There looks to be a crisis pending at Stamford Bridge following a difficult couple of weeks for Chelsea. This weekend, they welcome Huddersfield Town and it is a match that they simply must win. The Terriers are rock bottom of the Premier League and staring relegation in the face. If the Blues fail to win on Saturday, it would be embarrassing and the pressure on Maurizio Sarri would grow significantly. The next month is crucial for the home side as they attempt to get their season back on track, with their league form needing to improve.
Chelsea made the most significant signing of any top six club in January as they agreed a loan deal for Argentine striker Gonzalo Higuain. The iconic striker looks to be lacking match fitness and that has been noticeable during his first two matches. He needs to get to grips with the physicality of the division quickly if he is to do the job that the team require. During the week, the Blues were humiliated by Bournemouth, losing 4-0 at the Vitality Stadium. It could have been more and the questions regarding the mentality of this squad were asked again by Sarri. It will be difficult for the Italian to turn this around based on Wednesday night.
Huddersfield Town look certainties to be relegated as they are currently 12 points from safety. It was unfortunate to see David Wagner depart the club earlier this season, but they have sourced an exciting replacement in Jan Siewert. The new manager is in a similar mould to the man that was so successful at the John Smith’s Stadium. It will be fascinating to see if he can have his own success at the club, albeit he will likely be preparing for a task of bringing the team back up next season. There were positive signs from his first game as manager, but they now need results.
- The defeat to Bournemouth was only the second time in Premier League history that Chelsea were defeated by a four-goal margin.
- Huddersfield have now failed to score in their last four matches.
The focus is now on qualifying for the Champions League. Chelsea dropped out of the top four on Wednesday night and they will be desperate that it was only a temporary position change. However, they will need a much higher level of performance to move back into the Champions League positions. Eden Hazard may not have a long-term future at Chelsea, but he is crucial to their short-term ambitions. If Sarri can find a way to keep things tight at the back and provide a platform for the Belgian to shine, that would be positive for the team. This season has been a positive one for the 28-year-old as he has contributed ten goals and ten assists in the Premier League. That said, the Blues need a lot more from him if they are to achieve the minimum objectives for the campaign. Huddersfield are the team at the bottom of the table and this is an opportunity for the home side to repair their dented confidence. Hazard could have a field day if the rest of his team deliver.
The Englishman has been a good addition for Huddersfield, as he provides Premier League experience and quality in the midfield areas. He has been a standout player in the matches since his arrival, despite the struggles of the team and he will be important for the rest of the season. The challenge of staying up looks difficult, but in Puncheon, they have a player that will be able to deliver in the big moments of matches. He was once a key player for Crystal Palace in the years that they established themselves in the Premier League. Huddersfield will be hoping that he can deliver for them over the coming months. It will be very hard for the Terriers to get anything this weekend, but if they are aggressive in their approach, they may have a chance. They must take the chances that come their way and Puncheon’s quality in the final third could be crucial.
Chelsea don’t have any injury concerns, but Sarri is facing selection problems for other reasons. Ruben Loftus-Cheek is pushing for a start, while Callum Hudson-Odoi will be hoping to be involved after missing out during the week. Marcos Alonso could return at left-back after a poor performance from Emerson Palmieri.
Phil Billing could be back for the visitors, which would be a huge boost as he provides real quality in the middle of the park when he is available. Isaac Mpenza is another player who will be hoping to be passed fit to feature against Chelsea.
It is very difficult to predict a Chelsea win with confidence in any fixture. Huddersfield can take confidence from the Bournemouth performance and look to play in a similar way. Although they lack the attacking quality of the Cherries, they will be confident that they can cause problems for the Blues. However, the home side should have enough to win this weekend, even if it is with a very underwhelming performance.
Chelsea 1-0 Huddersfield Town