2018-19 EPL Match Day 12 Preview — Chelsea (8-3-0) vs. Everton (5-3-3)

It is an invisible albatross Everton have worn for nearly five years, yet the “0” that represents the number of Premier League road wins against “Big Six” clubs in that stretch weighs as heavily as the dead bird upon the mariner’s neck in Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s famous poem.

Marco Silva and the Toffees hope to make Sunday the day the curse is finally lifted as they look to end a 30-match winless spell against the best of the top flight in a matchup with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.


Everton are 0-9-21 in their visits to Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester United, Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur and eternal rivals Liverpool since Bryan Oviedo struck in the 86th minute for a 1-0 victory at Old Trafford on Dec. 4, 2013. Following that triumph, the Toffees (5-3-3) have looked as idle as a painted ship more times than not, shipping 63 goals in those 30 matches with only 18 in response.

“I have confidence in our work, confidence in the way we are playing, seeing how our team is growing, playing better and getting better results,” Silva said at his Friday news conference. “Of course it will be tough. I accept Chelsea will be favourites. It will be a big challenge for us but what I hope and what I expect is that we are ourselves on the pitch.

“They will create problems for us but I want to see our team be ourselves, play in our way. In some moments they will create, but when we have the ball we have to be ourselves.”

Everton have failed in two bids this term to end the streak, losing 2-0 at the Emirates to Arsenal on Sept. 23, and more recently, 2-1 at Old Trafford on Sept. 28. There was a good south wind heading into that match – Everton had been unbeaten in four – and there is one albeit smaller once more following a 3-1 victory over Brighton and Hove Albion last weekend.

Richarlison continued his rich vein of goals since being moved to lead Everton’s line, scoring on either side of halftime. Right back Seamus Coleman showed he is fully recovered from the stress fracture that sidelined him four games earlier this season as well as the broken leg suffered representing Ireland in March 2017 with his first goal in 22 months, one that snapped a 1-1 deadlock in the second half.

“His physical condition is growing and it’s normal that his confidence is growing as well, not just because he scored the goal – even in the first half we had good combinations down the right side with him, Gylfi Sigurdsson and Theo Walcott,” Silva said of Coleman. “And, of course, in the second half when he scored it was an important moment for him and for sure it will give him good feelings and confidence.”

Confidence is something Everton have sorely lacked in their visits to Stamford Bridge, leaving southwest London without a victory in their last 23 tries (0-10-13) since their lone Premier League win – 1-0 on Nov. 26, 1994, thanks to a 39th-minute goal by Paul Rideout. The Toffees were cruelly denied an end to the streak in 2016, taking a lead in stoppage time only to have Blues talisman John Terry head home an equaliser in the 98th minute that should have been chalked off for offsides as the match finished 3-3.

Richarlison, though, is an injury doubt for this match and will be a game-time decision. If the Brasil international cannot go, Silva has either Cenk Tosun or Dominic Calvert-Lewin as options to lead the line.

The gaffer will be forced into one change since centre back Kurt Zouma is ineligible to face his parent club, with Silva to choose among Phil Jagielka, Mason Holgate and Yerry Mina to partner with Michael Keane. Mina, the Colombia international summer signing whose debut was delayed by a foot injury, made a late runout in the win over Brighton for his Premier League debut.

Chelsea (8-3-0) have climbed to second in the table, ahead of Liverpool on goal difference while trailing champions Manchester City by two points. The Blues return to domestic play after wrapping up first place in Group L of the Europa League with a 1-0 victory at BATE Borisov on Thursday.

Olivier Giroud broke his duck in the 52nd minute, heading home a cross from Emerson, and gave Maurizio Sarri the luxury of blooding some of the academy players for the final two matches of group play in the continental competition.

“I was hoping to score soon because I came back late from the World Cup and I was lacking maybe a bit of efficiency and luck, but you always need to keep working hard and keep the faith and that’s what happened,” the France international told the club’s official website. “It was a good cross from Emerson and that’s what we need to do more often.

“The manager kept saying we need to qualify from the group, and the earlier the better, so we’ve done the job even if we could have been more efficient. It’s a clean sheet and we won the game.”

Chelsea are still unbeaten since Sarri took over, recording 14 wins in 17 matches across all competitions. A win or draw here would set a Premier League record for the longest unbeaten start in a Premier League debut, a mark he shares with Frank Clark after he went 8-3-0 with Nottingham Forest in 1994-95 before losing at home to Blackburn Rovers.

Sarri once again overturned his entire back line in the victory at Belarus and gave Eden Hazard a start after the Belgium international had played just 26 minutes in Chelsea’s last two league matches due to a back injury. He also started Ross Barkley, which raises the question of whether Sarri will keep the former Everton player in his first XI for this match.

Barkley, who signed with the Everton at the age of 11, left the club in the January transfer window in a protracted saga – it was a £15 million transfer after the England international spurned a £35 million move on the final day of the August window – and Barkley is expecting to get some stick from Everton’s traveling supporters.

“I don’t think it (the reception) will be the best,” the midfielder admitted to the Evening Standard. “I was approaching 25 and I felt looking back I could have improved a lot more (at Everton). At Chelsea, I knew I’d improve a lot quicker around better players, around world-class players.

“I’m not nervous, I’m excited to play against my former club and teammates – I understand how some of them play, so that could be an advantage for me.”

Sarri is also expected to restore Alvaro Morata to his centre-forward role over Giroud, with the Spain international coming off a brace in last weekend’s victory over Crystal Palace that has given him three goals in his last two league contests.

Last season’s scoreless draw at Goodison Park in the most recent meeting ended a four-match winning streak for Chelsea in all competitions between the sides. The Pensioners are unbeaten in their last five (3-2-0) against the Toffees in league play since a 3-1 setback in 2015.


Per Ladbrokes, Chelsea are solid favourites to at least emerge with a point to give Sarri the record of best Premier League start as the Pensioners are 2/5 to claim a victory and have 18/5 odds on splitting the points. Everton are listed at 6/1 for their first road victory over a Big Six opponent in nearly five years.

There is an expectation of goals in this match, as Chelsea are 19/20 favourites to win with more than 2.5 goals scored, substantially shorter than 10/3 for under the 2.5 threshold. The Toffees are 10/1 longshots to win with more than 2.5 goals and 16/1 to win fashioning a score line of 0-1 or 0-2. A 0-0 or 1-1 draw holds a slight sway at 11/2, while a high-scoring stalemate has shorter odds at 12/1 than a low-scoring Everton win.

After seeing him emerge unscathed after an hour in Belarus, Hazard leads the line for first-goal honours at 10/3. Chelsea’s strikers Morata and Giroud, as is usually the case, are lumped together — here at 4/1. Wingers Pedro and Willian are another step back at 6/1, followed by Loftus-Cheek at 7/1. And for those who believe revenge can be best served by making it 1-0 against a former team, Barkley has 7/1 odds as well.

