Chelsea-Cardiff City Preview

TOM BENNETT (STATS European Football Writer)
The Associated Press

Cardiff City will say goodbye to the Premier League when they host Chelsea on Sunday afternoon.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's Cardiff (7-9-21) are bottom of the league going into the final round of matches, and face the ignominy of going straight back down in 20th position after cruising to promotion the previous season. Solskjaer only joined the club in January after the sacking of previous manager Malky Mackay, who this week ended his legal dispute with the club and apologised to owner Vincent Tan.

"I am the manager; I will take the blame," Solskjaer said. "I didn't make the impact on the results I hoped for. I came in hoping to make a difference and we could move up the table, but it didn't happen.

"We haven't performed very well to stay up, and that's the reality. We have not been good enough. "We have got to give the fans a good last game, and then we will look towards next season."

Chelsea (24-7-6) could have been going into this match with a chance of claiming the Premier League title in Jose Mourinho's returning season. However, defeats to Aston Villa, Crystal Palace and Sunderland plus a draw to Norwich over their last eight games dropped the Blues four points behind league leaders Manchester City and mathematically out of contention.

Mourinho's side also crashed out of the Champions League at the hands of Atletico Madrid in the semifinals, with the manager rounding on attacking star Eden Hazard for his part in two of the goals conceded and subsequent comments in the French media. However, Hazard and Mourinho now appear to have made up, and the Belgian is keen to finish the season on a high.

"It's the last game at home for Cardiff and they will want to win it for their fans," said Hazard. "For us it's the same. We want to win for our fans and we want to end the season on a good note.

"I want to finish the season with three points with Chelsea and then I can start thinking about the World Cup."

Cardiff have injury doubts over Craig Noone (abdominal strain) and Mark Hudson (hamstring), while Gary Medel is a doubt with illness. Chelsea are expected to be without John Terry (knock), Samuel Eto'o (knee), Frank Lampard (illness), Oscar (hip) and Petr Cech (shoulder).

Chelsea ran out comfortable 4-1 winners at Stamford Bridge back in October. Jordan Mutch gave the Bluebirds a shock lead, but Hazard's brace either side of strikes by Eto'o and Oscar gave Mourinho's side a comfortable win.

Chelsea's last trip to Cardiff was 28 years ago in the League Cup. They lost 2-1.

Only Fulham (24) have lost more games than Cardiff this season, and no team has picked up fewer points in 2014 than the Bluebirds' 12. They have allowed 42 goals in the second half of the campaign, tied with Fulham for the worst defensive record. Cardiff have won just one of their last six at home, and have allowed 15 in their last five on their own patch.

Chelsea have kept more clean sheets (18) than any other team in the division. They have conceded just four times in their last 10 away games, and their record of 15 goals conceded away from home this season is the best in the league.

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