Chelsea host Bournemouth in the Premier League on Boxing Day with Antonio Conte’s high-flyers eyeing their 12th straight win.
Currently six point clear at the top, the Italian’s men are without doubt the best team in the league at the moment, and will definitely fancy their chances against the Cherries at home.
Bournemouth have been going solidly themselves in the league this season. They currently lie 10th in the table, are comfortably away from the relegation zone and one win away from potentially sneaking into the top half.
Eddie Howe’s side always try to play attractive football, but will face a stern test if they are to take anything away from the Blues, who are firm favourites to win the game.
Chelsea will be hoping to extend their lead at the top of the table, with second-placed Liverpool hosting Stoke City. History certainly suggests a Blues win – they haven’t lost a Boxing Day league game since 2003 (W6 D5 L0).
In the same fixture last year, Bournemouth stunned Chelsea by beating them 1-0 at Stamford Bridge. It took the Cherries out of the bottom three, and left champions Chelsea languishing in 14th – 14 points adrift of the Champions League places.
The result left Jose Mourinho on the brink after the shock defeat, and the Portuguese received his marching orders two weeks later.
Howe’s men were able to climb out of the relegation zone with the win, which came about thanks to a late strike from Glenn Murray after Chelsea failed to clear their lines from a corner.
Interestingly, star of the current season Diego Costa began that game on the bench, only to be summoned at half-time.
Callum Wilson vs David Luiz
Wilson should start up front for the Cherries and will face a tough test against David Luiz. The Brazilian star has been in fine form over the course of Chelsea’s winning run, earning a slot in Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher’s teams of the season so far.
As Chelsea’s quickest centre-half, Conte might ask him to look after Wilson who has pace to burn. The Englishman will be hoping to run in behind, with Jack Wilshere supplying the ammunition.
Eden Hazard vs Adam Smith
Chelsea’s number 10 usually begins games out on the left, but is known for drifting in-field as matches progress. Adam Smith could be Bournemouth’s right-back on Boxing Day with Howe needing to reshuffle his defence due to the ineligible Nathan Ake. Hazard has been in fine form this season, and could enjoy success against Smith.
Bournemouth will look at Chelsea’s team sheet on Boxing Day with a slight sigh of relief, with the hosts unable to field Premier League top scorer Diego Costa and influential midfielder N’Golo Kante due to suspension. The duo have both accumulated too many yellow cards and will miss the clash with the Cherries. Club captain John Terry is still out with a gluteal strain.
Lewis Cook remains sidelined for Bournemouth, but they could have Junior Stanislas and Andrew Surman back for the clash. Stanislas has been recovering from an ankle injury since the beginning of the month while Surman has been out since October with a hamstring trouble.
Predicted Line Ups
Chelsea (3-4-3): Courtois/Luiz, Cahill, Azpilicueta/Moses Fabregas, Matic, Alonso/Willian, Batshuayi, Hazard.
Bournemouth (4-2-3-1): Boruc/Smith, Francis, Cook, Daniels/Gosling, Arter/ King, Wilshere, Pugh/Wilson.
Prediction: Chelsea are missing two of their biggest stars in Costa and Kante but should have enough to get over the line at Stamford Bridge. While Bournemouth can make for tough opposition when they have the ball, Chelsea’s defence is so strong at the moment that Howe’s men might not be allowed to play their usual game.
PREDICTED SCORE: 2-0 Chelsea.