A Blue Up North previews Chelsea’s trip to Swansea.
This Saturday’s teatime Premier League kick off sees Chelsea play their third consecutive match away from Stamford Bridge as they travel to South Wales for their tie against Swansea City.
The hosts currently lie in 17th place, just 4 points above the relegation zone. Understandably everyone’s first thought will be that The Swans will be fired up and ready to battle for every point but Carlos Carvalhal’s side have potentially more important league fixtures still to come after The Blues’s visit.
Their next match is against Bournemouth, who are virtually safe themselves and possibly an easier encounter for The Swans to gain valued points. After that they finish off with crucial fixtures against Southampton and Stoke, the 2 teams separating The Swans from a return to The Championship.
Although they have beaten Liverpool, Arsenal and Burnley at The Liberty Stadium already in 2018, Swansea have only won once in their last 7 matches and were hammered 5-0 at the new league Champions last weekend. To add to that, Carvalhal has defensive availability issues.
Federico Fernandez and Kyle Bartley are both doubtful because of knee injuries, while Luciano Narsingh is likely to still be missing. However Renato Sanches should be back in the matchday squad.
Antonio Conte is still without David Luiz and Ethan Ampadu, while Marcos Alonso sits out his final match suspension. Otherwise, the Chelsea manager should have a full squad to choose from. While we can expect Thibaut Courtois to return and Emerson Palmieri to keep his place, it will be who plays in midfield and attack, and which formation Conte settles on that is the uncertainty.
Will the manager start with a front 2, with either both strikers or push Eden Hazard up to partner one of them, or will he keep with a 3-4-3 and keep with just 2 in central midfield.
As always, whichever line up and formation Conte opts for, it will be the application and attitude of his side as to how effective they are against their hosts. Swansea do tend to perform better in front of their home crowd but, in their more form, The Blues should have too much ability and class to allow an upset.
Another win for Chelsea will still keep them in 5th place, but they will close the gap to Tottenham to just 2 points and Liverpool to just 5 points. With the chance of still qualifying for next season’s Champions League, the players will hopefully remain focused on the remaining league matches and not just coast through until the FA Cup Final.
Written by Jon Ellis, home and away season ticket holder. Follow him on Twitter @ClitheroeBlue