Chelsea must return to winning ways in the Premier League as they look to consolidate their position in the top four. They welcome Bournemouth to Stamford Bridge, who have shown improvement in recent weeks, with a win over Arsenal being a highlight for Eddie Howe’s men. Meanwhile, the Blues have struggled and their victory over Newcastle United at the weekend was only their second win during ninety minutes in their last eight fixtures. Considering they won the league title last season, their decline has been a troubling one.
The Blues are currently five points clear of Tottenham in fifth position and are ahead of three of their rivals. However, their drop-off in form means that they are far from certain to keep hold of their Champions League position. At the time of writing, they remain in a good position, but they will have to show improvement on the pitch. The return of Cesc Fabregas should help as he will provide creativity from midfield. In recent matches, they have been too reliant on Eden Hazard to provide the goals.
Bournemouth remain one of the teams locked in a relegation fight, but they are in 12th position and gained momentum during the last month. It will always be an achievement for the Cherries to remain in the top-flight and Eddie Howe knows that. The manager never allowed his players to get affected by their poor start and there will now be optimism that they can increase the gap to the bottom three. That currently stands at three points, but their goal difference of -11 means that have an advantage over several other sides in the bottom half.
David Luiz has struggled with an ankle injury and he is a major doubt for the mid-week fixture, while Willian is struggling to play a part with a hamstring injury. Alvaro Morata remains on the sidelines with a back injury, but Chelsea remain hopeful that Thibaut Courtois can return to start against Bournemouth.
Harry Arter could be passed fit, despite struggling with an illness in recent days. Jermain Defoe and Tyrone Mings remain long-term absentees.
Despite being 15 points behind the league leaders, Chelsea currently have the joint-best defensive record in the league as they have conceded only 16 times.
Bournemouth are unbeaten in their last five Premier League matches and they will be looking to maintain that momentum with a good showing on Wednesday.
Chelsea always look a more effective team with the French international on the pitch. He has emerged as one of the most consistent performers in the Premier League since arriving in England. Although Kante won’t win his third successive league title, he has had another strong campaign to date and his improvement on the ball has been clear. The midfielder is not likely to create a bucket-load of chances, but he is more effective in possession and regularly picks the right pass, as shown by his pass success rate of 89%. Since arriving in this country, his ball-winning skills have been lauded and they remain at a high level this season. The 26-year-old averages 3.3 tackles and 2 interceptions per match, while his discipline has improved. He has only two yellow cards to his name this campaign. Bournemouth are a team that work hard and the energy of Kante will be crucial to winning the battle in the centre of the park.
The 23-year-old has been very impressive during recent weeks and played an integral part in Bournemouth’s climb up the league table. His diminutive stature suggests that he should struggle in a physical league such as the Premier League, but he is powerful for his size and tenacious when it comes to battling against an opposition defender. During his last three Premier League matches, Fraser has three goals and one assist to his name. There are few players that are in better form and he will be looking to extend that good run with a contribution against Chelsea. He showed that he can do well against a top-six side as he got an assist against Arsenal. If he can continue to show consistency in the final third, the Cherries should steer clear of trouble.
Chelsea will be going into this fixture with all the pressure. They were clinical against Newcastle United, but they were far from their free-flowing best and Bournemouth have the ability to unsettle them early on. The return of Cesc Fabregas could be important if he is chosen to start. During recent matches, the Blues have been predictable to play against as they rely on Hazard to make things happen in the attacking half. The Belgian is talented, but he can’t be asked to do everything for the current champions. A home win is the most likely result, but the away side have a chance of causing an upset.