The Blues of west London take on the Lilywhites from the north this Saturday tea-time as we aim to extend our unbeaten run beyond the international break. Club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton look in depth at the derby…
Club football returns with a bang on Saturday evening, with third against fourth, west taking on north, and Maurice versus Maurice. International football globetrotting is now on pause till the third week of March and there are just two more UEFA fixtures before European competitions go into hibernation. Now is the time when the hard yards are earned.
Both sides face very different European ties in midweek. While Spurs must beat Inter to have any chance of a top-two group finish in the Champions League, Chelsea have already qualified for the Europa League knockout phase ahead of PAOK’s visit on Thursday.
In the league the pair are separated by the undefeated west Londoners’ one point advantage. The Blues have won 27 Premier League encounters with the Lilywhites, and scored 95 goals, in each case the most against any opponent.
All Tottenham’s Wembley Premier League fixtures remaining after Chelsea will be capped at 51,000, Spurs revealed, ‘unless otherwise advised,’ so the size of the crowd for this 5.30 kick-off will be interesting.
Saturday’s game could set a new record away league attendance for a Chelsea game. The current highest was 75,948 at Old Trafford against Man United in November 2006.
— Key stat
Outside of cup finals, the biggest attendance ever for this derby was 76,000 at Stamford Bridge in October 1920. The Pensioners’ overall league attendance record is 82,905, present at Stamford Bridge for Chelsea-Arsenal in October 1935.
More than a third of Premier League fixtures will have been fulfilled after the weekend, but this is only the fifth home game for Spurs at Wembley this season. With two won and the same number lost, they are averaging 1.5 points per game at their temporary residence.
At Wembley last season they won 2.26 points per game compared with their league-best average of 2.79 in 2016/17 at White Hart Lane. A vast improvement on the road has kept the Lilywhites in the top six. They have managed 2.63 league points per game on their travels this term, up from 1.79 points per game away from Wembley in 2017/18 and 1.74 the season before.
Between Boxing Day and early February, six of their eight top-flight matches will be played at the national stadium.
There has been discussion on how well the Wembley turf is holding up to such regular traffic. Manchester City’s visit raised alarm bells about how the staging of an NFL game 24 hours earlier produced a difficult surface for the beautiful game. Pep Guardiola, whose team made lots of errors on a line-marked, bumpy field, said, ‘Hopefully they will solve that problem for the future.’
Images from the City match and, to a lesser extent, England’s recent internationals there, brought to mind the FA Cup final on 11 April 1970 when Chelsea and Leeds were required to play on a virtually grassless Wembley pitch, dressed liberally with 100 tons of sand.
‘It will make no difference to us – we’re playing on this kind of thing all the time,’ observed manager Dave Sexton, used to poor conditions at Stamford Bridge and elsewhere. The surface led to an error-strewn 2-2 draw, though, and the replay was held at Old Trafford.
Rather than the cleats and plays of NFL it was the hooves and puissance of the ‘Horse of the Year Show’ that had cut up Wembley in 1970, or so the story goes. In fact, the Royal International Horse Show had been staged twice at Wembley Stadium, but the last was as long ago as eight months earlier, in July 1969. It was the bad winter of 1969/70, less advanced green-keeping, and an earlier date for the final that meant the pitch had not recovered its verdancy.
Maurizio Sarri has set a new record for unbeaten starts in a debut season as a Premier League coach, of 12 games without loss. Chelsea were previously unbeaten after 12 Premier League games only in our title-winning 2014/15 season (14 games).
Under normal circumstances this might be more widely acclaimed. However, this campaign is the first ever in England in which three clubs have remained undefeated through a dozen top-flight games.
The home draw against Everton took the Blues’ record to 18 games in all competitions without loss, three shy of the club record established by Jose Mourinho during his title-winning second spell at the Bridge.
(All competitions except Community Shield and UEFA Super Cup.)
Claudio Ranieri, Slavisa Jokanovic’s replacement at basement club Fulham, opens his account there on Saturday at home to fellow strugglers Southampton, coached by another former Blue, Mark Hughes.
The next action for Emma Hayes’ revitalised side, on a run of five wins in six matches without conceding a goal, is the visit of Reading to Kingsmeadow on Sunday 2 December. Click for tickets
The draw for Round 2 of the Checkatrade Trophy pitted Chelsea Under-21s against Wimbledon, currently one place from bottom of League One. Tickets for the tie, a 7pm kick-off at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday 4 December, can be bought here.
Unusually against the Tottenham, Chelsea will play in the yellow change strip this weekend. This was requested by the Premier League because Tottenham’s current shirts have more blue on them than previous designs.
THE BEST THAT CAN HAPPEN THIS WEEKEND…
Under the arch, over the moon.
Premier League top-scorers
Sergio Aguero (Man City) 8
Eden Hazard (Chelsea) 7
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal) 7
Harry Kane (Tottenham) 6
Sadio Mane (Liverpool) 6
Anthony Martial (Man Utd) 6
Glenn Murray (Brighton) 6
Richarlison (Everton) 6
Mohamed Salah (Liverpool) 6
Raheem Sterling (Man City) 6
Calum Wilson (Bournemouth) 6
Premier League clean sheets
Premier League fixtures
Brighton v Leicester 3pm
Everton v Cardiff 3pm
Fulham v Southampton 3pm
Manchester United v Crystal Palace 3pm
Watford v Liverpool 3pm
West Ham v Manchester City 3pm
Tottenham v Chelsea 5.30pm - BT Sport
Bournemouth v Arsenal 1.30pm - Sky Sports
Wolves v Huddersfield 4pm - Sky Sports
Burnley v Newcastle 8pm - Sky Sports