Chelsea vs. Cardiff City
Venue: Stamford Bridge
Kick off: 3PM
Maurizio Sarri has a chance to extend his perfect start to life at Chelsea with a fifth Premier League win in a row when his side play host to Cardiff City today.
The Blues are one of three perfect sides at the top of the division, along with Liverpool and surprise package Watford, and will consider this a home banker of sorts against a winless Cardiff side.
Despite the early praise, though, Sarri remains realistic and acknowledges that it will be “very difficult” to make up the 30 point gap on champions Manchester City from last season, with Chelsea finishing outside of the Champions League spots last time out.
Confidence will certainly be high after seeing off Huddersfield Town, Arsenal, Newcastle United and Bournemouth, and that momentum will be key as the Blues have games in three competitions to balance from next week – the Premier League, Europa League and EFL Cup.
As well as facing Cardiff, West Ham United and Liverpool in the top flight, Sarri must also prepare his players for their opening Europa clash with PAOK and the tricky trip to Anfield in the third round of the EFL Cup before the month is out.
All focus for now is on today’s visit of Cardiff, and the omens make for good reading if you are a Chelsea fan.
The capital club have lost just one of their last 51 home league games against a promoted side – against Bournemouth in December 2015 – and have dropped points in only nine of those matches.
Sarri’s famed style of play is already clear to see at Stamford Bridge, with 2,996 passes being attempted so far this term and 2,677 of them being completed – the most of any Premier League side.
Cardiff, in contrast, are not afraid to get the ball forward in as few passes as possible. It is a formula that has worked perfectly for Neil Warnock down the years, not least in guiding the Bluebirds to just a second Prem promotion last season.
That is not to say that the Welsh outfit intend to park the bus against the big sides.
To the contrary, in fact, as Warnock has already stated that City will give it a real go at Stamford Bridge, much like they did at home to Arsenal a fortnight ago.
Cardiff were unfortunate not to take anything away from the match after twice battling back from a goal down, only to come unstuck for a third time late on when Alexandre Lacazette rifled the ball past Neil Etheridge at his near post.
There were many positives for Warnock to take out of that last outing, namely his side finally getting off the mark with their first goals at the fourth attempt, having been shut out by Bournemouth, Newcastle United and Huddersfield Town.
Two points from four outings is a rather mixed return, and it is difficult to see where further points are going to come from, as this weekend’s trip to Chelsea is quickly followed by matches against four other members of last season’s top seven in their next five games.
With nothing to lose, though, both in terms of this afternoon and the season as a whole, Warnock’s Cardiff will give it their all in an attempt to pull off a major shock.
Chelsea possible XI: Kepa, Alonso, Luiz, Rudiger, Azpilicueta, Kovacic, Jorginho, Kante, Hazard, Morata, Pedro.
Cardiff City possible XI: Etheridge, Manga, Morrison, Bamba, Bennett, Camarasa, Arter, Ralls, Hoilett, Reid, Ward.