2019/20 Pre-Season Briefing: part two

Our look ahead to the 2019/20 season continues as club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton turn their focus to Chelsea's opponents in the Premier League, what we can expect in the cup competitions, and the new laws of the game... 



This will be Chelsea’s 85th season in the top flight and 104th league campaign since 1905.

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The Premier League’s two best starting sides will square up on the opening round of 380 matches this weekend. Chelsea have won 16 of the past 20 season openers, while hosts Manchester United are next best with 14 (champions Manchester City’s tally is 12).

Boxing Day at home to Southampton will be the 20th anniversary of Chelsea becoming the first English side to field an all-overseas XI – at Southampton. Both our young English subs that day – Jody Morris and Jon Harley – are now coaches with the club.

Fulham’s departure from the Premier League (alongside Cardiff and Huddersfield) means there will be no west London derby in the league this season. Aston Villa, with John Terry in their coaching staff, and Norwich City both return to the top flight after a three-year absence, while for Sheffield United the exclusion lasted 12 years.

As ever, there are some familiar faces involved with the new arrivals. For Villa, Dean Smith has occupied the dugout twice previously against us, with Walsall and Brentford. His Saddlers side succumbed 4-1 at home in the League Cup in September 2015, and the Bees were stung 4-0 at the Bridge in the FA Cup in January 2017.

Two seasons ago Daniel Farke coaxed the Canaries to two draws in round three of the FA Cup, including a replay they lost on penalties in London.

Blades boss Chris Wilder was one of Dave Bassett’s centre-backs in March 1991 when they beat Bobby Campbell’s Blues 1-0 through Carl Bradshaw.

Brighton’s replacement for Chris Hughton is former Ostersund and Swansea man Graham Potter, who has never previously faced a Chelsea side in the dugout, but was unbeaten in two games against the Blues as a Stoke player in the 1990s.

    Read: Chelsea in the Premier League - stats and numbers from the past 27 seasons 

Two of the new arrivals in the Premier League, Villa and Sheffield United, relied heavily on free-kick and corner success last season. Villa’s promotion campaign was fired by 24 goals from set-plays, four more than the 20 credited to top-flight’s specialists Liverpool (in fewer matches, of course).

Eight of those Villa strikes were scored by Tammy Abraham, on loan from Chelsea. We netted just 10 in 2018/19, the fifth-lowest tally. The Blades’ haul of 18 was higher than any Premier League side except the Reds.

Recent Premier League record

2018/19 Third
2017/18 Fifth
2015/16 Tenth
2013/14 Third


• This is the 65th season since the European Cup was created in 1955/56, and the 28th using the Champions League format
• Chelsea enter the competition at the group stage in September
• This will be the club’s 16th Champions League campaign in 20 years
• The group stage draw takes place from 5pm on 29 Aug 2019 in Monaco
• As Europa League champions Chelsea will join the champions of Europe’s major leagues in Pot 1
• Most group stage matches will kick off at 8pm UK time, however each night will include two 5.55pm starts (except for the penultimate group fixtures)
• The Video Assistant Referee (VAR) system will be used in the group stage for the first time
• Since last season, a fourth substitute has been permitted during extra time of knockout matches, and 12 substitutes can be named on the bench in the final
• The final is at the 76,000-seater Ataturk Olympic Stadium, Istanbul, on Saturday 30 May 2020

Champions League draw seeding

Pot 1
Liverpool (Champions League winners)
Chelsea (Europa League winners)
Manchester City
Bayern Munich
Paris Saint-Germain
Zenit St Petersburg

Other automatic entrants’ coefficients
146.000 Real Madrid
127.000 Atletico Madrid
85.000 Borussia Dortmund
80.000 Napoli
80.000 Shakhtar Donetsk
78.000 Tottenham Hotspur
68.000 Benfica
61.500 Lyon
61.000 Bayer Leverkusen
54.500 RB Salzburg
37.000 Valencia
31.000 Inter Milan
28.500 Lokomotiv Moscow
25.000 KRC Genk
22.500 Galatasaray
22.000 RB Leipzig
14.945 Atalanta
11.699 Lille

Six play-off winners to be confirmed. Coefficients are determined either by the sum of points earned over the previous five years, or by the home association’s coefficient over the same period, whichever is the higher.

Chelsea are unbeaten over the past 15 games in European competitions and will look to equal the club’s all-time record of seven away matches on the continent unbeaten, previously set in 2009.

Four of the Blues’ matches following a Champions League midweek will be at home, two on the road.

All fixtures may be rearranged for live TV.


