Match Preview: Chelsea vs. Swansea City #CHESWA
Stamford Bridge/February 25, 2017
Chelsea find themselves entering the weekend 8 points clear of Manchester City at the top of the Premier League table. With Man City not playing this weekend, Chelsea have a perfect opportunity to increase that lead and continue the march towards the Premier League title. They'll welcome an ex-Chelsea coach to the Bridge as Paul Clement brings his Swansea side to London. Clement is known for his work with Ancelotti, including winning the Premier League with the Blues with Ancelotti as manager. Now in charge of his own outfit, Clement has won 3 of the 5 Premier League games he's managed so far (the only losses came to Arsenal and Man City). Swansea currently sit 4 points above the relegation zone, an uneasy position to say the least. With March approaching quickly we enter into an important stretch of the schedule, and both teams will want to pick up the maximum in this match.
After disposing of Wolves in a FA Cup tie, the Blues will look to find their winning form in the Premier League, their last outing being a 1-1 draw at Turf Moor against Burnley. Although it was a decent result when considering the fortress that Turf Moor has been this season, championship teams such as Chelsea are always aiming for 3 points every match, and that mentality will not change this weekend.
There are a couple of concerns for the Blues. First is the goal drought for Costa. Although he did score in the FA Cup, Costa has not scored a Premier League goal in over a month. He no longer is the league leader in goals, and for a striker of his capabilities the past few games have been a little dissapointing. There's no need to panic yet, but the sooner the Spaniard discovers his scoring touch again the better. The other concern for the Blues is the health of keeper Thibaut Courtois. Reports say he has been dealing with the stomach flu, and if he does not heal in time will miss this game. With the wonders of modern healthcare he should have healed in time for the game, but there still remains the slight possibility that he won't.
Injuries: Courtois (probable).
By the time the match kicks off on Saturday, the Welsh club will not have played for almost two weeks, their last match being a 2-0 win over defending champions Leicester City. They've had some time on their hands, and Paul Clement will have likely used it to work on his team's defence, which has been atrocious this season. No team has conceded as many goals as Swansea has. They've allowed 54 balls to hit the back of their net, a full 5 goals more than the next worse team. Like mentioned earlier, the Swans are just 4 points clear of the drop zone, and if they want to stay clear that defence will need to get much better. Considering that Chelsea are the third highest scoring team in the league this year, Swansea have to tighten up at the back if they want a positive result this match.
Nathan Dyer suffered a season ending achilles injury last time out against Leicester. His replacement is still up in the air (likely Routledge or Cork), but that will likely be the only lineup change for Clement.
Injuries: Sung-Yueng, Montero, Dyer (out). Britton (probable).
3 matchups to watch
- Hazard v. Naughton: Kyle Naughton, the former Spurs right back, has enjoyed consistent minutes in the lineup recently and will likely be called upon to help contain Eden Hazard. Like mentioned earlier, Swansea have the worst defensive record in the Premier League and if they want to improve on that their back line will have to step up, Naughton included. It may be tough to do so against Hazard, who just a short while ago against Arsenal proved he still has a penchant for the wonderful.
- Azpilicueta v. Sigurdsson: Arguably the best player on Swansea, Gylfi Sigurdsson is often the catalyst for their attack. The Icelandar possesses speed, skill, and a great shot that can be deadly on set pieces. He's been played in a number of different positions this season but assuming he remains on the left side of their attack that will see him match up against Dave. Although David Luiz gets more praise out of the three Chelsea CB's, Dave has played just as well as the Geezer. If he can shut down Sigurdsson then Swansea likely won't pose much of a threat to Courtois.
- Alonso v. Fer: When a team has been playing as well as Chelsea has, every weakness tends to be seized upon by fans. That has been the case with Marcos Alonso. His struggles have not been major, but even adequate performances recently will subject him to criticism. If there was a game for Alonso to quiet all the haters, a game against Fer might do the trick. The Dutchman is a trickster with the ball at his feet, as his goal against Chelsea this past September serves as a reminder. Once again assuming he plays the same position as he did against Leicester, these two are headed for a clash that will be intriguing to watch for supporters of both teams.
- Last season was one to forget for Chelsea fans, for many reasons, and one of those reasons is our play against Swansea. Chelsea failed to beat Swansea, recording a draw and a loss. That loss was the first and currently only loss against Swansea in the Premier League Era.
- In the reverse fixture in September, the two teams played out a 2-2 draw. Costa scored a brace for Chelsea while Fer and Sigurdsson scored for the Swans.