Chelsea travel to Huddersfield for the inaugural Premier League meeting between the sides in what promises to be a stern test for Antonio Conte’s men. The Italian has bemoaned his team’s hectic schedule in recent weeks but with European progress now assured and the small matter of two matches against Barcelona to look forward to in the New Year, Chelsea need to focus on their domestic form if they are to maintain any sort of late charge towards regaining their Premier League title.
Huddersfield beat Brighton last time out and have only lost twice at home this season (to Manchester City and Tottenham) and managed to pull off a famous 2-1 victory over Manchester United at the John Smith’s Stadium back in November.
Chelsea struggled to hurt West Ham with their 3-4-2-1 formation and it remains to be seen if Antonio Conte may plump for another wide man in an attempt to break defensive units down. Most of Chelsea’s play comes through the congested middle of the pitch and teams are finding ways to deal with the threats Chelsea offer. Conte is famed for deploying 2 holding midfielders where possible but he could be tempted to play with a more expansive 3-4-3 formation with his team needing to win to keep pace.
Thibaut Courtois was well-beaten by Marco Arnautovic’s strike on Saturday, which was the 13th league goal he has conceded this term.
Three games a week isn’t something Antonio Conte likes to do with Gary Cahill, who could miss out here with Antonio Rudiger to come into the side to be flanked by Andreas Christensen and Cesar Azpilicueta in a solid-looking back three.
Victor Moses, Davide Zappacosta and Marcos Alonso have all been rotated in recent weeks and by virtue of the policy, it seems likely that Moses will start on the right and Alonso will start on the left at Huddersfield.
N’Golo Kante was one of very few bright sparks in the West Ham defeat and could combine alongside Cesc Fabregas in a two-man central midfield pairing with Tiemoue Bakayoko struggling for form and Danny Drinkwater taking tentative steps back from illness.
Alvaro Morata looks set to miss the game with a back problem meaning Chelsea could play without a recognised striker with Eden Hazard, Pedro and Willian tasked with providing pace, creativity and guile in forward areas.
Predicted Starting XI
Chelsea need to win this game, having dropped 16 points already this term – they look to have a mountain to climb to catch Manchester City so need to just concentrate on each game in front of them and hope for a slip-up or two from Pep Guardiola’s men. Huddersfield are a tough nut to crack at home and their fans will be relishing the opportunity to welcome the Champions into town and it could be a fiery encounter.
The absence of Morata could actually assist the Blues in this game; extra pace up front could be what is required to unlock a resolute Terriers defence and get the Blues a crucial three points as the festive period hots up.
Huddersfield Town 1 – 3 Chelsea