There will be a very special welcoming party at Stamford Bridge on Sunday. Club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton prepare for Frank Lampard's return home...
Stamford Bridge will no doubt be at its best when club legend Frank Lampard leads his Chelsea side out for the first time against Leicester City on Sunday. The Blues are undefeated in nine league games at the Bridge and while last weekend brought the club’s biggest defeat at Old Trafford since March 1965, a feeling of goodwill at the direction the club is headed prevails.
There are itches to scratch for the Londoners that were infected by the Foxes: both teams are looking for their first top-flight goal, and December’s surprise 0-1 home league defeat by Claude Puel’s side was our only one last season, the second against the Midlanders in 13 meetings (including seven wins, four draws), and the first since 2000.
On the positive side, Chelsea have lost just one of the last 16 opening home league matches of the season, and have lost just one of the last 22 league games at the Bridge (13 wins, eight draws).
Puel’s successor as Leicester head coach, Brendan Rodgers, is of course a former youth and reserve team coach of Chelsea. In 2007 he described his role at Cobham as ‘to build a bridge between the Academy and senior side and ensure people can run across that bridge smoothly,’ so he must be observing with interest the faith in youth shown by the current first team staff.
Rodgers’ stated aim back then was to maintain a regular supply of Academy players to the first team squad and ‘if we can get one in there a year, we are doing okay,’ he noted at the time. Four graduates of the youth scheme were involved in an excellent performance on the banks of the Bosporus against Liverpool.
An abiding impression from that Super Cup match was that already, in a few months under Frank Lampard, a fluid, aggressive and compelling style of passing football is emerging while, four years into the Jurgen Klopp era, the eventual winners often looked simply to knock the ball long to their star wingers.
This time the team fell just short, but no Blues fan watching could fail to recognise the progress the new regime is making. Optimism will surely find a voice on Sunday as our all-time greatest goalscorer takes his bow in the Stamford Bridge dugout.
Carabao Cup and Champions League catch-up
The Carabao Cup trundles along in the background, with Leicester and other top-flight clubs not competing in Europe joining in round two, which takes place towards the end of the month. The round three draw involving Chelsea is likely to take place after Sky’s live game on Wed 28 Aug.
The last six clubs to qualify for the Champions League will be decided by play-off games between 20 and 28 Aug ahead of the group stage draw, including top-seeded Chelsea, on Thu 29 Aug.
N’Golo is back
The Blues lost Andreas Christensen to injury in the course of the midweek penalty kicks defeat, and others may be nursing aches and strains after such a lengthy workout barely into the season. The coaching staff resisted the temptation to call Toni Rudiger or Willian from the bench – their chance may come this weekend.
Former Fox N’Golo Kante, one of Chelsea’s many standout performers against the Reds, looks close to 100 per cent again. Tactically, the Blues sat slightly deeper and more compressed against Liverpool’s high defensive line compared to Old Trafford. Certain patterns of pay, or errors, triggered quick pressing of opponents, and yet again Kante proved there is no one in world football better at pouncing on those moments.
Christian Pulisic’s (and Chelsea’s) first assist of 2019/20, for Olivier Giroud, showcased the finesse he combines with hard work, while the Pennsylvanian and Mason Mount were both denied wonderful opening goals of the season only by the assistant referee’s flag.
For the visitors, it appears ‘Caglar Soyuncu’ is the answer to the question: ‘Who can possibly replace the world’s most expensive defender, Harry Maguire, as centre-back Jonny Evans’ main partner?’ The 6ft 1, 23-year-old Turkey international was rarely in trouble in last weekend’s stalemate at home to Wolves (the Foxes’ third straight league game without a goal).
Head coach Brendan Rodgers, late of Celtic bur formerly Academy and reserve team manager at Cobham, has settled on a counter-attacking 4-5-1 formation, looking to inside forwards Ayoze Perez, a summer recruit from Newcastle, and James Maddison for inspiration. Regular central midfielder Nampalys Mendy is their only doubt this weekend.
Next Saturday’s league hosts Norwich, the first newly promoted opponents for the Blues this season, are at home to Newcastle this weekend.
Capital’s Blues-supporting presenter Marvin Humes has been named as guest stadium DJ for Chelsea Women’s WSL opener at Stamford Bridge against newly promoted Tottenham on 8 September. The history-making event is sold out, but a waiting list is open in case of returns.
Having started their Under-18 Premier League campaign with a 2-1 win away to Arsenal, Ed Brand’s Chelsea youngsters host another London derby on Saturday, with West Ham the visitors for an 11am kick-off.
New at the Bridge
The matchday programme has been completely revamped over the summer with brand new content including a series reliving the ups and downs of the 1969/70 season, building up to the golden jubilee of our FA Cup replay victory over Leeds in April 1970. The price remains the same and programme vendors now accept contactless payment.
Fresh items have also been added to the in-stadium refreshments menu, including, by popular demand, vegan and vegetarian options. Everything is available for pre-order in all stands via the CFC Express app.
The Chelsea Supporters’ Trust’s regular collection for Hammersmith and Fulham food bank returns on Sunday at the stall opposite Fulham Broadway Centre. Canned and dried food, toiletries, or cash, are most welcome from midday until around 3.30pm. See here for a list of suitable donations.
In an emotional ceremony on Friday 9 August attended by many former players, the remains of brilliant 1960s right-back Ken Shellito were laid to rest at his beloved Stamford Bridge. The England international’s career was cut short by injury, but he served the club superbly as a youth team manager and then first team coach, before leaving to forge a highly successful career internationally. He died in Malaysia in 2018.
East Stand anniversary
17 August 2019 marks the 45th anniversary of the official opening of the East Stand at Stamford Bridge. Nowadays it is held in affection as the oldest part of the Chelsea ground, and even hailed as an architectural triumph by some. Yet its troubled construction was inescapably associated with the near destruction of one of our greatest-ever teams.
The building of the 10,000-seat, three-tier structure, designed by Darbourne and Darke, was beset by financial and logistical problems and delays, with costs escalating from £1.2m to £2.5m. As the skeleton of the emerging stand cast its shadow over Brompton Cemetery, a top-six team that had won the FA Cup and Cup Winners’ Cup in 1970 and 1971 slipped to 17th.
Like a person who’s spent a fortune on a new suit but not eaten properly for months, Chelsea were a pushover on 17 August 1974, the day of the stand’s maiden voyage. Newly-promoted Carlisle United shocked a 31,000 crowd by winning 2-0, and frustration at two seasons of underperformance came to a head, with the first occupants of the plush £50 seating breaking into a slow handclap.
Relegation proved inevitable, and the cash-strapped Blues remained in the doldrums for several years – almost losing our ancestral home at one point.
However, Chelsea eventually returned stronger and, ultimately, far more successful than before. The grand old East Stand, once a memorial to the club’s hubris, now towers like a symbol of our enduring ambition.
Chelsea vs Leicester: when, where, team news
Referee: Graham Scott
VAR: Mike Dean
Suspensions: Chelsea – none; Leicester – none
Injuries: Chelsea – Hudson-Odoi, James, Christensen, Loftus-Cheek; Leicester – Mendy
Other Premier League fixtures
Arsenal v Burnley 12.30pm (BT)
Aston Villa v Bournemouth 3pm
Brighton v West Ham 3pm
Everton v Watford 3pm
Norwich v Newcastle 3pm
Southampton v Liverpool 3pm
Manchester City v Tottenham 5.30pm (Sky)
Sheffield United v Crystal Palace 2pm (Sky)
Chelsea v Leicester 4.30pm (Sky)
Wolves v Manchester United 8pm (Sky)