Domestic football is back and for Chelsea, it's a trip to the seaside. Club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician look forward to a Sunday showdown at the Vitality Stadium...
Hopefully buoyed by success overseas, Chelsea’s internationals return to the fold targeting a third successive Premier League victory against Bournemouth (last achieved in October 2017).
That’s because we sealed one of just three league ‘doubles’ last season against the Dorset side: 2-0 home, 3-1 away. Prior to that clean sweep, though, the Cherries had earned a bogey club reputation as the Londoners claimed a single win and one draw from five awkward encounters.
Sunday’s meeting is the first of two in succession for the Blues in the 2pm time slot, last experienced in January at home to Crystal Palace, when Benoit Badiashile made his debut in a 1-0 win.
The FIFA break was ill-timed for Chelsea, who have waited a fortnight to banish the frustration of home defeat by Nottingham Forest last time out. However, more players are returning from injury and Mauricio Pochettino will hope his message to be more decisive in each box will take hold as the players enter a tougher run of fixtures.
A repeat of last season’s early opening header from Conor Gallagher at the Vitality Stadium would be handy against a side who are winless in eight league outings, starting with that Blues success in May.
For their part, Bournemouth are yet to score before the last 10 minutes of matches at what is now the second smallest stadium in the Premier League, ahead of Luton’s Kenilworth Road.
Mauricio Pochettino will hope none of his internationals has picked up a problem while away. He hopes to have South American middlemen Moises Caicedo and Enzo Fernandez available after their games finished in the early hours of Wednesday morning, before lengthy flights home.
As his side has laboured in front of goal, though, the head coach might be reassured by a flurry of success over the past week. Enzo opened Argentina’s account, Caicedo assisted a goal in Ecuador’s win, Malo Gusto and Noni Madueke did likewise for their respective U21 national sides, France and England, while Noni’s newest team-mate, Cole Palmer, who made a bright debut for the Blues before the break, scored one and set up another.
In the competitive wide areas, Madueke will hope his bright showing in the Carabao Cup means a game from the off, while Palmer will aim for a first start. Poch has demanded more regular and accurate shooting but will know quality must be built on aggression, energy and desire to secure his team’s first win on the road against hard-working hosts.
Visitors have found the Bournemouth net at least once in each of their last eight home league games and the Cherries are one of Raheem Sterling’s favourite opponents: he’s notched nine career league goals against them.
Selection options are increasing with centre-back Benoit Badiashile and striker Armando Broja available soon, and skipper Reece James and attacking midfielder Carney Chukwuemeka close on their heels. Yet to figure since his summer switch, Romeo Lavia’s absence has been extended by an ankle injury.
Opposition scout – Bournemouth
Former Rayo Vallecano coach Andoni Iraola has introduced an open style reminiscent of Marcelo Bielsa, for whom he played at Bilbao, but is winless after four matches in the Bournemouth dugout.
Predecessor Gary O’Neill’s low-risk approach involved defending solidly and counterattacking when possible. It left the Dorset club five points safe from the relegation places despite the second-worst goal difference of the 20 clubs.
Iraola’s 4-2-3-1 set-up is bolder and more proactive, pressing high with Ryan Christie’s energy and Antoine Semenyo’s inventiveness. That said, carelessness in passing and marking caused the hosts all sorts of problems when Tottenham were the visitors, and space behind their high defensive line was ruthlessly exposed by Brentford.
Already only three teams have conceded more times from set–plays, prompting fears of a repeat of last season, when the Cherries were picked 21 times in such situations, the highest in the division.
Like Forest, however, Bournemouth win the ball high upfield and create chances, and have trophy-laden Cobham graduate Dominic Solanke upfront and in good form.
Luis Sinisterra, a deadline day signing from Leeds, may make his bow, but Iraola could be without Ryan Fredericks, Emiliano Marcondes and Alex Scott. It is too soon for Tyler Adams and Dango Outtara.
Chelsea vs Bournemouth – the history
Chelsea’s maiden voyage to Bournemouth in the Premier League on 23 April 2016 became a pleasure trip largely because of the return to fitness and form of our Belgian maestro Eden Hazard.
