Chelsea will attempt to maintain its perfect start to the season on Saturday when they welcome struggling Cardiff City to Stamford Bridge in the Barclay's Premier League.
Stamford Bridge, Fulham, England
Key Stat: Chelsea have won all three matches with Cardiff this century, but Welsh side have managed to score in each fixture.
Expert Verdict: There is precious little to suggest that Cardiff will be able to compete with Chelsea for 90 minutes. They did look a genuine threat, finally, against Arsenal before the international break, but Chelsea are a different team. Even with tactical changes still being worked on by Sarri and his charges, the Blues of London simply have more confidence than the aforementioned Gunners. Because of that, the hosts should put the side from Wales to the sword.
Maurizio Sarri has only a couple of injury worries to deal with in the form of center back Gary Cahill and center midfielder Cesc Fabregas. To be fair, neither player really looks like being the type of player that Sarri wants and/or needs in this rendition of the Blues side. Young center midfielder Marco van Ginkel also will miss out via injury.
Pedro has been in superb form of late. The veteran Spanish winger has scored three goals in the last four matches, which equals the number of goals he had scored over a stretch of nearly ¾ of last season. His goal in the win over Bournemouth changed the game, and he will be in with a shout here for the start. Left back Marcos Alonso remains a Key Players. His switch from wing back to full back has gone seamlessly so far, with the Spaniard scoring once and assisting twice in four matches already.
Chelsea have four wins and a draw in their last five matches:
2-0 home win vs Bournemouth
1-2 win at Newcastle
3-2 home win vs Arsenal
0-3 win at Huddersfield
0-0 draw, penalty win vs Lyon (ICC)
Defenders:Azpilicueta, Rudiger, David Luiz, Alonso
Midfielders:Kante, Jorginho, Kovacic
Forwards:Pedro, Hazard, Morata
Neil Warnock will be set to miss out on the services of winger Nathaniel Mendez-Laing for this fixture. Another player that will be touch-and-go at best is Icelandic defensive midfielder Aron Gunnarsson, who is still recovering from a knee injury.
Neil Warnock has taken heat for both his playing style and various comments he has made. One of those was professing Sol Bamba to be better than Virgil van Dijk of Liverpool. While that is a big, big statement to make, Bamba is a quality player. But he'll have to be absolutely superb here to help them get anything from this match. Spanish winger Victor Camarasa is the man to watch going forward. He scored the club's first PL goal of the season against Arsenal, and they'll look to him for inspiration here.
Cardiff have three losses and two draws in their last five matches:
2-3 home loss vs Arsenal
1-3 home loss vs Norwich (EFL Cup)
0-0 draw at Huddersfield
0-0 home draw vs Newcastle
2-0 loss at Bournemouth
Defenders:Ecuele Manga, Morrison, Bamba, Bennett
Midfielders:Camarasa, Arter, Ralls, Hoilett
Chelsea have met Cardiff 23 times down the years, and the series is tied with both teams at eight wins apiece and seven draws being played out. However, they have played only three times since 1961, with the Londoners winning all of those. Here's a look at those results:
May 11, 2014: Cardiff 1-2 Chelsea
Oct 19, 2013: Chelsea 4-1 Cardiff
Feb 13, 2010: Chelsea 4-1 Cardiff
Bet365 have the following odds available for this match:
Chelsea are at 1/6 to win, a draw is at 11/2, and a Cardiff win is at 16/1.
Chelsea will begin play after the first international break as one of only three teams with four wins from their first four matches. It has been a fine start to life under Maurizio Sarri for sure, and they have put themselves in second and a possible title battle with the fine showings so far. Outside of the win against Arsenal, they have rarely looked troubled as of yet. It's an interesting one as well. Will this team and its personnel click under the Italian, or will the shoehorning of players like Kante and Alonso end up unraveling later on? On Thursday, Chelsea will travel to PAOK in the Europa League, but that isn't likely to have too much impact here.
Cardiff are one of the five teams in the league still looking for their first win, and if form is anything to go off of him they could still be looking for it after their visit to the Blues of London. But, they have been able to grind out two points via two draws and had their best match right before the break against Arsenal at home. They scored their first two goals of the campaign and showed some attacking verve to them in Wales, and that little bit of fight could just see them squeak out of relegation come season's end.
Cardiff have failed to score in three of their four PL matches so far, and Chelsea's defence isn't as porous as Arsenal's.
No for both teams scoring is at 8/13 via Ladbrokes.
Chelsea to lead at half and full time is at 1.57 via Betfair.
Cardiff finally offered a threat in front of goal at the Emirates last time out, and that has to be encouraging for them. But Chelsea are a different animal, and all that extra quality will see them to a comfortable home win.