Chelsea Go Cherry Picking on Saturday
With a victory over Manchester City on Wednesday night, Chelsea passed another test of their championship credentials and are still in the driver’s seat for the Premier League title.
But Saturday, the Blues face what could be a tricky trip to the south coast to face a resurgent Bournemouth side looking to cement their place in next season’s Premier League.
It wasn’t too long ago that things weren’t looking too rosy for the Cherries. At the turn of the year, Bournemouth were sitting in the ninth place and looked as if they were almost assured of staying clear of the relegation battle.
But in their first match of 2017, Bournemouth took a 3-0 lead at home to Arsenal, only for the final whistle to blow with a 3-3 score line, courtesy of three second-half goals.
From that date, Bournemouth went on a terrible two-month run in which they failed to record a single victory and recorded just two points, dragging them straight into the middle of a relegation battle.
But as of late, there have been signs of life from Bournemouth. The Cherries have once again regained a bit of form and are now unbeaten in their last five matches in the league, starting with a 1-1 draw with Manchester United at Old Trafford at the beginning of March, including a 2-2 draw with Liverpool at Anfield on Wednesday night.
But Eddie Howe’s side aren’t quite clear of the relegation mire just yet. With others near the final relegation place also finding ways to pick up points, his Bournemouth side sit just seven points clear of Swansea City and a point at home to Chelsea would be a massive result.
Chelsea, on the other hand, will obviously have different ideas. After the surprise defeat to Crystal Palace last Saturday, Chelsea got back on the winning track with a hard-fought 2-1 victory over Manchester City at Stamford Bridge.
The Blues showed the resilience of champions, taking a 2-1 lead in the first half through Eden Hazard and then expertly closing out the match with a second-half performance that had a lot of possession, but not a lot of chances for the visitors.
Against Bournemouth, however, it will be much different proposition, if for no other reason than Bournemouth are a side that can score goals and aren’t afraid to attack and the Chelsea defence as of late has been conceding goals, having not kept a clean sheet in the Premier League for almost three months.
Chelsea will get back a key component of that back line, as Victor Moses is once again fit after missing the last two matches through injury, meaning the Blues will once again have their first-choice defence healthy.
The one big worry for Chelsea will be the loss of form of Diego Costa. The Brazilian-born striker has failed to score a goal in over a month in all competitions, which a concern for a striker who seemed to be scoring for fun during the first half of the season.
Getting Costa on the scoresheet would be a great thing for both Costa and Chelsea, but with the tremendous performances of Eden Hazard as of late, this Chelsea side should have just a little too much attack for a Bournemouth team who have struggled in defence in the past.
But Chelsea must maintain their focus, especially since they face Bournemouth in Saturday’s late kickoff. By that time, they will know whether Tottenham, who face Watford in the early kickoff, have cut the gap to just four points. If Chelsea can keep their composure in the face of pressure, another big result will keep them on course for another Premier League title.