Frank Lampard’s Chelsea host Watford at Stamford Bridge on Saturday night, with the home side requiring a much needed win to boost their chances of playing Champions League football next season.
After loosing 3-2 to relegation strugglers West Ham in their previous game, the Blues return to west London needing to bounce back from their disappointing result in midweek.
Watford are also trying to bounce back from a defeat to Southampton, and are sitting in 17, dangerously close to the relegation places at the bottom end of the table.
Chelsea need a win and a much improved display to consolidate their narrow gap of two points to Manchester United and Wolves. Still in fourth spot, Frank Lampard will be hoping that they can continue their recent form of three straight wins at home keeping Champions League hopes alive.
Kepa, James, Christensen, Zouma, Azpilicueta, Jorginho, Kante, Hudson-Odoi, Mount, Pulisic, Giroud
As much as Lampard prefers to use a 4-3-3 formation he should change that for tonight’s match and refer to a 4-2-3-1 system. The jury’s out once again for Kepa after another performance enlisted with errors at the London Stadium. Zouma has to start this game after witnessing Antonio Rudiger’s poor performance, as well as moving Azpilicueta to left-back to replace a very attack-minded Marcos Alonso. This will allow Reece James to come into the starting XI where he will prove his worth against the Hornets.
As for the formation change, Lampard used the 4-2-3-1 system when these two teams last face each other and it worked in favour for the Blues. Jorginho will come into the XI in replace of Mateo Kovacic after the Croatian picked up an achilles injury. This Chelsea side needs the ball to moved quick and I feel the Blues have lacked urgency in the final third, and Jorginho offers a variety of passing qualities.
Most Chelsea fans are reluctant to see Willian sign a two-year contract extension, but he has proved his worth since the resumption. He is renowned for his hard-work and non-stop running, however, Hudson-Odoi is waiting for his chance and what better way for him to be deployed against a very defensive Watford side.
Christian Pulisic is a certain starter along with Mason Mount, but top goal-scorer Tammy Abraham will drop to the bench where Giroud will lead the line on Saturday night. Abraham struggled against the two centre backs of West Ham. He is best running the channels, exposing the oppositions defence. But, David Moyes’s side acknowledged the England striker’s strengths which saw both centre-backs drop an extra 10-yards deeper. Come Saturday night against Watford, this will be the exact same scenario and so Lampard will begin with Oliver Giroud up front.
Both teams have plenty to play for with their remaining fixtures. Chelsea still have a Champions League spot in their sights and Watford aiming to remain in the division.
Watford have won only one of their last 17 meetings with Chelsea in the League and cup competitions. As for the hosts, Chelsea are unbeaten in 12 meetings with the Hornets since a 5-1 loss in May 1986, which has seen them win eight, drawing four in the process.
Changes at the back will happen for this match as Chelsea’s defensive problems are becoming increasingly alarming. I expect Chelsea to win this one, but, I wouldn’t rule out Watford scoring on the counter-attack which is an area that needs addressing, either in the transfer market or on the training pitch.
Prediction: Chelsea 3-1 Watford