A mismatched battle of blues as birds square up to lions.
Alisher Apsalyamov is not a name that rolls off the tongue, but it was certainly common currency on Cardiff City news feeds and forums over the international break. The 23-year-old former work experience lad was forcibly installed as the new head of recruitment by the Bluebirds hierarchy, meaning the end of Iain Moody, a trusted member of Malky Mackay’s backroom team.
The news left fans in disarray and had the rest of the football fraternity stuck in a cycle of pointing and laughing. Hardly the ideal preparation for a trip to Stamford Bridge. Somehow, Mackay needs to create cohesion from the chaos and get his side focused for kick-off.
Norwich 1-3 Chelsea (Prem)
Steaua 0-4 Chelsea (CL)
Spurs 1-1 Chelsea (Prem)
Swindon 0-2 Chelsea (LC)
Chelsea 2-0 Fulham (Prem)
Cardiff 1-2 Newcastle (Prem)
Fulham 1-2 Cardiff (Prem)
West Ham 3-2 Cardiff (LC)
Cardiff 0-1 Spurs (Prem)
Hull 1-1 Cardiff (Prem)
Chelsea welcome back a glittering array of players from international duty and pray to highest football gods that none of them got too knacked while running about a bit for their respective countries.
On paper and, quite frankly, off it, this is a mismatch that should see Chelsea run out comfortable winners. Expect to see Cardiff players on their bottoms and Chelsea players walking the ball into the net.
Ashley Cole was a high profile miss for the England team (thank goodness for the lamb-chopped Leighton Baines) and the left-back remains a doubt thanks to a rib injury. Fernando Torres is available for selection after recovering from knee ligament damage.
Cardiff have no new injury problems ahead of the game.
Key battle: Cardiff’s 4-5-1 vs Chelsea’s creative players
Packing the midfield and piling it down the right has been fairly effective for Cardiff so far this season. This tactic will come unstuck here as the Bluebirds face their biggest test on the road so far.
The Stats Zone screens show Cardiff’s tendency to play it long out of defence into the final third, resulting in plenty of incomplete passes. This is more a case of “get rid!” rather than any thought through tactic. If this approach continues it will look all the more crude when 5ft 9in Frazier Campbell is picked up by John Terry.
Packing the midfield is an effective tactic against many teams. But when the oppo can line up with the likes of Eden Hazard, Oscar, Mata et al, it won’t take long before it’s all unpicked and over.
Chelsea 4-1 Cardiff (FAC, Feb 10)
Cardiff 2-1 Chelsea (LC, Oct 86)
Cardiff 3-3 Chelsea (Div 2, Mar 84)
Chelsea 2-0 Cardiff (Div 2, Oct 83)
Chelsea 1-0 Cardiff (Div 2, Feb 82)
It’s been a trying couple of weeks for Mackay. Much of the talk at the beginning of this week implied he was due to leave the club, but a hastily called board meeting seems to have allayed those fears.
One imagines Jose Mourinho looking on from his West London lair with a certain melancholy, his opposite number laying exposed in this rather public way just makes the Cardiff gaffer a sitting duck for the Special One’s special ways. There will be a nagging doubt in the Portugese’s mind though… the Bluebirds' win over Man City will certainly have registered on the Jose Scale and he will have taken note.
Facts and figures
- Chelsea have won 10 and drawn one of their last 11 Premier League games at Stamford Bridge.
- Cardiff have kept a clean sheet in just one of their seven Premier League games so far.
- Chelsea have scored exactly two goals in each of their last eight home games in the Premier League.
- Cardiff glovesman David Marshall has made more saves than any other Premier League goalkeeper this season (31).
- Only four games have seen a side attempt 10 or more shots on target this season in the Premier League, two of which have been against Cardiff City (versus Spurs and Newcastle).
- Cardiff have averaged 54% possession away from home in the Premier League this season; well above their home possession rate (40%).
- Petr Cech will make his 300th Premier League appearance in this match if selected, becoming the third player to reach this landmark for the club (after Lampard and Terry).
- Eden Hazard has played more successful passes in the final third of the pitch than any other Premier League player in 2013-14 so far (135).
- Cardiff City have conceded four goals from outside the penalty area this season; a league-high.
- Chelsea are one of only two Premier League sides (along with Stoke City) for whom a striker has not scored a league goal this season.
Chelsea to run out 4-1 winners with the “1” coming as a post-80th minute consolation.
Chelsea vs Cardiff LIVE ANALYSIS with Stats Zone
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