Our final away game of the season takes us to the only ground in the Premier League we have never played at before, the Cardiff City Stadium. It opened in 2009, replacing Ninian Park as the home of the Bluebirds. Now in its fifth season of operation the 28,000-capacity stadium will host top-flight football on Sunday for the last time in at least 15 months, with Cardiff’s relegation to the Championship already confirmed.
Most of our squad will be in unfamiliar surroundings then when it comes to ground, if not to the city where we have not long ago contested FA Cup and League Cup finals. However one man who has played, and won, at the Cardiff City Stadium is Eden Hazard. The Belgian was a victor with his national team back in September 2012.
‘Yeah I remember it, we won 2-0 against Wales,’ he tells the official Chelsea website. ‘It was Belgium’s first game in qualifying for this World Cup so it was important to start with a win. We played well. It was not the biggest stadium but Wales had very good fans.’
Hazard also has experience of emerging victorious against the side from the Welsh capital. In the reverse fixture with Cardiff, at Stamford Bridge in October, the winger scored twice in a 4-1 win. We had to come from behind, though, and the crucial first-half equaliser which started the recovery followed a unique set of circumstances.
‘It was a strange goal when Samuel took the ball from the keeper and it finished with me scoring. I remember it was a difficult game. The first half was not good but I scored this goal.
‘After half-time we played better but it was difficult to score. I remember the goalkeeper made some good saves. He also made a mistake for my second goal. It was 4-1 in the end but it wasn’t our best game.’
Sunday’s match-up pits a team that had their relegation from the Premier League confirmed last weekend with a side that had their title aspirations all but ended last Sunday. A few weeks ago it seemed like this fixture might have plenty riding on it at both ends of the table, and while that might not be the case now Hazard is still desperate to finish our campaign with a flourish before his attention will understandably turn to this summer’s showpiece in Brazil.
‘It’s the last game at home for them and they will want to win it for their fans,’ he says. ‘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.’