Match Preview: Chelsea vs. Bournemouth #CHEBOU
Stamford Bridge | December 26th, 2016
Boxing Day. It is a day where many wake up at early hours of the morning and dash to the nearest mall, where they then proceed to spend the entire day exploiting fantastic discounts. If you’re reading this, chances are you are not that type of person. You wake up excited to enjoy a Chelsea football game on Boxing Day. This year Chelsea get set to take on Bournemouth at the Bridge, looking to solidify their lead at the top of the table and extend their win streak to 12 games. It won’t be easy as the Cherries boast a strong squad, but based on recent form anything other than 3 points will be a disappointment for the Chels.
The biggest concern for the Blues heading into this match up is the suspensions to Diego Costa and N’golo Kante. Both received their fifth yellow cards of the season against Crystal Palace and therefore will be forced to sit out. Make no mistake this is a huge blow for Chelsea. Costa of course is the leading scorer in the Premier League and Kante is the midfield engine that keeps Chelsea running. If the 11-game win streak is snapped on Monday, the absence of those two players may very well be the reason why.
At the same time, with injuries and suspensions comes a chance to see other players in the spotlight. While I will miss Costa in this one, I am excited to see Michy Batshuayi finally get his first Premier League start. He is a player that has not had the opportunity to properly introduce himself to Chelsea fans since his transfer here in the summer. It would be spectacular to see him bag a goal or two at the Bridge, and it will give fans an opportunity to see what kind of depth we have at the striker position if we ever need to utilize it.
And as for who replaces Kante in midfield, this is a little tougher to predict. Although my initial assumption would have been a midfield of Fabregas and Matic, Chalobah is also a possible option. Matic seems like the surest bet to start, leaving Fabregas and Chalobah to battle for that second spot. We all know what Cesc is capable of in terms of his offence, and although his defence has been questioned that was not a problem in his last game against Sunderland (remember, his goal was the reason Chelsea won that game). At the same time Chalobah is a player that fans want to see more of, and has provided flashes of brilliance in his few appearances this season. Ultimately, the decision Conte makes will come down to how he wants to play against Bournemouth, and his end arrangement will be pivotal towards a potential win.
Injuries: Terry, Mikel (out).
Suspensions: Kante, Costa.
This is how Bournemouth’s last 7 games in the Premier League look like: L-W-L-W-L-W-L. The Cherries are the textbook definition of inconsistency with regards to their recent form. If that pattern is to continue it will require a win against Chelsea at the Bridge, not an easy task for Eddie Howe.
Bournemouth will miss one of their better defenders during this game. Not because of illness, or suspension, but because he belongs to Chelsea. Nathan Ake is a Chelsea loanee and of course will not play against his parent team. His form recently has been good, scoring 2 goals in 3 games. His vacancy is a big loss for a team that must deal with a Chelsea attack that remains potent even without Costa. On the flip side, there is a chance attacking midfielder Junior Stanislas returns to this game following an ankle injury, so reinforcements may coming for the Chelsea game.
Injuries: L. Cook (out). Stanislas, Surman (probable).
Three Matchups to Watch
- Batshuayi vs. Cook: like mentioned before, Bats will be a must watch for all Chelsea fans this Monday. Bench players do not get many opportunities to make a hefty impact, which means this chance must not be waster for Michy. He won’t have a easy time of it though as center-back Steve Cook has played every minute of every game so far this season. Cook has played a part of shutting down strikers like Lukaku, Vardy, and Kane this season. He will not go any easier on Michy.
- Alonso vs. Smith: a natural right-back, Adam Smith has primarily played right midfield for Eddie Howe this season. He has not scored since opening night against Manchester United and only has three assists this year. Not only should Alonso not be too challenged with Smith, but a matchup such as this should allow him to be more involved in the offence. Look for Alonso to whip in some crosses and interplay with Hazard, it may result in a Chelsea goal.
- Matic vs. King: once a promising youngster for Manchester United, Joshua King’s career has not reached the heights he once hoped it would. This season is a good representation of that. He’s played in 16 games this year, but has only gone the full 90 in 7 of them. He’s only scored twice, the last one coming a full two months ago, against Watford. Still only 24 he has a chance to get his career back on track, but Monday’s game may not be a good game to put on the resume as a revitalized Matic will be in his way. Whether King has the effort in him to make an impact this game will be important if the Cherries want to get a result.
- For those of you interested in tactics, watch how Eddie How directs his Bournemouth team. He has long been considered one of the brightest English managers in the game, and will surely be managing a big club one day.
- These two teams have only ever faced each other 7 times in total. Chelsea have won 5 and Bournemouth have won 2, one of which came last season at the Bridge when substitute Glenn Murray scored an 82nd minute goal past Courtois.