Chelsea head coach Graham Potter is unsure how his players will be impacted by their World Cup exploits ahead of the Premier League’s resumption, as they prepare to welcome Bournemouth to Stamford Bridge.
Potter’s team sit eighth in the Premier League table, eight points adrift of a top-four place, after enduring a five-match winless run ahead of the World Cup.
While Chelsea will welcome Reece James back from injury on Tuesday, the likes of Mateo Kovacic and Hakim Ziyech are still unavailable following long campaigns in Qatar.
“It’s not so easy to get the balance right, we’re all learning because it’s never happened before, so we don’t know how that’s going to go,” Potter conceded.
“You have to constantly evaluate the players because you might get two or three months down the line and think you have to do something just to refresh, because we don’t know what the effects of a World Cup will be, long-term.
“Now we’re confident with the guys and where they are. We can work and prepare normally for the games.”
While Bournemouth are just three points clear of the relegation zone, they have won two of their last three league games against Chelsea.
Boss Gary O’Neil, however, does not expect those results to impact Tuesday’s game.
“I am aware of it, but I don’t believe it will help us much in the next one!” he said of Bournemouth’s good record against Chelsea.
“It’s a tough place to go, they’re a top side and obviously a big club with a top coach and fantastic players.
“They’re expected to win basically every game they play. It will be a tough one for us.
“As always, we’ll get the lads playing, get the lads ready and we’ll go there expecting to be competitive and expecting to get a positive result.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Chelsea – Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
Chelsea striker Aubameyang has scored in three of his four Premier League appearances against Bournemouth, including a Boxing Day strike against them in 2019. Having enjoyed a seven-week break during the World Cup, the former Arsenal man will be raring to go.
Bournemouth – Marcus Tavernier
No player has been involved in more Premier League goals for Bournemouth this season than Tavernier (six – two goals, four assists). He’s both scored and assisted in his last two games, the only Cherries player to do so in consecutive top-flight appearances.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– Chelsea have lost three of their five Premier League home games against Bournemouth (W2) – since the start of 2015-16, they’ve only lost more at Stamford Bridge against Liverpool and Manchester City (four each).
– Bournemouth have taken seven points from their last three Premier League games against Chelsea (W2 D1), more than they had in their first seven against them (W2 L5).
– Bournemouth have scored eight goals in their last three Premier League games, as many as they had in their previous 11 combined. The Cherries are looking to score three or more goals in three consecutive league games for the first time since November 2014.
– Only West Ham and Everton (four each) have scored fewer first-half goals in the Premier League this season than Chelsea (six). The Blues haven’t scored before half-time in any of their last five league games, last having a longer run between February and March 2012 (six).
– Chelsea’s Raheem Sterling has scored nine goals in his nine Premier League appearances against Bournemouth, including his first ever hat-trick in the competition back in October 2015. Against no side has he scored more often in league football.