Bournemouth boss Gary O’Neil believes Chelsea will continue to “get better” under Graham Potter’s leadership ahead of the trip to Stamford Bridge on Boxing Day.
The Cherries will return to action against the Blues almost six weeks after their convincing 3-0 victory over Everton before the World Cup on November 12.
Chelsea have already lost four games under Potter since he replaced Thomas Tuchel, including three league defeats on the bounce before the break, but O’Neil expects the Blues to improve.
“Every week that Graham is there, I expect them to get better,” O’Neil, who was named permanent Bournemouth boss last month, told a press conference.
“He’s obviously a good coach and has a style that he’s stuck with for years and has a good group of players that have to adapt to it and learn it so I would think the break has been beneficial to him.
“It’s difficult as they have changed formation quite a lot so it’s a difficult one to prepare for you know with the new-ish manager, set style at Brighton but hasn’t followed on too much at Chelsea structure wise but we will prepare the best we can.”
Bournemouth boast a positive record when it comes to facing Chelsea having won three of their last six meetings, but O’Neil insists past results will not help his side much heading into the clash.
He added: “I am aware of it. I don’t believe it will help us much in the next one, but I am aware of it, like you say it’s a tough place to go, big club, top coach and fantastic players.
“They are expected to win every game they play really but we will get the boys ready, get them well prepared and I expect us to go there and get a positive result.”
Bournemouth will be hopeful of welcoming back midfield duo Jefferson Lerma and Marcus Tavernier for their trip to London, while captain Lloyd Kelly has also returned to training.
Both Lerma and Tavernier missed out on the Cherries’ midweek Carabao Cup defeat to Newcastle with injury but may come back into contention.
O’Neil continued: “Jefferson Lerma should be OK, we hope. His knee has been a little bit sore. We’re hopeful that he will be back in and around it in the next day or so.
“Tavernier is probably not as far forward as Jeff (Lerma). But I’m still hopeful that we get them both. But more chance that we get Jeff.
“Lloyd Kelly is back in training. Obviously a long time out, so he’s working hard, back in full training with the lads so we’ll just make a call as the games come as to whether we think he’s ready or not.”