A Blue Up North previews Chelsea’s trip to AFC Bournemouth.
Chelsea travel to the south coast this weekend as they visit Bournemouth, a team who are teetering just 2 points above the relegation zone, but did pull off a surprise victory at Stamford Bridge back in December.
Following the tough challenges that have been posed by fellow top 4 contenders and the champions of Germany, The Blues now enter a run of matches which include a number of teams from the lower half of the Premier League table.
That run starts today, but Eddie Howe’s side are a team to be wary of. They are better than their current position in the league and have registered 3 victories over Chelsea in recent seasons.
VAR controversies had a huge influence in their defeat at Burnley last weekend and they are likely to be bolstered by the return of former Blue Nathan Ake after a head injury. He will certainly help tighten their defence as they aim to block out Chelsea’s goal threats.
The Cherries have lost their last 2 league matches, both away from the Vitality Stadium, but they are on a run of back to back victories at home in the league. Wins over relegation rivals Aston Villa and Brighton have helped to rebuild some belief after a treacherous run.
However, the challenge that will be posed by The Blues will be a very different concern for them. Chelsea will look to dominate possession and create chances constantly throughout the match.
Sadly top goal scorer, Tammy Abraham, will not be involved as he is being rested over the weekend as he continues to struggle to fully recover from his ankle injury. He joins Christian Pulisic and Callum Hudson-Odoi on the absentee list as the manager’s options in attack continue to be limited.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who was on the substitute’s bench last weekend, is likely to be included again and may finally make his long awaited return to action during the match.
Frank still has a number of key decisions to make with his starting line up. Will he revert back to 2 centre backs, will Kepa Arrizabalaga return in goal and will Olivier Giroud be preferred over Michy Batshuayi in attack.
Only the latter is extremely likely, but this match is an opportunity for the manager to do all 3. Willian could well get his first start since the Manchester United match, with Frank hoping to utilise his pace and the extra central midfielder could well ensure Chelsea’s dominance.
A return to the team for Chelsea’s record purchase and a clean sheet could well help quell the media frenzy about Kepa’s future amid speculation of his value to the squad and to other teams across Europe.
Whichever options Frank goes with, this should be a match that is all about Chelsea converting chances in to goals. Last season’s embarrassing capitulation at the Vitality aside, The Blues have enjoyed their trips to Bournemouth, registering 3 relatively comfortable wins out of 3 visits in the Premier League.
And after the glorious victory over bitter rivals Tottenham Hotspur last weekend, Chelsea consolidated their fairly narrow hold on 4th place. With matches against all the bottom 5 teams yet to come before the end of the season, this is the start of a run in which The Blues should ensure they return to The Champions League next season.
A feat that few thought was likely before the season started and surely an achievement that will be lauded by supporters and the media alike.
Written by Jon Ellis, home and away season ticket holder. Follow him on Twitter @ClitheroeBlue