10th January 2014
High-flying Hull City will be aiming to claim another major scalp when they host Chelsea on Saturday afternoon, although this is clearly not the right time to be facing the Stamford Bridge outfit. The Blues seem to have finally rediscovered their form and they arrive at KC Stadium looking for fifth straight victory in all competitions.
Hull City have done a tremendous job upon their return to the elite division, but survival specialist Steve Bruce knows all to well that his side cannot afford to relax just yet. Several shrewd transfer dealings in the summer seriously improved team’s chances of beating the drop and the Tigers are likely to add few more quality players to their ranks in January. Hull City have so far done really well in matches against top sides, especially at their KC Stadium and despite losing to Liverpool last time out, I can see them creating all sorts of problems for unconvincing Chelsea. The Tigers have done pretty well at the back having already kept five clean sheets at home and while that record will be put to the test against in-form Chelsea, chances are the three-man back line, supported by full backs El Mohamady and Figueroa, will not be easy to break. Hull City have also made it to FA Cup fourth round with their second-string side defeating Middlesbrough on the road, which is likely to act as an additional boost ahead of the important match against Chelsea. The good news is Steve Bruce has no fresh injury worries, although Sone Aluko and Joe Dudgeon remain sidelined and Robbie Brady is doubtful.
We can safely say Chelsea have been performing well below the expectations this season, but the fact they are still within two points of Premier League leaders Arsenal speaks volumes about their quality and experience. Jose Mourinho has masterminded some very good results in matches against their title rivals, although it is fair to say the Blues have been pretty fortunate in some of those games. Meanwhile, they haven’t really impressed in the remaining Premier League fixtures, although it is clear they have shown a great deal of improvement of late. The good run started with the goalless draw at the Emirates, and while Chelsea were below par in the narrow triumph over Swansea, they produced a very good performance to record a 2-1 triumph over Liverpool. The Blues started the New Year with a 3-0 win at Southampton and then continued the rich vein of form by defeating Derby County in the FA Cup. With his back line largely struggling in the opening exchanges, Jose Mourinho must have been delighted to see his charges keep four clean sheets in last five matches, with the Blues now 1/1 not to concede at KC Stadium. The visitors will have to make do without Branislav Ivanovic and Frank Lampard, whereas Ryan Bertrand and Marco van Ginkel remain sidelined.
Having proved on numerous occasions they can match even England’s top sides, Hull City could be a tough nut to crack, especially as Chelsea are still not firing on all cylinders. Meanwhile, the Blues are set to adopt another cautious approach and with their back line looking much better than before, under 2.5 goals looks a good option here.
Verdict: Under 2.5 goals
Best Odds: 4/5