The quest for a top-four finish is down to the last four league games. Club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton prepare for the first of them, and a second visit to Old Trafford this season…
The government can produce figures at the drop of a hat about GDP dipping over a Bank Holiday, but work time consumed by anxious Londoners trundling through the permutations of the Premier League run-in must amount to the whole capital taking a week's vacation.
After all useful information has been squeezed from the Barclays Premier League table, the fixtures list and statistics sites, there are still the life-sapping predictor apps to feed the habit.
Yet, simply put, with a double-digit lead in goal difference over Spurs, any nine points from the 12 still available should hand Chelsea a top-four finish.
Should the Blues beat Tottenham in Wednesday's hugely important game, three points from any of the other three matches - including Man United before then - ought to suffice.
As things stand Chelsea's maximum points haul is now 77. Spurs can reach 74 and Arsenal 73.
|The race for the Champions League - Games remaining|
|Chelsea (4)||Arsenal (3)||Tottenham (4)|
|Man Utd (a)||QPR (a)||Southampton (h)|
|Tottenham (h)||Wigan (h)||Chelsea (a)|
|Aston Villa (a)||Newcastle (a)||Stoke (a)|
|Everton (h)||Sunderland (h)|
If so, consider this. Frank has netted 36 goals for Chelsea against the remaining four opponents of our Premier League campaign; that's 18 per cent of his total of 201. The split is: Manchester United six, Everton and Tottenham nine, Aston Villa 12.
Four United players were voted into the PFA's 2012/13 Premier League Team of the Year by fellow pros: De Gea, Ferdinand, Carrick and Van Persie. Chelsea, along with Spurs, had two: Juan Mata and Eden Hazard. Aside from Jan Vertonghen, Hazard was the only Premier League debutant among the 11 selected.
Man United can no longer reach Chelsea's top-flight record of 95 points set in 2004/05; their maximum possible is 94 which would beat their current best of 91 over 38 games with three points for a win.
Never the less they are worthy title winners for 20th time. By coincidence Sunday marks the 23rd anniversary of the last time that once great power, Liverpool, were top-flight champions.
This is our fifth meeting of the season in league and cups with United and so far the Pensioners have won two, drawn one and lost one. Chelsea are unbeaten in the last three games, but in the Premier League Sir Alex Ferguson's side have won three and drawn one of our four most recent meetings.
The three goals against Basel that fired us to the Europa League final took our season's total to just four shy of the club's all-time record, set in the 2009/10 Double season.
Most Chelsea goals in a season
142 in 2009/10
138 in 2012/13
121 in 1964/65
117 in 1960/61 and 2006/07
112 in 2011/12
110 in 2008/09
Most Chelsea games in a season
69 in 2012/13 (played 64 to date)
64 in 2006/07
62 in 2007/08
61 in 1999/00 and 2011/12)
60 in 1965/66
Barclays Premier League fixtures
Fulham v Reading 3pm
Norwich v Aston Villa 3pm
Swansea v Manchester City 3pm
Tottenham v Southampton 3pm
West Brom v Wigan 3pm
West Ham v Newcastle 3pm
QPR v Arsenal 5.30pm - ESPN
Liverpool v Everton 1.30pm - Sky Sports
Manchester United v Chelsea 4pm - Sky Sports
Sunderland v Stoke 8pm - Sky Sports
Manchester City v West Brom 7.45pm
Wigan v Swansea 7.45pm - Sky Sports
|Barclays Premier League top half|
The race for the Premier League Golden Glove
Joe Har t15
Petr Cech 13
Asmir Begovic 12
Pepe Reina 12
Click on tabs above for more briefing,
WE HAVE HISTORY
The guard of honour for the Red Devils fulfilled last week by Arsenal will have reminded some people of the recent occasions Man United and Chelsea accorded each other the same respect.
José Mourinho's Chelsea marched out at Old Trafford in May 2005 to two lines of applauding United players and officials, Gary Neville performing the task with all the alacrity of a condemned man.
Neville's face seemed to resonate the maxim of Sir Alex Ferguson that the guard of honour should serve as a reminder that losing should hurt.
Ferguson was, yet again, treading in the footprints of his illustrious forebear, Sir Matt Busby. Fifty years earlier Sir Matt, who guested several times for the Blues during World War Two, and Old Trafford club secretary Walter Crickmer had been effusive in their praise of Ted Drake's newly crowned league winners.