Richarlison’s iffy status means he and Cenk Tosun are joint 9/1 odds as Everton’s top options, with Calvert-Lewin just off the duo at 10/1. Sigurdsson, the Toffees’ penalty taker, is 11/1.

Hazard is even money to beat Pickford over the course of 90 minutes, with Morata and Giroud both at 23/20. There is another pairing of Pedro and Willian, this time at 9/5, and Barkley and Loftus-Cheek are listed at 21/10. Richarlison has some separation from Tosun here, with the Brasilian getting 13/5 compared to the Turk’s 11/4 odds. Calvert-Lewin has 3/1 odds on scoring while Sigurdsson lurks just behind at 16/5.


Thirty matches is a long time without a landmark victory. These are the types of matches Silva was hired for, to get the leviathan who are Everton awake and contending for Champions League spots on an annual basis. At the same time, wow is their track record in these matches awful.

In the Premier League era, they are 16-43-94 on the road against Big Six teams. They have not won at the Emirates/Highbury, Stamford Bridge and Anfield in this century. They have not won at Tottenham this decade.

Nearly half of those wins — seven — have come against Manchester City, but not the Manchester City you and I know of this decade following the change in ownership to Sheikh Mansour. No, these were the aimless Citizens, ones that even suffered the humiliation of relegation while Everton have avoided such a fate.

This is the history stacked against Everton, one painful defeat on top of another on top of another. To their credit, both losses this year — at Arsenal and at United — the Toffees stood up to their opponents. It can be argued Everton were the better side at the Emirates, laying siege to Petr Cech and the Gunners goal before being undone by two goals three minutes apart, one of which should never have been allowed.

Against United, there was wastefulness in the finished product but plenty of fight as the Toffees could not find an equaliser after Sigurdsson’s penalty. The 2-1 scoreline was fair to the hosts but also a proper scoreline to the guests who showed effort and resolve.

Which brings us to Stamford Bridge, where it is almost the silver anniversary of Rideout’s goal that brought Everton’s lone Premier League success. There is hope upon hope Richarlison will be able to go, but if he does not, one hopes Silva is bold and tabs Calvert-Lewin over Tosun to lead the line. That boldness could extend to Mina for his first Premier League start, but that may also be rash given Chelsea’s attacking nous and Hazard’s unpredictability in attack.

With Barkley getting the start in Belarus, the sidebar of facing the team who raised and nurtured him is relegated to just that — an add-on to the story with his expected arrival around the hour. What he does with those 30 minutes may change that narrative from sidebar to central plot, but there are more important actors in this contest.

One is most certainly Richarlison, who hopefully will not give way to his understudy. Another is Sigurdsson, who has masterfully pulled strings in the midfield to help create chances. But do not discount Chelsea’s striker tandem of Morata and Giroud. The Spaniard is expected to start, with the Sarri logic of leaving him back in London to rest confounding the media to the point he mumbled to himself in agitation during the press conference. And should Morata fail, Giroud will have plenty of life after ending his duck in Belarus. His link-up play with Hazard is the real reason Mina should be on the bench to start this contest, his Premier League blooding can come another day.

This should be an entertaining contest with plenty of cat-and-mouse. Everton may not get that elusive victory, and a point may be within their grasp, but that only happens if Richarlison is on the pitch.

PREDICTED FINAL SCORE: Chelsea 2, Everton 0.


Leicester City (5-1-5) vs. Burnley (2-2-7)
Huddersfield Town (1-3-7) vs. West Ham United (3-2-6)
Liverpool (8-3-0) vs. Fulham (1-2-8)
Manchester City (9-2-0) vs. Manchester United (6-2-3)

Europa League Match Day 4 Preview — BATE Borisov (1-0-2, 3, -3) vs. Chelsea (3-0-0, 9, +4)

Chelsea have a chance to wrap up the top spot in Group L of the Europa League on Thursday when they attempt a home-and-home sweep of BATE Borisov in Belarus.


The Blues are still unbeaten under first-year manager Maurizio Sarri. In addition to grabbing the maximum nine points from their first three group matches, Chelsea are two points back of reigning champions Manchester City in the Premier League, in second place ahead of Liverpool on goal difference.

Sarri’s side, though, have had struggle finding goals in this competition with five goals in the three victories. The good news is they put three past the Tractor Boys at Stamford Bridge a fortnight ago, trigging their current four-match winning streak in all competitions in which they have piled up 13 goals after pulling away for a 3-1 victory over Crystal Palace last Sunday.

Eden Hazard, who had been slowed by a back injury that resulted in a three-match absence, came off the bench versus Palace and made an immediate contribution after has introduction by assisting on Alvaro Morata’s tie-breaking goal on 65 minutes.

It was Hazard’s fourth overall assist and his third in league play coming off the bench. The Belgium international has logged just 36 minutes in Europa League play, but Sarri included him on the roster to make the 3,200-mile round trip with an eye on finishing off qualification for the knockout round. The Pensioners will claim group honours with a victory and a draw by Midi and PAOK in the other match.

“According to our doctor there is not any risk, otherwise he would have stayed at Cobham, of course,” Sarri told the club’s official website. “We felt that for him it’s better to play, not for 90 minutes, but to play after two weeks of not playing.

“In the last match he played only for 30 minutes. The best way for him is that tomorrow he will play for 45 or 50 minutes.”

Somewhat surprising is who did not make the trip in Morata and midfielder Cesc Fabregas. Morata appeared to turn a corner with his brace, giving him six goals in all competitions, but Sarri saw this as an opportune time to give the Spaniard a breather having played all but 16 minutes in Chelsea’s last three matches while Olivier Giroud dealt with a knock.

Fabregas has been waylaid by an illness, prompting N’Golo Kante to make the trip. But since that is not the like-for-like switch that Sarri prefers, it appears Jorginho will serve as midfield metronome for the 4-3-3.

“We are in a perfect mood,” left midfielder Mateo Kovacic said. “We are doing good in our league and we are doing good in all competitions so this team wants to play football, we enjoy it, and every game we have an opportunity to show ourselves, so tomorrow we will be prepared and give our best to win the game.

“We are still unbeaten and we have not played at our highest level. We are with the coach only three months and of course it needs time to understand completely and to work on his football. I think we are doing a great job and I am sure in every training and every game we will be better and better.”

Sarri’s pattern of rotating his entire back line appears set to continue as Emerson, Andreas Christensen, Gary Cahill and David Zappacosta are likely to feature in front of Kepa Arrizabalaga.

BATE, who have wrapped up their 13th consecutive domestic title, have won three on the bounce since their loss to Chelsea and are coming off a 1-0 victory over Neman Grodno on Sunday. Yevegniy Berezkin came off the bench in the 77th minute and scored the winner two minutes from time.

