Chelsea will play an energetic Bournemouth team at the Vitality Stadium on Saturday in an attempt to snap a six matches losing streak.
The Cherries are attempting to win three straight matches in the top level for the first time this season, while the Blues are trying for their first victory in any competition since March 11.
Bournemouth finishing comfortably in mid table was virtually unthinkable just a few weeks ago, much alone avoiding relegation from the Premier League (PL). The Cherries are all but mathematically safe from the drop, though, thanks to an incredible run of four wins from their previous five games (L1), which included winners over struggling Leicester and Leeds.
In fact, Gary O’Neil’s team has won seven times in their previous 12 (L5) league games, which makes up more than half of the 39 points they have racked up in the top division this year. The south coast has experienced quite a turnaround, and with four games left, they still have a chance to surpass their 46 points total from the 2016/17 Premier League season, which was their previous best mark.
As they take on an ineffective Chelsea team that must be wishing they hadn’t fired Graham Potter last month, Bournemouth may have the ideal opportunity to continue their recent string of victories. Since taking over temporarily for the Blues, Frank Lampard has managed ten consecutive competitive defeats for the first time in the English top division since 1988. The Blues have scored just two goals and lost all six of their games in all competitions.
As a result of the most recent of these setbacks, a humiliating 3-1 London derby loss to Arsenal on Wednesday night. Chelsea is currently has 39 points, faces the possibility of failing to reach 50 points in the top flight for the first time in 32 years. In addition, they risk losing five straight Premier League games for the first time since 1993, thus Lampard, who acknowledges that “we can’t change things overnight,” will be anxious to see his team get back on track and avoid being passed by their hosts in the standings.
With his two goals against Leeds the last time out, Jefferson Lerma has now scored in six of his last nine games for the Cherries (D2, L1). Against Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa, who has only managed one clean sheet in his last 13 away games (W2, D3, L8), he will be looking to add to that record.
Marcus Tavernier (hamstring), Ryan Fredericks (calf), and Junior Stanislas (unspecified) are the three Bournemouth players who are still out injured. Chris Mepham (hamstring), Kieffer Moore (head), and Hamed Traore (foot) are all questionable and will be evaluated before kickoff.
Adam Smith, Marcos Senesi, Lloyd Kelly, and Matias Vina make up O’Neil’s back four. However, he also has the option to switch to a back five, in which case either Jack Stephens or Illya Zabarnyi would start at center back.
With Philip Billing playing the No. 10 position behind Dominic Solanke in the center of the field, Dango Ouattara and Ryan Christie are expected to keep their positions on the flanks.
Reece James (hamstring), Mason Mount (pelvic), and Armando Broja (knee) are all sidelined for the remainder of the season for Chelsea, while Kalidou Koulibaly and Marc Cucurella (both hamstring) are also recuperating in the medical facility.
Ben Chilwell and Cesar Azpilicueta are anticipated to play as either full backs or wing backs in the absence of both James and Cucurella, although Lampard may decide to remain with a flat back four.
Noni Madueke, who scored his first goal for Chelsea in the loss at Arsenal, will be hoping for a second straight start on the right wing, while either Havertz or Joao Felix could be recalled in attack in place of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who had a disastrous midweek performance against his former club.
Bournemouth possible starting lineup
Neto, Smith, Senesi, Kelly, Vina, Lerma, Rothwell, Ouattara, Billing, Christie and Solanke.
Chelsea possible starting lineup
Kepa, Azpilicueta, W. Fofana, Silva, Chilwell, Kante, Fernandez, Kovacic, Madueke, Havertz and Mudryk.
We predict: Bournemouth 2-1 Chelsea
December, Chelsea defeated Bournemouth without a hitch. Since then, however, a lot has changed, and the two clubs enter the rematch on Saturday in quite different states of play, raising the possibility of a closer game at the Vitality Stadium.
We think the Cherries can continue their impressive run by earning all three points as they make one final push to virtually guarantee their Premier League place for the upcoming season because the Blues lack both confidence and direction under the current management.