A placeholder before a bigger game in two days' time - for both sides.
The second coming isn't turning out quite the way Chelsea
planned it. Jose Mourinho's side are far from out of the title race but nor are they the dominant force many expected, even in the lesser games: it's been six games since the Blues won by more than one goal, in a run including off-menu defeats to Stoke and Sunderland.
- Arsenal 0-0 Chelsea (Prem)
- Sunderland e2-1 Chelsea (LC)
- Chelsea 2-1 Palace (Prem)
- Chelsea 1-0 Steaua (CL)
- Stoke 3-2 Chelsea (Prem)
- Swansea 1-2 Everton (Prem)
- Norwich 1-1 Swansea (Prem)
- St Gallen 1-0 Swansea (EL)
- Swansea 1-1 Hull (Prem)
- Swansea 3-0 Newcastle (Prem)
Table-topping tussles catch the media eye but what champions do, as Mourinho well knows, is win the majority of games you'd expect them to. You don't get any more points for beating Arsenal than Swansea, so the South Walians can't expect the Blues to be focusing on Sunday's Stamford Bridge summit meeting with Liverpool.
True, Mourinho may opt to rotate his squad - but that's hardly a disaster when you consider how rich and deep his options are in attacking midfield – Oscar, Eden Hazard, Juan Mata, Willian, Kevin de Bruyne and Andre Schurrle, and that's without wheeling Old Man Lampard forward from the deep – and conversely how interchangeably lacklustre his front-runners can be.
How Michael Laudrup must wish for such options. Swansea's is not a deep squad, and participating in the pan-continental Europa League hasn't helped. His side have been notably if understandably less dangerous since injury dogged key forwards Wilfried Bony and Michu, the latter of whom may have to undergo surgery.
Still, the Swans have bobbed along serenely in mid-table, never quite getting drawn into the relegation scrap which seems to be involving half the division below them. That could happen over Christmas if they're not careful - they've also got to face Man City on New Year's Day - but despite a reasonable recent record against Chelsea, including the League Cup semi-final victory at Stamford Bridge last season which made Europe possible, you sense Laudrup may be more confident of, and more focused on, beating tabular near-neighbours Aston Villa on Saturday. And could you blame him?
Swansea have to decide whether to keep flogging Michu or book him in for ankle surgery. Tiny midfielder Nathan Dyer's definitely out (ankle ligament), as is goalkeeper Michel Vorm (knee), while it might be a touch too early to risk striker Alvaro Vazquez (groin) or veteran defender Garry Monk.
So it must irk Swansea that their hosts, overflowing with players, have no injury problems bar Marco van Ginkel, who's out for ages, and Ryan Bertrand, who's so out the door in January that Mourinho would rather play a right-back on the wrong side.
Player to watch: Jose Cañas (Swansea)
Not a name as widely heralded as those he'll face but if Swansea are to have a hope, the Spaniard must excel in the defensive midfield role. Against Everton he was the top man for ball recoveries while only Gareth Barry made more passes - but against the likes of his compatriot Juan Mata, the former Betis player may need to contribute more tackles and interceptions, as he did at Norwich the previous weekend.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- Chelsea 2-0 Swansea (PL, Apr 13)
- Swansea 0-0 Chelsea (LC, Jan 13)
- Chelsea 0-2 Swansea (LC, Jan 13)
- Swansea 1-1 Chelsea (PL, Nov 12)
- Swansea 1-1 Chelsea (PL, Jan 12)
Both are yer suave continental types who've helped Real Madrid overcome an apparently unconquerable Barcelona and helped spread a little exotic excitement to boring old Britain. Which is nice of them.
TIPS & TRENDS
Sponsored by BetButler.co.uk
Facts and figures
- Despite Chelsea’s shaky form they have won seven of their last 10 home fixtures with middle-third clubs, drawing the other 3.
- Only Man City have picked up more points at home than Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea (22).
- The Portuguese manager is also defending a 68-match unbeaten home run in the Premier League, a record.
- Swansea have won just 1 of their last 5 league matches and have lost 8 of their last 10 away encounters with top-six clubs.
- They have won only twice in their 13 matches against the Blues in all competitions.
More FFT Stats Zone facts • Find the best odds with Bet Butler
A fairly mechanical Chelsea win, who may extend their lead later on if their subs have a point to prove. 2-0.