Alex Keble says the Blues can't afford to facilitate the struggling Brazilian against a well-organised Tigers side...
Amid a peculiarly-stagnant period characterised by lingering doubts over the consistency of Jose Mourinho's selection policy, a seemingly simple encounter with Hull has begun to look like a tricky fixture.
The Tigers' extremely deep five-man defence creates a congested penalty area that will need a clever attacking midfielder to break down, and who Chelsea choose to employ in this role could prove decisive.
Chelsea have failed to score more than a single goal in nine of their last 12 matches in all competitions, and have drawn or lost seven of these games.
A key component of this record has been the drop in Oscar's form; the Brazilian hasn't carved out a chance in five of his last six league matches, and yet has remained on Mourinho's team sheet. It may be time that, amid mounting criticism for the mental fatigue that could explain their loss of form, another player is tried in this position.
In the last 10 league matches only once has Oscar not started in attacking midfield. Against Everton in February, Willian excelled in this role instead, making three key passes, scoring the winning goal and enjoying a hefty 83 touches. This is far in excess of Oscar's average of 55 touches in his last five games.
Willian was the focal point of this game, helping his team dominate (57% possession) and create numerous chances (21 shots on goal).
Willian's intricate passing will be needed to break down a nine-man defensive set-up that will sit very deep, leaving almost no gaps between the lines of five and four. In their last match against top-four opposition – away at Manchester City – Hull held just 29% possession, yet were only denied all three points by James Milner's injury-time free-kick.
Note how deep Hull's defensive actions were, and the amount of time their players spent camped in their own half.
Hull play four of the top five at the KC stadium between now and the end of the season, as part of a challenging run-in that includes away trips to Tottenham and Southampton. This Saturday's match is the first test of whether they possess the organisation and mental strength to continue earning points against the big teams.
Unless Oscar can rediscover his form, or Mourinho removes him from the starting line-up, Hull might just back themselves to hold out for a point.