Chelsea vs. Cardiff City: Preview from the Ninian

The Premier League returns on Saturday as CCFC head to CFC and Stamford Bridge. Chelsea are four-for-four under new manager Sarri and look like they could be serious contenders this season. Cardiff deserved more than a loss against Arsenal last time out and will take a new confidence to the Bridge in a bid to get their first Premier League win of the season…

Chelsea vs. Cardiff City
Premier League
Stamford Bridge, London
15th September 2018, 3pm (BST)
Referee: John Moss

And three things to look out for…

To change or not to change…that is the question. School of thought suggests that Warnock probably won’t change the line-up from our game against Arsenal. And why should he? They played well and we deserved more than a loss. But there were some lapses of concentration at the back that makes me wonder – could there be changes afoot? Jazz knows how to play against Hazard and Manga has been our best defender alongside Bennett this season. Bamba struggled against Arsenal and Warnock could be tempted to make changes there. Murphy should come back into the lineup but who would Warnock cull? My guess would be Hoilett because he was coming back from injury and had a long trip during the international break.

Ward and Dercordova-Reid linked up nicely against Arsenal and Ward scored a cracking header. Warnock needs to continue this partnership as it gave us another dimension to our play. Against Arsenal, when we were on the backfoot, the team slotted into a more traditional 4-4-2 with Reid and Ward playing up top. This meant we didn’t leave one striker isolated should we get the opportunity to counter, meaning players had a natural outlet alongside them and defenders were occupied by another runner. Ward played very well against Arsenal so should retain his place but this system would work well with Zohore too, who likes to play alongside another up top.

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Harry Arter has picked up a booking in every game so far. This isn’t a criticism from my part – I love his blood and thunder style, and the fact he’s happy to tackle anything with full gusto. But he’s now only two yellows away from a suspension and with his bookings per game stat being 1.0, we’re only two games away from that being a reality. What, then, of Aron Gunnarsson? I don’t think Aron should be parachuted straight in but he showed what he can do at the World Cup in that holding role. Could it be that we need to start considering how the midfield three will work with Aron instead of Arter? Gunnar is less likely to steam forward meaning the way we pressed against Arsenal might not work in games without Arter. Food for thought…

Chelsea players to watch out for

Eden Hazard is pretty good isn’t he? He’s good at goals and at running at defenders. Whenever he’s played against Wales, he’s never been at his best but it’s hard to imagine he’s not going to give us some trouble on Saturday. Our defence will have to be on their best behaviour to manage the threat from him – though I take some confidence from how Manga dealt with Aubameyang against Arsenal.

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N’Golo Kante. Who doesn’t love the diminutive Frenchman? He’s taken the Premier League by storm and this season, he seems to have added a new dimension to his game. With Jorginho a more traditional holding midfield, Kante has had more license to press forward, getting into the box more than he usually does. We’d do well to track his movement more as any late runs into the box with the attacking quality Chelsea have could be lethal.

Best case result?

A more clinical Cardiff would have beaten Arsenal in our last Premier League game. So I really hope Warnock has hammered that into them. We aren’t going to dominate the possession stats or the shot count, but we can cause teams problems with our attacking play. Our goals last time came from some great overlap play on the left and a well-worked set piece. Keep that going, and we can be hopeful of a point at the Bridge – or maybe even a win. 1-1? 2-1?

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Worst case result?

The fact that Chelsea can play a combination of Hazard, Morata, Pedro as their top three with Willian, Barkley, Giroud and Loftus-Cheek on the bench, suggests they have some firepower. Sarri is only four games in but they have shown signs of clicking really well going forward and we need to be well-drilled at the back to cope with them. If they really decide to play on Saturday, it could be 3 or 4 nil.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments or @VFTNinian