Chelsea will expect to maintain their six-point lead at the top of the league table with victory away to Hull City on Sunday (16:00 GMT, live on Sky Sports).
Hull come into the match on the back of three wins, three draws and four defeats in their last 10 league fixtures. They are 15th in the Premier League table, just three points clear of the bottom three, with 28 points from six wins, 10 draws and 13 defeats.
Steve Bruce’s (pictured) side were slightly fortunate to come away with a point from their trip to Leicester City last weekend. The home side created the better chances over the course of the match but were unable to provide a finishing touch, allowing Hull to escape with a 0-0 draw despite the second-half dismissal of Tom Huddlestone for two bookable offences.
Hull won just three of their opening 19 matches of the campaign, including a 10-match winless streak between mid-October and Christmas, and although they have already recorded as many victories in their subsequent 10 fixtures, they still find themselves in a far from secure position coming into the final stretch of the campaign.
Bruce’s side have struggled in front of goal so far this season, netting 26 times in 29 matches for the joint fourth-worst scoring record in the league. Their defensive record is respectable enough but it has come at the cost of their attack. Hull have created less scoring opportunities than any other side in the division.
Bruce will definitely be without the injured James Chester (shoulder), Liam Rosenior (hamstring), Nikica Jelavic (knee), Robert Brady (calf) and Robert Snodgrass for this match, while Huddlestone will miss out through suspension. Mohamed Diame (knee) is also unlikely to take part.
Chelsea travel north undefeated over 90 minutes in their last 10 matches in all competitions but having recently suffered a disappointing early exit from the Champions League. They top the Premier League table, with 64 points from 19 wins, seven draws and two defeats.
Jose Mourinho’s side took an early lead through Diego Costa at home to Southampton last weekend, only to be penned back soon afterwards when Saints were awarded a penalty for a debatable foul by Nemanja Matic inside the area. The Blues had by far the better of the second half but were unable to convert their late pressure into a winning goal.
It was the third home match in four in which Chelsea had been held to a draw and the fourth time in nine matches since the turn of the year in which they had dropped points. These slip-ups have not, however, proved terminal, as their nearest challengers, Manchester City, have dropped more points still. Even now, Chelsea have a six-point lead and a game in hand.
The drop off in performance level will nevertheless be of some concern to Mourinho, especially as it resulted in his side’s elimination from the Champions League at the hands of a Paris Saint-Germain side who played the large majority of the second leg with 10 men. The attack, for one, is not functioning anywhere near as well as it did earlier in the season.
Mourinho will definitely be without the injured Jon Obi Mikel (knee), while Willian (knock) is doubtful but expected to take part.
Hull City v Chelsea Betting Tips Verdict
Chelsea won 2-0 when these sides met at Stamford Bridge in mid-December and also triumphed by the exact same scoreline in both of last season’s encounters. The Blues have won five and drawn two of the seven meetings between the sides since Hull’s first Premier League season in 2008-09. They were also 4-0 victors in a League Cup tie in 2007.
Hull are not in great form, although they have won three of their last five matches at the KC Stadium. They have really struggled for goals this season, a situation that will be worsened by the absence of their top scorer, Jelavic, on Sunday. He is their only player to have scored more than four goals to date and without him they carry little threat.
Chelsea will be confident of securing their fourth consecutive league victory against a side they have comfortably beaten in each of their last three meetings. They are struggling to produce performances akin to those they managed earlier in the campaign but a solid defensive display allied to a goal or two should be sufficient for three points on Sunday.