By Liam Grace
CHERRIES play host to the current Premier League champions Chelsea tomorrow at the Vitality Stadium.
Eddie Howe’s side will be looking to bounce back after slumping to back to back home defeats, against Liverpool and Manchester City respectively.
Chelsea’s form hasn’t been that much better, the Blues have picked up just one win in their last seven in all competitions, and last month crashed out of both the Champions League and FA Cup.
Just three points separate the two sides in the Premier League, with Chelsea massively under-performing this season after being heavily tipped to retain the Premier League trophy and Cherries over-achieving after being tipped for immediate relegation.
Cherries find themselves in 13th with the visitors in 10th going into this fixture.
Glenn Murray’s late header won Cherries the reverse fixture at Stamford Bridge in December, in what has been described as the most pivotal game in Bournemouth’s season. Cherries went on to go six Premier League games unbeaten and beat Manchester United the next week whilst Jose Mourinho was sacked as Chelsea boss.
Apart from that shock win, Chelsea have the upper hand in recent meetings. The Blues have won four of their previous six league and cup games against Bournemouth.
Bournemouth’s Adam Smith and Harry Arter are out with groin and Achilles injuries respectively. Callum Wilson could be set for his first start since September after coming off the bench in the previous two game following a long term ACL injury.
Chelsea will travel to the south coast without first team goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois. The Belgian international is suspended after being sent off against Manchester City last weekend with Asmir Begovic set to replace him.
Eden Hazard will face a late fitness test after recently returning from a hip injury.
AFC Bournemouth 0 Chelsea 1
Cherries have struggled at entertaining top sides at home this season. Eddie Howe’s men have slumped to home defeats to Arsenal, Tottenham, Manchester City and Liverpool already this season and I think Chelsea will follow a similar pattern. At home there is just a certain level of expectation which may be amplified with Cherries winning the reverse fixture against the Blues and losing their last few home games.
Chelsea’s form has also been significantly better on the road this season. The Blues have won five of their last seven away matches in the Premier League and have only conceded three goals away from home under Gus Hiddink.
Ultimately I think Chelsea will just about edge it in a closely fought match.