Pre-Match Briefing: Chelsea vs Sheffield United

It’s a traditional kick-off time this weekend as the Blues look to build on the Norwich win. Club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton are ready for Saturday at Stamford Bridge…


Saturday will bring Chelsea and Sheffield United together for only the fourth time in the Premier League at Stamford Bridge, and the first since a 3-0 win for the Blues in March 2007.

This is only the fourth 3pm kick-off for the Londoners throughout 2019, and a first home victory of the season could send Frank Lampard’s side into the international break with a seat in the top four.

The Pensioners’ first ever top-flight match was actually against the Blades on 7 September 1907, with ‘Gatling Gun’ George Hilsdon making history by delivering Chelsea’s maiden Division One goal.
 

George Hilsdon scored a historic goal against the Blades


This weekend’s opposition club arrive winless from their last 11 Premier League away trips (drawing twice and losing nine times), and they have failed to keep a clean sheet at the Bridge since October 1922 – 31 visits ago in league and cup.
 

Chelsea have won 44 of the past 54 Premier League matches against newly promoted clubs at Stamford Bridge.

photo of Key stat Key stat


Chelsea’s record against promoted clubs

Saturday’s guests were runners-up to Norwich last season, finishing five points behind them in the Championship. Following success away to the Canaries last weekend, Chelsea have lost just two of our past 23 Premier League encounters home and away with teams promoted the previous spring, comprising 16 wins and five draws.

At home, the Londoners have lost just one of the last 54 top-flight games against recently elevated clubs, the anomaly being Bournemouth in December 2015.

Success at Carrow Road (our 16th game in a row undefeated against the East Anglians) came thanks to improved efficiency in front of goal, with three of the Blues’ 23 attempts last weekend finding their mark. That equates to a 13 per cent conversion rate, up from the previous return this season of six per cent.

All three goals were scored by graduates of the Chelsea Academy: Mason Mount and Tammy Abraham, and how wonderful for supporters to hear both youngsters, who have grown up at Chelsea, talk so happily about realising their childhood dreams.
 

Pedro’s pre-match misfortune at Carrow Road changed the record books. The 32-year-old hamstring victim’s late replacement by Ross Barkley reduced the starting 11 average age from 25 years and 54 days to 24 days and 208 days. That made it the youngest line-up since February 1994 under Glenn Hoddle, rather than November 2012 under Roberto Di Matteo had the Spaniard played.

Twenty-five years down the line, team-mates in that 1994 team, Andy Myers and Eddie Newton, are now coaches at the club, helping the next generation of young guns to go for it.
 

Eddie Newton with Andreas Christensen and Jody Morris

Positivity is not confined to the youth: Mateo Kovacic’s astute pass for Abraham’s brilliant winner at Norwich was his first assist since Boxing Day at Watford, and the Croatian is already halfway towards matching last season’s tally in the league.


Chris Wilder’s tactical wisdom

Underestimate Chris Wilder at your peril. Sheffield United had languished in League One for five years before he arrived in 2016 to lift them from third tier to first in three seasons.

The head coach broke the steel city side’s transfer record four times over the summer and has picked a consistent starting 11 that plays on the front foot. He imbues his teams with flexibility in system and positions, and among his tactical innovations is asking wide centre-backs to overlap his wing-backs, outnumbering opponents down the flanks.

When Chris Basham was caught out for Leicester’s first goal last weekend, though, it was just one of 33 occasions the three centre-halves conceded possession on the day, and Wilder bemoaned how his team ‘kept giving the ball away’. He made 10 changes and used four or five different team shapes against Blackburn in midweek, reminding reporters that ‘everybody knows without doubt the bigger issue is Chelsea on Saturday’.
 

Top 5️⃣ - Goals v Sheffield United!⚽️

Ray Wilkins wins this one hands down🙌 But have we missed any other classic v Sheffield United?


Carabao Cup and Champions League catch-up

Chelsea, last season’s runners-up, will host Macclesfield or Grimsby in round three of the Carabao Cup. The League Two clubs will restage their abandoned second round match on Tuesday 10 September. Either team will be a new adversary for the Blues in the League Cup.

