Match Preview: Chelsea vs. Hull City #CHEHUL
Stamford Bridge | January 22nd, 2017
It didn’t take long for Chelsea to rebound from a tough loss against Spurs, as the Blues dispatched defending champions Leicester City 3-0 in their last match, putting them back on the winning track and cementing their lead atop the Premier League standings. There’s now a 7-point cushion between the Blues and Spurs, and considering the latter must deal with a tough match against Manchester United this weekend is a huge opportunity to extend the gap. Hull have been playing well under new manager Marco Silva, but beating Chelsea at the Bridge is likely beyond their capabilities.
There is no doubt as to the biggest news story relating to the Blues this week, and that is the status of Diego Costa. For those unfamiliar to recent developments, the Spaniard was a shock absence from Conte’s match day squad against Leicester, an absence attributed to a spat with a fitness coach over a back injury. Reports indicate Costa has rejoined the first team for training this and should start against Hull, but major doubts have been raised as to his future with the club, especially with rumours of a massive offer from China. There is a legitimate chance that he will leave Chelsea this summer, but knowing Diego he would want to leave with a bang. He’s no longer the sole leader in goals this season, Alexis Sanchez and Zlatan Ibrahimović have matched his output with 14 goals, but he remains arguably the most lethal striker in England. Having a motivated Costa is terrifying for the opposition, and an enormous boon for Chelsea.
Aside from the Costa situation, Chelsea are completely healthy and will field a similar lineup as to what they have in recent weeks. I would expect Pedro to join Hazard and Costa up front and Matic to partner Kante.
Injuries: Costa (probable)
It’s only been three games since Marco Silva took charge of Hull City, but they have already looked like a much better team than previous months. Although they did lose 2-0 to United in the league cup, they have looked competitive and organized, a minor miracle considering the short time Silva available for Silva to work with and the state the club was in when he took over. Their last outing was a 3-1 victory over Bournemouth, with star forward Abel Hernandez making his return from injury and bagging a brace. The Tigers are currently tied with Crystal Palace with 16 points on the year, good for 18th in the table. If Silva has plans of escaping relegation, the fight needs to start now.
It’s a tough stretch for Hull right now, as they are missing a slew of players due to injury and the Africa Cup of Nations. That is a partial reason for why the gaffer has not been able to stick to a formation yet. In three different games Hull, have employed three different formations, the most recent being a 3-5-2. Even with those changes Silva has occasionally been forced to play players out of their position, as evidenced when he played left-back Andrew Robertson in a holding midfield role against Bournemouth.
Missing key players, not having a solid formation, and an intimidating match up ahead at Stamford Bridge against the best team in England right now. It does not get much harder for Hull, and it will truly require a perfect performance for them to get a result.
Injuries: Odubajo, Bruce, Henriksen, Kean, Luer (out). Lenihan, Meyler, Maloney (probable).
Away at Africa Cup of Nations: Elmohamady, Mbokani.
Three Matchups to Watch
- Costa vs. Dawson: With the context, already been established earlier in this preview, there isn’t really a further need to explain why this is a must-see matchup. If Costa does play, all eyes will be on him. Fans won’t just be watching his play, but his demeanor on the pitch. Any emotional outbursts towards teammates or towards the coaching staff could be very revealing. The fact that Michael Dawson is a good defender in his own right will ensure Costa will have to work for his goals.
- Kanté vs. Snodgrass: Although he still remains one of Chelsea’s most consistent contributors, Kante has hit a minor speed bump these past few games. He hasn’t been his usual, tank-like self recently, and has occasionally been caught far more up the pitch than he needs to be. Chelsea will need him to return to his dominating form, as Snodgrass has undoubtedly been Hull’s best player this year. Hull have rejected a 7.5 million pound offer from West Ham, so it is clear his play is attracting some attention. If Hull are to pull of an upset, Snodgrass will be a reason why.
- Cahill vs. Hernandez: If there is any Chelsea player most in danger of losing his spot in the starting lineup, that player would be Cahill. Some susceptible play recently and the fact that a healthy Kurt Zouma is waiting in the wings has led to ambiguity over his spot. A strong showing against Hernandez would help dispel notions that he is the weak link in the Chelsea back line. Hernandez for his part is without a doubt the top striker that Hull has, making his extended absence this year very difficult for them. He is back now, presumably very fresh. His speed and ball control is world class, both factors that can freeze up an unsound Cahill
To say Chelsea have dominated recent history between these two teams would be a massive understatement. In 45 games between the two sides dating back to 1905, Hull have only one 4 times. That’s a paltry 8.9%-win rate. Their last win over Chelsea was in 1988, an astonishing 29 years ago.