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Preview: Bournemouth vs. Chelsea

Sports Mole previews the Premier League encounter at the Vitality Stadium between Bournemouth and Chelsea.

Bournemouth play host to Chelsea at the Vitality Stadium on Saturday evening having recorded back-to-back victories in all competitions over the course of the last seven days.

The same can be said of the visitors, but head coach Antonio Conte remains unhappy with the level of performances being produced by his squad.


A triumphant Eddie Howe after the Premier League game between Stoke City and Bournemouth on October 21, 2017© SilverHub

Bournemouth started this season with a run of four straight defeats in the Premier League but unlike at other clubs, there were never calls for manager Eddie Howe to be removed from his position in the dugout and the Cherries are now getting their rewards.

Howe himself will not be getting carried away with back-to-back wins over Stoke City and Middlesbrough in all competitions, but four victories and a draw from seven outings - the defeats coming away at Everton and Tottenham Hotspur - proves how the long-serving boss continues to be the perfect fit for his role at the Vitality Stadium.

Bournemouth are also capable of producing the goods on the south coast - three wins and a draw have been registered from their last four outings - but last weekend's 2-1 triumph at Stoke was the result that Howe had really been looking for.

Improvements had been made in the previous trips to Goodison Park and Wembley Stadium, but at the bet365 Stadium, Bournemouth started brightly, took their chances and extended a defensive record to five goals being conceded in half-a-dozen outings.

Bournemouth used to be considered weak at the back but they are now solid in all aspects of their play and if anything, the club's lack of quality has been in the final third rather in defence.

That may change with the return of Callum Wilson - who got through his first 90 minutes since January on Tuesday night - but Howe is unlikely to rush a player who remains his most highly-regarded number nine, despite competition from Jermain Defoe and Benik Afobe.

Recent form: LWLDLW
Recent form (all competitions): WLDLWW


Antonio Conte watches on intently during the Premier League game between Crystal Palace and Chelsea on October 14, 2017© Offside

With Chelsea sitting nine points off the pace in the Premier League table, all cannot be well at Stamford Bridge, but many associated with the club will be taking the positives from what has been a much better week.

At 2-1 down to Watford last weekend, it may have been perceived that Conte was heading closer towards the exit door but three goals in the final quarter of the game - two of which came from Michy Batshuayi - effectively maintained a small hope of challenging for the league title.

While Conte has been mocked for complaining about injuries -and the Italian has had to deal with a fair share of fitness problems - the bigger issues have come at the back with Chelsea sometimes looking all at sea.

The Blues have kept just one clean sheet in eight games in all competitions, with nine goals being shipped in their last five outings, and until that area is improved, Chelsea are likely to continue registering an inconsistent set of results.

Further forward, Alvaro Morata is yet to get back up to full speed since a hamstring injury, while Batshuayi - despite his two-goal salvo against Watford - still has work to do to convince Conte that he can be relied upon in the future.

Saturday's game comes after the likes of Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur have already played but regardless of their respective results, Chelsea cannot afford to slip up in a league match for the fourth time in six games and only a win will do on the south coast.

Recent form: WDWLLW
Recent form (all competitions): WLLDWW

Team News

N'Golo Kante in action during the Champions League game between Chelsea and Qarabag on September 12, 2017© SilverHub

Chelsea could be boosted by the return of N'Golo Kante, with the Frenchman having recovered from a hamstring injury sooner than expected.

Danny Drinkwater will likely return to the bench after playing an hour in midweek, while Conte will hope to be able to call upon Tiemoue Bakayoko after the midfielder sat out the last two games.

Afobe is likely to start in attack for the Cherries, with Wilson having to make do with a place on the bench.

Howe has suggested that Jack Simpson - who made his debut in the EFL Cup in midweek - is nearing an appearance in the Premier League, but the 20-year-old is unlikely to feature against the Blues.

Joshua King should be in contention to start after missing the trip to the Potteries due to illness.

Bournemouth possible starting lineup:
Begovic; A.Smith, Francis, Ake, Daniels; Ibe, Cook, Surman, Stanislas; King; Afobe

Chelsea possible starting lineup:
Courtois; Rudiger, Luiz, Cahill; Azpilicueta, Bakayoko, Fabregas, Alonso; Pedro, Hazard, Morata

Head To Head

Saturday's match will represent just the 10th time in which these two teams have met in a competitive fixture, with Chelsea recording seven wins in comparison to two victories for Bournemouth.

While Bournemouth did emerge victorious from the first-ever Premier League match between the sides, Chelsea have won the last three contests, scoring 10 goals in the process.

Bournemouth have only won once against Chelsea on home territory, which came in 1988 when the two teams played each other for the first time.

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We say: Bournemouth 2-3 Chelsea

Bournemouth have shown in the past that they are able to produce their best performances when welcoming a big club to the south coast. However, on this occasion, we are backing Chelsea - who are not finding goals hard to come by - to edge the Cherries out in a thriller.

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Who will win Saturday's Premier League clash between Bournemouth and Chelsea?

Bournemouth striker Callum Wilson celebrates after scoring his side's fifth goal in their 6-1 victory over Hull City at the Vitality Stadium on October 15, 2016
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