Hull City are the visitors for Jose Mourinho's first Premier League game back at Chelsea on Sunday. The Blues will want to start the campaign strongly and a home game against a newly promoted side should provide a great opportunity to do just that. Hull, though, will be desperate to make their mark on the Premier League and start with a promising display. Chelsea, unsurprisingly, go into the game as huge favourites at 1.19, with Hull at 15.00. The draw is available at 6.75.
Chelsea have minor injury concerns going into this tie, with David Luiz, Frank Lampard and Juan Mata all doubts. Given that the trio have lacked match practice it is likely that they will all miss out and at best feature from the bench, meaning that a number of new faces might make appearances in what is a slightly new look 4-2-1-3 formation for Chelsea.
Hull's player of the season Stephen Quinn is an injury doubt, but other than that Steve Bruce should have a full squad to choose from. Last season Hull used a 3-5-2 formation but in pre-season Steve Bruce has generally opted for a 4-3-3, which will be the formation he uses against Chelsea on Sunday. It may be more of a 4-5-1 when the side are without possession, given Chelsea's obvious attacking threat.
Can Hull find enough cutting edge?
Despite finishing second in the Championship last season, Hull City were not without their problems. Steve Bruce's side struggled for goals, with 14 Championship teams outscoring the Yorkshire club last season. Midfielder Robert Koren was the club's top scorer in the division last year netting nine goals in his 40 appearances for the club. Whilst this is an impressive return for a midfield player, the club's top striker was Nigerian forward Sone Aluko, who managed just eight goals in the Championship.
Against Premier League defences, which are vastly superior to Championship ones, this could become a major concern for Steve Bruce. Chelsea, who finished with the third best defensive record in the Premier League last season, will be tough to break down. The club have looked to address this by bringing in Ivorian forward Yannick Sagbo, as well as Danny Graham on loan from Sunderland. The 4-3-3 Bruce has utilized in pre-season is also aimed at getting more out of his forwards, with Aluko, Sagbo and Graham all interchanging in a 3-0 friendly win against Real Betis last week.
Chelsea's attacking threat
Chelsea were only outscored by Manchester United last season, despite their strikers only scoring three Premier League goals between them in 2013. Much of this was down to the effectiveness of Chelsea's 'three amigos' (Juan Mata, Eden Hazard and Oscar) as well as top goalscorer Frank Lampard, who contributed an astonishing 50 league goals between them - 66.6% of Chelsea’s total goals. The three attacking midfielders also created 207 chances for their team-mates
As the graphic below shows, Chelsea created the majority of their chances in the area behind the striker, rather than out wide:
This will be good news for Romelu Lukaku, who netted 17 goals for West Brom last season (more than Demba Ba, Fernando Torres and Daniel Sturridge netted for Chelsea between them). As Chelsea have failed to sign a new striker this transfer window the Belgian forward will almost certainly be leading the line in Jose Mourinho's first competitive game back in charge of Chelsea.
Romelu Lukaku was prolific last year, converting 21.5% of his chances and getting 66% of his shots on target, a higher shot accuracy than any other striker who scored more than 15 league goals. Lukaku has also been in good form during pre-season, netting several goals, something that cannot be said of Fernando Torres or Demba Ba. The young Belgian international will be keen to get on the scoresheet and convince Jose Mourinho that Chelsea don't need another forward. Lukaku is 4.50 to score first.
It is difficult to look past the Europa League champions given the home side’s strengths. Chelsea's attacking threat, combined with the return of Jose Mourinho to Stamford Bridge, will make this a must-watch tie and a very difficult game for Hull. If Chelsea score early the floodgates might well open, with Romelu Lukaku likely to play a big part in proceedings.
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