Zouma scores against Watford
Zouma scores against Watford

The Blues are going into their next league clash off the back of their most free-flowing attacking performance of the campaign thus far. Hiddink’s side, albeit against a poor MK Dons side, we utterly breath taking throughout the game and looked the most dangerous going forward that they have done since 2014. Watford, however, pose quite a different threat to that of the struggling Championship club.

Chelsea’s form has taken an upturn since Hiddink took over, most wonderfully with the victory over Arsenal, yet the champions still lie in the bottom half of the table and even Europa league football seems a distant dream in this most bizarre of seasons. The biggest concern is the defence, obviously, but with only Diego Costa having scored more than 3 league goals, the attacking flair that built the title charge last year has been blunted in dramatic fashion. Alexandre Pato is unlikely to feature against the Hornets, but the gamble taken on the former AC Milan star is an interesting indication of Chelsea’s transfer policy.

Watford, similarly to Chelsea, will be concerned about a lack of alternative sources for goals. Odion Ighalo has been a sensation this season, netting 14 times, and Troy Deeney has impressed as a supplier as much as anything, but no other player in Flores’ squad has scored more than once in the league. Chelsea will have to see this as a way to restrict their London rivals this Wednesday. If Ighalo, who has looked fatigued in recent weeks, can be managed by Zouma and Terry, Watford will have to look to their midfield for goals. Having said that, restricting Ighalo is a lot easier said than done – especially for a Chelsea back line with one of the most wobbly defences in the Premier League.

Chelsea have not faced defeat in the league in their last 7 games, whilst Watford have lost 4 of their last 6 as their form dipped drastically after Christmas.

Key men: Oscar – Oscar is a great enigma. Admittedly not quite to the enigmatic levels of Torres or Shevchenko, but the Brazilian midfielder struggles to string together the sort of brilliant performances that we have seen at Swansea and MK Dons. His all round game in the FA Cup was breath taking and deservedly got his hat trick. When Oscar is on top form, Chelsea are, usually, at the flowing best in the final third. Averaging just over one key pass per game is perhaps the biggest indication of the concerns over his creativity.

Troy Deeney – Ighalo might be their leading scorer, but the powerful Nigerian would not have scored half of those goals without Deeney. Deeney to Ighalo has been one of the most fruitful goal-assist partnerships in the league and Watford’s talismanic forward has suited dropping off into spaces between the lines, being rewarded with 6 assists in the campaign thus far. As Watford will look to stop the supply lines to Diego Costa, its vital that Chelsea can limit Deeney’s influence if they are to avoid Ighalo causing havoc amongst the Blues’ defence. Deeney, unsurprisingly, averages more key passes per game than any other player in Watford’s squad.

Prediction: 2-1. Chelsea are beginning to show the sort of form that helped them to the title last season and it should be enough to see off Watford. The Hornets are looking a little leggy, but are almost guaranteed to score against Chelsea’s defence, yet the Blues’ attacking verve against MK Dons should be enough to win them any game.

Tips: Both Teams to Score – Chelsea’s renewed form means you can almost guarantee at least one goal from the Blues, but its hard to see how they can keep a clean sheet as the defence continues to look afraid of any side with attacking motion.

Diego Costa to score – Costa has stopped acting like some south American gangster and is showing why he was one of the most feared centre forwards in Europe. Where the ball was a yard away from him, the Spaniard has found another yard of pace and is sniffing out opportunities a step quicker than the defenders can track him. A goal for Chelsea’s main man would keep up his stunning form of late and add to the suspicions that the ex-Atleti man did not want to play for Mourinho any longer.

Contribution from Sam Cox

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