ll do well by easing him into the action rather than throwing him into the action from the start. Eden Hazard had another awesome performance against Newcastle United on Sunday and Conte will be hoping that he brings that form into this match as these three points might be crucial with Manchester United facing a daunting trip to Wembley Stadium to face a rejuvenated Tottenham Hotspurs on Wednesday night. A draw in that match will be the ideal result for Chelsea as that would mean we’d cut United’s lead to just one point and extend our lead over Spurs to seven with a win over Bournemouth at Stamford Bridge but if I’m to choose a winner than I’ll be going for the North London club surely. Michy Batshuayi should be full of confidence going into this match after his two-goal showing at the weekend and he should be leading the attack again on Wednesday night alongside both Pedro and Hazard unless Antonio Conte thinks differently. Marcos Alonso has now surpassed his goal tally for the whole of last season, with four months of the season still to go, with his seventh on Sunday and should be on the hunt for yet another goal against the Cherries on Wednesday night. I personally have mixed feeling about Charly Musonda’s 18-month loan move to Celtic because I felt this could have been the season when he finally breaks through but with first team opportunity proving hard to come by it makes sense that the club sanctions the move to Celtic where I’m sure he’ll grow as a footballer in readiness for taking Stamford Bridge by storm in the same manner Andreas Christensen has. So good luck to him in Scotland and hopefully he comes back a better player and a perfect fit for Chelsea.
Caballero; Azpilicueta, Christensen, Cahill; Moses, Kante, Drinkwater, Alonso; Hazard, Batshuayi, Pedro.
Last Five Matches: WLWDD
Injuries: Thibaut Courtois (Ankle) – Doubt; David Luiz (Ankle) – Out; Alvaro Morata (Back) – Out; Willian (Hamstring) – Out.
This isn’t the best of times for Eddie Howe and his team as they are tittering just above the relegation zone but they would have taken some confidence from their last two Premier League outings, at home to Arsenal and away to West Ham last time out, with a win and a draw to show for their efforts coming into this fixture especially if that win came against Arsenal and that too after falling behind even though there was that disappointing loss to Wigan Athletic in their FA Cup third round replay in between. Eddie Howe lined up with the same eleven and the same 3-4-3 formation against both Arsenal and West Ham and it’ll be no surprise if the same eleven players take to the Stamford Bridge pitch on Wednesday night. Asmir Begovic will be returning to Stamford Bridge for the first time since his move to the Vitality Stadium in the summer – having been rested for Bournemouth’s Carabao Cup quarter-final match against Chelsea back in December – and he’s likely to be protected by the back three of Simon Francis, Steve Cook and Nathan Ake, another former Chelsea player making a return to Stamford Bridge. Lewis Cook and Dan Gosling, who scored that late equalizer in the Carabao Cup match only to see Alvaro Morata restore our lead almost immediately, will anchor the midfield with both Adam Smith and Charlie Daniels occupying the wingback positions. There will be plenty of pace in the attacking third for Bournemouth with the trio of Ryan Fraser, Jordon Ibe and Callum Wilson making up the lineup. Harry Arter and Andrew Surman are other options in central midfield for Bournemouth depending on what Eddie Howe intends to achieve from the game and so are the pair of Lys Mousset, Josh King and Benik Afobe in attack and Marc Pugh in wide area in place of either Fraser or Ibe.
Begovic; Francis, Cook, Ake; Smith, Cook, Gosling, Daniels; Fraser, Wilson, Ibe.
Last 5 matches: DLWDD
Injuries: Harry Arter (Illness) – Doubt; Jermaine Defoe (Broken Ankle) – Out; Tyrone Mings (Back) – Out.
Victor Moses vs. Ryan Fraser
This is one of three battles that could decide who goes away with the points on Wednesday. Ryan Fraser will surely be a tough customer for Moses to cope with and the winger’s pace and ability to cut inside will cause Chelsea a lot of troubles so Moses will have to pay close attention to the diminutive winger.
Michy Batshuayi vs. Steve Cook
With Alvaro Morata set to miss yet another match Michy Batshuayi will have another opportunity to prove his worth to Antonio Conte and he’s sure to go into his battle with Steve Cook so high on confidence after his performance at the weekend but against a tough defender like Steve Cook he’s not going to have all his own way. I trust Batshuayi will fancy his chances on Wednesday night.
Andreas Christensen vs. Callum Wilson
Callum Wilson will carry Bournemouth’s biggest threat on Wednesday night and that means Andreas Christensen will be one of the busiest of the team in Blue. Wilson has the total package with pace, power and a killer instinct in the opposition box hence Christensen must be alert for the entire duration of the match lest he gets punished.
If there’s ever a time this season when Chelsea needs to go on a winning run then it’s the present time and after the comfortable win over Newcastle United on Sunday it’s imperative we keep the momentum going with another win over what could be a stubborn or subdued Bournemouth team ahead of traveling to Vicarage Road to face Watford, with newly-installed Javi Gracia in charge, on Saturday after which we welcome the trio of West Brom, Hull City and Barcelona in back to back matches in the Premier League, FA Cup and Champions’ League respectively. We surely cannot afford to go into our match against Barcelona with the unimpressive form with which we started this year. So let the winning run begin! Keep The Blues Flag Flying High Peeps!
Thumbnail image courtesy of: Metro UK
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