With 11 straight wins behind them Chelsea look like a fearsome opponent for any team. Conte’s side will be confident of sweeping past Bournemouth even with a couple of key players sidelined through suspension. The Cherries meanwhile have been inconsistent for a few weeks, but did manage a surprise win against Liverpool recently. Can Bournemouth hold back the Chelsea tide?
Although they’ll face trickier teams than Bournemouth at Stamford Bridge this season, the Blues’ Boxing Day fixture poses an intriguing challenge. Chelsea will be without Diego Costa and N'Golo Kanté for the first time since they embarked on their 11-game winning streak.
There’s no doubt that these two have been key components in the side during the last three months. But just how vital is a question that might be answered on Monday.
Both players have started every league match this season. And the lack of rotation might mean that their replacements could need a little time to get going.
This is less likely to be the case for Cesc Fàbregas, who made a big contribution in the win at Sunderland.
But Michy Batshuayi has had to bide his time for matches, and is yet to start a league game for Chelsea, despite coming off the bench ten times this season.
Goals Drying Up
Although Chelsea were always in control last weekend they have been a little less fluent in the last few games. Opponents are coming up with plans to scupper their unusual formation, but none have worked so far, even if Sunderland and West Brom had their moments.
Chelsea are unlikely to drop points to Bournemouth or Stoke, but with a tough away game at Spurs coming up on 4 January Conte may opt to rest one or two players.
Something to note about the consummate win at Selhurst Park last weekend was that Chelsea saw less of the ball than in nearly all their other recent fixtures apart from City away.
This represents yet another string to the Blues’ bow, as they’re just as comfortable resting in front of that back three and picking off teams on the break. With two wing-backs like Marcos Alonso and Victor Moses, a defensive situation can be turned on its head in the blink of an eye.
Chelsea Predicted Teamsheet:
Courtois; Azpilicueta, David Luiz, Cahill; Moses, Fàbregas, Matić, Marcos Alonso; Pedro, Batshuayi, Hazard
The defeat at home to Southampton last Sunday was possibly Bournemouth’s worst showing all season. The Cherries were their usual vibrant selves in the first half, but their physical level plummeted after the break and they had no answer to the Saints’ tactical changes.
Eddie Howe could have done with a decent result going into a difficult Christmas schedule that includes matches against two top four teams.
Value for Money?
Bournemouth broke their transfer record when they brought in Jordon Ibe from Liverpool for £15m in the summer. But it’s fair to say that they got the raw end of the deal at this point.
Ibe has lost his place on the right to Adam Smith, who is a full-back by trade. And in 14 league appearances the 21-year-old is yet to score or assist a goal.
As Ibe is still young Howe will feel he can bring him on, but the wide positions have been a weak point for Bournemouth this season and they could have done with someone who could have made an instant impact.
Left a Loan
Nathan Aké has probably been the key man at Dean Court for the last couple of months. The young centre-half has been a revelation, scoring goals and marshalling the backline with real elegance.
He also kept the scoreline respectable on Sunday with a couple of goalline clearances. So it’s a worry that he’ll be unavailable to play against his parent club. Howe may even turn to Tyrone Mings, another expensive purchase who missed the whole of last season to injury.
Howe has mostly used Jack Wilshere just behind the striker, but in the last couple of fixtures experimented with him in front of the back four alongside Harry Arter. This combination has a lot going for it, but might be a bit leaky defensively.
Arter had a poor afternoon against Southampton, and there’s an obvious need for a specialist holder in the middle.
An option might be to play Wilshere on the right, where he has occasionally played for Arsenal. It will allow him to run with the ball more often as he likes to do, cutting inside to play angled passes for the attackers.
Stanislas a Loss
One thing’s for sure: Bournemouth pose much less of a threat when Junior Stanislas is out. Sadly for them the winger has only appeared in half of their matches this season, but often makes a difference when he’s around.
He’ll probably miss the Chelsea game, but should be back soon after. The obvious replacement, Max Gradel is also working his way back from a long-term absence, which leaves Bournemouth without much strength on the wings.
Predicted Bournemouth Lineup:
Boruc; Smith, Francis, Cook, Daniels; Arter, Wilshere; Gradel, King, Pugh; Wilson
When Will Chelsea vs Bournemouth Take Place?
The match kicks off at 15:00 GMT on Monday 26 December.
Chelsea vs Bournemouth Match Prediction
While Bournemouth are a match for any Premier League team when they’re firing, Howe’s side have a few structural problems to deal with at the minute. This isn’t good preparation for a match against a team that is aiming to break the competition’s consecutive wins record.
So we’re backing Chelsea to get the victory, even if they’ll be missing Diego Costa and N'Golo Kanté through suspension. Our prediction is a 2-0 home win as the Blues consolidate their grip on top spot for the time being.