• The FA Cup is in its 139th season
• Chelsea enter the competition at round three in January
• Round five matches moved from weekend to midweek for the first time
• No replays in the fifth round – extra-time and penalties if required
• Prize fund more than double that of 2018/19 season
• The final is at Wembley on 23 May 2020


• The League Cup is in its 60th season
• Chelsea’s entry will come at round three in September
• Extra-time has been abandoned for all rounds except the final
• The away goals rule no longer applies. Penalty kicks (ABAB format) at the end of regular time will take place in the event of a draw
• VAR will be used at Premier League grounds only
• The final is at Wembley on 1 Mar 2020


• The 44th Super Cup will be the first all-English affair, and the 11th UEFA competition meeting between Chelsea and Liverpool
• The Londoners have won one of our previous appearances in the UEFA showpiece (1-0 against Real Madrid in 1998). The Reds have lifted the trophy three times
• VAR will be in operation for the first time
• The match kicks off at 8pm UK time on 14 Aug 2019 at Besiktas Park, Istanbul (home of Besiktas)


IFAB, the international football laws arbiter, changed the handball law this summer so that contact no longer has to be deliberate, and UEFA will apply that as well as the ‘natural silhouette’ in the Champions League. In English competitions, the Professional Game Match Officials Board (PGMOL) has decided to retain the old interpretation as some feared attackers might deliberately target defenders’ stray hands.

However, a free-kick will now be awarded if an attacker handles the ball while scoring or setting up a goal, or the ball strikes an arm that is above the shoulder or positioned to make a barrier to a pass or shot.

On a drop-ball, the team that last touched it will be handed possession, unless the incident takes place in the goal area, in which case the ball will be given to the goalkeeper.

At goal-kicks or free-kicks, the ball will be considered in play as soon as it is touched, and not, as previously, only when it has left the penalty area. Encroachment by players before the ball left the 18-yard box happened regularly as Chelsea played the ball out from the back last season, and retakes were frequent. Pressure on goalies and defenders is now likely to increase, and fast attacking players could reap the benefit.

However, attackers may no longer mingle with a defensive wall at set-pieces but must stay one metre away or risk conceding an indirect free-kick. This is a tactic so time-honoured it was first used by Chelsea in October 1953 at home to Sunderland: Stan Willemse disrupted the defensive line while Roy Bentley found the route to goal through the resulting gap.

The toss becomes more meaningful this season: previously a captain making the right call could select an end; now they can choose to take the kick-off.

On penalties, a player will not have to leave the field after receiving treatment for injury before attempting a spot-kick, and a goalkeeper must have one foot on or behind the goal-line when it is taken.

Sometimes a team takes a quick free-kick before the referee has penalised the offender with a card. The official is now able to delay the punishment until the next stoppage.

A substituted player must now depart the field at the nearest bye-line rather than saunter to the halfway line where the bench is.

For the first time this season, head-to-head results could come into play in the Premier League. Should two teams finish on the same points, goal difference, and goals for tally, the higher position will go to the side who did better in matches between the teams. Previously in such circumstances a play-off match had been mooted.

Video Assistant Referee (VAR) system explained

• VAR will be trialled in the Premier League for the first time, in every fixture
• It will review ‘clear and obvious’ errors by officials in four game-changing scenarios: goals (and incidents leading to them), penalties, red cards and mistaken identity
• PGMOL says its VAR teams will take a ‘high bar’ approach to what constitutes ‘clear and obvious’ to maintain game flow
• Matters of fact – offsides, ball out of play etc – will not require a referee to review the incident
• Assistants will still indicate offsides but referees may wait to see an attack unfold before stopping the game – players are being urged to play to the whistle, not the flag
• Reviews will be announced and shown on big screens inside all stadiums except Old Trafford and Anfield (where there are none)

• Graphics will use a three-dimensional line to show upper body parts in offside calls, rather than the flat line used last season
• Players may be cautioned for interfering with the VAR process
• Whether a goalkeeper has kept one foot on the line at penalties will be left to on-pitch officials
• PGMOL says average review in last season’s trials lasted 84 seconds

The Premier League winter break

• The first mid-season break in the league season will take place in February
• It will be structured to ensure top-flight matches are played every weekend
• Each weekend during the break 10 teams will play and 10 will be rested
• To facilitate this, FA Cup round five matches will move to midweek


• 200 Premier League matches will be broadcast live (the most ever): Sky Sports 128, BT Sport 52, Amazon Prime Video 20
• BT has added 20 matches from two sets of midweek fixtures, plus five games during the February winter break
• New subscription channel Prime Video will exclusively stream two complete sets of fixtures – 10 matches in early December, 10 on Boxing Day
• Sky Sports has added eight televised matches at a new time slot of Sat 7.45pm
• League matches may now be screened at 7.30pm/8pm Fri, 12.30pm Sat, 5.30pm Sat, 7.45pm Sat, 2pm Sun, 4.30pm Sun, 8pm Mon, 8pm Tue, 8pm Wed
• Champions League and Super Cup matches will be shown live on BT Sport
• FA Cup matches will be shown by the BBC and BT Sport
• Carabao Cup matches will be shown by Sky Sports
• Chelsea TV is now viewable through the 5th Stand app and official website only – subscribe here