'Hail the champions!,' wrote Busby in his matchday programme column. 'To Ted Drake, my old friend, and his team, I offer my heartfelt congratulations.'
The Guardian reported that on the day, just before the 'ceremonial welcome,' Crickmer 'addressed the crowd on the implications of Chelsea's rise to prominence, respectability and - if one may say so without offence - comparative state of grace.
'His call for a thunderous welcome seemed unnecessary. Chelsea's age-long popularity in Manchester had already guaranteed that.
'Soon the Manchester United players came out and arranged themselves on each side of the tunnel … manager Busby waited bare-headed and near him United's leading camp-follower, tastefully attired in red hunting coat, white flannel trousers, red and white bowler, and protected from the spring sun by the bare ribs of a coverless umbrella.
'As the band conductor's arm came down for a crashing opening chord [Roy] Bentley and his fellow champions appeared, flushed a little but grinning broadly, and obviously touched by the warmth of the welcome.'
When, after back-to-back wins for the Blues, United regained the title in May 2007, it was Chelsea's turn to clap and bear it at the Bridge.
Tradition demands the ceremony only happens in the next away game of the season, should there be one. There is no obligation after that.
Our last league win against the Red Devils came at Stamford Bridge in March 2011. Wayne Rooney opened the scoring after half an hour but second-half goals by David Luiz and a Frank Lampard penalty secured all three points.
Since our last win at Old Trafford in March 2010, United have won three and drawn one of our meetings there.
Our last 10 Premier League games against Man Utd at Old Trafford
2002/03 - Man Utd won 2-1
2003/04 - Drew 1-1
2004/05 - Chelsea won 3-1
2005/06 - Man Utd won 1-0
2006/07 - Drew 1-1
2007/08 - Man Utd won 2-0
2008/09 - Man Utd won 3-0
2009/10 - Chelsea won 2-1
2010/11 - Man Utd won 2-1
2011/12 - Man Utd won 3-1
LAST SEASON'S CORRESPONDING MATCH
Manchester United 3-1 Chelsea
Barclays Premier League, Sunday 18 September 2011
Manager Sir Alex Ferguson
De Gea; Smalling, Jones, Evans, Evra (c); Fletcher, Anderson; Nani, Rooney, Young; Hernández.
Substitutes Carrick for Anderson (62), Valencia for Smalling (62), Berbatov for Hernández (78)
Scorers Smalling (7), Nani (36), Rooney (44)
Booked Valencia, Fletcher
Manager Andre Villas-Boas
Cech; Bosingwa, Ivanovic, Terry (c), Cole; Ramires, Meireles, Lampard; Sturridge, Torres, Mata.
Substitutes Anelka for Lampard (h/t), Lukaku for Sturridge (67), Mikel for Meireles (78)
Scorer Torres (46)
Booked Ramires, Terry, Cole
Ref Phil Dowd
Other fixtures this season
28 October 2012 Barclays Premier League
Chelsea..……..….…2 Man Utd….……..……3
Mata 43 D Luiz og 3
Ramires 53 Van Persie 12
31 October 2012 Capital One Cup fourth round
Chelsea..……..….…5 Man Utd….……..……4
D Luiz pen 31 Giggs 21
Cahill 52 Hernández 43
Hazard pen 90+4 Nani 58
Sturridge 97 Giggs pen 120
10 March 2013 FA Cup quarter-final
Man Utd..…..….…2 Chelsea…….……..…2
Hernandez 4 Hazard 58
Rooney 10 Ramires 67
1 April 2013 FA Cup quarter-final replay
Chelsea..……..….…1 Man Utd….……..……0
Chelsea v Manchester United in all competitions
Games played 167
Chelsea wins 46
Man United wins 72
Head to head in the League at Manchester United
Games played 70
Chelsea wins 18
United wins 29
Biggest league win at Man Utd for each team
Man Utd 6-0 Chelsea - 26/12/1960
Man Utd 0-4 Chelsea - 24/08/1968
Chelsea won at Old Trafford: 1,128
United failed to score at home in the league: 1,240
Liverpool won the league: 8,401
Arsenal won a trophy: 2,906
Visit again tomorrow for Part Two of the Briefing.