The Tractor Boys have lost their last two group matches after winning at Midi, and the seven goals shipped in those two defeats have left them at the bottom of Group L at the halfway point. BATE will be keen to contain Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who ran riot in the reverse fixture at Stamford Bridge and accounted for all of Chelsea’s offence in the 3-0 victory.

We have followed all the games Chelsea have played. Videoton played well, had plenty of chances and could have got a different result. They are an example for us,” BATE manager Alyaksey Baha told BT Sport. “We analyse the games (against Arsenal) so we learnt from our mistakes. Now, a year later we are here in England, in London, playing against a top club, and we hope for a better result this time.”

Chelsea have outshot opponents 73-15 through the first three matches of group play and have won six consecutive Europa League matches dating back to a loss to Ruben Kazan in 2013. BATE have just two wins in their last 15 Europa League matches (2-5-8) while shipping 33 goals.


Per Ladbrokes, Chelsea are decided favourites to make the group a fait accompli with 4/11 odds to take home all three points. There are 15/4 odds for the teams to split the points, while hosts BATE are a 17/2 pick to pull off an upset and improve their chances of getting out of the group.

The Blues are almost even money to win with a result of more than 2.5 goals at 21/20, while a 0-1 or 0-2 scoreline — they posted a 0-1 result at PAOK in their other group play contest on the road — has a 5/2 return. The odds of a deadlock at 0-0 and 1-1 are 15/4, while BATE has 16/1 odds for a victory on either side of the 2.5 threshold.

Oddsmakers have listed nine Chelsea players and the “no goal-scorer” ahead of BATE’s top option for the first goal of the match. Eden Hazard leads the line at 16/5, while Chelsea’s strikers Morata and Olivier Giroud are joint-second at 7/2. Willian follows at 9/2, edging out Callum Hudson-Odoi and fellow winger Pedro (5/1). Ross Barkley and Ruben Loftus-Cheek lurk slightly further back at 6/1. The top picks for BATE are Nikolai Signevich and Igor Stasevich at 12/1.

No one on Chelsea is better than even money to score, though Hazard (21/2), Morata and Giroud (both 23/20) are close. Willian is also a favourite among the oddsmakers at 8/5 while Hudson-Odoi and Pedro (both 7/4) and Loftus-Cheek and Barkley (19/10) also have shorter odds than 2/1. Signevich (7/2) edges out Stasevich (4/1) for the top BATE option to put one in the back of the net.


One of the more interesting things about Chelsea is that they are as capable of grinding down opponents for a 1-0 victory or cruising by them 3-0. This match has the feel of the former given Chelsea’s previous road exploits in group play and the fact Sarri has committed to rotating his players more consistently, evidenced by changing over his back line and finding a way to get Loftus-Cheek involved.

By bringing Kante for Fabregas, it is possible the midfield could be Loftus-Cheek, Kovacic and Kante from left to right. Regardless of the trio, the primary task besides scoring must be to get Olivier Giroud involved in his return. The France international has four assists, tied for the most among Chelsea players — but has yet to open his scoring account.

The fact Chelsea have gone 16 matches without a loss and without a goal from Giroud is a testament not only to the talent the Pensioners have but also just how well they have taken to Sarri’s tactics and how well he has quickly figured out this squad.

Hazard likely will not become a factor in this match until the hour mark, unless Chelsea are trailing at the interval, and then the 45-minute estimation Sarri offered would come into play. Otherwise, this reeks of a blue-collar match in which Chelsea will control the ball similar to the 60 percent possession they had at Stamford Bridge. It would seem less likely Loftus-Cheek will strike for another hat trick, but one goal could be enough to see off the Tractor Boys.



Arsenal (3-0-0, 9, +6) vs. Sporting CP (2-0-1, 6, +2)

2018-19 EPL Match Day 10 Preview — Burnley (2-2-5) vs. Chelsea (6-3-0)

Ruben Loftus-Cheek certainly caught Maurizio Sarri’s attention with his three-goal outburst in Europa League play. Yet the only way to win playing time under the Italian is to pay the same attention to deal defensively as Chelsea look to remain unbeaten on the season Sunday when they face Burnley at Turf Moor.


Fairly or unfairly, high hopes were pinned on Loftus-Cheek following England’s run to the World Cup semifinals this summer, when the 22-year-old showed plenty of promise and industry as a bustling midfielder with physical presence. He displayed flashes of that potential as a full-time starter on loan last season at Crystal Palace, who he helped overcame a dreadful start to a mid-table finish in the Premier League.

In his first season at Stamford Bridge, Sarri wanted to keep Loftus-Cheek at Chelsea (6-3-0), but he became surplus to goods to a degree with the arrival of Mateo Kovacic on loan from Real Madrid in the deal that sent keeper Thibaut Courtois to the reigning three-time Champions League winners.

Loftus-Cheek was also set back by injuries in the early part of the season, but he has been frustrated at dropping below both Kovacic and compatriot Ross Barkley in the pecking order at left midfield while playing just 99 minutes in all competitions heading into Thursday’s match versus BATE Borisov.

But for one glorious hour, all those frustrations washed away as Loftus-Cheek became the first Chelsea player in 12 years to strike for a hat trick in European competition, powering the Pensioners to a 3-1 victory that gave them a firm grip atop Group L. He scored twice in the first eight minutes before being gifted a soft third by BATE keeper Denis Scherbitski and also became the first English-born player to score three goals in a European contest since Peter Osgood and Tommy Baldwin combined for eight goals against Jeunesse Hautcharage in the Cup Winners’ Cup in 1971.

“He played very, very well,” Sarri told Chelsea’s official website. “In the offensive phase, wonderful. I thought before, from the beginning of the season, he was really a very good player.

“Now I think the same, but I think maybe also he is more suitable to my football. He is improving. He also needs to improve in the defensive phase, but not only Loftus.”

Overall, Sarri made eight changes to the XI that drew Manchester United 2-2 last weekend, and he understands the affection the club and supporters have for Loftus-Cheek, who has come through the team’s academy. But the first-year manager was in constant communication with the midfielder during the match making sure he was positioned correctly on defence, and grasping those concepts may be the only way Loftus-Cheek cracks the league lineup or the match day 18.

“I know the fans love him, of course, because he was in the Academy. That’s normal,” Sarri noted. “It is very difficult to solve the tactical problem without an improvement in the defensive phase of these three midfielders. We can try, but we need to work and I need the cooperation of the players.”

Chelsea enter this match third in the table, ahead of London rivals Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal on goal difference while trailing reigning champions Manchester City and Liverpool on goal difference. Staying unbeaten, though, could be challenging if star winger Eden Hazard – who has a team-high eight goals in all competitions – is unable to play. Sarri held him out of Thursday’s match with a back injury, and the Belgium likely will be a match-time decision for this contest.

