The football festival in Qatar is over, and we are back to club football amidst the festival vibes in Europe. The fans will be back united supporting their favourite clubs, and their moods will certainly affect their club’s performances. Chelsea fans do not seem the happiest, as the club’s form was worrisome before the break started. Can the Chelsea squad delight the fans as they host AFC Bournemouth at the Bridge?
WHERE & WHEN?
Venue: Stamford Bridge.
Date: Tuesday, 27th December 2022.
Time: 17:30 (BST).
Referee: Simon Hooper.
Assistants: Adrian Holmes, Mark Scholes.
Fourth official: Thomas Bramall
VAR: David Coote.
Assistant VAR: Constantine Hatzidakis.
Chelsea fans really hoped that they would be over the injuries curse once club football returned, but things do not seem the way they wanted. Adding to the wounds of goals up top, Armando Broja has been ruled out for the season with an ACL injury in the friendly during the break. Also, Fofana took an injury upon his return in the friendly against Villa and will be out for a few weeks. Kante is still out till March, while Ben Chilwell’s and Loftus-Cheek’s return date is still uncertain. One would expect Ziyech and Kovacic to be rested for this game after their teams did play deep in the World Cup. A final call on Mason and Kepa will be taken before the match, but the news around the camp is positive around both.
The situation at the Bournemouth camp is also not too pleasing, with the squad facing a virus outbreak before their last week’s fixture against Newcastle. However, O’Neil still has a majority of his starters to prepare with and will not be too disappointed. Lerma, Kelly and Tavernier have a high chance of featuring in the squad after final calls are taken before the match. But Neto and Brooks will definitely miss the encounter and will only be back after the New Year.
Chelsea will enter this match with the baggage of three back-to-back defeats in the Premier League and four overall defeats. In the 21st century, Chelsea has never lost 4 games in a row, and Potter and his men will definitely not be in the mood to set a new record. Despite positive work being done off the pitch, results on the pitch are what every Chelsea fan is hoping for. A huge pressure lies on the shoulders of Graham Potter despite him confirming the backing of the management. Results before the break have forced Chelsea down in the 8th place, lagging 16 points behind the 1st place. Chelsea’s attack was very much in question before the break, with Chelsea just scoring 17 goals in the 14 matches this season. It will be interesting to see if Potter has used his wand well and has finally answered some questions up top. There has been news of him trying a Back 4 in the training sessions, and thus Chelsea could step on the field with some new tactics. It will only be seen after the match, that which player raises his hand and takes the responsibility to lead the attack.
Finally, there has been a settlement for the Cherries in the board room as the £120 million takeover has been completed. Now the fans will have their eyes on the pitch before waiting for the transfer window to see how the new board backs the club. O’Neil was on an impressive run when he took charge, but the recent results have been similar to their rivals. They did end their 5-match unwinnable streak with a thumping victory over Everton in the Premier League just before the start of the break. However, the team will still be looking for momentum in the league to improve its position in the league. The Cherries returned to club football last week, facing the Magpies in the Round of 16 round of the EFL Cup. They were victims of a narrow 1-0 defeat and thus are now out of the competition. All the focus now will be on the returning Premier League, where they can start off a high by upsetting the Blues in their backyard. They have managed to get some good results against the Blues, as they are still undefeated in the last three games between the two clubs. Recent history suggests that the Cherries have been a bogey club for the London giants.
Reece James – Chelsea
One of the very few positives for Chelsea has been the continued rise of Reece James. The English right-back has well and truly established himself as one of the best full-backs in Europe, but an unfortunate injury shattered the Englishman’s dream of representing his country in Qatar. The player was really disappointed after missing the opportunity and will be hoping for redemption as he returns to the pitch after a long break. His presence on the pitch for Chelsea drastically affects the team’s performance as he was Chelsea’s player of the season till now before his injury. He is a beast on the right side for Chelsea and has driven Chelsea to some great wins. He was instrumental in Chelsea’s win against Milan, which was probably Chelsea’s best performance this season.
An agonised Reece James could be more lethal, and Chelsea’s instant future will rely on his performances very well. He might have to get back to more defensive duties with Chelsea going to a back 4, but Potter, too, will be looking to give Reece the freedom as he is very crucial in the final third, especially with not much outcome from the attackers. The defender currently sits on 4 goal contributions this season, and the tally will only increase if he can keep himself fit.
Dominic Solanke – Bournemouth
The Chelsea academy graduate will be back facing Chelsea leading the line for the Cherries. Solanke started his career in a promising manner in the Chelsea academy but could not deliver the expectations of many. He has bagged many goals in the Chelsea academy but did not enjoy much success at the senior level until joining the Cherries and scoring numerous goals for them in the Championship. In Bournemouth’s 2 seasons in the Championship, he bagged 46 goals and has been a reliant scorer up top. He was just behind Mitrovic in the last season amongst the highest scorers in the league.
This season he has bagged 3 goals for the Cherries and will be looking to increase the tally if he has to help his team secure good results. He could be troublesome for the shaky Chelsea defence, who will try a new back-4 tactic in the game. His physicality could help him engage one of the two centre-backs and allow his wingers to close down in the final third. He could hurt his former club with a goal for himself or by creating spaces for the forward line to trouble the Blues’ defence.
Chelsea predicted lineup vs Bournemouth: Kepa; Reece James, Silva, Koulibaly, Cucurella; Jorginho, Gallagher, Mount; Pulisic, Aubameyang, Havertz.
Bournemouth predicted lineup vs Chelsea: Travers; Smith, Mepham, Senesi, Zemura; Christie, Cook, Lerma, Anthony; Billing, Solanke.