In-form Premier League leaders Chelsea have the chance to go nine points clear at the top when they host an inconsistent AFC Bournemouth at Stamford Bridge on Monday afternoon.
The Blues are being tipped for the title following their outstanding run of form in recent months and will fancy their chances on home soil against a side who can’t build up any momentum on the road this season.
Bournemouth, however, did beat Chelsea at the Stamford Bridge in last season’s Premier League meeting so they may not lie down as expected on Boxing Day.
Chelsea are enjoying life under new manager Antonio Conte, sitting pretty at the top of the Premier League table with 43 points from 17 games this season. The Blues are coming off the back of 11 consecutive wins ahead of Boxing Day’s clash with Bournemouth, and have been formidable on home soil too.
No Premier League side average as many points per game in their own backyard than Chelsea and the Londoners have suffered just one defeat from eight at Stamford Bridge this season. They lost at home to Bournemouth last season but have a near-flawless record against bottom-half sides which should see them deliver next week.
Chelsea have won eight and drawn one of their nine games against teams 11th and below this season, but opponents Bournemouth have managed three wins and a draw from their eight games against top-half sides which suggests they could see them competitive at the Bridge.
Eddie Howe’s men are joint-10th in the table with 21 points, having lost three of their last five, and have struggled for form on the road all season. Bournemouth have lost three of their previous four on the road, managing just one away win for their troubles.
And with the Cherries conceding more than twice the goals they score away from home, a Chelsea side boasting 21 goals in eight home games – conceding four – the Londoners could well earn an important victory to stay six points clear at the summit.
Conte’s men are three wins better off than the chasing pack and have the best defensive record coming into Monday’s meeting. Chelsea have won 14 of 17 games, and have impressively beaten the likes of Manchester United, Southampton, Everton, Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City during their 11-game winning streak.
Conte’s side have kept nine clean sheets in the Premier League since September, which is also the month of their last defeat, and will want to see the year out with their winning streak still intact as they play one of their two home games to come.
Despite losing at home to Bournemouth in the Premier League when the two sides met in December 2015, Chelsea have won most recently against the Cherries in April so the bragging rights and momentum certainly goes the way of the hosts.
And the chance to be nine points clear for Christmas should be motivation enough for the blues to perform. Bournemouth could move three places up the table with a win but also risk dropping into the bottom half with a defeat.