After our club record equalling unbeaten run was halted at Newcastle on Sunday, we return to league action at home to Hull City on Saturday. The 23-match streak in all competitions ties with our 2007 and 2009 records. It did set a new record of 21 unbeaten at the start of a season, beating our 05-06 record of 16.
We returned to winning ways midweek in the Champions league with our 3-1 victory over Sporting Lisbon. As we were already through and guaranteed top spot Mourinho used the opportunity to rest a few players to keep them fresh for Saturday. Perhaps somewhat surprisingly Diego Costa played the whole match, with fitness now seemingly more of a concern than his ongoing hamstring issues. Fabregas also played 80 minutes, but he is unavailable against Hull because of suspension. Mikel started alongside Matic, which could be viewed as a preparation exercise for what will likely be our two deeper midfielders on Saturday. Matic returns from suspension after missing the away defeat at Newcastle. He was sublime midweek. Ramires is another possible candidate to partner him, but Mikel is probably more likely. After being given some unfair stick by some after filling in for Matic at Newcastle, he too played well midweek, and got on the score sheet as well, his fifth Chelsea goal.
Hazard, Oscar, and Willian were all rested on Wednesday, not even appearing on the bench, which is a likely indicator that these three will all continue in the positions behind Costa. A clear backbone has emerged, with rotation only in place when required due to injury and suspension, and these three are the clear favourites in attacking midfield.
Ivanovic was also rested, with Azpilicueta playing right back and Luis on the left. The full backs will play an important role against Hull. Steve Bruce has continued to operate a back three, which when the wing backs are defending will be a back five, which should provide space for our full backs to attack. Retreating strikers or midfielders from the central three will be called upon to track our full backs if they come forward, so quick movement of the ball in attack will be key, either to the full backs before they are closed down, or from them into the midfield before Hull have had time to re-group. This is our best chance of breaking down Hull. Despite their struggles this season Steve Bruce has Hull well drilled in this shape and they are always a tough prospect. James Chester, Curtis Davies and Michael Dawson will most likely be the three centre backs, and against that shape Costa will need support, with quick interchanges with him and our midfielders key to creating chances. More bodies will be needed to attack crosses if we have space wide, but Hull have a significant height advantage over our other likely attackers in open play.
Hull have struggled for goals, averaging one a match in the league, so 2 goals here should be enough, but the longer we go without scoring, and with Hull being a side happy to sit in and hit you on the break, this won’t be as easy a task as it looks by comparing the two sides league positions.