Not many would have predicted Bournemouth versus Chelsea being a clash of two mid-table teams with nothing to play for back in August, but that is exactly the case as the two teams prepare to match up at the Vitality Stadium.
Bournemouth’s home defeat against Liverpool last time out was their third loss in their last four matches, and also took their tally of defeats at home to 8 – only Crystal Palace and Aston Villa have lost more times in front of their own fans.
However, the Cherries would have definitely accepted 13th place at this stage had it been offered to them at the start of the season, and boss Eddie Howe remains the toast of the south coast for steering them to safety with time to spare.
Striker Josh King goes into the game in good form for the hosts; his consolation against Liverpool last week took his tally to four from his last six games. Remarkably, a Bournemouth win would take them level on points with last year’s champions.
Chelsea’s long unbeaten run under Guus Hiddink has come to a juddering halt, with the Blues losing their last two matches to leave them stuck in tenth place.
However, their form on the road under the Dutchman has been impressive; they have won five of their last seven games on their travels and conceded just three goals away from home since Hiddink took over.
The home defeat to Bournemouth in the reverse fixture was Jose Mourinho’s final home game in charge, and if Chelsea become victims of a surprise double against the promoted side, it will emphasise just how poor their title defence has been.
Adam Smith and Harry Arter sit out for Howe’s side, who will continue to give striker Callum Wilson valuable minutes as he builds up his match fitness after a lengthy lay-off.
Goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois is suspended for the visitors after being sent off against Manchester City last week, so Asmir Begovic will start in goal. Eden Hazard could return on the wing after missing the past five games.
League Positions: Bournemouth – 13th (41 pts); Chelsea – 10th (44 pts)
Previous Meeting: Chelsea 0-1 Bournemouth – December 5, 2015
Form: Bournemouth – WWLLWL; Chelsea – WDDWLL
Key Players: Bournemouth – Josh King; Chelsea – Willian
Shoot Says: Bournemouth 1-1 Chelsea