If Hazard is unable to play, Willian will likely replace him on the left wing as he did Thursday on the attacking line with Spaniards Alvaro Morata and Pedro. Centre-forward Olivier Giroud failed to distinguish himself Thursday, which means Morata is all but certain to lead the line as Sarri has been playing the hot hand at that position.

Burnley (2-2-5) can no longer use the Europa League preliminary rounds hangover as an excuse for their wildly inconsistent play as they try to re-discover the form that fueled their seventh-place finish last term. The Clarets’ bid to extend their unbeaten streak to four matches in league play was roundly swatted by Manchester City, who put them to the sword by a 5-0 count at the Etihad last weekend.

Sean Dyche’s team was competitive in the first half and trailed 1-0 at the interval, but goals two minutes apart by Bernado Silva and Fernandinho early in the second turned the final half-hour into a training ground exercise for the champions, who ruined Burnley keeper Joe Hart’s return to the City grounds as an opponent for the first time after a decade of service with the team.

“The feeling of frustration is a not nice one,” said Hart, who made 348 appearances for City before joining Burnley in the summer, to the club’s official website. “I appreciated the reception, but I came here as a Burnley player and the only thing I cared about was trying to get a result for us, so it wasn’t the perfect day.”

The good news for Burnley is they are closer to resembling the full-strength side that performed so well last term to earn European play. Steven Defour saw his first action last weekend after missing nine months due to injury, while midfielder and Ireland international Robbie Brady could be among the 18 for this contest after being sidelined nearly 10 months.

“It’s great to see Steve back,” forward Sam Vokes said. “He’s been a huge player for us over the last few years and I think we’ve missed him. He had some hard luck with that injury and to see him back playing in the Premier League is definitely good news.

“Robbie has done well for us in the past, as well, and had that terrible injury last Christmas time … those two lads will just add to the competition in the squad at the minute.”

Burnley have a win and a draw in their four matches at Turf Moor, but four of their six goals came in their waxing of Bournemouth last month.

The road team won both matches last season, with the Clarets pulling off a shock 3-2 scoreline over the 10-man Pensioners on the first match day to ruin the start of their title defence. Vokes had a first-half brace around a goal by Stephen Ward before Burnley saw off a furious late rally.

Chelsea returned the favour with a 2-1 victory at Turf Moor in April, with Victor Moses’ goal on 69 minutes proving to be decisive. They are 5-2-1 in Premier League matches versus the Clares.


Per Ladbrokes, Chelsea are prohibitive favourites to take all three points with 1/3 odds, and there are 15/4 odds on the teams leaving the Turf Moor pitch with a point apiece. The odds of Burnley claiming all three points and taking a huge step towards the middle of the table are 17/2.

Chelsea have 21/20 odds to win the match with more than 2.5 goals scored, which seems reasonable considering Man City put five past Hart at the Etihad. The Pensioners are also a 12/5 pick to win by either a 0-1 or 0-2 scoreline. Burnley have 16/1 odds to win on either side of the 2.5 goals threshold, while a 0-0 or 1-1 draw is listed at 19/4.

Despite his uncertain status, Hazard still leads the line for options among first goal-scorers at 16/5, nudging out Morata and Giroud at 7/2. Chelsea’s other wingers — Pedro and Willian — are joint-fourth at 11/2, with Barkley 15/2. Burnley forwards Vokes and Chris Wood are the top options to give the hosts a 1-0 lead, with both listed at 10/1.

Hazard is just above even money to score over the course of the 90 minutes at 21/20, closely trailed again by his centre-forwards at 6/5. Pedro and Willian are again paired together, this time at 9/5, while Barkley has 12/5 odds at putting one past Hart. Vokes edges out Wood for Burnley’s top any-time option at 3/1, just ahead of Wood’s 16/5 listing.


If there was one match where Sarri could afford to at least not start Hazard as a precautionary measure, it would be this one. Whether it be Moses, Willian or even Callum Hudson-Odoi replacing the Belgium international, the Italian has made Chelsea a well-oiled machine currently good enough to at least compensate for Hazard’s absence as a one-off ahead of a busy stretch of schedule that includes a Carabao Cup tie and a trip to BATE.

Of course, Hazard is probably campaigning to be included in the XI given how much he has come to enjoy playing Sarri-ball, but the manager has the depth at Hazard’s position to be judicious and also the luxury of bringing a well-rested back four that into this match after they were given Thursday night off. The combination of Antonio Rudiger and David Luiz should be enough to see off the challenge of Vokes or potentially Chris Wood.

It also would not be surprising to see Barkley selected over Kovacic given the latter played against BATE.

Burnley continue to confound. There is almost this expectation every week that “this is the match they get it right,” then everyone is flummoxed by the result like the one that happened versus City. Granted, most teams outside the “Big Six” have the potential to be caught in the avalanche that is Manchester City’s offence on any given match day, but it was still surprising to see the Clarets deflate after that second goal, controversial or not.

Burnley had played better prior to that beatdown, but they will get no favours here from Chelsea. The Pensioners are an improved offensive team compared to last year’s two matches under predecessor Antonio Conte, and the sides who play systems — save their rout of Bournemouth — have given the Clarets trouble all season.

PREDICTED FINAL SCORE: Burnley 0, Chelsea 2.


Brighton and Hove Albion (3-2-4) vs. Wolverhampton (4-3-2)
Southampton (1-3-5) vs. Newcastle United (0-2-7)
Manchester United (4-2-3) vs. Everton (4-3-2)
Tottenham Hotspur (7-0-2) vs. Manchester City (7-2-0)

Europa League Match Day 3 Preview — Chelsea (2-0-0, 6, +2) vs. BATE (1-0-1, 3, -1)

Chelsea’s bid to extend their lead atop Group L of the Europa League on Thursday against BATE will be made without Eden Hazard as the Belgium superstar has been ruled out of this contest with a back injury.


The Blues have gained the maximum six points through two matches by way of the narrowest scoreline possible, posting 1-0 victories over PAOK and MOL Vidi. Maurizio Sarri is expecting another such challenge from BATE, who are bearing down on their 13th consecutive Belorussian Premier League title as they have a nine-point lead with five league matches remaining.

“In Europe everything is difficult,’ Sarri said at Thursday’s news conference. “The other two games were not easy, so we have to prepare our minds to play another difficult match because this opponent during the season has lost only four times I think and for them the season is going to finish soon. This season they have done better away than at home, so it is not easy.”

Chelsea remained unbeaten in all competitions under their first-year manager but just barely, as Ross Barkley’s goal in the 95th minute Saturday salvaged a 2-2 draw against Manchester United. Antonio Rudiger had the other goal, getting free in space to head home a corner from Willian in the 21st minute. The Blues, though, struggled to cope with a more aggressive United in the second 45 minutes in which Sarri felt his team “lost control of the match” in the final half-hour by straying from the style that has gotten them to third in the table, two points behind Manchester City and Liverpool.

