Antonio Conte will be looking for his Chelsea side to perform well against a Bournemouth side that sits 19th in the Premier League table.
Eddie Howe’s side come into this game with a string of good results since the international break and will be buoyed by last weekend’s hard-fought win over Stoke. Chelsea, too, have returned to winning ways in recent outings, with consecutive wins only marred by an exciting 3-3 clash with Roma in the Champions League last week.
Many will say that they were lucky to come away with a point against the Italian side and the 4-2 beating of Watford flattered the Blues. Conte will be desperate to add a performance to the victories, especially with his job coming under increased scrutiny. The media continue to tip Carlo Ancelotti for a return to Stamford Bridge, and as you can imagine, this has not gone down well with the current Chelsea boss.
The west London side trail league leaders Manchester City by nine points and this weekend is a must-win as a tricky period approaches. Five out of the next six fixtures are away from home, with the only respite at the Bridge against Manchester United.
Both teams face injury problems in Saturday’s late kickoff on the south coast.
N’Golo Kante and Victor Moses remain on the sidelines with hamstring injuries, meaning another week of unsettled midfield selection. The latter is nearly back to fitness and Conte will be hoping to have him available for the trip to Rome on Tuesday. Danny Drinkwater, meanwhile, is unlikely to start after his debut in the League Cup win over Everton in midweek.
Keep an eye out for Tiemoue Bakayoko, who is sporting a rather gregarious blue haircut that will hopefully inspire the travelling fans.
Josh King could again miss out for the Cherries he has been sent for a scan on a fresh back problem, which comes after recovering from a virus.
Howe will be happy to bring Jermaine Defoe into the squad, perhaps as a replacement for King. The England striker has been out with a hamstring problem but he could be crucial if the home side is to celebrate a result. Interestingly, Defoe is the only Premier League player to score for four different clubs against Chelsea – that’s Tottenham, West Ham, Sunderland and Portsmouth. Gary Cahill will have to marshal his troops carefully if his compatriot is on the pitch.
With no fresh injuries and little sign of Kate getting back to fitness, it is likely we will see no changes to the side that that hosted Watford last weekend.
Predicted Starting XI
Where the Game Will Be Won or Lost
Conte will want his team in control from the off to try to dominate a relegation-zone side. With pressure on the Italian, nothing but a convincing win will suffice. The fullbacks will likely push on while Fabregas gets on the ball to dictate play.
Bournemouth will not make it easy for the champions. Howe will want to press a fragile Chelsea confidence into mistakes and perhaps exploit a weakened midfield. The absence of Kante is huge for Chelsea as Bakayoko relies on his energy in defence. Without him, the tall Frenchman has looked exposed and Chelsea will want to retain possession to deal with the problem.
Both sides will be feeling confident but Conte looks particularly fired up this week so a potential fiery performance from his side should see a fairly comfortable victory.