Chelsea: Ashley Cole, Marco Van Ginkel, Tomas Kalas & Fernando Torres - Out
Cardiff: Andreas Cornelius - Out
The last time these two sides met was in the FA Cup, Chelsea won 4-1 and were on their way to winning the Premier League; Cardiff were fighting for promotion in the Championship. Quite a lot has changed since then, Chelsea are no longer the force they were back then and if they were to win the league this year, or sustain their first challenge since they last won it, it will because the league as a whole is worse. Cardiff meanwhile have gone from strength to strength, their victory against Manchester City proving to be the shock of the season so far.
The two sides are no longer leagues apart and considering Chelsea's shaky start to the season, Cardiff have every reason to believe they can grab something from this. However, in order for this to happen, Cardiff will still need to up their game quite significantly.
The slides below reveal how poor Cardiff have been at controlling matches this year and although Liverpool and Newcastle show that control is not everything, Cardiff do not have the quality to get away with it - hence their league position.
Chelsea are particularly dominant in the air and unless Cardiff can come up with another solution to make themselves heard, they will be in for a long day. Such a situation is similar to Sam Allardyce's problems when he managed Bolton. Early on during his reign Bolton were formidable in the air, but they had little else to offer and were quickly found out. To counteract this, he brought in a slew of skillful players: Jay-Jay Okocha, Nicholas Anelka, El-Hadji Diouf, Fernando Hierro, Youri Djorkaeff and Stelios Giannakopolous all managed to transform Bolton from the most ungainly and hated team in the league, to a cult favourites who had the best combination of flair and uncompromising strength after Arsenal in the league.
When you look at Cardiff, you get the feeling they are in stage one of their development. Their most skillful players: Kim Bo-Kyung and Craig Bellamy have failed to provide creative inspiration. In the case of Kim Bo-Kyung, he has completed a decent 13 dribbles in 7 games (1.9 per game), but these runs have only wielded 3 created opportunities (0.4 per game) and 5 shots (0.7 per game) - a poor return. Bellamy's stats (on slide two) are even worse, in 6 games he has managed: 3 dribbles (0.5 per game), 4 shots (0.7 per game) and he has shockingly created only 1 chance for his teammates (0.2 per game).
It does mean one thing though, they are clearly a team as opposed to the collection of individuals Chelsea have and on a narrow pitch like Stamford Bridge, Cardiff will make it particularly tough for Chelsea. This is particularly evident when you look at Cardiff's away form (slide five), compare it to their home form on slide six. I have no doubt Cardiff will make it difficult, I have no doubt Mourinho will pick make an odd selection that makes victory even harder than necessary. Nevertheless, Chelsea and Cardiff may be in the same league, but tomorrow will show they are a chasm apart.
Chelsea 2-0 Cardiff
*All statistics courtesy of WhoScored