Match Preview: Chelsea vs. Bournemouth
Vitality Stadium/April 8, 2017
Normality has been restored! Wednesday night almost produced a two-pronged sweet sensation but for the late capitulation of Swansea City that allowed Tottenham to score three times in injury time to take the spoils after trailing for most part of the game. So, the gap stays at seven going into this weekend’s round of fixtures that take us to the Vitality Stadium to face a Bournemouth team that are unbeaten in five while Spurs hosts another resurgent team in Watford. Bournemouth also produced a monumental result at the Bridge last season to take away all three points albeit through a rather controversial Glen Murray goal, but we exert our revenge later on in the season leaving the Vitality Stadium with a 4-1 win last April. We also won the reverse fixture 3-0 on Boxing Day with Hazard and Pedro getting the goals. Bournemouth comes into this one on the back of an inspiring 2-2 draw at Anfield on Wednesday night after Josh King scored a late equaliser to salvage a point. With Spurs opening this weekend’s round of fixtures at lunch time on Saturday, we’ll know exactly what we have to do either maintain or extend the seven-point gap by the time we kick off at the Vitality later in the day.
Antonio Conte did what I expected him to do in the absence of Victor Moses which was to move Cesar Azpilicueta to the wingback position and bring in Kurt Zouma to deputise at centre back for the City game on Wednesday but at half time he reverted back by substituting Zouma for Matic to bring back some steel to our midfield. He then moved Pedro back to wingback and Fabregas to form part of the attacking trident. Judging by how we finished the game against City however, I think it is a given that Pedro will be starting once again at wingback if, as expected, Moses is unavailable with Fabregas again playing further forward. It wouldn’t be the worse idea for Willian to start in that attacking three while Fabregas partners Kante in midfield but then that would mean Matic missing out.
Injuries: Victor Moses (Calf)-Slight Doubt
Last 5 matches: WLWWW
Bournemouth will certainly be coming into this one on the back of their best form of this year having not lost in five. Eddie Howe seemed to have rethought his all out attacking philosophy of last season with a more conservative approach in some games this season particularly against the big guns. While they retain most of their attacking prowess, they shape up more now to absorb pressure while hitting their opponents on the counter. Tyrone Mings will be serving the last of his suspension so would be sitting this one out and that means Howe would continue with the back four of Smith, Francis, Cook and Daniels. Jack Wilshere will join Harry Arter in central midfield while Jordan Ibe and Pugh either side of the attacking duo of Josh King and Benik Afobe, both of whom were on target at Anfield on Wednesday.
Injuries: Adam Federici (Knee) - Out; Callum wilson (ACL) - Out; Andrew Surman (Knee) - Out; Dan Gosling (Knee) - Slight Doubt
Last 5 matches: DDWWD
3 Matchupts to Watch
- Hazard vs. Smith: After his two-goal showing on Wednesday Eden Hazard would be almost impossible to contain at the Vitality Stadium on Saturday so the Cherries’ right back, Adam Smith, would have his hands full trying to stop the Belgian. Hazard would also have fond memories of his last outing at the Vitality last April where he scored his first two Premier League goal of last season. This is likely going to be long afternoon for Smith.
- Luiz/Cahill vs. Afobe/King: David Luiz and Cahill had a very good game on Wednesday night neutralising the threat posed by Aguero but on Saturday evening they would have their hands full against the Bournemouth strike pair. Benik Afobe seemed to have found his scoring touch in recent weeks after a slow start to the campaign. The Arsenal acacdemy product is as physical as he’s intelligent, especially in and around the box. David Luiz and Cahill would have to be at the top of their game to stop, or at least minimise their impact, of Afobe and his partner in crime, the Norweigan Josh King who’s on a run of good goal-scoring form.
- Kante vs. Wilshere: Jack Wilshere has been very pivotal to the way Bournemouth play, with Harry Arter and/or Andrew Surman doing the dirty work in midfield he has the license to drive the team forward dictating their play. Kante’s job on Saturday will be to limit his impact on the field and with suspension looming should he get a booking on Saturday, I don’t see Wilshere being too overly aggressive. He has done his chances of an extended stay with Arsenal (if that’s what he chooses to do) a world of good with his displays for Bournemouth this season and how better does he drive home the point if not by helping to bring down the Champions elect. Kante would have to make sure that this does not happen on Saturday.
Bournemouth have gotten points off of both Liverpool and Arsenal this season in what were high scoring games and even though I don’t envisage a high scoring affair, I expect this to be very tough. While Bournemouth are mathematically safe from relegation for another season they would want to play the role of spoilers but after the Palace game I bet we would be ready. Diego Costa is on a run of four games without a goal and this game presents as good a chance as any for him to remedy that disturbing statistic. This is a potential banana skin but I expect nothing but the three points especially if, as expected, Spurs had beaten Watford earlier in the day (Spurs dropping any manner of point(s) would present even better incentive for us to go all out for the three points) KTBFFH, Peeps!