Chelsea host Bournemouth on Boxing Day, now looking for our twelfth consecutive victory. We have only faced Bournemouth on seven previous occasions, and the two sides have never drawn. We have five wins, and the cherries have two. One of which was last season, in the first Premier league meeting of the two sides, with Bournemouth recording a 0-1 success. This score line matched their only other winning margin against us, which came in our first meeting in division two, 1988. We did manage to win in the reverse fixture last season, 1-4 at the vitality stadium.
Bournemouth are set to give us another test at Stamford Bridge this year, on good form and lying tenth, Eddie Howe can be pleased with his work this season, building on a great first season in the top flight last term. Although defeated last time out, they have recorded some notable results of late, beating champions Leicester 1-0, and memorably turning over Liverpool 4-3. They have also drawn with Tottenham this season. Their best results have come at home though, and they will be missing one of their most in-form players, Nathan Ake. On loan from ourselves, he is unavailable as a result. He is however, the only player likely to be missing for Bournemouth, whereas bigger changes are afoot for Chelsea as a result of our missing players.
Since Conte adopted the 3-4-3 formation, the side has been settled, with changes to personnel almost non-existent. The only swaps we have seen have been Fabregas in for Matic when the latter was injured against Man City, and Hazard and Pedro rested of late due to the imminent fixture congestion. This time out, we have Kante and Costa suspended. This will likely see Batshuayi come in up top, lively in his early season appearances, his opportunities have been restricted of late, but he should be given the chance here. Fabregas will be the likely replacement for Kante, with Matic adopting the defensive responsibilities of the Frenchman. The first test of our strength in depth this season, it is unlikely to be the last. Luiz is still one card from suspension as well, but if he can make it past our New Years Eve match against Stoke without picking one up, he will avoid a ban. Terry is still out, but Zouma provides centre back cover on the bench as he returns to full fitness.
A twelfth win would set a new club record for consecutive victories. A home fixture with Stoke follows this on New Year’s Eve, before we travel to Tottenham on Wednesday January 4th.
This is a test that shouldn’t be underestimated however, especially with Costa and Kante missing, against a side that beat us here last season. The win over Crystal Palace last time out was a tight match, and showed how we can continue to work to find openings. Azpilicueta advancing form the back three to provide the assist for Costa’s header demonstrated the next evolution of this side, a hark back to Conte’s Juventus days, where the centre backs would often advance into the opposition half and initiate attacks. It will be hard for teams to stop this as it requires pulling others out of position, and will be another valuable weapon going forward for us. We have also seen more changes of shape during the course of matches lately, with 3-5-2 being swapped too later in matches. Watch out for this if we need a goal late. It has usually coincided with the introduction of Fabregas, and Hazard moving upfront, but with Fabregas likely to already be on the field this time, Chalobah could have an impact from the bench. With Bournemouth likely to be very well disciplined defensively here, it may require a tactical change, or a piece of genius to create the breakthrough. We certainly have the manager, and players available to provide this.
Safe journeys to the Bridge over the holiday period, and Happy Christmas and New Year to all the Chelsea supporters out there!