While much has been made of Sarri’s decision to field lineups primarily with senior players not seeing regular Premier League time as opposed to blooding the youth of Chelsea’s academy, this may be a match where Sarri’s decision to go in that direction requires those players at the bottom of the 18-man roster on Premier League matchdays to step forward.

Sarri has ruled out both Hazard and playmaker Jorginho. The former has a back injury, while the latter is being rested after featuring in both matches during international duty for Italy before logging the full match versus United.

‘This match is not a big problem, because we have to play five days after the last match,” Sarri explained in his Wednesday news conference. “The problem will be on Sunday as we have to play after 65 hours, so we need to change something. We need to think and be careful. For instance Jorginho needs to rest now as he played two 90 minutes in two match for the Italy national team and then nearly 100 minutes in our last game, so it is time to rest for him.

“(Thursday) Eden Hazard is out for sure. He has a back problem. We are trying to solve the problem for Sunday, I think it is not very easy, and the other one out is Ethan Ampadu because of a knee injury. That was suffered on international duty with Wales.”

It appears Sarri will turn over his entire back line as Emerson, Andreas Christensen, Gary Cahill and Davide Zappacosta are all in line for a start, though regular left back Marcos Alonso made news Wednesday by putting pen to paper on a five-year extension to stay at Stamford Bridge through 2023.

Jorginho’s absence means Cesc Fabregas will be pulling the strings in the midfield, while midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek is healthy and could see his first action for Chelsea since Sept. 12.

Up front, either Willian or Victor Moses is expected to slot into Hazard’s spot on the left, and Olivier Giroud likely will lead the line as Sarri continues to vacillate between the France international and Alvaro Morata depending on who has the better form for league play.

Morata and Willian have Chelsea’s Europa League goals, while keeper Kepa Arrizabalaga has needed to make just four saves for his two clean sheets.

BATE have split their first two group matches, winning 2-0 at MOL Vidi before being overrun 4-1 at home by Greek side PAOK earlier this month. The Tractor Boys avoided a third consecutive loss in all competitions Saturday, edging Gorodeya 3-2 at home. Maksim Skavysh rescued the win for BATE in the 86th minute after they had squandered a 2-0 lead built on goals by Hervaine Mekontso and Nikolai Sihnevich on either side of halftime.

While BATE prefer to use a 4-3-3 formation, it is more likely they will morph into a 4-5-1 in an attempt to stifle Chelsea’s movement. Skavysh and Igor Stasevich share the team lead with seven goals in all competitions, with Nikolai Signevich and Mirko Ivanic contributing six apiece.

BATE are well aware of the presence Giroud brings in the penalty area as the centre-forward scored in both Europa League group matches against them last season playing for Arsenal. The Tractor Boys were given a drumming in their last visit to London as the Gunners smashed six by them without reply in a dead rubber to complete group play.

Their only other match in England was a 1-0 victory at Everton in group play in 2009-10.


Per Ladbrokes, Chelsea are decisive favourites to retain their 100 percent Europa League record with 2/15 odds for a victory. The odds of a draw are 7/1, while BATE are 22/1 longshots to claim their first win in England in nine years.

Despite their narrow victories to open group play, oddsmakers are still expecting Chelsea to score goals in this contest. They have 4/7 odds to post a victory while scoring more than 2.5 goals, while a 1-0 or 2-0 scoreline checks in with 12/5 odds. A split of the points via a 0-0 or 1-1 final has 17/2 odds, while victories for BATE offer a 45/1 return for under 2.5 goals and 50/1 over that threshold.

Almost all of Chelsea’s expected roster are expected to score the first goal of the match, led by strikers Morata (13/5) and Giroud (14/5). Pedro, Willian, and Callum Hudson-Odoi are all joint-third at 9/2, with Victor Moses (5/1) and Barkley (13/2) rounding out the top seven to make it 1-0. BATE’s top options to create a 0-1 scoreline are Signevich and Jasse Touminen at 18/1, which is slightly longer than there being no goal-scorer in the match (16/1).

Oddsmaker expect a Chelsea striker to score as both Morata (4/6) and Giroud (3/4) are better than even money selections. Pedro and Willian are just off that pace — both have 5/4 odds to find the back of the net — while Hudson-Odoi (11/8), Moses (6/4) and Barkley (15/8) are all better than 2/1 choices.

For the Tractor Boys, Tumoinen and Signevich are joint top-options at 5/1, with Moukam and Mikhail Gordejchuk just behind them at 11/2.


It is unfair to label Sarri’s decision to hold out both Hazard and Jorginho “a risk,” especially with Hazard dealing with a back issue, but the moves fairly raise the question of how Chelsea maintain their continuity and rhythm offensively without their metronome (Jorginho) and impresario (Hazard).

In theory, there should not be much fall-off in the former because Fabregas is fully capable of directing an offence, and the Pensions should see a lion’s share of the possession that takes full advantage of his passing strengths to thread creases in BATE’s lines. It is the movement and nous of Hazard in the final third where it could take time for Chelsea to unlock the final third — they will undoubtedly have industry in Giroud, and it may be a case where Chelsea go outside-in from the flanks to wreak havoc and wear down BATE by way of crosses pumped into the box to earn corners and then score via set pieces.

The other expected decision to replace the entire back four is also an intriguing one, but it is also one that makes sense given Cahill is the only one who has played with the first-team back line as an injury replacement, and that was all for 21 minutes. Sometimes defenders work better in units, and the projected back four for this match gets a chance to prove that for a second straight contest.

BATE will have some confidence gleaned from their road victory at VOL Midi — they ended a 12-match road winless streak (0-2-10) in European competitions — but the Tractor Boys will likely get plowed here by a Chelsea side that should win their first three group matches in European competitions for the first time since the 2010-11 Champions League.



Sporting CP (2-0-0) vs. Arsenal (2-0-0)

Europa League Match Day 1 preview — PAOK FC vs. Chelsea

With an eye on extending his 100 percent start in the Premier League, Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri has done a selective rotation of sorts as his side begins Europa League play Thursday night against Greece side PAOK in Thessaloniki.


The Blues are participating in the Europa League for the first time since defeating Benfica to win the 2013 title in Amsterdam, landing in Europe’s second-tier tournament as one of the third-place finishers in their Champions League group. Chelsea had participated in the Champions League in four of their previous five seasons, missing out in 2016 after their disastrous Premier League title defence resulted in a 10th-place finish.

Sarri, though, has quickly rebuilt the London side since his arrival from Napoli, structuring the attack through Jorginho — who joined him from the Italian club at Stamford Bridge — and currently has the Pensioners atop the table, edging out Liverpool on goal difference while winning their first five matches. Chelsea dispatched Cardiff City 4-1 last weekend as Olivier Giroud set up Eden Hazard’s first two goals seven minutes apart late in the first half before the Belgium international completed his hat trick with a penalty 10 minutes from time.

