Saturday, March 23

Premier League


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

By , Senior Reporter | 6mo
Sports Mole provides predicted lineups, team news and a full match preview of Chelsea's Premier League meeting with winless Cardiff City.

Maurizio Sarri has a chance to extend his perfect start to life at Chelsea with a fifth Premier League win in a row when his side play host to Cardiff City this weekend.

The Blues are one of three perfect sides at the top of the division, along with Liverpool and surprise package Watford, and will consider this a home banker of sorts against a winless Cardiff side.


Try as he might to play down his side's title chances, Sarri is just the sixth manager to win his first four Prem matches and has supporters dreaming of a repeat from two years ago when lifting the famous trophy.

Back then, under the watch of Antonio Conte, the Blues stormed to the title a year on from finishing a lowly 10th in the division. They certainly have previous when it comes to defying the odds, then, and the early signs are more than promising.

Following the 2-0 win over Bournemouth ahead of the international break, iconic Chelsea midfielder Claude Makelele backed Sarri to go on and "make history" in West London by finishing top of the division for a sixth time.

Despite the early praise, though, Sarri remains realistic and acknowledges that it will be "very difficult" to make up the 30-point gap on champions Manchester City from last season, with Chelsea finishing outside of the Champions League spots last time out.

Confidence will certainly be high after seeing off Huddersfield Town, Arsenal, Newcastle United and Bournemouth, and that momentum will be key as the Blues have games in three competitions to balance from next week - the Premier League, Europa League and EFL Cup.

As well as facing Cardiff, West Ham United and Liverpool in the top flight, Sarri must also prepare his players for their opening Europa clash with PAOK and the tricky trip to Anfield in the third round of the EFL Cup before the month is out.

All focus for now is on Saturday's visit of Cardiff, and the omens make for good reading if you are a Chelsea fan. The capital club have lost just one of their last 51 home league games against a promoted side - against Bournemouth in December 2015 - and have dropped points in only nine of those matches.

Recent form in Premier League: WWWW

Cardiff City

Sarri's famed style of play is already clear to see at Stamford Bridge, with 2,996 passes being attempted so far this term and 2,677 of them being completed - the most of any Premier League side.

Cardiff, in contrast, are not afraid to get the ball forward in as few passes as possible. It is a formula that has worked perfectly for Neil Warnock down the years, not least in guiding the Bluebirds to just a second Prem promotion last season.

That is not to say that the Welsh outfit intend to park the bus against the big sides. On the contrary, in fact, as Warnock has already stated that City will give it a real go at Stamford Bridge, much like they did at home to Arsenal a fortnight ago.

Cardiff were unfortunate not to take anything away from the match after twice battling back from a goal down, only to come unstuck for a third time late on when Alexandre Lacazette rifled the ball past Neil Etheridge at his near post.

There were many positives for Warnock to take out of that last outing, namely his side finally getting off the mark with their first goals at the fourth attempt, having been shut out by Bournemouth, Newcastle United and Huddersfield Town.

Two points from four outings is a rather mixed return, and it is difficult to see where further points are going to come from, as this weekend's trip to Chelsea is quickly followed by matches against four other members of last season's top seven in their next five games.

With nothing to lose, though, both in terms of Saturday afternoon and the season as a whole, Warnock's Cardiff will give it their all in an attempt to pull off a major shock.

Recent form: LDDL
Recent form (all competitions): LDDLL

Team News

Pedro impressed from the bench against Bournemouth by netting the key opening goal, taking his scoring tally to three in four matches - compared to three in his previous 26 - and is in contention to start this one.

If the Spaniard comes into the side, Willian is the most likely candidate to make way out wide as Eden Hazard is undroppable when fully fit.

At the other end of the pitch, Marcos Alonso has started the season on fire by playing a direct part in three league goals, but reports suggest that Sarri is not entirely happy with his central-defensive pairing of Antonio Rudiger and David Luiz.

Changes are expected to be kept to a minimum for the hosts, and that will also likely be the case for Cardiff as they go in search of their first three-point haul.

Kenneth Zohore has not done enough to merit a starting spot, meaning that Danny Ward and Bobby Reid could continue their partnership in attack, flanked by Victor Camarasa and Junior Hoilett in a lopsided 4-4-2 formation.

There are still question marks over the fitness of Josh Murphy and Aron Gunnarsson, while Nathaniel Mendez-Laing is a confirmed absentee until Christmas time, so Warnock's hand may be forced a little.

Elsewhere, Etheridge was a nominee for the Player of the month award in August after saving two spot kicks in two matches, and Warnock will be pleased enough with the way his goalkeeper and back four have adapted to the top flight.

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

Cardiff City possible starting lineup:
Etheridge; Manga, Morrison, Bamba, Bennett; Camarasa, Arter, Ralls, Hoilett; Reid, Ward

Head To Head

Chelsea have won 10 of their last 12 meetings with Cardiff, including both previous Premier League encounters in the 2013-14 season.

The Blues prevailed 4-1 at Stamford Bridge early in the season before coming out on top 2-1 in South Wales on the final day of the campaign.

Cardiff have conceded 10 times in their three games against Chelsea since the turn of the millennium, having also lost 4-1 in an FA Cup fifth-round tie eight-and-a-half years ago.

We say: Chelsea 3-1 Cardiff City

Chelsea will be desperate to make it 15 points from 15 come the end of Saturday as they look to maintain their solid start to life under Sarri. Cardiff, meanwhile, offered far more attacking intent against Arsenal in their last outing, but finding the right balance at Stamford Bridge will be a huge task for Warnock and his men.

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