17:30 BST, Saturday 28th October, Vitality Stadium (Bournemouth, England), BT Sport
A midweek victory gave Eddie Howe’s side back-to-back wins for the first time this season to boost confidence ahead of this week’s game. Despite their lowly position which has only Crystal Palace worse off in the league, Bournemouth have started to recover their form through home games, with three wins and a draw coming from the last four matches across all competitions. After losing three of the last four encounters with Chelsea, this fixture will be a serious test for their powers of recovery.
Antonio Conte’s team have been less than convincing in the defence of the title this year with frustration being borne from equal measures of brilliance and sloppy play. While there are flashes of the character which guided them to their triumph last season, the consistency from their game is conspicuous by its absence. Another missing characteristic is frugality: Chelsea have failed to keep a clean sheet in any of the previous six matches and, as they face a team starting to recover their goal-scoring abilities, another banana skin game awaits the current English champions.
Last Time Out
Bournemouth 3-1 Middlesbrough (Carabao Cup)
Bournemouth advanced to the quarter-finals for the second time in the club’s history after an encouraging performance on Tuesday evening. While Middlesbrough held firm in the first half, the gulf between the two sides was exposed after the break as the Cherries cranked up the tempo.
It was two newcomers into the team this season who made the biggest impact for Bournemouth. Callum Wilson made his first start since January and managed to play the whole match despite missing the majority of the last two years through injury. He was surprisingly sharp in attack and his return will be a welcome return for a club struggling to score this term.
At the other end of the pitch, Jack Simpson made his club debut and it appeared that the 20-year-old defender had been playing for the team for years already. Not only was the centre-back effective in defence, he also scored and made an assist to provide Eddie Howe with yet another selection dilemma in the forthcoming months.
Chelsea 2-1 Everton (Carabao Cup)
After leading for much of the match, two goals deep into the 90th minute provided extra gloss to the scoreline as Everton forced Chelsea to earn their progression into the next round. While a good performance capped by another towering display from Willian, Chelsea were strong without being dominant although Michy Batshuayi once again failed to push his credentials for a regular starting berth.
Danny Drinkwater made his long-awaited debut for the Blues after being sidelined with injury since his summer transfer from Leicester. Playing for around an hour, Drinkwater made a solid impression but it was his central midfield partner which drew the most attention.
At only 17 years old, Ethan Ampadu cut an incredibly composed figure who managed to influence the game. His acute positional sense was embellished by some hearty tackling and fine passing, suggesting that Chelsea have a bright star on their hands.
Tyrone Mings remains out of action with a back injury but Eddie Howe could be facing a problem at the opposite end of the pitch. Both Joshua King (illness) and Jermain Defoe (hamstring) have failed to train this week which could mean a start for Benik Afobe and Lys Mousset with Callum Wilson more likely to start on the bench after he played the full 90 minutes against Middlesbrough on Tuesday.
Victor Moses and N’Golo Kanté are both unavailable for the Blues this weekend as they recover from hamstring injuries but otherwise Conte will have a full squad to choose from. This could likely see Conte revert back to the starting lineup which overcame Watford last weekend.
Key Battle: Junior Stanislas (Bournemouth) vs Marcos Alonso (Chelsea)
The return to fitness of Junior Stanislas has coincided with a greater cutting edge in the Cherries play and it’s not simply a coincidence. Stanislas has long been regarded by their fans as the most lethal weapon in their armoury, something that a goal and an assist in last weekend’s crucial 2-1 win over fellow-strugglers Stoke clearly highlighted. With Chelsea’s defence looking far less assured than in previous season’s, Stanislas could find himself back in the headlines on Saturday evening.
Looking to stop the flying winger in his tracks, Marcos Alonso has experienced one of his poorest seasons to date in a Chelsea shirt. While several players have been inconsistent, Alonso’s slide is even more alarming given that last year he was one of their unsung but top performers as they marched to the league title.
With his positional play and his decision making coming under the microscope, Alonso will need to focus heavily on his defensive duties this weekend as the Blues look to correct the individual errors which have begun to creep into their game.
A Pressure Release
While the Cherries toil under the heat of the Premiership, they’re finding the league cup to be a welcome distraction. Eddie Howe’s men picked up their first win of the season against Brighton in this competition and again looked assured as they swept aside the Boro earlier this week.
With two players competing for almost every position in the team, this has also provided Howe with a chance to assess the players who are currently out of favour. More importantly, it’s also bringing victories for Bournemouth.
While this may not give them any points as they try to claw their way up the Premier League table, it’s something which can work to bring a smile back into the dressing room and on the terraces and may just be a bump that their lacklustre season needs to kick-start a good run.
A Well-Worn Record
Antonio Conte was again ruing the lack of depth available to him within the Chelsea squad as his side edged past Everton during the midweek Carabao Cup fixture. This isn’t the first time that Conte has complained about having a limited number of players and with only two of his senior squad currently out injured, his argument is severely weakened when you compare this to the lengthy injury lists of some of their rivals.
While much of this ire is believed to be pointed at the lack of incoming transfers secured by the club in the summer, there is another overlooked fact which is hindering the Blues. With so many of their youth players sent out on loan to aid their development, Chelsea simply don’t have the number of options enjoyed at the likes of Arsenal or Tottenham.
While Charly Musonda, Kenedy and Ethan Ampadu all played against the Toffees, there are few other players that Conte can bleed into the squad after the club let 24 youth players ply their trade for a different club this season.
Prediction: Bournemouth 1 – 2 Chelsea
With Chelsea proving inconsistent and often below-par this season, they will need their star players to rekindle the form that had them sailing into the sunset this time last year. Eden Hazard has only managed one assist from his last 15 Premiership appearances and this lack of creativity is stifling the Blues campaign this term.
Bournemouth have slowly improved following a dreadful start to the season but despite good performances against Tottenham and Manchester City, the game against Chelsea could again be a step too far for the level that they’re currently at.
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