5 talking points: Chelsea aim to build momentum against Leicester's leaky defense

2P777AG March 7, 2023, London, United Kingdom: London, United Kingdom, Stamford Bridge, March 07, 2023, Kai Havertz of Chelsea FC in action during Chelsea FC vs Borussia Dortmund - UEFA Champions League football match. (Credit Image: © Francesco Scaccianoce/LPS via ZUMA Press Wire) EDITORIAL USAGE ONLY! Not for Commercial USAGE!

With another weekend of Premier League action on the horizon, let’s take a look at five key matchups and talking points from the coming fixtures.

Bournemouth vs. Liverpool, Saturday 12:30 GMT

Two teams coming off contrasting results and emotions from the past weekend. Liverpool entered the week after inflicting rivals Manchester United’s heaviest-ever Premier League defeat in the 7-0 thumping at Anfield. Bournemouth, however, suffered last-second heartbreak at league leaders Arsenal last time out, having led 2-0 only to see the Gunners snatch a 3-2 win.

Jurgen Klopp’s side are in a great run of form in the league, with four wins and a draw in their last five, whilst not conceding a goal and scoring 13. In contrast, relegation-threatened Bournemouth have kept only one clean sheet in 2023 and suffered their own record-breaking defeat at the hands of Liverpool earlier this season when they lost 9-0 at Anfield.

This match promises to be another test of Bournemouth’s defence against Liverpool’s attacking threats. Both Cody Gakpo and Darwin Nunez have topped the PFF shooting grades in two of the last three weeks, with weekly grades of 91.2 and 84.8, respectively. With their two newest stars coming into form, alongside the always dangerous Mo Salah, it could be another long afternoon for the Bournemouth defenders.

Leicester vs. Chelsea, Saturday 15:00 GMT

Chelsea’s struggles in front of goal under Graham Potter have been the main talking point of the former Brighton manager’s tenure so far. They have managed just two goals in their past six league games, with only one win in that run coming last weekend against Leeds United.

Main striker Kai Havertz has not had his best season, but he did find the scoresheet in Chelsea's midweek Champions League triumph over Borussia Dortmund to quality for the quarter-finals.

He'll be hoping his goal can start a run of form in the league as he currently ranks 27th of all 67 centre forwards in terms of PFF shooting grade with 70.7. Only attacking midfielder Raheem Sterling with a PFF shooting grade of 81.9 ranks in the top 50 players in the league at 17th overall.

Leicester have encountered their own spell of poor form in front of goal as well. After back-to back-games where they found the net four times in each, they have now gone without scoring in their last three.

Manager Brendan Rodgers announced before the loss to Southampton that key player Youri Tielemans will be out for multiple weeks until mid-April. With Tielemans currently sitting with the fifth-best PFF shooting grade of 87.3 and also earning the best PFF passing grade for Leicester at 83.1, the Foxes will be heavily reliant on the likes of James Maddison and Harvey Barnes to snap their goalless streak.

Fulham v Arsenal, Sunday 14:00 GMT

Arsenal will look to continue their title charge against fellow London club Fulham this weekend. They will have to get the better of their former keeper Bernd Leno to do so. Leno has had an excellent season for Fulham and has been key to their position in the top half of the table, recording the second most saves on target with 90 so far this season. Only David Raya of Brentford has saved more with 96.

Player Passing grade
Passing grade position rank
Martin Ødegaard 94 3/129
Granit Xhaka 88.7 5/129
Oleksandr Zinchenko 88.7 1/87
Jorginho 87.1 6/129

Leno will almost certainly be busy again on Sunday coming up against an Arsenal side who have recorded the second most shots of any side in the Premier League, behind only Manchester City. Mikel Arteta’s side have also been the most aggressive in terms of breaking the opposition defensive line, with the most passes attempted and completed through the defensive line. They also boast four of the top ten graded passers in the Premier League.

Newcastle v Wolves, Sunday 16:30 GMT

In addition to losing in the EFL Cup final, Newcastle have seen their league form drop off since the turn of the year with just one win in seven league games in 2023. This home game against Wolves offers an opportunity to get back to winning ways, although Wolves have been in slightly better form picking up three wins from their past six league games to move away from the bottom three.

An important area of this game for Newcastle could well involve their delivery from wide areas into the box. Newcastle currently has the highest cross completion rate of any side in the Premier League at 26%. In contrast, Wolves rank dead last in the league when it comes to their aerial duels win rate of 42.3%, below the league's team average of 46.0%.

Newcastle will be looking to Kieran Trippier to continue his fine season which has earned him a 90.6 PFF crossing grade, good for the second-best grade of any in the Premier League.

Brighton v Crystal Palace, Wednesday 19:30 GMT

With these two rivals having met in the return fixture only a month ago, ending in a 1-1 draw, both teams will be looking to ensure they pick up the win here. Brighton are coming off an emphatic 4-0 home win over West Ham last time out.

For Palace, finding the back of the net has been much harder, having not scored more than once in a league game since beating Bournemouth on New Year’s Eve. A key battle in this game will likely come down Brighton’s left-hand side where Karou Mitoma will look to continue his impressive form.

Mitoma ranks in the top ten for both dribbles attempted and successfully completed in the Premier League. Nathaniel Clyne will most likely continue in the right-back role for Palace and will be tasked with marshaling Mitoma.

Clyne this season has the third-best win percentage when defending dribbles of any player in the league, winning 64% of the dribbles he has faced. Joel Ward is another option at right-back having been on the bench for the last two games, as he makes his return from injury.

Should Palace choose to go with Ward, they’d have an equally strong defender against the dribble to pit against Mitoma, with Ward ranking second of all players in defending dribbles this season, sitting just ahead of Clyne on 65%.

Palace do have players themselves who pose a serious threat on the ball, with Michael Olise and Wilfried Zaha currently tied for the most completed dribbles in the Premier League with 52 each. The aim for Palace going forward will be to add more goals to their game.


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