Usually when Chelsea are off our screens for six weeks, I can hardly wait for the team to get back into action. This time, it feels a bit different. Certainly a lot more apprehensive, more ambivalent than usual. More than a fair bit of trepidation, and that’s not a feeling I’m used to when it comes to this club.
Not sure if all that’s due to the coach, our recent results before the break, our just 2022 overall. Suspect it’s a combination of everything, including the joy of watching a surprisingly entertaining World Cup without a proverbial dog in the fight. Welcome back, hurt feelings!
But it’s that emotional attachment that inspires us all to keep watching. Courage!
Date / Time: Tuesday, December 27, 17.30 GMT; 12:30pm EST; 11pm IST
Venue: Stamford Bridge, SW6
Referee: Simon Hooper (on pitch); David Coote (VAR)
On TV: none (UK); USA Network, Universo (USA); Star Sports Select HD1 (India); SuperSport Premier League (NGA); elsewhere
Streaming: Amazon Prime (UK); NBC Sports Live, Universo Now (USA); Hotstar (India): DStv Now (NGA)
Chelsea team news: Despite the lengthy break and none of our players at the World Cup getting (physically) hurt beyond Christian Pulisic’s brief hospital visit (and us learning about pelvic contusions), our injury situation hasn’t really improved. We do have Reece James back, which is obviously huge, and it seems like Kepa Arrizabalaga has also recovered, so we’ll see if he can recover his miraculous October form as well.
But Wesley Fofana is injured again (knee reaggravated), Armando Broja is lost for at least the season (ACL surgery), and Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Mason Mount are carrying knocks — though the latter should be minor. N’Golo Kanté and Ben Chilwell were always going to be out until later in the season, and they remain out until later in the season. And Mateo Kovačić and Hakim Ziyech were still involved on the final weekend of the World Cup, so they’ve been given extra rest and will not be available for selection. Youngsters Omari Hutchinson and Lewis Hall have been constants in training, which might bode well for them.
The holiday period is always a busy time, but our schedule isn’t really all that strenuous, with just a standard load of six games in the next three weeks, with a standard 3-4 days of rest in between games. And the first two games back, Bournemouth at home and Nottingham Forest away — two of the three newcomers to the league this season — are as easy as it gets, with Fulham away also on tap after back-to-back tests against Manchester City (league and FA Cup). Winning may not be as big of a priority as we’ve become used to, but really, no excuses here.
AFC Bournemouth team news: The Cherries finished second in the Championship last season, losing just eight games all year, to earn automatic promotion back into the big time after a brief absence. But unsurprisingly, it’s been a bit of a struggle for them this season, with a 9-0 defeat to Liverpool in the fourth match costing Scott Parker his job. The new manager bounce under Gary O’Neil saw them unbeaten in six, before a four-match losing streak was stopped just before the break with a 3-0 win over still-struggling Everton.
Thanks in part to that 9-0 defeat (part of a three-match losing streak against Manchester City, Arsenal, and Liverpool by a combined 16-0 scoreline), Bournemouth have the worst defensive record in the league (maybe they shouldn’t have let Gary Cahill leave and retire?). But they have scored more goals than we have (albeit having played one more game): former Chelsea prospect Dom Solanke has three goals, one less than leading scorers Philip Billing and Kieffer Moore.
Bournemouth already played a game since the World Cup, losing to Newcastle in the League Cup Round of 16, 1-0. Goalkeeper Neto and midfielder David Brooks remain out, while Jefferson Lerma, Marcus Tavernier, Lloyd Kelly, and Ryan Fredericks are various degrees of questionable for this game.
Previously: This is our first competitive game against Bournemouth since their relegation in 2020, a season in which they took four points off of us, including a 1-0 win at the Bridge in December 2019. A Marcos Alonso double rescued a point later that season in the away fixture, in early days of Thomas Tuchel’s tenure. In fact, we have won just once against the Cherries in our last five league meetings. Pedro and Eden Hazard scored in that game, part of Maurizio Sarri’s unbeaten start to life at the Bridge.