A Blue Up North previews Chelsea’s home match against Cardiff City.
As the Premier League returns to action after the first international break of the season, Chelsea host newly promoted Cardiff City at Stamford Bridge. The Bluebirds are favourites to be relegated, and after The Blues’s 4 wins out of 4 before the break, the hosts will be considered huge favourites for this match up.
Cardiff currently lie above the relegation zone at this very early stage but have not registered a win as yet. After losing away at Bournemouth, they then battled their way to 2 goalless draws, firstly with some fortune at home to Newcastle, before a nervy, fairly stale match away to Huddersfield. They finally found their scoring touch at home to Arsenal, well doesn’t everybody? A late Lacazette goal finally saw off a spirited Cardiff display in which The Bluebirds had come back to equalise twice through Victor Camarasa and Danny Ward.
Cardiff certainly went forward with purpose in that match and they regularly had 3 or 4 players waiting in the penalty box for crosses to arrive. They richly deserved scoring twice but they did look uncomfortable occasionally at the back. Neil Warnock’s side definitely did not play all out defence against The Gunners and they nearly gained an unexpected draw. The experienced manager has also hinted that his side will not travel to Stamford Bridge only to defend, but plan to “give it a go”.
There is one negative tactic though we can expect from the visitors on Saturday. Obviously they will try their best to be physical and robust whilst tackling and defending, but Warnock will send his side out to single out one specific Chelsea player for extra treatment. Eden Hazard has regularly been the subject of opposition teams who take it in turns to target him whilst crossing the line on what is legal. There will certainly be plenty of Blues fans’s eyes on how referee Jonathan Moss deals with the situation.
Despite most of the Chelsea squad being heavily involved with their national teams during the international break, Maurizio Sarri still has an almost fully fit squad to choose from. Ruben Loftus-Cheek picked up a shin injury with England, but his place on the bench may be filled by a returning Cesc Fabregas who is finally recovering from his lengthy knee injury.
We can expect no great shocks with the Chelsea starting XI, with Sarri’s main decision being whether to pick Willian or Pedro. The Spaniard would be making his 100th appearance for The Blues if chosen and is on a rich vein of form. Alvaro Morata is likely to keep his place while the manager persists with using Olivier Giroud as an impact substitute, especially if his side are struggling to break through a stubborn defence.
Chelsea have a fantastic recent record against Cardiff City, with 10 wins in their last 12 league meetings. The Bluebirds last victory at Stamford Bridge was way back in 1981 and very few will expect them to repeat that feat. Potentially, their best hope will be that most of their squad were not traveling in all directions fulfilling international duties, while 9 of The Blues’s potential line up traveled and were involved for their countries.
Sarri will be aiming to be only the 4th manager to win their first 5 Premier League matches while Cardiff are still searching for their first win of the season. However, at least they have finally registered a goal, with Camarasa’s strike against Arsenal being their first in nearly 7 hours of football.
Surely this will be yet another home match where the timing of the first home goal is paramount. An early Chelsea goal should see a comfortable home win, while if time passes with the match in a stalemate situation nerves and the team’s focus will need to hold firm for Sarri to continue his 100% start. Whichever way the match goes, the Italian manager will surely be celebrating his 5th win out of 5.
Written by Jon Ellis, home and away season ticket holder. Follow him on Twitter @ClitheroeBlue