Premier League football returns just in time to see March out. Club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton look closely at this clash between two capital city sides…
Chelsea are in sixth place, three points away from a top-four berth, and could do with a lift. Where better to find that last-minute gift on Mothers’ Day than in the land of the daffodil?
It took a hat-trick from Eden Hazard to see off the Welshmen in mid-September’s reverse fixture, after Sol Bamba opened the scoring against the run of play. Victory over Cardiff at the Bridge actually took the Blues top of the table after five games, but that was six months ago.
The Bluebirds’ form over the past four home matches ranks them 13th while Chelsea have been 16th best over the last four aways.
That said, the Europa League quarter-finalists have beaten every Premier League team from Newcastle (13th in the table) down on their own patch this season, while the hosts have reached this stage of the campaign without gaining a single point against a top-six side.
The Londoners, who have not lost to two promoted clubs in the same season since 2012/13, have also won four of the past six Premier League matches in the principality of Wales. Sunday offers the chance to complete the fifth league double of the current campaign.
Chelsea have won every previous Premier League meeting with Cardiff City.
— Key stat
With just 20 per cent of the Premier League season remaining, the focus inevitably moves to the run-in at the top and bottom of the Premier League.
Form is the last six matches home and away.
*Can also qualify for 2019/20 Champions League by winning 2018/19 Europa League.
Having dropped points in the last two league fixtures, Chelsea need to have a better end to the season than two of the teams immediately above, all of whom are still involved in Europe. After this weekend the Blues’ three remaining away trips include Anfield and Old Trafford.
Providing their second test event on Saturday leads to a safety certificate, five of Tottenham’s eight outstanding matches will be played in their unfamiliar new stadium, alongside away trips to Manchester City, Liverpool and Bournemouth. Spurs are in the worst form over the last six games of all the contenders.
Arsenal, with the worst away record of the top seven, face five testing games on the road including Wolves, Everton, Watford, and relegation-threatened Burnley. Man United, who lost their last two matches, will host the past two champions – the Blues and City – among their five remaining home matches, with their final two fixtures being at Huddersfield and home to Cardiff.
In theory the most challenging opponents to face in the final few Premier League matches should be those still with something to play for – either a European place or an escape from the drop. Last time out, Cardiff arrested a run of three straight defeats by beating a mid-table West Ham with little to play for 2-0.
Yet sometimes teams play with freedom when the pressure has gone. A week after that loss the Hammers broke Huddersfield hearts by coming back from 1-3 down to win 4-3. The claret-and-blues visit the Bridge on Monday week.
Europa League catch-up
Seven Slavia players were involved in the Czechs’ recent internationals against England and Brazil: defenders Vladimir Coufal and Ondrej Kudela, midfielders Alex Kral, Tomas Soucek, Jaromir Zmrhal, and Lukas Masopust, and striker Milan Skoda.
City head coach Neil Warnock has hosted the Londoners four times previously in the first tier. His Notts County side beat the Blues in December 1991 and he repeated the feat with QPR in October 2011. Sheffield United were beaten 2-0 in October 2006 under his tutelage, though, and Crystal Palace lost 2-1 to Jose Mourinho’s men in the same month eight years later.
The 70-year-old boss wrote off his side’s chances against Manchester City in midweek, but said he intends to fight for every other available point (including Sunday) to ‘keep one or two nervous above us.’ Burnley, Brighton, Crystal Palace and Fulham figure in the Bluebirds’ run-in.
Form is the last six matches home and away.
Huddersfield could be relegated on Saturday should they lose at Palace and both Burnley and Southampton secure three points. That would be one day later than Derby’s demise, also after 32 matches, in 2007/08.
Premier League top-scorers
Sergio Aguero (Man City) 18
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal) 17
Harry Kane (Tottenham) 17
Sadio Mane (Liverpool) 17
Mohamed Salah (Liverpool) 17
Raheem Sterling (Man City) 15
Eden Hazard (Chelsea) 13
Premier League clean sheets
Alisson (Liverpool) 17
Ederson (Man City) 14
Kepa Arrizabalaga (Chelsea) 11
Hugo Lloris (Tottenham) 9
Martin Dubravka (Newcastle) 9
Jordan Pickford (Everton) 9
Neil Etheridge (Cardiff) 8
Unsurprisingly, Man United caretaker coach Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was awarded the position permanently on a three-year deal this week. How fortunes change in football: in January 2014 the Norwegian was brought in to salvage Cardiff’s top-flight status but was unable to turn things around.
So far Warnock’s Bluebirds have averaged 0.93 points per game; during his 18 games in charge, Solskjaer managed 0.67 points per game.
The next visitors to Stamford Bridge, Brighton (15th in the table), are at home to Southampton (16th) on Saturday. Click for tickets for the Brighton game
The midweek Women’s Champions League beating of Paris Saint-Germain was hailed by Emma Hayes as the biggest in the team’s history. They now face holders Lyon in the semi-finals, with the second leg at Kingsmeadow on 27 or 28 April.
The Under-19s’ one-off UEFA Youth League quarter-final match against Liverpool’s conquerors, Dinamo Zagreb, is at Cobham on Wednesday 3 April, a 3pm kick-off. The winners travel to next month’s semi-finals/finals weekend in Nyon.
THE BEST THAT CAN HAPPEN THIS WEEKEND…
A welcome (three points) in the hillsides.
Premier League fixtures
Fulham v Manchester City 12.30pm - Sky Sports
Brighton v Southampton 3pm
Burnley v Wolves 3pm
Crystal Palace v Huddersfield 3pm
Leicester v Bournemouth 3pm
Manchester United v Watford 3pm
West Ham v Everton 5.30pm - BT Sport
Cardiff v Chelsea 2.05pm - Sky Sports
Liverpool v Tottenham 4.30pm - Sky Sports
Arsenal v Newcastle 8pm - Sky Sports
Wolves v Manchester United 7.45pm - Sky Sports