A Blue Up North previews Chelsea’s Premier League match away to Watford.
As we all start to recover from the excesses of Christmas Day, the traditional Boxing Day fixtures sees Chelsea travel the relatively short distance to Vicarage Road as they play Watford in the last match of a busy Premier League day.
The hosts will go in to this match on a high. They currently lie in 7th place in the Premier League and won away at West Ham United at the weekend and will still be buoyed by their surprising 4-1 victory over The Blues from last season.
Maurizio Sarri and his players will still be smarting from losing their unbeaten home record in the defeat to Leicester City on Saturday. Their reaction to that loss will be key to the outcome in this match and they will be desperate to repeat the victories they gained immediately after their previous 2 defeats this season.
There are no new known injury concerns for Sarri, who stated that striker Alvaro Morata will be fit to face the Hornets. Whether the manager starts with the Spaniard or not is another matter. There is likely to be some squad rotating, but Watford are the team closest to the “big 6” in the league and this will be a very tough encounter.
The manager’s only other likely change may be in midfield, where he could give the constantly improving Ruben Loftus-Cheek a start. Andreas Christensen remains a doubt because of a hamstring injury, so any change at the back is very unlikely. Emerson Palmieri could give Marcos Alonso a rest if he desperately requires one.
Javi Gracia still has Will Hughes, Andre Gray, Sebastian Prodl and Adalberto Penaranda all sidelined with injuries, so the manager could well name the same team that played so well at West Ham. Victory for the home side would give them their best first half of a top flight season since 1982-83.
Chelsea, on the other hand, could well be out of the top 4 and a full 14 points off the lead by the time the match kicks off, and so will be playing catch up with their rivals. They may have lost 3 of their last 6 Premier League matches, including 2 of their last 3 away, but The Blues are unbeaten in their last 13 Boxing Day encounters. If they can improve their already good record of 4 clean sheets from 8 away league matches this season and gain all 3 points, it could be the start of a momentum building period as they then face sides currently lying 14th, 16th and then 15th in the league over the next 3 matches.
Victory for Sarri and The Blues could restart another unbeaten spell as they look to consolidate a strong top 4 position.
Written by Jon Ellis, home and away season ticket holder. Follow him on Twitter @ClitheroeBlue