Chelsea are very fortunate to have lost just threee league matches so far this season. Antonio Conte’s team are, once again, on the brink of crisis. Their bi-annual meltdown is yet to reach full flow, but that could come with defeat on the south coast this Saturday.
Bournemouth, too, have had a rough start. Eddie Howe’s team got a crucial win at Stoke last weekend, but are still 19th. Their attack has yet to come close to the free-flowing, chance creating football that has been synonymous with them since their promotion to the Premier League. Only Burnley have created fewer goal scoring opportunities, in fact.
The title already looks out of Chelsea’s reach. The Blues do have a chance to make ground on Manchester United and/or Spurs this weekend, however. Maintaining their Champions League status has to be the primary goal for this Chelsea side. Falling out of Europe’s premier competition again would be a huge setback, and undoubtedly cost Conte his job.
Their defence has been a shambles of late. Watford should have scored more than twice, while Roma carved the Blues open with an ease that we did not see last season. Having conceded 10 already in the league, the 13/20 price on both teams to score is a good one. Bournemouth, whose attack found form in midweek, have a good chance of reigniting their play in the final third this weekend.
The absence of N’golo Kante is partly responsible for Chelsea’s fragility out of possession. Conte’s – albeit sometimes forced – rotation of his defence has unsettled a back line that thrived on familiarity last season. Where the 3-4-3 was once a strength, the wing-backs are being exposed and it is becoming a weakness.
One potential positive for the Blues this weekend will be Bournemouth’s defence. It’s seldom been secure in their Premier League seasons, but, perhaps most importantly, is unlikely to deliver the same kind of battering that Alvaro Morata has suffered on numerous occasions this season.
Morata was muscled and hounded into being substituted last weekend. A repeat of that is improbable, and the 41/50 price on the Spaniard to score against an error-prone defence is value.
Bournemouth will not be afraid to keep the ball against Chelsea. They rank ninth in the league on average possession, but 16th in shots per match. Patience with the ball has been a trademark of Howe’s side, though quick transition will be the best way to hurt the visitors.
The Blues thrive on sitting deep, absorbing pressure, and springing counters. Bournemouth could slip right into the sucker-punch trap if they are too cautious in possession.
Chelsea’s creativity has been short of its 2016/17 best thus far. Eden Hazard had great joy in this fixture last season, however, and could decide the match again if Bournemouth do not adapt. Chelsea to score over 3.5 goals is a standout price of 37/20.
The hosts are not the same side this season as they were last – for now at least – but this match still should provide goals. It certainly will not last on Match of the Day, let’s put it that way. Chelsea to win 3-1 at 10/1 is my shout, for what it’s worth.
TIP: Over 2.5 goals @ 16/25
*Odds subject to change - correct at time of writing*
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