Bournemouth vs. Chelsea
Venue: Vitality Stadium
Kick off: 4PM
Chelsea make the trip to the Vitality Stadium to face Bournemouth this afternoon holding a three-point advantage in the race for fourth spot in the Premier League.
After Chelsea had deservedly got the better of Tottenham Hotspur last weekend, Frank Lampard talked up the performance of his team, who had strengthened their hold of fourth place.
However, courtesy of a 3-0 defeat at the hands of Bayern Munich in the Champions League three days later, the Blues boss was not shy in criticising his players after they had been outclassed in front of their own supporters.
Contrasting post-match interviews have been a common theme for Lampard this season with his team struggling for consistency, and being easily brushed aside by Bayern highlighted how far away that the West Londoners are from the top teams in Europe.
Although the short-term objective is to qualify for next season’s competition, Lampard must find a solution to the varying levels of performances, not helped by injuries to key attacking players.
In the absence of the injured Christian Pulisic and Callum Hudson-Odoi, Mason Mount has been forced to occupy a slightly different role in the final third, providing him with more freedom to influence the match.
Despite impressing against Spurs, Mount’s decision-making was poor against Bayern, something which has blighted this Chelsea side throughout the campaign.
From a defensive perspective, Chelsea were fortunate to only concede three times against their German opponents, with the backline having now kept just seven clean sheets from 39 matches since Lampard’s arrival last summer.
Given the amount of time he has now spent with his players, Lampard would have expected bigger improvements than he has witnessed, and that will need to change over the coming months if Chelsea are going to achieve any of their objectives for the season.
At a time when the West Londoners have found themselves on the slide, Eddie Howe has seen his team manage to get themselves out of the drop zone courtesy of victories against Brighton & Hove Albion and Aston Villa.
Nevertheless, the Cherries manager is aware that the club are fortunate not to be back among the bottom three after more setbacks at Sheffield United and Burnley respectively.
While there is an argument that Bournemouth were on the receiving end of two debatable VAR calls last weekend, ones which ultimately effected the game, Howe would have been concerned with the capitulation of his team during the second half at Turf Moor.
The negative momentum swing from thinking that they had netted an equaliser through Harry Wilson to the technology awarding a penalty at the other end was natural enough, but the defeat was Bournemouth’s 12th in 16 matches.
As a result of the form of their rivals, the South-coast outfit remain two points above the safety line, and there will be motivation to extend that cushion with Aston Villa competing in the EFL Cup final this weekend.
Despite the tough set of fixtures remaining for the season, Howe may feel that an occasion such as the one today is perfect for his players as they attempt to rediscover the confidence they played with during the early part of the season.
Seven points have also come from their last four matches at their home ground ahead of meetings with the Blues, Crystal Palace and Newcastle United.
Although their away form is as bad as any team in the division, Howe knows that picking up at least six points from their upcoming matches at the Vitality Stadium could prove to be the difference come the middle of May.
Bournemouth possible XI: Ramsdale, Smith, Cook, Ake, Rico, Gosling, Lerma, Billing, H.Wilson, C.Wilson, King.
Chelsea possible XI: Caballero, James, Zouma, Rudiger, Azpilicueta, Barkley, Jorginho, Kovacic, Willian, Mount, Giroud.