The FourFourTwo Preview: Swansea vs Chelsea
Can The Special One cure Chelsea's recent bout of travel sickness?
- Swansea 1-1 West Ham (Prem)
- Tranmere 2-6 Swansea (FAC)
- QPR 1-1 Swansea (Prem)
- Liverpool 4-1 Swansea (Prem)
- Swansea 1-0 Villa (Prem)
- Chelsea 2-0 Newcastle (Prem)
- Chelsea 3-0 Watford (FAC)
- Spurs 5-3 Chelsea (Prem)
- So’ton 1-1 Chelsea (Prem)
- Chelsea 2-0 West Ham (Prem)
There's some scrappy talk coming out of the Liberty Stadium at the present.
Forget the fact that Chelsea are riding high in the title race and have, for the most part, dispensed with several teams while operating in second gear (Swansea among them, who were knocked off their perch at the top of the table in September during a 4-2 thrashing) because the Swans' left-back Neil Taylor likes his chances against Jose Mourinho's swashbucklers.
"It's a difficult game for us against a team who are looking to win the league," he says. "But we fancy ourselves at home. Nobody comes here and gets an easy game. We've beaten big teams here before and that's what we want to do again."
Given the top-of-the-range attacking talent at Chelsea's disposal, it might be an idea for Taylor to keep the sabre-shaking to a minimum.
Yes, Chelsea have looked a little ragged away from home of late, drawing with Southampton and suffering a spanking at White Hart Lane, but these results are hardly symptomatic of a malaise.
Both Spurs and Saints harbour top four ambitions and carry the personnel to execute, while Mourinho played a fairly unchanged side throughout the hectic Christmas period.
A number of his key players - the pivotal, Nemanja Matic in particular - appeared jaded. Chelsea's recent 2-0 win over Newcastle at Stamford Bridge, while seeming a little ragged, will have steadied any insecurities.
Sure, there are defensive issues for Mourinho to consider - the finger injury to Thibaut Courtois that sidelined him (precautionary) for the Newcastle game; fatigue among his centre-halves - but Garry Monk's plans of an upset have since been dealt a heavy blow with the sale of Wilfried Bony to Manchester City.
He'd do well to shush his player's bravado: rattling a cage can sometimes end in a mauling, no matter how knackered the animal snoring inside.
Chelsea are without Cesar Azpilicueta through a groin injury. Courtois, while nursing a finger injury, is fit to play if required. For Swansea, Jonjo Shelvey serves the last of a four-match ban following his red card at Liverpool. They're also without Jefferson Montero with a hamstring strain.
Player to watch: Petr Cech (Chelsea)
Such is the strength-in-depth at Stamford Bridge, that when Courtois is sidelined as a precaution, they're able to plug a 'keeper as unflappable as Cech into the network. The former Blues No.1 responded brilliantly, keeping a clean sheet in a 2-0 win over Newcastle.
He stood up to sustained periods of pressure, too. Chelsea's opponents dominated much of the first half until Diego Costa and Oscar popped up with goals. On the evidence of that performance, Cech still possesses both the agility and calming influence to shield his defenders from any breaches. Should he be required - either as first choice or backup - his presence brings heavy comfort to Mourinho.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- Chelsea 4-2 Swans (PL, Sep 14)
- Swans 0-1 Chelsea (PL, Apr 14)
- Chelsea 1-0 Swans (PL, Dec 13)
- Chelsea 2-0 Swans (PL, Apr 13)
- Swans 0-0 Chelsea (LC, Jan 13)
Mourinho has constructed a wall of media silence following a charge from the FA for misconduct (after rather spicy comments in the wake of Chelsea's 1-1 draw with Southampton). According to The Telegraph: "Mourinho is now understood to have informed the FA that he will deny the claim that his remarks had alleged or implied bias by the officials or brought the game into disrepute." Some knuckle-rapping seems inevitable, especially if he insists on blanking the press again here - pre and post-match interviews are a requirement under Premier League rules.
Monk has warned his team they'll have to adjust to the style of Bafetimbi Gomis in light of Bony's sale. "I've got 100% faith in Bafe and I think you saw from his performance, he was pushing the team and trying to get his goals," he said after the draw with West Ham. "Bony uses his strength to his advantage and is a different type of striker. The more game time Bafe gets, the more used the team will get when we're playing him."
Facts and figures
- Swansea’s woodwork has been struck 14 times this season, more than any other club.
- Chelsea have seen 6 opposition players red carded this season, more than any other team.
- Swansea have dropped more league points from winning positions than any other team (16).
More FFT Stats Zone facts
Chelsea to maintain their lead at the top with a tight away win. 0-1.