The penultimate home game of the season is a crucial one in the chase for Champions League qualification. Club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton consider our challenge against the Canaries whose own fate this season is now certain…
Norwich head coach Daniel Farke has admitted to finding this season ‘exhausting’ and he does not appear the only one. There were tired legs and minds on show everywhere you looked across the past few days.
Despite his huge disappointment at Saturday’s setback at Sheffield United, Frank Lampard has said he was satisfied his players recognised what is now required. He would prefer to put it behind him and many are inclined to agree. Especially as the Blues remain third despite everything.
Thanks to the Cherries souring Leicester’s weekend and Southampton ending Manchester United’s charge (thanks, Chelsea-trained Michael Obafemi), a top-four place is still in the Londoners’ hands, and once again, tonight presents the opportunity to draw first blood and increase the pressure on the chasing clubs by beating the top-flight’s worst travellers.
The reassurance of being back at our ancestral pile always helps, and the Blues have won the last five domestic matches in all competitions at Stamford Bridge, notching two or more goals on each occasion. Willian has found the net in all of the last four there.
Another upside of playing ahead of rival teams this midweek is that the Blues have two days’ extra rest over Man United ahead of our FA Cup final semi-final meeting on Sunday. The Mancunians are in action again on Thursday.
This is the sixth time Chelsea have played a Premier League team immediately after their relegation, and the Blues have won each of the previous five.
— Key Stat
The big cat and the Canary
Chelsea must hope that, despite its beautiful plumage, the Canary is unable to defend itself from the rampant lion’s attack tonight. Historically, the Londoners have a very good record against struggling sides at the dog-end of the season.
In May 2017, Antonio Conte’s Blues consigned Middlesbrough to the drop with a 3-0 win at the Bridge ahead of winning the league at West Brom a few days later, then smashed already demoted Sunderland 5-1 on the final day.
Three years earlier, on 4 May 2014, a 0-0 draw for Norwich at the Bridge merely delayed the inevitable, and they suffered the fourth of their six relegations from the Premier League in the last match a week later. That same day, Chelsea beat Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s relegated Cardiff City 2-1.
In total, the Blues have played 165 matches against opponents in the Premier League’s drop-zone, winning 105, drawing 29 and losing 31.
Half-century for Frank
All-time leading goalscorer Frank Lampard is achieving a coaching milestones too. Tonight’s game is his 50th as head coach of the Blues, and he will hope to nudge up his 53 per cent win rate. Cesar Azpilicueta (on 381 games played) could move above Didier Drogba to become Chelsea’s second-highest overseas appearance maker on behind Petr Cech (494).
The Blues’ coach has suggested he might freshen up his team for this game. It will come too soon for N’Golo Kante but he may make the semi-final against United at the weekend. Fit-again Mateo Kovacic was an unused substitute at Bramall Lane, as was Academy midfielder Lewis Bate, who will be 18 in October.
Dominating play can mean nothing without an end product. Premier League statisticians began collecting possession statistics in 2003/04, and Chelsea’s 0-3 loss at Bramall Lane is the biggest defeat for a team having 76 per cent of the time on the ball since then. The Blues were also clocked at 72 per cent possession at West Ham this season, 70 at Newcastle and Everton, 67 against Bournemouth, and 66 Southampton – without securing a point.
Fuelled by frustration, there can be no mercy for the visitors. The Blues need all the points available ahead of a difficult last two league matches: Liverpool away and Wolves at the Bridge. All points gained, coupled with those dropped by rivals, move Frank Lampard’s side out of the reach of those below as the fixtures run out.
The weekend’s results mean the Blues can finish no higher than third and no lower than eighth. Three points earned this evening would raise the threshold to sixth because of the Blades’ much inferior goal difference.
Chelsea are still to host Wolves and Manchester United must travel to Leicester, so it is impossible for all four of those sides to earn the maximum nine points available. The final day of the season, when both those fixtures take place, could be a real stomach-churner.
Either the steel city side or hosts Leicester (and maybe both) will drop points when the pair meet on Thursday at the King Power Stadium. The night before Wolves travel to Burnley, who rediscovered Liverpool’s mortality on Saturday.
The injury-ravaged Foxes’ hunt has been further sabotaged by a three-match suspension handed to regular centre-back Caglar Soyuncu, and the Blades’ could do Chelsea a favour on Thursday. Christian Benteke has been banned for Palace’s home game with the Red Devils the same night.
