Chelsea travel to Wales looking to get back on the right track, after their disappointing 2-0 loss to Everton before the International break, which has dented their chances of finishing in the top 4 at the end of the season.
The Blues haven’t won in two Premier League games, with them drawing against Wolves and losing to Everton.
Although they have been on a poor run of form, Chelsea only remain three points outside the top 4. So a win on Sunday will put Chelsea back in real contention of finishing in a UCL place.
Their opponents Cardiff are in a relegation battle, so they will need the three points as much as the West Londoners.
Before the International break, Cardiff picked up an impressive 2-0 home win over West Ham, to boost their hopes of survival from the Premier League this season.
Can the Bluebirds use their home advantage to gain a vital three points, which would be a huge statement for Neil Warnock’s men?
Recent form for both sides in the League
Team news (Credit- Sportsmole)
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.
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.
Predicted starting elevens
Cardiff’s predicted starting eleven- Etheridge; Peltier, Manga, Morrison, Bennett; Murphy, Ralls, Arter, Hoilett; Camarasa; Niasse.
Chelsea’s predicted starting eleven- Kepa; Azpilicueta, Rudiger, Luiz, Alonso; Kante, Jorginho, Barkley; Pedro, Higuain, Hazard
Cardiff Manager: Neil Warnock
Warnock on the game at the weekend: It’s difficult, we know the situation.
We watched the Everton game which they lost 2-0 and how they weren’t 4-0 up at half time, I don’t know.
We’ve got to play really well, defend like we never have and our goalie’s got to have a good day too.”
Warnock on Hudson-Odoi: “I’d give Callum a game to be honest the way he’s gone with England. Hopefully he’d be on the bench”
Warnock on Hazard: “I don’t think anyone in the country can stop Hazard when he’s on his game. At our stage, why don’t we have a go? It’s alright saying that but you’re still not going to have much of the ball.”
Chelsea Manager: Maurizio Sarri (Quotes Credit- @NizaarKinsella on Twitter)
Sarri on Hudson-Odoi: “He is doing very well but he needs to improve more. The potential is really very high. I don’t want him to stop improving because he can become one of the most important players in Europe. He needs to improve more. The risk is he stops improving”
Sarri on whether Hudson-Odoi will stay at Chelsea: “I am not able to say if he signs a new contract or not, but I think he will stay here in any case [regardless of whether he renews his contract].”
Sarri on Hazard’s future: “I don’t know, you have two possibilities I think. You can ask Hazard or the club. I am not in charge of the market so I don’t know. Hazard in this moment is important, we need him at his top for the next two months”
Sarri on Chelsea finishing in the top-four: “I think we can reach the top-four, also if we are not able to win all eight matches in a row. No [we don’t have a points target, I think we need to think match by match, we are focused only on the next match.”
Head to Head record
These two sides have met 44 times in all competitions over the years, with Chelsea edging the head to head record against the Bluebirds. The Blues have beaten the side from Wales on 19 occasions. There have been 10 draws between these two side over the years. And Cardiff have beaten the West-Londoners 15 times in all competitions.
In terms of league head to head record, these sides have met 37 times. Chelsea have beaten Cardiff on 18 occasions in league competitions, including their last trip to South Wales in the 2013/14 season, when Torres and Schurrle goals helped Chelsea to a 2-1 win at the end of that season.
There have been eight draws between these two sides in league competitions. And the Bluebirds have beaten Chelsea on 11 occasions in league competitions.
The last meeting between these two sides came earlier this season at Stamford Bridge, when a Eden Hazard hatrick helped Chelsea thrash Cardiff 4-1 in September.
Betting Odds/Match Predictions
Sky Bet have made Chelsea favourites to take three points from this encounter at the Cardiff City Stadium on Sunday, with a win for Chelsea being priced at 4/9. A draw between these two sides is being priced at 10/3. And a surprise Cardiff win is being priced at 13/2.
My realistic prediction as a journalist for this game is a tight 0-1 win to Chelsea.
My optimistic prediction as a Chelsea fan for this game is a 1-3 Chelsea away win. I think the players will bounce back after their shambolic performance before the International break against Everton. I think Higuain will score 2 goals, and Jorginho will also bag a goal here, with Niasse scoring the only goal for Cardiff.
By Danyal Khan