The Champions League group stage draw also brought novel opponents in champions of the Netherlands, Ajax, and La Ligue runners-up Lille, while this is the fourth time we have been matched with Valencia, who finished fourth in Spain’s Primera.

 

Midweek fixtures fill the schedule

The phoney war of early season is about to end and the busiest period is almost upon us as the Carabao Cup and Champions League come into play after the international break.

For the visitors it started earlier: while Chelsea players and coaches savoured their last free midweek this side of Christmas, the Blades started their campaign with Tuesday’s home win against Blackburn Rovers.

For the Blues and other contestants in European competition, the next four months can become relentless and there may be far less time to bed-in the new coaching staff’s philosophy if the Carabao Cup campaign goes well.

Midweek fixtures up to Christmas
2-10 Sep FIFA international break
17/18 Sep Champions League group match one
24/25 Sep Carabao Cup round three
1/2 Oct Champions League group match two
7-15 Oct FIFA international break
22/23 Oct Champions League group match three
29/30 Oct Carabao Cup round four*
5/6 Nov Champions League group match four
11-19 Nov FIFA international break
26/27 Nov Champions League group match five
4 Dec Premier League (Aston Villa h)
10/11 Dec Champions League group match six
18/19 Dec Carabao Cup quarter-final*
* Dependent on progress
 

It is a strenuous time for any leading club: last season Maurizio Sarri’s Blues pocketed a maximum 15 points from five August and September league matches until floodlit football returned.

With a more onerous schedule to fulfil from late September, three draws and a loss followed over the next eight top-flight outings. However, one issue was the Europa League’s tight Thursday/Sunday turnaround. Thankfully, the Tuesday/Wednesday rhythm of the Champions League permits marginally more recovery time.

Never the less, should the Blues progress through the Carabao Cup rounds again, players who also represent their country could find themselves in action twice a week from now until the festive season.
 

International break starts, transfers end

The flurry of World Cup qualifiers squad announcements heralded the first of FIFA’s three pauses in the domestic game starting after this weekend. It slipped the minds of many outside observers that the Blues have so far been without injured players who could have been key performers.

The international break is a good time for players such as Callum Hudson-Odoi, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Toni Rudiger to train hard and make themselves available for selection for the first time under Frank Lampard.
 

Callum is on his way back

Any last squad departures will also be decided soon. The Premier League unilaterally closed lanes to inbound traffic on 8 August but the shutting of the transfer window across most of the rest of Europe, plus Leagues One and Two in England, is on 2 September. This was initially pencilled in for 31 August but was put back as the original date fell on a Saturday.

New season, same pattern?

After three matches, half of the teams in the top flight (including Chelsea) have won one, drawn one and lost one. Several of these 10 teams tied on four points have carried over the inconsistency evident at the tail-end of last season.

Champions League finalists Spurs have actually lost eight of their past 15 league matches, as have Burnley and Brighton. With Bournemouth the figure is seven, Manchester United and West Ham six, Crystal Palace five and promoted Sheffield United two (one of them in the Championship). Everton and Chelsea have been beaten three times in that time.

Food bank collection

Before the Sheffield United match the Chelsea Supporters’ Trust will again be collecting non-perishable goods on behalf of Hammersmith and Fulham Food Bank. Donors may drop off items (or cash to buy them) at the stall opposite the Fulham Broadway Centre from midday until around 2pm.
 

Chelsea vs Sheffield Utd: when, where, team news

Kick-off: 3.00pm
Referee: Stuart Attwell
VAR: Tim Robinson
Suspensions: Chelsea – none; Sheffield Utd – none
Recent injured: Chelsea – Hudson-Odoi, James, Kante, Loftus-Cheek, Pedro, Rudiger; Sheffield Utd – Bryan, Fleck

 

Premier League fixtures

Saturday
Southampton v Manchester United 12.30pm (BT Sport)
Chelsea v Sheffield United 3pm
Crystal Palace v Aston Villa 3pm
Leicester v Bournemouth 3pm
Manchester City v Brighton 3pm
Newcastle v Watford 3pm
West Ham v Norwich 3pm
Burnley v Liverpool 5.30pm (Sky Sports)

Sunday
Everton v Wolves 2pm (Sky Sports)
Arsenal v Tottenham 4.30pm (Sky Sports)
 

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