“When I can’t create an opportunity to score or finish myself, I love to put my team-mates in a good position to finish,” Giroud told the club’s official website after making his first start of the season. “Eden knows me very well and when I can reach him in the box I do it. His quality is a different level in front of the box and in front of goal and he finished well. He always knows that I try to find him and I hope next time he will give me one back.”

Hazard, though, was left behind in London along with fellow starters David Luiz and Mateo Kovacic, with Sarri opting to rest them before Chelsea’s derby clash Sunday at West Ham United. Giroud himself is not guaranteed a spot in the starting XI either, with Sarri noting fellow striker Alvaro Morata could lead the line based on the manager’s scouting of Thursday’s opponents.

“On Saturday Oliver played very well,” praised Sarri. “Without scoring but he was very useful for his team-mates.

“In the last two weeks I have seen four matches of Cardiff and four matches of PAOK Salonika and I thought Giroud was more suitable for the Cardiff match and Morata for the other. So I don’t know who will be the striker of the future but I think both because we have to play 60 matches. In characteristics they are different and it depends on the kind of match.”

Luiz’s absence could mean a season debut for central defender Andreas Christensen. The 22-year-old Denmark international started 23 league matches last season under Antonio Conte but has been second choice to Luiz — whom Sarri is more comfortable with as  a central defender who has license to roam forward.

Another player in line for a season debut is veteran midfielder Cesc Fabregas, who would fill Jorginho’s role as the hub of the offence. Kovacic’s absence, coupled with Ruben Loftus-Cheek being sidelined with a leg injury, means Ross Barkley will likely plug that spot in the midfield to the left of Fabregas.

Sarri has platooned the duo in league play, with Kovacic now starting after his acclimation period from Real Madrid.

PAOK fell into the Europa League after losing to Benfica 5-2 on aggregate in the third and final playoff round of Champions League qualifying. The Double-Headed Eagles had it all to play for after tying the Portuguese side 1-all on the road and took a lead through Aleksandar Prijovic in the quarter-hour of the second leg, but shipped four goals — two via penalty — in a 30-minute span bridging the halves.

PAOK defeated Swiss side FC Basel and Spartak Moscow over two-legged ties to get to that point, and the second-leg defeat to Benfica also stands as their only loss in nine matches in all competitions (6-2-1).

They have gained the maximum nine points from their first three league matches, but a two-point deduction from the abandonment of a match last March against archrivals AEK in which PAOK team owner Ivan Savvidis came onto the pitch with a gun in his hip holster has left them fourth in the domestic table, two points off the lead.

The Double-Headed Eagles rallied for a 3-1 victory at OFI Crete last Saturday, getting first-half goals from Diego Biseswar and Leo Matos to overturn an early deficit. Leo Jaba added PAOK’s third eight minutes after the restart as PAOK maintained their perfect start ahead of a highly anticipated clash with AEK this weekend.

Prijovic has five goals in eight matches across all competitions — four coming in Champions League matches — and is no stranger to English football having made stops in Derby County, Yeovil Town and Northampton Town. He did not play against OFI due to a leg injury but practiced with the team during the week and is expected to be available.


Per Ladbrokes, Chelsea are heavy favourites to win the first match between these clubs at 5/6 odds. Oddsmakers also expect the Pensioners to take home at least one point, posting 5/2 odds compared to 10/3 for a victory by PAOK.

Chelsea have strong 2/1 odds to win this match with more than 2.5 goals scored, and a Blues victory by either a 1-0 or 2-0 count (16/5) edge out a 0-0 or 1-1 draw (10/3) by a narrow count. People tabbing PAOK for an upset can get 13/2 odds over 2.5 goals or 15/2 under 2.5.

With Hazard resting in London, Giroud and Morata are joint-favourites to find the back of the net first at 9/2 odds. Pedro checks in third at 6/1, just ahead of Chelsea youngster Callud Hudson-Odoi (13/2). Nikolaos Karelis is PAOK’s top option at 13/2, but Prijovic was not on the board at the time of this writing.

Giroud and Morata are also joint-favourites to bag a goal over the course of 90 minutes with 8/5 odds, woth Pedro (2/1) and both Willian and Hudson-Odoi (9/4) expected to be in the hunt. Karelis again is the top listed option for the hosts at 23/10.


This is the match where Chelsea supporters begin to learn more about Sarri’s long-range philosophy for the club. After the pragmatism of both Conte and predecessor Jose Mourinho, and the side’s philosophy of loaning players to clubs all over Europe, the group stage of the Europa League allows the Blues to blood some of their younger players in a pressured environment.

Much was made of Chelsea signing young midfielder Ethan Ampadu to a five-year contract earlier this week. The 18-year-old can play both centre back and defensive midfielder and started a Carabao Cup match against Everton last season. He is the type of player the Blues need and supporters want to nurture at the club, and matches like this are where that starts.

This should be a straightforward match for Chelsea, though the atmosphere could be a little rattling depending on how many youngsters start. Something else to watch in this contest is if keeper Willy Caballero gets the call in what would be his first start since his howler against Croatia for Argentina in the World Cup essentially opened the floodgates and heavily contributed to their shock exit in group play in Russia.



Arsenal vs. Vorskla

2018-19 EPL Match Day 4 preview: Chelsea (3-0-0) vs. Bournemouth (2-1-0)

Maurizio Sarri felt he needed three months to fully acclimate Chelsea to his brand of offence. Through three matches, however, little has gone wrong for the Italian and his Pensioners heading into an intriguing clash with Bournemouth at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.


Chelsea (3-0-0) are one of four sides in the Premier League with the maximum nine points, though they had to put in a volume of graft beyond the volume of completed passes to emerge with a 2-1 victory at Newcastle United last weekend.

Even with more than 900 completed passes and 81 percent possession as Newcastle played five in the back and often had all 10 players behind the ball, Chelsea did not have this match won until an own goal by DeAndre Yedlin three minutes from time snapped a deadlock.

Eden Hazard got his first start and converted a penalty in the 76th minute after Marcos Alonso was felled to bring an otherwise turgid match to life, but it was also clear the Belgium international is still acclimating to his new role in Sarri’s 4-3-3 formation.

“I think he played very well, maybe it’s better for him at this moment to only play 70 or 75 minutes,” Sarri told the club’s official website regarding Hazard. “But after the first goal (Mateo) Kovacic asked to be substituted, so for me it was impossible to let him rest.”

The biggest adjustment for Hazard is staying wide rather than coming to the ball to drive the offense as he did in Antonio Conte’s set-up. “Sarri-ball” has well-defined roles for every player – most notably Jorginho in the middle as distributor – and when Hazard moved inside, it warped the shape of the team to the point where most of those 900-plus completed passes were rendered harmless as Chelsea had only three shots on target.

