AFC Bournemouth will be hoping to register a hat-trick of Premier League wins at Vitality Stadium when they host Chelsea tomorrow (3pm).
And the Cherries will be looking to complete the double over the Blues after Dan Gosling’s late goal earned them a 1-0 win at Stamford Bridge in December.
Frank Lampard’s team arrive in Dorset on the back of a chastening 3-0 defeat by Bayern Munich in the first leg of their Champions League last 16 clash on Tuesday.
Lampard enjoyed a great start to his tenure as head coach with Chelsea winning eight of their first 12 games in the Premier League.
And although results have been somewhat inconsistent since, the Blues are three points clear in fourth place and well placed to again qualify for the Champions League.
Ahead of the clash, afcb.co.uk caught up with Liam Twomey, who covers the fortunes of Chelsea for The Athletic.
afcb.co.uk: Do you anticipate wholesale changes following the 3-0 defeat by Bayern Munich in the Champions League on Tuesday?
LT: It’s a really interesting one with Chelsea at the moment because Lampard is still searching, even at this stage of the season, for the system that works.
Every time they have a good performance with 3-4-3, they convince themselves that it might be the one and then something like Bayern happens.
I think they might stick with it but I expect the personnel to change slightly. I don’t expect Ross Barkley because he didn’t have the best game against Bayern so maybe Willian will come in and maybe Callum Hudson-Odoi if he’s fit.
Probably two or three changes but nothing too drastic.
afcb.co.uk: What’s your take on the goalkeeper situation?
LT: It’s a bit of a mess for Chelsea because Kepa is the club-record signing and the most expensive goalkeeper ever but he’s lost the trust of Lampard with his performances this season.
When he was originally dropped just before the February break, most people thought he would be dropped for one game, Lampard makes a statement about it and then brings him back after the break to rebuild his confidence.
But that hasn’t happened. Willy Caballero has kept playing and he’s been okay but he’s 38 and has his own flaws. He is clearly not a long-term solution for Chelsea.
It’s a situation which will carry over into the summer because even if they try to replace Kepa, there is the thorny issue of trying to sell a player that you paid £70million for. I think the club would like Kepa to get back to his best but he has to be on the pitch to do that.
afcb.co.uk: What, in your opinion, would represent a good season for Chelsea?
LT: The primary aim for Chelsea has always been fourth place. It’s not a very high-quality race this season, there are lots of flawed teams and lots of mistakes and Chelsea have been very patchy since the turn of the year.
But they are still fourth. The Spurs result (winning 2-1) was an absolutely huge one and I think given what happened in the first leg against Bayern and the fact they’ve got Liverpool in the next round of the FA Cup, clarifies it even more for Lampard that fourth place is the thing that really matters from this season.
afcb.co.uk: Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount, Fikayo Tomori and Callum Hudson Odoi have all won England caps – who do you think will be the next young Chelsea player to follow them?
LT: I think Reece James will be the next one. He has the potential to be the best player of this group.
He’s a really special full-back talent and an excellent crosser. He’s prompted comparisons with Trent Alexander-Arnold.
Of course, Alexander-Arnold is a bit of an obstacle for him when it comes to the England conversation and Gareth Southgate has a lot of really good options at right-back.
In terms of pure talent and potential, James is very worthy of a call-up.
afcb.co.uk: Are any first-choice players either injured or suspended against the Cherries?
LT: Lampard has a lot of injury problems at the moment. Chelsea came out of the February break with more injuries than they went into it with. I know Bournemouth can sympathise with that!
Tammy Abraham limped out of the warm-down after the Bayern game so I would say he would be unlikely to play and that will probably mean Olivier Giroud continuing up front.
Hudson-Odoi has had a hamstring injury but Lampard said he won’t be out for too much longer so he could potentially be in contention.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek is ready to come back and get some minutes very soon, that could be as soon as Saturday.
N’Golo Kante is definitely out and it’s too soon for Christian Pulisic as well because he’s not back in first-team training yet.
afcb.co.uk: How would you assess Frank Lampard’s tenure after eight months in the job?
LT: It’s been a rollercoaster season which is something that I think most reasonable Chelsea fans would have expected going in.
Lampard took on a difficult job. Chelsea had a transfer ban, they had just sold their best player Eden Hazard to Real Madrid and they were clearly on the cusp of a significant rebuild.
Lampard’s best work this season has been done with the young players and the progression of Abraham, Mount and Tomori, in particular, has been really impressive.
Chelsea now have a core that they can build around in the next few years which comes from the Cobham academy which is what supporters have been looking for for a long time.
Results have been very inconsistent and they’ve struggled for goals. They’ve looked naïve defensively at times so there are problems at both ends of the pitch but while Lampard is still learning as a coach himself, there are problems he can’t solve this season without a significant transfer window.
afcb.co.uk: What’s your score prediction?
LT: This is a tricky one. Bournemouth have given Chelsea some real problems over the years but I’d say more so at Stamford Bridge.
I know they had a great result against Chelsea at home last season but they’ve generally done better against them away.
I think Chelsea might edge this one but I think it will be close. Bournemouth always play Chelsea well so I’m going for a 2-1 win to Chelsea.
You can follow Liam on Twitter – @liam_twomey
Match officials: Andre Marriner (referee), Scott Ledger (assistant), Dan Robathan (assistant), Graham Scott (fourth official), Paul Tierney (VAR), Andrew Garratt (assistant VAR).