Premier League 17/18: Chelsea vs Huddersfield Town – Lineups, Preview and Prediction
Chelsea press ahead with their hopes of a top-four finish against a Terriers side who proved too stubborn for the Cityzens last weekend
19:45 BST, Wednesday 9th May, Stamford Bridge (London, England) Sky Sports
Five successive victories across all competitions has signalled a return to form for last season’s league winners.
Chelsea may have slipped into fifth position but they still have reasonable hope of being able to claw their way back into the Premier League’s top-four elite before the season’s final whistles are sounded on Sunday.
With only two points separating them from Tottenham, a win in this match will draw them level with Liverpool ahead of their final match at Newcastle.
Huddersfield are also in a race which could go down to the wire but unlike their opponents, they currently find themselves in the driving seat as they approach the final corner.
A three-point cushion over relegation rivals Swansea means that a draw will be enough to see them safe following Southampton’s win last night.
While goals have been hard to come by for the Terriers this season, a failure to score will bring them a new Premier League record of 14 away games without a goal, although a second consecutive clean sheet will make that inconsequential in the grand scheme of things.
Last Time Out
Chelsea 1-0 Liverpool (Premier League)
The Blues delivered a professional and clinical performance which sealed a crucial win against their top-four chasing rivals.
The home side only had 34% of possession during the first half but looked comfortable defending against a Liverpool attack which has been in deadly form of late.
Antonio Rüdiger played no small part in this, making three interceptions and ten clearances to prevent Mohamed Salah having any impact on the game.
Gary Cahill also continued to impress while Thibaut Courtois looked assured as the final line of defence during the few occasions he was called upon.
With Conte choosing to use a five-man midfield to stifle the Reds, it was the unlikely figure of Tiemoue Bakayoko who was most worthy of praise. The maligned midfielder has suffered a poor first season in London but gave a performance which justified the potential which Chelsea saw in him last summer.
The winning goal came in the 32nd minute when Olivier Giroud did what he does best, winning a header to leave the ball nestling in the net.
With Eden Hazard at his tantalising best, it was a well-balanced Chelsea display which secured a deserved win over the Reds.
Manchester City 0-0 Huddersfield Town (Premier League)
Huddersfield tempered City’s title celebrations to take a valuable point away from Manchester despite suffering a nervous finale.
The Terriers worked hard to stifle the free-flowing football that has become expected of this season’s league champions. This was something which became evident from the first sight of the starting lineup which saw Wagner switch to a five-man defence.
It was a return to the form which recalled memories of their early-season successes, standing up strong to the opposition and throwing everything on the line to maintain a clean sheet.
Aaron Mooy also enjoyed a return to the sort of form which patterned the first half of his season, helping both defence and attack from the centre of the pitch.
While Alex Pritchard came close to producing the perfect smash-and-grab result for the Terriers, they were made to withstand concerted pressure in the final 10 minutes but came away deserving of their hard-fought point.
Álvaro Morata (knock) is unlikely to start this game, joining David Luiz (knee) and Ethan Ampadu (ankle) who remain out of action for the Blues.
This could well see Chelsea fielding an unchanged lineup from last weekend in the 3-5-2 formation which Conte used against Liverpool.
Huddersfield Town Lineup
Wagner does not have any new injury concerns, however, he remains without the services of Danny Williams (ankle), Tom Ince (hamstring) and Elias Kachunga (ankle).
He too could opt for an unchanged team, having deployed a more defensive 5-3-2 formation in Manchester last Sunday.
Key Battle: Olivier Giroud (Chelsea) vs Christopher Schindler (Huddersfield)
After what seems like years of under-achievement with the Gunners, Giroud looks set to take a starring role in the Premier League.
The French striker has recently forced his way into Conte’s thinking with a series of impressive displays.
More importantly for Chelsea, he has scored four goals in their last five games to keep their comeback on course this season and will look to continue this push against the Terriers.
Looking to put the brakes on the Frenchman’s form and Chelsea’s resurgence will be the Terriers player of the season.
Schindler has made more tackles (80) than any other central defender in the league during the current campaign and the third-highest number of clearances (253) with a total averaging over seven per game.
It is this aerial presence which will be required against Giroud and the 28-year-old who sealed Huddersfield’s promotion with a penalty last year could have a big say in securing this status this year.
Antonio Conte has almost succeeded in removing the clouds of speculation concerning his future from the air around Stamford Bridge.
Unbeaten in their last six matches, Chelsea have tipped their outlook upside down following a slump which saw them lose five of seven league fixtures.
One of the five victories they achieved over the last month has put them into this season’s FA Cup final, something Conte was quick to point out his team should be considered as underdogs for.
With little expected of their chances to win the league title last season and little expected from the final stages of this season’s schedule, it would appear that this is a label the Italian manager relishes under.
With a growing belief amongst fans and players, and a game against a team still not clear of relegation, Conte’s Chelsea will have to play this match without such a tag spurring them on.
Despite only winning one of their last 14 meetings across all competitions, Huddersfield have the upper-hand when it comes to meetings in England’s top division.
This will be the 50th game in which these two clubs have faced each other in the top flight, 22 of which going in favour of Huddersfield compared to 19 wins for the Blues.
With only one previous encounter in the Premier League, a 1-3 home defeat for the Terriers earlier this season, they’re yet to beat the Londoners in their current setting.
However, given the freedom to play unrestricted from pressure, they may just manage to pull off a surprise result which further tips their top-flight dominance into their favour.
Prediction: Chelsea 1-0 Huddersfield Town
A win for Chelsea will pave the way for some tension amongst the top-four next Sunday but Huddersfield are not likely to be a pushover for the Blues.
Most probably this will be another low-scoring game of few chances for Huddersfield but they could find themselves losing out for the 12th time on the road this season.