Nuno Espirito Santo’s Wolves side know they have to be note-perfect before arriving at the Bridge to stand any chance of a top-four finish, not least against rejuvenated Burnley at Turf Moor.
|Chelsea||Leicester||Manchester Utd||Wolves||Sheffield Utd||Tottenham|
|Norwich h||Sheffield Utd h||Palace a||Burnley a||Leicester a||Newcastle a|
|Liverpool a||Tottenham a||West Ham h||Palace h||Everton h||Leicester h|
|Wolves h||Manchester Utd h||Leicester a||Chelsea a||Southampton a||Palace a|
The Canary in the coal mine must have been squawking about defending set-plays all season. There were two more goals conceded against West Ham from that source at the weekend, setting a league high of 16 for Daniel Farke’s side.
Commendably, the East Anglians play open attacking football – one of the reasons their season ticket holders remain loyal through thick and thin. The starting position of their full-backs is high upfield which can make them vulnerable to counter-attack. That said, Chelsea have been caught out seven times in that fashion this season compared to the Canaries’ six.
After Christian Benteke and David McGoldrick broke their lengthy goal droughts against the Blues in recent games, the superstitious amongst us will be watching Teemu Pukki with some trepidation. The Finn, who scored one and set up the other in the reverse fixture (a 3-2 win for the Blues), has not troubled the scorekeepers in 11 games.
The 30-year-old striker is not alone: the Canaries’ only goal in their past seven matches came against Watford. They would have equalled the club’s record barren spell of six successive blanks but for Emiliano Buendia’s intervention in that 2-1 defeat.
Blues’ historic home record intact
Chelsea’s Premier League record of 18 home wins in a season, set in the 2005/06 back-to-back title season and equalled by Manchester United (in 2010/11) and Manchester City (2012/13 and 2018/19), will stand for another season after Liverpool drew with Burnley at Anfield. The Blues’ visit to Merseyside on 22 July is the final home game of the campaign for Jurgen Klopp’s team.
Daniel Farke is sanguine about another demotion for Norwich. ‘Every club struggles after relegation, but the base for this club is great,’ he said. ‘We have values, principles and a clear philosophy.’ No club has achieved more promotions to the Premier League than the Canaries.
Most promotions to Premier League
Norwich 4 2018/19 (most recent)
Middlesbrough 4 2015/16
Leicester 4 2013/14
Crystal Palace 4 2012/13
West Brom 4 2009/10
Sunderland 4 2006/07
Who will replace the Norfolk club from the Championship is yet to be decided. With three games to go, leaders Leeds are six points clear of third, with West Bromwich Albion occupying the second automatic slot.
Our west London neighbours Brentford and Fulham are next, followed by Nottingham Forest, then a five-point gap to Cardiff in sixth. Of that half-dozen, the Bees – relegated in 1947 – have been away from the top-flight the longest.
Special matchday programme
We may not be able to sit in our usual seats, but one matchday convention is being maintained. Chelsea are publishing a single-issue 132-page programme that will be sent out after the final home game against with Wolves.
The bumper edition will reflect on all four final games at the Bridge in one go, and includes your usual favourite features. It is already available to order here.
Please follow at home
For these games played behind closed doors, fans will not be admitted to the stadiums and for our home games, the whole Stamford Bridge site will be closed to the public.
Please do not travel to Stamford Bridge or congregate in the nearby streets on match days. The same applies to away stadiums.
The games can be followed via TV coverage, or audio and text commentaries on this website and the 5th Stand app. There will also be updates on the club’s social media.
Premier League fixtures
Chelsea v Norwich 8.15pm (Sky Sports)
Burnley v Wolves 6pm (BBC One)
Man City v Bournemouth 6pm (Sky Sports)
Newcastle v Tottenham 6pm (BT Sport)
Arsenal v Liverpool 8.15pm (Sky Sports)
Everton v Aston Villa 6pm (Sky Sports)
Leicester v Sheffield Utd 6pm (Sky Sports)
Crystal Palace v Man Utd 8.15pm (BT Sport)
Southampton v Brighton 8.15pm (BT Sport
West Ham v Watford 8pm (Sky Sports)
|16||West Ham United||35||9||7||19||44||59||-15||34|
Want more preview? Read our key stats ahead of the game