AFC Bournemouth are preparing for what on paper looks to be their toughest fixture of the season so far as they face the league leaders Chelsea away from home on Boxing Day.
Bournemouth looking to bounce back following Southampton defeat
Eddie Howe’s side are looking to bounce back after a disappointing final home game of 2016 where they fell to local rivals Southampton 3-1. Nathan Ake put the hosts in front but an equaliser from Ryan Bertrand and a second half brace from Jay Rodriguez sunk the Cherries in what was a lacklustre performance.
After the game Howe deemed match fitness to be key factor in the defeat and that it is an important issue which needs addressing ahead of their next game. He said: “I still feel that physically right from the start of the game we didn’t look quite right today, three games in eight days and we didn’t respond quite right in this third one so that’s something for me to look back and reflect on.”
Chelsea going for club record 12th successive league win
Antonio Conte’s Blues have won their previous 11 Premier League games, including most recently a 1-0 win away at Crystal Palace and are six points clear at the top of the table with 17 games played.
One bonus for Bournemouth’s chances is that Chelsea will be without N’Golo Kante and top scorer Diego Costa after they both picked up their fifth bookings of the season in the previous game at Selhurst Park.
Unfortunately for Bournemouth they will be without Ake as he is ineligible to play against his parent club, which will be a big loss after the Dutch defender shone in last weekends defeat and struck the winning goals against both Stoke City and Liverpool in recent weeks.
Contrasting fortunes defensively
The two teams boast very different defensive records of late, Conte’s men have only conceded in two of their last 11 league games, while the Cherries have conceded three goals in each of the games against Arsenal, Liverpool, Burnley and Southampton.
This susceptibility to conceding goals is of real concern to Howe but the English manager is looking forward to their next clash. “It will be a tough game and the run they’ve been on has been really impressive”, he said. “They’re solid at the back and free flowing going forward, but we can go into the game with confidence and we have nothing to lose.”
AFC Bournemouth won this fixture last season 1-0 thanks to a late goal from Glen Murray, resulting in the Cherries becoming the first newly promoted side to beat Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in 14 years. However, the Blues were a shadow of the team they are now. Then sitting in the bottom half of the table they currently stand at the top of the pile and have gone on to win the Premier League in each of the seasons where they have been top at Christmas. It promises to be an exciting Premier League Boxing Day clash.