Ayodeji Itasanmi (Twitter: @aryhorblueblood)
Liberty Stadium/April 28, 2018
It’s now three wins on the trot for the Blues for the first time this year and now four games unbeaten. There will be massive confidence brimming in the team as a result of recent results going into what’s going to be a run of difficult games starting with the trip to the Liberty Stadium on Saturday evening. The Chelsea team has been improving since their dramatic come from behind win over Southampton upper Saturday. The win against Burnley was especially special because of the form of the Clarets but Chelsea made Sean Dyche’s men look nothing like their position on the table would suggest, a testament to how good the performance at Turf Moor was and you can see from the first blast of the whistle that the Chelsea players were up for the challenge against Southampton at Wembley last Sunday. Willian was running people ragged with his customary mazy runs from midfield, Eden Hazard was bang undefendable for the duration of that match and Giroud showed why he’s still one of the very best in the Premier League with that beauty of a goal. It was an all-round improved performance from the team but all the hard work of the last two weeks will count for nothing if we’re to come back from south Wales with nothing less than the three points on offer. The Swans are mathematically not saved from relegation yet even though they are within touching distance of safety. Carlos Carvalhal will certainly be looking for a response from his players after they were thrashed by newly-crowned Premier League champions Manchester City on Sunday a result that did their goal difference a lot of harm. These two teams will surely be up for this particularly if results earlier on Saturday go their way especially the first match of this weekend between Liverpool and Stoke City. A win for Stoke City will spell doom for Swansea while boosting Chelsea’s slim chance of qualifying for next season’s Champion’s League.
Chelsea and Swansea will be meeting for the 35th time in the long history of both these clubs on Saturday evening. Swansea won the first match against Chelsea 1-3 at Stamford Bridge in November 1925 in a second division match. Chelsea has dominated this fixture since that first loss however winning 16 of the next 33 matches against the Swans (D11 L6). Since returning to the Premier League in the 2011/2012 season, Swansea has won just two of their fifteen matches against Chelsea (L8 D5) with one of those win coming in the semi-final of the 2013 League Cup en route to them winning the competition which remains the only piece of silverware in their history. Their solitary win against Chelsea came at the Liberty Stadium during the ill-fated 2015/2016 season. The two losses to Swansea also doubles as the only times that Chelsea has ever failed to score against a Swansea team since September 2011 with the Blues averaging 1.8 goals per match in that run. Antonio Conte has won 2 of the three matches he has faced against the Swans and will be hoping to keep his unblemished at full time on Saturday. Antonio Conte could have surely used the help of Diego Costa for this match the Spaniard having scored eight times against Swansea in just five appearances against them during his three-year stint at Chelsea but the Italian will trust both Olivier Giroud and Alvaro Morata to get the job done against Swansea having scored four goals between them in the last three matches. Swansea has conceded 17 goals in their last seven matches at a rate of 2.4goals per game and scored 8 in the same run at a rate of 1.14 goals per match so Carlos Carvalhal may look to stifle the opposition rather than go all guns blazing on Saturday tea-time. Swansea has lost just two of their last five Premier League outings (D3) with both defeats coming against the two Manchester clubs and if you add their FA Cup quarter final defeat to Tottenham you’ll see the Swans have been struggling against the top teams and grinding out the results against their ‘peers’ with their three draws coming against Huddersfield Town, West Bromwich Albion and Everton. Swansea however has won four of their last five home matches in the Premier League (D1) an indication of how difficult getting three points at the Liberty Stadium will be.
Marcos Alonso will serve the last of his three-match suspension on Saturday so Emerson Palmieri should be starting his third consecutive match except if Antonio Conte decides otherwise and plays Davide Zappacosta in that position but that’s highly unlikely considering how well Emerson has performed in the two games since Alonso’s suspension. I think Olivier Giroud did enough on Sunday to continue leading the line supported most likely by Eden Hazard and Willian, who was substituted early on Sunday either as a result of a tactical switch or because of something he picked up during the game. Victor Moses seemed to have woken up from his slumber for the last two matches as his output, especially offensively, has improved tremendously so should continue in the right wingback position barring any eventuality. Cesc Fabregas and N’Golo Kante has some kind of synergy in the centre of our midfield and that partnership will most likely continue on Saturday even though Tiemoue Bakayoko – a second half substitute at Wembley – is another option for that position and so is Ross Barkley who hasn’t been involved since late January. Gary Cahill seemed to have brought some kind of stability to the defence but it’s yet to be seen how Antonio Conte lines up in central defence with all four central defenders fit and available. Andreas Christensen was again over-looked for the Wembley showdown against Southampton for the second game running but he’s likely to make a return against Swansea on Saturday with one of Antonio Rudiger or Gary Cahill the likely casualty. Pedro will be looking to get involved again after his cameo on Sunday at Wembley. Danny Drinkwater may also make a return to the squad for Saturday’s match having not been involved since early match due to a combination of the coach’s decision and injury. Carlos Carvalhal’s side has already accounted for both Liverpool and Arsenal at the Liberty Stadium this year in their bid to avoid the drop and Antonio Conte will know that this weekend’s match will not be an easy ask and I know the Italian would have told his players we’ll need to do better than the 2-2 draw we managed in South Wales last season if we’re to maintain our current winning streak and our slim chance of qualifying for the Champions’ League next season. With the Swans likely to line up with three central defenders just like they did against Manchester City last time out – even though that didn’t end well – Olivier Giroud will get my nod to start ahead of Alvaro Morata because the Frenchman possess the physical ability to trouble Swansea’s defence line just as he did to Southampton’s at Wembley. Thibaut Courtois will surely be back between the posts at the Liberty Stadium after being left out of the match day squad for the FA Cup semi-final last weekend. This game may again come too soon for David Luiz even though the Brazilian has been back training for the last two weeks but he should be back in contention for our big match against Liverpool next Sunday.
