Chelsea is looking to return to form in a Premier League match at Hull City, set to take place at KC Stadium Sunday. The league leaders head into the match three points clear of Manchester City on the table, with two games in hand, but have been mired in mediocre play in the approach to the final matches of the year.
With nine league games left to play, Jose Mourinho’s side controls its destiny, but has been struggling lately, scoring just four goals in their last four Premier League fixtures. That includes a 1-1 draw at relegation-zone-dwelling Burnley and a tight 1-0 win over West Ham. The Blues’ most recent two matches saw a heartbreaking elimination from the Champions League to PSG March 11 and a disappointing 1-1 draw with Southampton March 15.
Chelsea hasn’t had a truly convincing win since its 5-0 drubbing of Swansea City Jan. 17. But the Blues’ talent and grit have allowed them to remain unbeaten over their last eight league matches, with five wins and three draws. Mourinho's side last lost a league match on New Year’s Day, falling 5-3 to Tottenham.
Chelsea will surely expect to take a full three points from the match against a Hull side in 15th place and just three points clear of the relegation zone. Heading into the match and the stretch run, Mourinho knows his side will not cruise to the Premier League championship.
“I would enjoy much more having 20 points more,” Mourinho told reporters. “We have been chased since day one, since August. The others have good teams, have ambitions. They don’t let us enjoy an easy ride.”
Steve Bruce’s Hull side -- entrenched in a relegation battle -- would surely like to steal a result from the league leaders. Chelsea will likely look to forward Diego Costa to provide a scoring threat to help swing the game in its favor. The Spanish striker had been in an eight-match scoring lull before finding the back of the net against Southampton last weekend. Costa was nearly scoring at will early in the year, and that helped push Chelsea to the top of the table. Attacking midfielder Cesc Fabregas has been in shaky form, as well. If Fabregas can distribute the ball and find creative passes, then Chelsea as a whole -- and Costa especially -- find attacking an easier task, as it was in the early stretch of the season.
Croatian striker Nikica Jelavic is the top scoring threat for Hull City, netting eight league goals thus far. While near the bottom of the table, Hull has proven to be a dangerous matchup for top sides. It’s drawn with Manchester City, Southampton and Arsenal throughout the course of the year. Chelsea won 2-0 the last time the two squads met, Dec. 13, with Costa and winger Eden Hazard providing the goals. Hull was forced to play with 10 men after midfielder Tom Huddlestone was sent off for a challenge in the 60th minute.
Hull is looking to buck history: It’s never beaten the Blues in the Premier League, losing five times and drawing twice.
Kickoff Time: 12 p.m. EDT
TV Channel: NBC Sports Network
Live Stream Info: Watch online at NBC Live Extra
Prediction: Chelsea will return to form on the attack against a Hull side that has struggled lately. Chelsea will play with confidence and control the match.
Chelsea 2-0 Hull City