“Creating more chances from open play is something we will work on, I’m sure,” right back Cesar Azpilicueta said. “We want to control the game and have the ball, and we want to be dangerous in front of the goal. As a team we know we can improve and we will work on that.”

Bournemouth (2-1-0) are not going to be as inclined to sit back and defend with two banks of four. The Cherries are off to their best start in Premier League play and continue to show a staggering amount of resiliency to claim points by any means possible.

The latest example of that doggedness came against Everton last weekend as they fell behind 2-0 at home. They conceded the first goal while having a man advantage and the second after Adam Smith was sent off for denying a clear scoring opportunity as the last man.

But the extra space playing 10-versus-10 allowed Bournemouth the opportunity to utilise their speed through the middle, and they took full advantage. Joshua King converted a penalty to start the final quarter-hour and Nathan Ake slammed home a loose ball on a corner four minutes later as the Cherries emerged with a 2-2 draw which also gave them a Premier League-leading 20 points after falling behind in 2018.

“We’re delighted to achieve another comeback,” manager Eddie Howe told Bournemouth’s official website. “At ten versus ten it was difficult from a mental perspective given how the game had gone. I’m very pleased with the ability to come from behind as it always gives you a chance in a game, but it frustrates us that we allow it to happen in the first place. There’s plenty to learn from it.”

Those lessons still fresh in their heads, the Cherries steamrolled League Two leaders MK Dons 3-0 at home Tuesday. Ryan Fraser, the only starter to hold his place from the weekend, celebrated his call-up to the Scotland national team with a goal, bracketed by ones from Lys Mousset and Jordan Ibe.

The bigger news, however, was the Bournemouth debuts of left back Diego Rico and midfielder Jefferson Lerma. The summer signings – with Lerma’s a club-record £25 million – were a rare aggressive foray into the transfer market by the Cherries, and both gave solid performances in a clinical victory.

“Both of our new players – Diego Rico and Jefferson Lerma – did really well,” Howe noted. “It’s very difficult to come straight into a game and settle in. It will do them the world of good just to have that experience today to feel what it’s like to play for Bournemouth.”

Rico would be the more likely of the two to crack the starting XI if Howe makes any changes, and Lerma was among the reserves against Everton. Where Bournemouth can make hay is by countering through the middle if Jorginho pushes up too far. That allows Fraser to use his pace to find gaps behind Jorginho and in front of Chelsea’s central defence pairing of David Luiz and Antonio Rudiger since N’Golo Kante no longer provides that cover in his new midfield role.

The teams split the two matches last term, with Bournemouth snapping a five-match losing streak in all competitions with a 3-0 thrashing at Stamford Bridge on Jan. 31. Ake, Callum Wilson and Junior Stanislas scored in a 16-minute span of the second half for the Cherries, who have recorded both their Premier League victories over the Pensioners at Stamford Bridge.


Per Ladbrokes, Chelsea are clear favourites at 2/7 odds, while Bournemouth are 9/1 underdogs to pull off a shock scoreline for all three points. The odds of the sides splitting the points are 9/2.

Oddsmakers are also fairly confident in Chelsea getting a high-scoring victory as they are 7/10 favourites to win with an over of 2.5 goals. By contrast, Bournemouth face 14/1 odds on such an outcome, the same as a draw and over 2.5 goals. A 1-0 or 2-0 victory for Chelsea has 7/2 odds, while a 0-0 or 1-1 draw return 7/1 odds. The Cherries posting a clean sheet with a 1-0 or 2-0 victory is the deepest long shot at 25/1.

For first goal-scorers, Morata is a narrow 10/3 favourite over Hazard and Olivier Giroud (7/2). Pedro checks in at 9/2 to make it 1-0 for the hosts, while Willian is listed at 5/1. For those who believe in deja vu, Bournemouth’s Callum Wilson is getting 10/1 odds to give the visitors a 1-0 lead at Stamford Bridge for the second striaght match.

Morata and Giroud are better than even money to score at any point over the 90 minutes at 10/11 and 19/20, respectively, and Hazard is an even-money pick. Pedro (5/4) and Willian (6/4) trail close behind, while Wilson also leads Bournemouth’s options at 11/4, followed by King and Jermain Defoe at 16/5.


This match presents an interesting juxtaposition. Chelsea have shown they can take a punch when ahead and still progress, while Bournemouth refuse to give in regardless the score line. Twenty points from losing positions do not grow on trees, people.

In some ways, this match could be similar to the one Chelsea played against Arsenal, only Bournemouth have a midfield that can link to their attackers. The downside is the Cherries do not have the quality in attack of the Gunners, but they have been a handful to shut down since they have scored at least two goals in all four of their matches.

But for Howe’s team to be successful, it starts and ends with Fraser. He is going to have to play an excellent two-way game, which means using his pace on offence and haring around after Jorginho to not let him get comfortable. The other thing evident about Bournemouth is they enjoy being a team.

Against Everton, Wilson missed a good scoring chance early and had another chance go begging. Perhaps sensing it was not his day, he let King step up and take the penalty to start the fight back. Bournemouth have also scored in pairs… they overtook West Ham with two goals in six minutes and knotted Everton with two in four.

There will be clues to how well Hazard adapts to Sarri-ball starting with this match. Hazard had a full match and now has a perfectionist in Sarri explaining every nuance of how Chelsea are to retain their shape. Whether Hazard can fit into this system is still up for debate, but he has made an impact in all three matches and possesses the nous to mesh the concepts with his individual brilliance.

This match should be hotly and evenly contested since both sides have gaps that can be exploited defensively. In the end, Chelsea appear to have just a little bit extra that will separate themselves from the Cherries.

Predicted final score: Chelsea 2, Bournemouth 1.

Other Match Day 4 previews:

Leicester City (2-0-1) vs. Liverpool (3-0-0)
West Ham United (0-0-3) vs. Wolverhampton (0-2-1)
Manchester City (2-1-0) vs. Newcastle United (0-1-2)
Watford (3-0-0) vs. Tottenham Hotspur (3-0-0)

2018-19 EPL Match Day 3 Preview — Newcastle United (0-1-1) vs. Chelsea (2-0-0)

Tactics, schemes, set pieces and in-match adjustments will be the order of the day at St James’ Park on Sunday when Rafa Benitez and Newcastle United attempt to put the brakes on the fast start enjoyed by Maurizio Sarri and Chelsea.


The two managers share a common thread as managers of Serie A side Napoli. Benitez guided the Little Donkeys for two seasons from 2013-15, finishing third and fifth before moving onto a doomed six-month stint at Real Madrid. He resurfaced two months later at Newcastle (0-1-1), whom he could not save from relegation but brought back to the top flight by winning the Championship in 2017.

