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Chelsea travel to Vicarage road in a must-win game after a shock defeat at the hands of Bournemouth last game. They are still stuck on 50 points and are now behind Liverpool on goal difference. Last time when these two sides met at the Hornets’ home ground, Chelsea needed two late goals from Michy Batshuayi and Diego Costa to overturn a 1-0 deficit.
Not many would predict that given Chelsea’s current form and morale, hence, Antonio Conte’s men need to go out there with a positive, quick-paced mindset. However, the Blues will be encouraged by the fact that Watford’s form since the start of December has been the worst and the Hornets haven’t beaten the Champions in any of their last 13 meetings.
Alvaro Morata is still out with a back problem. Willian could return to the lineup after facing a few late fitness tests. Andreas Christensen is ruled out after he pulled a muscle and hobbled off against Bournemouth. Ross Barkley suffered a hamstring injury in training and is set to miss this game.
While Thibaut Courtois and Cesc Fabregas returned last time out, David Luiz too is back in contention. New signings Olivier Giroud and Emerson Palmieri are in line to make their Chelsea debuts.
Conte will assess the states of his new signings before the game. Eden Hazard is most likely to start on the left-wing given the injury problems that Conte is facing. Giroud could start as well, while Emerson might be used as a substitute.
Courtois’ save percentage took some rattling last time out but his voice and class will be key to the Blues keeping a clean sheet.
Azpilicueta is easily one of the best in the league and very few defenders are as consistent as him. A definite starter for Chelsea.
Luiz could return to the starting lineup as others need some rest. He’d be attempting to win back Conte’s trust with a good, solid performance.
Rudiger has been fitting in well, has defended excellently and has been powerful. His defending against set-pieces has been very good.
A sparkling act, Alonso will have to step up once again down the left-wing and take as many touches as possible, as he is always a threat when in full flow.
Fabregas’ chemistry with Hazard and Pedro is exclusive. The Blues need that zip and vision in the middle. Fabregas can bring players together and interchange quick passes.
Nowhere near to being as good as he was earlier in the season but will start as he still remains one of the most talented midfielders in the league.
Moses is most likely to start at right wing-back. He is quick, sharp and is a decent crosser.
Chelsea’s injury crisis could see Conte deploy Hazard on the left. It’d be an easy outing for Chelsea if this guy clicks.
Pedro needs to show what he’s capable of and should up his game by a few notches. He is a senior player and must get on to the front foot, see more of the ball and finish off chances.
The former Arsenal star should get to start here as Morata is unavailable. Given his aerial ability, it’ll be interesting to see how he fares in Conte’s setup.