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Preview: Cardiff City vs. Chelsea - prediction, team news, lineups

:Headline: Preview: Cardiff City vs. Chelsea - prediction, team news, lineups:
Sports Mole previews Sunday's Premier League clash between Cardiff City and Chelsea, including predictions, team news and head-to-head records.
By , Senior Reporter | 5mo

Top-four chasing Chelsea mark their return to Premier League action with a trip to relegation-threatened Cardiff City on Sunday afternoon.

The Blues fell to defeat at Everton prior to the international break and cannot afford to drop points in South Wales this weekend if they are to keep pace with the three sides directly above them.

Cardiff City

Cardiff's 2-0 win over a flat West Ham United three weeks ago provided them with a massive boost, coming on the back of three successive top-flight defeats.

After building momentum with their first back-to-back wins of the season by overcoming south coast pair Bournemouth and Southampton, City fell to heavy home losses against Everton and Watford, before going down 2-0 at Wolverhampton Wanderers with their most subdued display of the season.

Neil Warnock would have been delighted to come up against a West Ham side drifting towards the summer, then, as an early goal from Junior Hoilett was added to by player of the season Victor Camarasa to give the Bluebirds three valuable points.

Six of Cardiff's eight wins this season have come on home soil, but they tend to struggle against the division's elite clubs, already losing to Arsenal, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur there this season, conceding a combined 16 goals across those four matches.

In fact, the Welsh side have lost their last 16 Premier League games overall against the big six, last avoiding defeat in November 2013 with a 2-2 draw against Man United.

The win against West Ham would have given City a lift, although it did not change their league standing as Southampton pulled off a shock win over Tottenham Hotspur to remain two points ahead of their opponents.

Burnley, who have lost four matches in a row, appear to be Cardiff's best hope of dodging the drop, with the Clarets two points above the relegation zone after playing a game more than the Bluebirds.

Warnock's men still have a trip to Turf Moor to come, but their fixture list does not make for kind reading. Cardiff face Chelsea, Man City, Liverpool and Man United in four of their eight remaining matches, so it is likely that they will have to end their top-six hoodoo in one of those fixtures if they are to beat the odds and retain their top-flight status.

Recent form in Premier League: WWLLLW


Just when Chelsea looked to have turned a corner under Maurizio Sarri, they went and suffered a 2-0 defeat to Everton and all of a sudden the same old questions regarding the Italian manager's future have resurfaced.

The Blues' temporary turnaround in form started with their improved display in the EFL Cup final clash with Man City, which they lost on penalties after a pretty even 120 minutes at Wembley Stadium against arguably the best side in the world.

Chelsea won four and drew one of their next five matches in all competitions, but the loss at Goodison Park has set them back a long way. Following a dominant first half when they should have been two or three goals ahead, Sarri's men crumbled after the restart and came unstuck to goals from Richarlison and Gylfi Sigurdsson.

Supporters remain frustrated and, with a two-window transfer ban looming, plus doubts over the futures of Eden Hazard and Callum Hudson-Odoi, Chelsea are very much the media's crisis club of choice.

The only way Sarri can rectify that is by stringing together some victories, and he has a good chance of achieving that as the Blues face Cardiff, Brighton & Hove Albion and West Ham in their next three league matches, as well as taking on Slavia Prague for a place in the semi-finals of the Europa League.

Chelsea's away form has been poor in 2019, though, losing four of their five Premier League games on the road since the turn of the year, conceding 15 goals in defeats to Arsenal, Bournemouth, Man City and Everton.

Their only win in that run came at Fulham, the only side to have lost more away games this calendar year (six). This weekend's trip to the Cardiff City Stadium is not exactly a banker, then, and unless Sarri can resolve his side's away-day woes he may well be out of a job two months from now.

Recent form in Premier League: WLWWDW
Recent form (all competitions): WWWDWL

Team News

Sarri will be pleased that, despite a number of his players being sent off on international duty, none of them has returned with any injuries.

Ethan Ampadu and Marco van Ginkel are Chelsea's only confirmed absentees, and would not have featured even if they had been fit, while fringe players Davide Zappacosta and Ruben Loftus-Cheek will require late fitness tests.

The likes of Cesar Azpilicueta, David Luiz, Pedro, Willian, Gonzalo Higuain and Marcos Alonso have spent the last two weeks at Cobham, meaning that they are all in strong contention to start here - bad news for Hudson-Odoi, who impressed on his first two appearances for England.

Star man Hazard has scored five Premier League goals in three appearances against Cardiff, although all his goals have come at Stamford Bridge. No player has more Premier League goals against the Bluebirds than Hazard (Gerard Deulofeu and Luis Suarez also five).

Cardiff have suffered a major injury blow in the lead-up to this match, meanwhile, as joint-leading goalscorer Callum Paterson rolled his ankle on international duty with Scotland and, like Sol Bamba, will play no further part this season.

Warnock also hit out at Iceland for their management of Aron Gunnarsson's playing time, with the midfielder - due to depart City in the summer - expected to sit this one out.

Harry Arter and Joe Bennett have been carrying knocks, but Cardiff will otherwise be well rested, more than three weeks on from their most recent outing.

Cardiff City possible starting lineup:
Etheridge; Peltier, Manga, Morrison, Bennett; Murphy, Ralls, Arter, Hoilett; Camarasa; Niasse

Chelsea possible starting lineup:
Kepa; Azpilicueta, Rudiger, Luiz, Alonso; Kante, Jorginho, Barkley; Pedro, Higuain, Hazard

Head To Head

Cardiff have lost all three of their Premier League games against Chelsea, including a 2-1 loss in their only previous encounter at the Cardiff City Stadium five years ago.

The Blues have won seven of their last nine matches against City in all competitions, with their only defeat in that sequence coming at Ninian Park in an EFL Cup third-round clash in October 1986.

Chelsea have lost just one of their 17 Premier League games against Welsh opposition, losing 1-0 at Swansea City in April 2016 under Guus Hiddink.

We say: Cardiff City 1-2 Chelsea

Seventy-one per cent of Cardiff's 28 points this season have come in home games - only Fulham with 88% have a higher percentage - and Chelsea have been terrible on the road in 2019. City have been unable to take a single point off top-six opposition all season, though, and that is unlikely to change this weekend, even if they do have the ability to give their opponents a run for their money.

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