It will be all eyes on west London on Saturday evening, so club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton look closely at the fixture now…
Saturday evening’s meeting between the two most dominant Premier League teams of the last decade is always massive, but after the midweek results it became bigger for the hosts.
Chelsea are undefeated over the last eight league matches at home, remain fourth after a second defeat of the season at Molineux, and are eight points clear of sixth place. Yet Arsenal are now behind the Blues only on goal difference and could sneak into the Champions League slots before the 5.30pm kick-off at the Bridge.
Blues coach Maurizio Sarrio has regularly explained City are ‘a step ahead’ of the rest, but if anyone can land a punch on Pep Guardiola’s team it is the team from SW6. Since Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United won 3-0 at the Bridge in April 2002 the Blues have won five and drawn six of the 11 home matches Premier League title-holders.
No reigning Premier League champions have beaten Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in the top-flight for 16-and-a-half years.
— Key stat
The top five teams are hoovering up points from lower-table sides with such alacrity that the race for Champions League places could be decided in clashes between the leading clubs. Chelsea stand in good stead on that account.
The Blues, Arsenal, Liverpool and Tottenham will all travel to the Etihad in the second half of the campaign. Talk of ‘Who can stop City?’ is understandable. The champions have only been beaten 10 times since that night in April 2017 when an Eden Hazard brace sank them at the Bridge.
Yet Lyon did well against the Citizens twice this season in the Champions League – a club currently 16 points adrift of leaders Paris Saint-Germain in Ligue 1, boasting a top-three attacking force but a mid-table defence.
Bruno Genesio’s side ruffled City’s feathers with their pace and pressing, robbing them of time on the ball and players to pass to. They also hit the Mancunians with very direct counter-attacks when many of Guardiola’s team were out of position, and pressured defenders into individual errors. Bournemouth and Watford also had their opportunities in recent games when City’s intensity dipped.
The critical factor is efficiency in front of goal. Lyon might have been three up in-side 30 minutes but missed a free header and a tap-in, and eventually drew 2-2. And while Saturday evening’s two teams have registered virtually the same number of off-target shots (Chelsea 89, City 88), the Citizens have managed 113 on target compared to the Blues’ 85 – almost a third more.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s sixth goal in seven appearances was also the 6,500th in Chelsea’s league history. Wolves away was match number 4,161, making an average of 1.56 strikes per game. The Blues have conceded 5,617.
The England midfielder’s goal meant the Blues have been leading at half-time in 60 per cent of league matches. Wednesday was the first occasion this season in which a winning position turned into a defeat.
Loftus-Cheek’s Russia World Cup call-up brought a financial bonus Chelsea’s way. FIFA set aside £163m of its income from the summer tournament in the form of compensation payments to the clubs that provided the players.
Clubs were awarded an amount based on the number of days each of their players was involved in the tournament. As a result City are the top beneficiaries, set to receive £3.9m, and Chelsea £2.99m, the sixth highest amount to be handed out.
The global tournament might not be purely good news for clubs. Last month The Times newspaper reported that 52 of the 84 Premier League-based participants have suffered an injury since the domestic season began.
More than two-thirds of the indisposed they identified play for the traditional ‘big six’ clubs: Chelsea (five of 11, including Loftus-Cheek), City (10 of 15, with Vincent Kompany limping off on Tuesday), Liverpool (five of seven), Tottenham (nine of 11), Arsenal (four of five) and Man United (eight of 11).
Next weekend’s hosts Brighton travel to Burnley on Saturday. Shane Duffy was dismissed for violent conduct during Tuesday’s success at home to Palace and misses our match through suspension.
After thrashing Yeovil 7-0 on Wednesday Emma Hayes’ Women are already into the quarter-finals of the Continental Tyres League Cup with one game yet to play, at Tottenham next Wednesday.
The development squad are in last 16 of the Checkatrade Trophy after beating League One Wimbledon on Tuesday. The draw will take place live on Sky Sports this Saturday from 12.20pm during the Soccer Saturday programme.
Talking of bumps and bruises, 18 fouls were given against Wolves on Wednesday – the highest total in a Blues match this season outside the 19 committed by Tottenham last month. Fulham and Manchester United each tallied 17 on their visits.
Manchester City players have been whistled up less than anyone else in the league – 131 times. Chelsea are next lowest with 135. However the leaders have also been fouled the fewest times (122 times), whereas the Blues (illegally halted 190 times) are the second-most fouled team behind Everton (197).
The Citizens have also accrued the fewest cards – 15 yellow and no reds. Only 11 other players in the league are responsible for more infringements than their midfielder Fernandinho’s 20. He has been booked twice.
THE BEST THAT CAN HAPPEN THIS EVENING…
Back to winning ways with a bang.
Premier League fixtures
Bournemouth v Liverpool 12.30pm - Sky Sports
Arsenal v Huddersfield 3pm
Burnley v Brighton 3pm
Cardiff v Southampton 3pm
Manchester United v Fulham 3pm
West Ham v Crystal Palace 3pm
Chelsea v Manchester City 5.30pm - BT Sport
Leicester v Tottenham 7.45pm - BT Sport
Newcastle v Wolves 4pm - Sky Sports
Everton v Watford 8pm Sky Sports - Sky Sports