Our English Premier League writer previews the clash between Chelsea and Bournemouth set to go down on Boxing Day!
Defying the notion that every Premier League fixture is a cup final in miniature, Chelsea’s 11 game winning streak has honestly had an element of ease attached to it. Antonio Conte has successfully integrated Italian dogmatics into the framework of the typically chaotic Premier League milieu.
Eddie Howe’s side had an uncharacteristically poor second half against Spurs and will be hoping to recall those tremendous last minute scenes from last year’s victory at the Bridge. This, however, is not a Chelsea side embroiled in a state of Mourinho-inspired disillusionment.
Chelsea vs Bournemouth | Monday 26 December | Stamford Bridge | 17:00
Conte’s delayed switch to his favoured 3-4-3 formation has paid huge dividends as Chelsea continue to metronomically pick up victories. Perhaps most impressive for them is their ability to win both sexy and ugly, with an in-built desire to defend that is reminiscent of Mourinho’s first stint at the club. He will be hoping that Bournemouth persist with their direct, mercenary approach to playing the bigger clubs, as his side will be more than happy to pick them off on the counterattack. Though Chelsea will likely boss the ball, they will still pose a larger threat when Bournemouth make their occasional incursions into Chelsea territory.
He will be without the suspended Costa and Kante. These are clearly massive losses. However, Batushuayi is a tremendous talent who featured prominently for Belgium in the Euros, while Cesc Fabregas’ ability to shift the axis of attack through one ball may make him the perfect midfield man for Chelsea here. Furthermore, Bournemouth’s midfielders love to bomb forward and join the attack, potentially vacating that space for Fabregas to operate in. I expect the Spaniard to boss this game.
Eddie Howe is really in a Catch-22 here. He is loathe to instruct his players to abandon his attacking philosophy, but I don’t see any other option for him here. Conversely, does he really want to invite this Chelsea side to completely monopolize possession? He’s going to need massive performances from the full-backs, likely to be Smith and Daniels. If Moses and Alonso are afforded the type of space they have enjoyed in recent weeks, Bournemouth are going to struggle to contain a rampant Chelsea.
Gosling and Arter will likely play in the holding roles, and they will need to decide how to approach playing Fabregas. I personally feel they can afford to man-mark him in the absence of Kante. Callum Wilson has battled to replicate his form from last season while Jordan Ibe has also been inconsistent going forward. Jack Wilshire would like to think that he could flex his creative muscles here, but I suspect that the Arsenal man will have a largely defensive responsibility here.
The Verdict: Chelsea to win both halves 19/10
It’s hard to predict how ruthless this Chelsea side will be, such are the tactical underpinnings. But I think that they are due a comprehensive win, and in the absence of Kante and Costa there will be room for players to make a statement this week.
Written by Damien Kayat for @Hollywoodbets