After a 3-0 rout of Chelsea last May when it was evident Antonio Conte would not be returning to Stamford Bridge, Benitez felt Sarri could thrive if he took the job.

“Sarri to Chelsea? At the beginning it’s not easy but a great manager can adapt to the Premier League,” he told CalcioNapoli24. “In England there is more respect for the role of manager. When I arrived at Liverpool they gave me three years to win something. I had to manage the team and try to win, I was not obliged.

“In Italy and Spain you must win something in the first year, sometimes in the first week.”

Sarri, a lifer in the lower rungs of Italian calcio, was a surprise selection to follow Benitez at Napoli. The club continued to thrive as they finished no lower than third in Sarri’s three seasons and were the only consistent threat to Juventus’ domestic dominance. Napoli’s 91 points last term were the most of any Serie A side who failed to win the scudetto.

Chelsea (2-0-0) turned to Sarri as their relationship with Conte — another mercurial Italian manager – soured almost immediately after winning the Premier League title in 2017. Sarri became an attractive alternative for owner Roman Abramovich in large part because Sarri does not care much, publicly at least, about the transfer window and coaches who he has on the squad at that moment.

Both men are football obsessives, men who find their greatest joy examining the game at the macro and micro levels. Benitez spent his honeymoon following around AC Milan, and Sarri earned the nickname “Mister 33” because he had 33 plays at the ready for set pieces while coaching Sansovino – a sixth-division team during his tenure in the early 2000s.

For this match, Benitez will be the bigger tinkerer of the two. A crucial change to Newcastle’s lineup is enforced since winger and Chelsea loanee Kenedy cannot play against his parent club.

The Brasil international missed a penalty in Newcastle United’s 0-0 draw at Cardiff City on Aug. 18 that was the last kick of the contest but was also lucky to still be on the pitch to even take the attempt as referee Craig Pawson missed him kick Victor Camarasa.

“A point away from home in a difficult game, with 10 men, is a point gained, but it’s disappointing because we could have had all three in the 95th minute,” left back Paul Dummett told the club’s official website.

“We came for three points and we didn’t get them, but in the circumstances – having 10 men – we’ll take the point. These things happen in football – players miss penalties, players miss chances and today it was us.”

Benitez should have right back DeAndre Yedlin available after he was sidelined last match with a knee injury. Japan international Yoshinori Muto could get his first start with the Magpies to fill Kenedy’s spot, and Salomon Rondon could lead the line at the expense of Joselu. One other possible switch for Benitez would be installing Federico Fernandez for Ciaran Clark in central defence to partner with Jamaal Lascelles.

Isaac Hayden will begin serving a three-match ban for his reckless challenge on Cardiff’s Josh Murphy that resulted in a direct red card.

Sarri could leave his lineup unchanged for a third straight match after taking the maximum six points from the first two. The good and the bad of Sarri’s 4-3-3 formation and decision to shift N’Golo Kante to the right were on display in Chelsea’s 3-2 derby win over Arsenal on Aug. 18.

The Blues tore apart Arsenal’s defence in the first 20 minutes as Pedro and Alvaro Morata scored goals. But after two seasons in which Kante defused so many opposing attacks with well-timed tackles and interceptions, the Gunners showed how to ruthlessly exploit the gaps created when the France international goes forward.

Arsenal equalised before halftime and realistically should have scored twice more in those 45 minutes. Chelsea, however, won after defender Marcos Alonso swept Eden Hazard’s pass by Petr Cech from close range in the 81st minute.

“I think we play good football when we have the ball,” Morata told Chelsea’s official website. “We need to improve on small things but it’s only been one month since we’ve been all together with the manager and I think if we can continue like this we can play against any team in the world.”

Sarri’s temptation to tinker comes in replacing Willian with Hazard on the left wing. Hazard has been building to match fitness since returning from Belgium’s third-place finish at the World Cup and has registered assists in both matches coming off the bench.

Mateo Kovacic, who came over on loan from Real Madrid when the reigning three-time Champions League winners signed keeper Thibaut Courtois, could get his first start as well over Ross Barkley in the midfield.

St James’ Park has been a bogey ground of late for the Pensioners, who have taken one point from their last five visits and been outscored 12-5. Ayoze Perez had a brace in that 3-0 victory in May for Newcastle, scoring both goals in a four-minute span of the second half.


Per Ladbrokes, Chelsea are decided 4/6 favourites, while Newcastle United check in as 21/5 underdogs. The odds of the teams splitting the points are 11/4. Punters appear torn between an outcome in which both teams score (5/6) or one side posting a clean sheet (19/20). For those expecting anti-football, a scoreless draw is listed with 10/1 odds.

The leading outcome among bettors is a Chelsea victory with more than 2.5 goals at 8/5, while a Pensioners win under 2.5 goals is listed at 29/10. The match ending in a 0-0 or 1-1 draw pulls down 15/4 odds.

Chelsea dominate the board for first goal-scorers as they have the first six options, led by Morata and Olivier Giroud at 4/1. Hazard is a somewhat surprising third at 5/1 given he has yet to start this season. Newcastle strikers Rondon and Joselu are the joint-top options for the hosts at 9/1.

For anytime goal-scorers, Morata and Giroud are again the top picks at 11/8 odds, with Hazard 17/10. As an adventurous option, Muto is a 4/1 anytime scorer and a 12/1 pick to give the Magpies a 1-0 lead.


One thing Benitez did very well last season was devise tactics against the top-six sides when playing at home. Newcastle went 3-1-2 in such matches last year, losing only 1-0 to Manchester City, and it can be argued they deserved at least one point from their season-opening 2-1 loss to Tottenham a fortnight ago.

Not having Kenedy available gives Benitez all the incentive he needs to take a defensive stance in this match and stay compact while looking for opportunities to hit on the counter. That may cause some grousing among the Toon Army, especially considering there will be pre-match protests of owner Mike Ashley — something now the norm versus the exception — but they and Benitez know this is the best chance to grab a needed victory here.

Chelsea are still a curious work in progress with Sarri-ball. Arsenal showed what a good counterattacking team can do with a little bit of pace, and Newcastle may be able to exploit such gaps with Muto and Perez. It would not be surprising to see Joselu hold his spot for this match, but Rondon provides an industry that may force David Luiz to have a second thought or two when advancing.

This should be an intriguing chess match of move and countermove given how both Benitez and Sarri love the game within the game. In the end, however, Chelsea’s talent and depth should win out late.

Predicted Final Score: Newcastle United 0, Chelsea 2.

Other Match Day 3 Previews:

Wolverhampton (0-1-1) vs. Manchester City (2-0-0)
Arsenal (0-0-2) vs. West Ham United (0-0-2)
Fulham (0-0-2) vs. Burnley (0-1-1)
Manchester United (1-0-1) vs. Tottenham Hotspur (2-0-0)