After seven defeats in the first 12 rounds of Premier League matches, Chelsea’s latest attempt to turn things around comes at home to Norwich City, who ended their own bad run last time out.
In fairness, Chelsea played considerably better in their last match at Stoke City than they had in many of their previous outings this season, but still came away with nothing after being frustrated by a highly organised and obdurate defensive unit. Eden Hazard gave his best display for some time while Pedro Rodriguez added a little extra dynamism going forward on his return to the starting line-up, but they lacked a focal point as Diego Costa proved ineffective as the lone striker.
Only when they manage to put a decent run of results together will the Blues’ confidence begin to be restored, and as they have such a talented squad available it is surely only a matter of time until their fortunes do turn. If they do not, owner Roman Abramovich may find himself with no option but to relieve manager Jose Mourinho of his duties, although in public at least the team remains behind him. For now, this is a must win game.
That could have been said about Norwich’s game at home to Swansea City before the international break, and they delivered when they needed to, earning a deserved victory which halted their slide towards the bottom three. Manager Alex Neil opted to play a counter-attacking game and allow their opponents to have a lot of the possession, and it worked perfectly as they were tough to break down and created the better scoring opportunities throughout.
It was the first clean sheet that the club has kept since returning to the Premier League, and their first priority at Stamford Bridge will be to frustrate Chelsea and give as little away as possible. However, they will sense that the pressure is all on the hosts and that may allow the likes of Nathan Redmond to thrive. Should Branislav Ivanovic be back for Chelsea, he is unlikely to be handed a comfortable return to the fold up against the former Birmingham City winger.
Goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois must wait at least another week before returning to the Chelsea team despite resuming training during the week.
Norwich will be without on-loan winger Matt Jarvis, but they welcome back captain Russell Martin following a one-match ban.
Played for both – Chris Sutton: The Nottingham-born striker began his career with Norwich and immediately proved himself a natural goalscorer, scoring 35 times in 102 league appearances for the club before a goal-laden spell with Blackburn Rovers. He moved to Chelsea in 1999, but the move did not work out as he netted just once in 28 league games and left after only a year.