Talking tactics: Chelsea to face a desperate Cardiff City

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 15: Maurizio Sarri manager of Chelsea congratulates Eden Hazard on his hat-trick as fans and coaching staff give a standing ovation during the Premier League match between Chelsea FC and Cardiff City at Stamford Bridge on September 15, 2018 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 15: Maurizio Sarri manager of Chelsea congratulates Eden Hazard on his hat-trick as fans and coaching staff give a standing ovation during the Premier League match between Chelsea FC and Cardiff City at Stamford Bridge on September 15, 2018 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images) /
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Chelsea face a Cardiff side that desperately needs results to survive. What can Chelsea expect when Neil Warnock’s back is against the wall?

It is that time of year where clubs in the relegation battle throw caution to the wind. They have their backs against the wall and they will do anything and everything to stay up.

The current relegation battle features pretty much every team from 12th to 18th (face it, Fulham and Huddersfield are not in the battle because they have virtually no chance of turning things around). Cardiff is sitting on the bottom of that pile and thus they have the least to lose by trying to scrap results together.

Neil Warnock’s Cardiff side has been scrappy and ugly all season. That is likely to get worse and he will look to give Chelsea a style which Maurizio Sarri still has no solution to: a parked bus looking to counter.

Tactically, Warnock usually prefers some variation of a 4-5-1. Occasionally he will opt for something fancier in a back three or two men up front, but four at the back and a lone striker has been his way for most of the year.

And most of the year they have sought to absorb, launch a ball down the flanks, and hope to catch the big boys out. They will settle for a set piece where they usually trust themselves to find the back of the net like it is 1980. This has had basically one of two types of results. The first is great victories by narrow margins. The second is complete blowouts by the opponent. Cardiff is as likely to win 1-0 or 2-1 as they are lose 3-0 or 5-0.

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For Chelsea, that will mean more of what the Blues struggle with. Cardiff is unlike to be as “disorganized” (as Sarri puts it) as Wolves or Everton, but they should still be able to cause the Blues issues as no one seems to want to make a run or teach a player how to make a run.

This is absolutely going to be one of those matches with thousands of passes and likely few goals. Cardiff will look to exploit Chelsea’s high zonal defense just like Wolves, Eveton, and so many others have done. Luckily for Sarri, Cardiff has the least quality of any of those sides.

If Cardiff goes down, it will only be what is expected of the Blue Jays given the course of their season. Like Burnley a few years ago, they will likely go down with the moral victory of having a good go but that matters little when relegation hits. Still, Warnock will know that it will only take a few points falling a certain way to change the entire race and that is what he will aim for.

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Chelsea represents most of what Warnock hates about the modern game and he will be looking to prove a point. If it works, then Sarri will have a lot to answer for. If it does not, then Sarri can expect his side to get a chest thumping victory heading into the rest of the season.