Injury-free at last, the Blues’ no.10 scored in the league for the first time in 355 days, dispatching a Cesc Fabregas back-flick. The Londoners had already taken took control early on when a delightfully slick move ended with Fabregas finding Pedro, who made no mistake with a clipped finish.
The hosts pulled one back when Tommy Elphick’s bouncing header deceived Asmir Begovic, but the second half belonged to the visitors. On 70 minutes Willian was sent clear thanks, inevitably, to a Fabregas pass, and chipped Artur Boruc, then as the final whistle approached Nemanja Matic laid the ball back for Hazard’s second in a morale-boosting 4-1 victory.
Last season’s match followed a similar blueprint. This time it was a Conor Gallagher header from N’Golo Kante’s irresistible cross that broke the deadlock before Matias Vini equalised. After Kante left the field prematurely (his last appearance for Chelsea) it took a late rally to claim the three points. Badiashile volleyed home Hakim Ziyech’s free kick and Joao Felix finished a great slalom by Raheem Sterling for a 3-1 win.
The special third kit Chelsea will wear on the south coast this weekend is based on historic liveries worn by the Londoners in the early 1900s and mid-1980s.
Lord Cadogan, the new club’s first President in 1905, was not only a major local landowner but a huge sports fan and the lighter colour shirts worn by Chelsea players over the opening few seasons were in Eton blue – same as the silks sported by jockeys for Cadogan Racing.
The 1986/87 change strip in the club’s own-brand ‘Chelsea Collection’ recalled that lighter blue-green hue and became something of a cult classic when worn by Nevin, Dixon and co.
President Cadogan’s other contribution to our heritage is far more celebrated. The ‘lion rampant regardant’ that still appears on our shirt badges derives from his family’s coat of arms.
Brand new adversary
Former Rayo Vallecano boss Iraola has never managed or played against Chelsea before this weekend. That makes him the third such coach in a matter of weeks to face the Blues for the first time. The previous two, Rob Edwards of Luton Town and AFC Wimbledon’s Johnnie Jackson, were beaten 3-0 and 2-1 respectively.
This week Premier League teams published their final player roster for the next four months. The maximum number allowed on the list is 25, with eight places reserved for homegrowns, and there are 20 aged 22 or over on Chelsea’s main list.
Of course, any registered player born on or after 1 January 2002 is also eligible to play, whatever their training background, and the Blues’ Under-21 section is quite formidable, featuring regulars such as Carney Chukwuemeka, Levi Colwill, and Cole Palmer, as well as overseas-born youngsters like Malo Gusto, Ian Maatsen, and Lesley Ugochukwu.
For the victory against AFC Wimbledon in the Carabao Cup, Mauricio Pochettino fielded Chelsea’s youngest starting XI in almost 60 years, and the most youthful line-up of any Premier League team across all competitions this season.
The average age of our Carabao Cup starters was 22 years and 14 days, the lowest since an average of 21 years and 297 days old for the league visit of Liverpool on 4 December 1965. Among those picked by Tommy Docherty to face Bill Shankly’s side 57 years ago were seven former Chelsea Juniors: John Boyle, Peter Bonetti, Joe Fascione, Ron Harris, John Hollins, Peter Osgood and Terry Venables.
Centre-backs weighing in
The Chelsea Legends versus Bayern Legends match was a reminder of the value of the whole team chipping in with goals. Two of the veteran Blues’ four goals were scored by central midfielders Michael Essien and Tiago, but it was centre-backs John Terry and Gary Cahill who drove home the point.
Terry and Cahill netted 67 and 25 goals wearing the famous royal blue, while fellow Legends Frank Leboeuf (24) and William Gallas (14) bagged their share too. Thiago Silva has five to his name, Trevoh Chalobah four and summer signing Axel Disasi one, so this weekend would be as good as any for Levi Colwill to open his account. Badiashile actually chipped in during this fixture in May, but that is his sole contribution to date.