Sunday brings the chance to make amends for what was our second defeat of the season back in December. Club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton welcome the west Midlanders but hope they leave empty handed…
Founders’ Day this weekend at Chelsea brings an opportunity for revenge against the Old Gold, and in our last game on home soil until West Ham make the short trip across the capital on Monday 8 April.
The Blues, on a run of three straight wins and four clean sheets in five matches, must tame top-six taskmasters Wolves, the current top-flight team against whom we have enjoyed the second longest unbeaten home sequence, stretching back to 24 March 1979.
The game also matches sixth with seventh, a 13-point gap separating the 2016/17 champions of the Premier League from the leading lights of last season’s Championship.
Chelsea have lost just one of our past 53 home league games against promoted sides, notching up 44 wins and eight draws.
— Key stat
Bournemouth in December 2015 are the only promoted team in almost two decades to have sailed back along the Fulham Road with all three points. Yet Nuno Espirito Santo’s Wolves men have excelled away to some top-six teams, winning 3-1 at Tottenham and drawing 1-1 at the Emirates and Old Trafford. They came unstuck at Man City, though, losing 3-0.
Completing the league double away to the Cottagers last weekend (the fourth of the season) means Chelsea have grabbed nine points from a possible 12 against such sides this season: Fulham, Cardiff and Nuno’s team. The two remaining games in that six are Sunday’s 2.05pm kick-off and the trip to Cardiff at the end of the month.
The Londoners are suddenly in what former coach Carlo Ancelotti liked to call ‘a good moment’ following a testing winter, partly of Wolves’ making. Recent results have put top-four qualification back in the control of his compatriot Maurizio Sarri.
Straight after the final whistle at the Bridge, Arsenal and Manchester United square up at the Emirates, so a win against Wolves would lift the Blues up to fourth, with one or both of the clubs directly above certain to drop points.
(As Manchester United face Wolves in the FA Cup, one team is guaranteed to make the semi-finals, so their league match at Molineux was brought forward to Tuesday 2 April.)
A positive result in the Europa League on Thursday just gone might permit some players to avoid the 2,700-mile round trip to Kiev ahead of Everton away next Sunday. Although Chelsea’s ‘game in hand’ is actually Brighton at home, the Merseyside jaunt has added significance as the three teams also vying for third or fourth have no league game over FA Cup quarter-finals weekend.
Europa League Catch-Up
Benjamin Verbic, Dynamo Kiev’s leading goalscorer in the Europa League, will return from suspension for Thursday’s second leg, but winger Vitaliy Buyalskiy picked up his third caution of the campaign at the Bridge and is banned.
Eden Hazard has been directly involved in 10 goals in 10 league games against promoted sides (scoring seven, setting up three), and each of the last four matches of that type.
Several team-mates made their mark in the Belgian’s absence on Thursday. David Luiz captained the Blues from the start of a game for the first time in more than 230 appearances on Thursday.
Olivier Giroud’s sublime set-up for Pedro means he has had a hand in seven goals in six Europa League games, scoring six times and assisting once.
Willian’s inch-perfect finish was his 11th goal in all competitions to come direct from a free-kick (and a replica of one the last time Dynamo visited). Since his debut in September 2013 no other Premier League player has matched the Brazilian’s tally.
Callum Hudson-Odoi has now contributed towards four Chelsea goals in his last five Europa League appearances (three goals, one assist), and seven in seven games across all competitions at the Bridge (four goals, three assists)
Next Sunday’s Premier League hosts, 10th-placed Everton, could be without injured Phil Jagielka and Leighton Baines at Newcastle on Saturday. Their fellow defender Kurt Zouma is ineligible to play against his parent club Chelsea.
Emma Hayes’ team return to action next week at Liverpool. During the break, Fran Kirby, Carly Telford and Karen Carney helped England lift the SheBelieves Cup in the USA on Tuesday. Blues’ skipper Carney scored in the 3-0 final victory against Japan.
The young Blues face a huge game against Montpellier in the UEFA Youth League Round of 16 at Cobham on Wednesday evening. The victors will face either Dinamo Zagreb or Liverpool in the quarter-finals.
Happily, for the second year running a match has fallen on the anniversary of Chelsea’s foundation at a meeting upstairs at the Rising Sun public house (now the Butcher’s Hook), 114 years ago on Friday 10 March 1905. The Chelsea Football and Athletic Club was registered as a company a month later on 20 April 1905, with 3,505 shares allotted and capital of £5,000.
To mark Founders’ Day a commemorative wreath will be laid at the grave of the club’s first owner and board member Gus Mears in Brompton Cemetery around 12.30pm on Sunday.
Gus’s and other club-related memorials in the cemetery can be located on the self-guiding trail booklet ‘Final Whistle’, which can be downloaded here.
A new version of the booklet, updated to include the plots of player/trainer Jack Whitley and manager Bobby Campbell, should be available soon.
The Blues-connected memorials at Brompton are regularly tidied up by the Chelsea Supporters’ Trust, and new volunteers are always welcome. The Clean-Up Group’s events are always announced in advance on the Trust’s news pages.
Before the Wolves game (up to 1.15pm), the Trust is also collecting in support of Hammersmith and Fulham foodbank at the CFCUK stall on the Fulham Road opposite Fulham Broadway Shopping Centre. Donations of long-life milk, juice or puddings, tinned meat and vegetables, coffee and toiletries would be greatly appreciated. Cash may also be contributed.
Supporters interested in finding out more about the fascinating story of Chelsea FC should visit the Museum at Stamford Bridge, open Monday-Sunday 9.30am-5pm.
Finally, help secure iconic status for one of our greats by voting for either Roy Bentley, Jimmy Greaves, Bobby Tambling, John Hollins or Charlie Cooke to join the illustrious gallery on the Shed Wall at the Bridge.
THE BEST THAT CAN HAPPEN THIS WEEKEND…
Back into the top four, making the founders proud.
Premier League fixtures
Crystal Palace v Brighton 12.30pm - Sky Sports
Cardiff v West Ham 3pm
Huddersfield v Bournemouth 3pm
Leicester v Fulham 3pm
Newcastle v Everton 3pm
Southampton v Tottenham 3pm
Manchester City v Watford 5.30pm - BT Sport
Liverpool v Burnley 12pm - BT Sport
Chelsea v Wolves 2.05pm - Sky Sports
Arsenal v Manchester United 4.30pm - Sky Sports