After a creditable draw at Anfield at the weekend, Chelsea return to Stamford Bridge to face a struggling Swansea side. The Blues may have been able to come back from behind to Liverpool, but that’s left them a full 11 points off league leaders Manchester City. With such a massive gap to pull back, is it time for the reigning champions to give up on any potential title aspirations? Either way, Antonio Conte still has a job on his hands to secure Champions League football for the Blues, who are only three points ahead of sixth place ahead of this bonus midweek round of fixtures. Slipping up on Wednesday would be a huge blow to their top four hopes.
This game sees a return for Paul Clement, former Chelsea assistant manager who now has a tough job on his hands at Swansea. Despite saving the Welsh side from the drop last season, his team have dropped down to 19th place in the league ahead of Wednesday night’s clash. That’s the same position they were in when he took charge earlier this year, so clearly not much has changed. Can Clement boost his hopes of keeping his job with a win at the champions, and put another dent in his former team’s distant hopes of winning the title?
Team News: Conte Likely to Bolster the Attack
It could be said that Antonio Conte’s 3-5-2 system was a little too pragmatic against Liverpool, which failed to test Liverpool’s poor defence. When changes were made late on, the game opened up for the champions. The introduction of Cesc Fabregas was crucial, the 3-5-2 set-up is made for the Spaniard.
However, we still expect him to make a start here despite a likely change to 3-4-3, with Willian and Pedro both pushing to start. With Tiemoue Bakayoko failing to impress, we’re backing Cesc to start alongside N’Golo Kante here. Given that Conte has close to a full squad to choose from, he shouldn’t have any other tough decisions to make ahead of this match.
Apart from Kyle Bartley, Swansea have no injuries ahead of this daunting trip. However, on-loan Tammy Abraham is ineligible to play against his parent club. They started with a diamond midfield and two up top last weekend in an attempt to make their side more attacking, but don’t expect the Welsh side to be quite so daring in this game. The Swans will need a bit more defensive steel, and they could potentially switch to a 3-5-2 system to try and match up with Chelsea’s approach. They started with that system in a recent clash at Arsenal, and we expect to see just as much caution from Clement here.
Swansea are having an awful time of things coming into this game, having taken one point from their last five matches. They may have ended a four game losing streak at the weekend, but that point came in a clash at home to Bournemouth. That’s the kind of game the Swans really need to win in order to survive, and that’s left them in serious trouble heading up to Christmas. At this point, it does seem like Clement has a lot of work to do to keep his job.
Swansea have an awful record on the road, with just two away wins since February in the Premier League. That’s a pretty long spell, and their two victories came at the current bottom side – Crystal Palace – and last season’s bottom team Sunderland. That’s a huge way from taking three points away against the champions, especially after losing some key players in the summer.
Chelsea v Swansea Head to Head
The Swans did have a bit of form against Chelsea, but that was put to the sword in a 3-1 win in February. The Blues started their dismal 2015/16 campaign against the Swans, dropping two points at the Bridge. Conte suffered a similar result early on last season, which was when problems first started to emerge with his 4-1-4-1 system. However, on recent form it’s hard to see a repeat of any Chelsea issues here.
- Chelsea 3-1 Swansea, Feb 2017
- Swansea 2-2 Chelsea, Sept 2016
- Swansea 1-0 Chelsea, Apr 2016
- Chelsea 2-2 Swansea, Aug 2015
- Swansea 0-5 Chelsea, Jan 2015
- Chelsea to win to nil – 4/5 with Coral
- Chelsea to win 2-0 – 11/2 with BetVictor
Chelsea came into this game as heavy favourites for the points here, they’re 1/6 with Bet365 to claim another home win. Swansea’s awful away form is quite clear in their price here, they can be backed at 18/1 with Ladbrokes to cause a huge shock. Even a draw in this game would be a surprise, and the Swans are out at 6/1 with Betfred to take a point back to Wales. Clearly there’s little value in backing the hosts to come away with a win, but Swansea’s poor away form does offer a few other options.
The Welsh side have managed just three away goals in the league this season, and finding the net has been really hard for them since selling their two main attacking threats in the summer. With Tammy Abraham out of this game, they have even less chance of causing any problems in this trip. The Swans claimed two of their away strikes against Frank De Boer’s awful Crystal Palace outfit, while their lack of shots this season further shows their issues up top. We’re backing a Chelsea win to nil at 4/5 with Coral here.
Conte has been clear about the issues his squad have faced with fixture congestion. With an extra midweek Premier League match, he’s going to want to get his side out in front and close the game down. The Swans are a side who keep things quite tight, so we’re backing a straightforward 2-0 win for the champions, which is 11/2 with BetVictor.