Courtois; Azpilicueta, Christensen, Cahill; Moses, Kante, Fabregas, Emerson; Willian, Hazard, Giroud.
Last Five Matches: WWWDL
Injuries: David Luiz (Knock) –Doubt; Danny Drinkwater (Calf Strain) – Doubt; Ethan Ampadu (Ankle) – Out; Marcos Alonso (Suspended) –Out.
Carlos Carvalhal may decide to revert back to his favoured 4-4-2 formation and put emphasis back on offense rather than defense after his plan to pack his defence and midfield failed to yield the desired effect against Pep Guardiola’s well-oiled machine shipping in five goals without scoring. As a matter of fact, the 5-4-1 formation has only yielded one goal – scored by our own Tammy Abraham who’s ineligible to play on Saturday due to the terms of his loan deal – even though it has been deployed five times since their match against Huddersfield Town on 10th March. However I expect the Spaniard to line his team up in that formation in order to deny the Chelsea players those pocket of spaces in front of their box even though that plan back fired against Man City on Sunday. Carlos Carvalhal will most certainly line up with his tested and trusted eleven on Saturday with Lukasz Fabianski in goal protected by the back five of Kyle Naughton, Federico Fernandez, Alfie Mawson, Mike van der Hoorn and Martin Olsson. Ki Sung-Yeung and January acquisition from Leicester City Andy King has been Carvalhal’s go-to-guys in central midfield, especially with injuries to both Leroy Fer and Renato Sanches who are also options in that position, and that’s sure to continue on Saturday with Andre Ayew and Tom Carroll providing support for lone striker Jordan Ayew on their few forays forward. Sam Clucas and Nathan Dyer are other options in the wide areas depending on the system the coach deploys.
Fabianski; Naughton, Fernandez, Mawson, van der Hoorn, Olsson; Ayew, Ki, King, Clucas; Ayew.
Last 5 matches: LDDLL
Injuries: Renato Sanches (Hamstring) – Out; Wilfred Bony (ACL) – Out; Leroy Fer (Achilles) – Out; Luciano Narsingh (Ankle) – Doubt; Kyle Bartley (Knee) –Doubt; Federico Fernandez (Knee) –Doubt.
Olivier Giroud vs. Alfie Mawson
Olivier Giroud would relish his goal against Southampton for years to come for sure but his immediate concern will be to retain his place in the side and should that be the case and help his team get the better of Swansea City as we make a last minute for Champions’ League qualification but he’s going to get it rough against Alfie Mawson who’s more mature and physical than his young age suggest. I cannot wait to see how this battle between the young and old play out.
Eden Hazard vs. Kyle Naughton
Kyle Naughton surely will not be looking forward to the prospect of testing himself against Eden Hazard tomorrow evening after how the Belgian almost singlehandedly destroyed the whole Southampton defence at Wembley last Sunday but if there’s anyone in the Swansea team to keep up with Hazard for pace then it’s Naughton. But Hazard is bang undefendable when he wants to be and he certainly was that at Wembley last time out. Not many people will want to be in Kyle Naughton’s position going into Saturday’s match that’s for sure.
Emerson Palmieri vs. Andre Ayew
Emerson has surely not looked out of place in the two games he has started since Marcos Alonso got his three-match suspension but on Saturday he will be coming against a seasoned Premier League campaigner in Andre Ayew. The Ghanaian has caused Chelsea his fair share of trouble in time past and on Saturday will be looking to maximize his chances as they are sure to be at a premium but I trust Emerson to hold his head high in this duel.
Three points on Saturday are definitely crucial for Chelsea’s aspirations to qualify for the Champions’ League next season and I’m sure Swansea will have a lot to say and do about that but I trust the Blues to come through again after the way we’ve been playing in recent games. A win at the Liberty Stadium will surely pile the pressure on Tottenham as they won’t be playing until Monday evening and if Liverpool fail to beat Stoke City in the early kick off tomorrow then their match at Stamford Bridge takes on extra significance for both teams especially if we factor in the fact their team will be traveling to Italy for the second leg of their Champions’ League semi-final against AS Roma. Qualification for the Champions’ League is a pretty long shot for us at this point but I trust the team to keep fighting until it’s mathematically impossible to achieve. Good luck to the team tomorrow and to you Blues fans continue to Keep The Blue Flag Flying High, Ciao!
Thumbnail image courtesy of: WAGNH
Would you like to write for London is Blue? Click on the “contact us” tab located on the top menu, fill out the form, and we can get started!