Our thirteen-match streak of consecutive wins in the league began away at Hull on the 1st of October 2016, and we face them at home on Sunday, having only had that run ended in our penultimate league fixture. We responded excellently with a 0-3 win at Leicester, and lets hope we can make Hull the second match of another long winning streak this time around.
All the talk in the papers before and since our win at Leicester has revolved around Diego Costa. It would appear that the press know as much, if not less, than ourselves. Any seasoned supporters reading this will have known better than to believe anything they have read in the papers concerning Chelsea. I for one don’t even pick them up, especially the red tops. The win at Leicester was made even better by the fact that the press were waiting for us to falter without our main striker. The reality of the matter was that we turned in an excellent all round performance, and the front three on the day; Pedro, Hazard and Willian, were all fantastic, as they were on the other occasion they were all fielded together, another 3-0 win, on that occasion it was at home to Bournemouth. Arguably, those two performances have been our best this season. It was an absolute pleasure to see the link up play, and one touch flicks and passes that they produced. The speed and accuracy of their play pulled both defences they faced apart, and at times they appeared impossible to defend against. In all likely hood Costa will return up front against Hull, and I hope he responds with a great performance to silence the media further.
It was Willian and Costa on target in our win away to Hull in our last meeting earlier this season, but it has been all change at Hull since then. Marco Silva has taken over from Mike Phelan, and Hull responded with a 3-1 home win against Bournemouth in their last league fixture. Prior to that, they had only managed two points from their previous seven fixtures. Coming from a 2-2 draw at home with Everton, thanks to a superb Robert Snodgrass free kick, and from an equally high scoring 3-3 tie with Crystal Palace. Hull are now tied on points with Crystal Palace, and have a real chance of escaping the bottom three if they can maintain forward momentum under Silva, as Palace have shown little improvement under Allardyce.
As mentioned, Snodgrass is an extreme threat from set pieces; he nearly netted a second free kick against Everton, so avoiding careless fouls around the edge of our own box will be important. Mbokani is missing as he is at the African cup of nations in Gabon, as is El Mohammady. For the first time in many years, aside from player already on loan, we are not missing any first team players due to this tournament.
We have a good record against Hull, and haven’t been beaten in any of our nine premier league meetings, with seven wins, and six clean sheets. In fact Hull haven’t netted at Stamford Bridge since 2009, when Stephen Hunt scored in a last gasp 2-1 win for Chelsea, with Drogba scoring late on. While we have played extremely well without Costa, his return would be handy for us, as he has a great scoring record against Hull, having scored in his last three matches against them, and recording two assists to boot. He is also one match shy of 100 Chelsea appearances, and averages better than a 50% strike rate at present. Phenomenal. Eden Hazard also likes scoring against Hull, with three in his last four appearances against them, and he is one shy of notching double figures in the league for the season. Goals are a percentage gamble, with Hull only keeping one clean sheet all season so far.
Costa has returned to training this week, so is certainly in contention for a starting spot, John Terry is also fit, so expect to see him back amongst the subs. Hull have much needed new recruits bolstering their ranks, with on loan right back Elabdellaoui available, as well as Niasse and Evandro.
If Costa comes back in, it will likely see Willian dropped to the bench, which would be harsh given his performance against Leicester, and in this match I would not be surprised at all to see Conte keep the same front three as at Leicester, even with Costa being fit, as if their quick ball movement and touch can be replicated here, they should have too much for the Hull back line. That way, Costa could be given an even nicer recovery period, perhaps not emerging until our vital mid-week clash on Merseyside at the end of the month…