There’s a bit of a spicy Super Sunday coming up as the Premier League makes its return after the international break.
The teams with everything to play take the attention to South Wales, with Cardiff City hosting Chelsea; the Bluebirds versus the Blues.
Chelsea are vying for a top-four spot after a year out of the Champions League, but are facing severe competition from Manchester United, Arsenal, and Tottenham Hotspur.
Maurizio Sarri’s appointment as manager in the summer was greeted with much fanfare, but the Italian has seen the season slip away from him and the five-time Premier League champions find themselves even outside a Europa League spot, in sixth.
Cardiff meanwhile are attempting to secure a second successive season in the Premier League, after failing to do after their 2013/14 campaign. Neil Warnock’s side are lingering precariously in 18th-spot, with eight games left to them to play, and know their game in hand over 17th-placed Burnley is vital.
Cardiff however have lost all three of their Premier League matches against Chelsea, having also met in that 13/14 season, by an aggregate score of 10 goals to three (although Chelsea have failed to keep a clean-sheet in each of those occasions). Cardiff have lost their previous 16 Premier League games against the so-called ‘Big Six’, the last result coming in a 2-2 draw with Manchester United in November 2013 in their inaugural season in the EPL.
They haven’t beaten Chelsea since 1986, with Chelsea also having the impressive record of having lost only one of their 17 Premier League games against Welsh opposition, winning 12, with that isolated incident coming in losing 1-0 at Swansea City in April 2016 when Chelsea were under the management of Guus Hiddink in his second spell as interim.
The last meeting saw a 4-1 win for Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, with the talismanic Eden Hazard bagging a hat-trick.
Bluebirds manager Neil Warnock however will be aware he can edge his record with a victory over a questionable, unpredictable Chelsea outfit who have a draw and a loss from their last two league games.
Only west London neighbours Fulham have lost more Premier League games away in 2019 than Chelsea, the Blues having lost four of their five; defeats coming to Arsenal, Bournemouth, Manchester City, and Everton. What’s more, on each of those occasions, they’ve failed to score and suffered the ignominy of a cumulative 14 goals go past them.
Warnock - across his near four-decade career in management - currently holds a 50% home win rate against Chelsea, having beaten them with Notts County and Queens Park Rangers (but having lost during spells with Sheffield United and Crystal Palace).
Irregardless of the full implications of a positive result for Cardiff and how imperative it would make their escape from the drop, it would make a significant personal achievement against one of the Premier League big boys that has proven so elusive.
Furthermore, Cardiff City have won 71% of their Premier League points this season in home games, with 20 out of their 28 points gained coming in Leckwith. Chelsea have already lost against Wolverhampton Wanderers, meaning that if they suffer defeat to the Bluebirds, it’ll be the first time they’ve lost against two different promoted sides since the 2012/13 season, when they lost against West Ham and Southampton.
They are likely to be without Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who had to withdraw from the England squad with a back injury.
Cardiff have lost Sol Bamba for the rest of the season after rupturing knee ligaments in the early-March defeat to Wolves. Calum Paterson, Joe Bennet, and Victor Camarasa should shake off minor injuries for the call-up.
Cardiff City versus Chelsea kicks off on Sunday 31st March 2019 at 14:05 (GMT)