The hectic run of two games a week comes to an end, albeit briefly, with the hosting of our furthest flung Premier League opponents. Club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton look closely at Saturday’s tea-time fixture…
With the semi-final second leg parked till Thursday week, and the FA Cup at the end of the month, it is time to focus again on the league. After dropping two points against Southampton last time at the Bridge, there is ground to make up and a goalless league run at the Bridge to end. That can start with the visit of Newcastle, previously SW6’s favourite whipping boys in the Premier League era, and a team who have not scored on three of their past four top-flight away trips.
Whether at the Bridge or St James’ Park, this is a fixture that rarely goes against the hosts. The Blues’ 2-1 victory on Tyneside in August is the only example in the past 11 matches.
This is the first of successive games for the Blues in the Saturday 5.30pm slot, the next being at the Emirates. The previous four in that time slot produced home victories against Arsenal and Man City, a draw with Liverpool and defeat at Tottenham.
One of the best things about beating Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup is that no replay needed cramming into the schedule. Following this weekend, Maurizio Sarri will have the first clear midweek with his players since the last week of August.
Chelsea have won our last six matches at Stamford Bridge against Newcastle in all competitions, scoring 18 while conceding just two goals.
— Key stat
Just 10 points separate the leading quartet of Liverpool, Tottenham, Manchester City and Chelsea going into the 22nd round of Premier League matches this weekend. That puts the four on course to break the combined total record of 333 points – first set by the top four as the Blues lifted the crown in 2016/17 and matched last season.
If some are gaining points of course, others are losing them. The Magpies are one of six clubs at the bottom of the table on 18 points or fewer, with Crystal Palace only one place and four points better off.
Last season Rafael Benitez’s men were a place (16th) and a point (19) better off after 21 matches, but teams in every position in last season’s bottom six had more points at this stage. The trapdoor is not creaking open on Tyneside just yet as two clubs are faring historically poorly.
Huddersfield, with 10, have the lowest tally of any bottom club since Derby County managed just seven from 21 matches in 2007/08. Our 19th-placed neighbours Fulham are one of only four clubs in the Premier League era to have 14 points or fewer to their name at this stage. The three previous clubs (Watford, Southampton and Reading) were relegated.
Newcastle’s Matt Ritchie is not exactly your average hatchet man, but has been whistled up 32 times by referees, the fifth-most in the top flight this season. Meanwhile, Eden Hazard has been fouled 65 times over the Premier League campaign, and 22 players have been booked for infringements against him. That is three-and-a-half times more than any other Blues player.
The Belgian was fouled on seven occasions during Tuesday’s Carabao Cup semi-final against Tottenham. That is the most Hazard has suffered in a single game this season, and all three Spurs cautions on the night were for offences against Chelsea’s leading scorer.
Next weekend’s league hosts, Arsenal, welcomed six players back from injury ahead of their trip to West Ham, including Hector Bellerin, Laurent Koscielny, Nacho Monreal, Shkodran Mustafi and Mesut Ozil.
Having comfortably secured passage to the Conti Cup semi-finals in midweek, Chelsea Women are in Saturday’s draw which takes place at half-time during the Sheffield United-QPR match at Bramall Lane, venue for the final on 23 February.
Chelsea Under-18s will hope to maintain pressure on the top two – Arsenal and Tottenham – at home to mid-table Southampton on Saturday morning after last weekend’s edgy 3-2 win at Leicester.
As we are back in Premier League mode, we thought it would be interesting to look at minutes played so far this season. Nine Blues players have been involved in every league game this season so far, or all but one of them.
THE BEST THAT CAN HAPPEN THIS WEEKEND…
Premier League top-scorers
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal) 14
Harry Kane (Tottenham) 14
Mohamed Salah (Liverpool) 13
Eden Hazard (Chelsea) 10
Sergio Aguero (Man City) 10
Richarlison (Everton) 9
Raheem Sterling (Man City) 9
Callum Wilson (Bournemouth) 9
Premier League clean sheets
Premier League fixtures
West Ham v Arsenal 12.30pm - Sky Sports
Brighton v Liverpool 3pm
Burnley v Fulham 3pm
Cardiff v Huddersfield 3pm
Crystal Palace v Watford 3pm
Leicester v Southampton 3pm
Chelsea v Newcastle 5.30pm - BT Sport
Everton v Bournemouth 2.15pm - Sky Sports
Tottenham v Manchester United 4.30pm - Sky Sports
Manchester City v Wolves 8pm - Sky Sports