The two-week wait for the chances to build on our impressive win over Crystal Palace last time out is almost over. Club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton preview Saturday’s Stamford Bridge outing…
After only four games of this most unusual of Premier League campaigns just two clubs, Everton and Aston Villa, remain unbeaten. That is the fewest since the start of 2013/14, and the title challenge that season remained open until the final handful of fixtures.
This weekend, seventh-placed Chelsea entertain the side in 11th, Southampton. The Blues have racked up eight wins from the past nine games in all competitions at Stamford Bridge – seven of those with a clean sheet. Liverpool’s win against 10 men in September was our only defeat in that run.
So far, all four of the Londoners’ league goals on home soil have come after the break. The two conceded (against the Reds) also came in the second half. In contrast, both goals either way in the Saints’ away trips arrived inside the opening 15 minutes.
The Hampshire club’s victory last Boxing Day was only their second in 18 years at the Bridge. Prior to that reverse, the Blues had won eight of our previous nine undefeated meetings. Yet the last time the Saints went marching home with no points in this fixture was back in December 2017, when Marcos Alonso’s low free-kick proved sufficient.
Chelsea have conceded the same number of league goals as Southampton so far (six), but have scored twice as many (10).
— KEY STAT
Chelsea team news
Although for many the international break amounts to counting the players out and counting them back home safely, matches can offer a low-stress proof of fitness. That was the case for key summer signing Hakim Ziyech, who has not kicked a ball for the Blues since the pre-season friendly at Brighton.
The expansive midfielder’s ability to bypass a tight defence with a free-kick for a Morocco goal against Senegal will have had his Blues tea-mates purring, and he could make his long-awaited debut against Southampton, perhaps in his usual inverted right-winger role.
Unfortunately Edouard Mendy missed that match after suffering a thigh injury and is a doubt this weekend, while Thiago Silva had a long-haul flight after playing Peru on Wednesday. N’Golo Kante sat out France’s second game as a precaution but has trained at Cobham. Ben Chilwell returned early from England duty.
The left-back earned rave reviews after the emphatic beating of Crystal Palace as he cooked up the opening goal and set up another. In fact Chilly, one of five summer signings involved against the Glaziers, was so hot he must have registered one million on the Scoville Heat Units scale. He is the first Chelsea defender to find the net on his Premier League debut since Paul Elliott 29 years ago against Wimbledon.
Another goalscoring rearguarder, Kurt Zouma, has matched his best league goals for any season – two – after just three games. With his prodigious leaps he could be a big beneficiary of Ziyech’s reappearance.
The scheming influence of Kai Havertz has been prevalent in the past two games. Frank Lampard likes the German in a roving role behind Tammy Abraham, but his energy and intelligence take him all over the field, winning back possession as well as probing weaknesses in the opposition. Jorginho against Palace, meanwhile, became the first Chelsea player to score twice from the spot on two occasions.
Southampton’s impressive conclusion to the 2019/20 campaign was rubber-stamped by Ralph Hasenhuttl receiving the only ever Manager of the Month prize awarded in July. That would have seemed a fanciful notion to anyone watching their 9-0 home demolition by Leicester in October 2019, a club record.
The Saints emerged from lockdown a different animal with a much faster tempo in transitions, more runners and fluidity, increased aggression and higher pressing, finishing the season 11th.
The Austrian was less impressed by displays this season such as the 5-2 to Tottenham, exhibiting a vulnerability down the flanks and on crosses, a lack of attentiveness and less pressure on opponents in the final third. There was also a problem with the high position of centre-backs.
The Southampton coach considered the recent win at home to West Brom a ‘proper performance’, achieved through goals by stepover king Moussa Djenepo and former Blues midfielder Oriol Romeu. New forward Che Adams looked to have settled in, relieving some of the line-leading burden from Danny Ings, and centre-back Jan Benarek’s new partner Jannik Vestergaard has helped keep consecutive clean sheets.
Burnley and the Baggies are not blessed with attacking pace, however, and Hasenhuttl will know from his days at RB Leipzig how risky a high line could be against Timo Werner especially.
With Stuart Armstrong Covid-stricken and Moussa Djenepo injured, 31-year-old Theo Walcott may make an early second debut for his boyhood club.
How to watch Chelsea vs Southampton
Southampton’s visit to Stamford Bridge will be the first match screened on the new pay-per-view services set up by the Premier League in response to the loss of crowds resulting from the pandemic. Our 3pm kick-off will be on BT Sport Box Office, with Manchester United’s trip to St James’ Park following later on Sky Sports Box Office.
Half of each weekend’s games will be covered in this fashion, costing £14.95 a time. To date, Burnley away on Saturday 31 October is the only other Blues fixture scheduled for pay-per-view.
Oli on the mark
They may have been away from their club over the past fortnight but the personal and collective goals of Chelsea players on the international stage cannot be ignored. Mason Mount delivered England’s winner against Belgium, Hakim Ziyech came off the bench to set-up a Morocco goal and Timo Werner and Kai Havertz each scored and assisted in Germany’s 3-3 draw with Switzerland.
There was a special landmark for Olivier Giroud though. Our France striker not only reached a century of caps for France against Ukraine, but overtook Michel Platini’s tally of 41 goals for Les Bleus. The 34-year-old is now nine behind leading marksman Thierry Henry, who has 51.
Giroud is the eighth France player to make 100 appearances, and the third with a Chelsea connection after Marcel Desailly and Didier Deschamps.
100+ France caps
Lilian Thuram 142
Thierry Henry 123
Hugo Lloris 118
Marcel Desailly 116
Zinedine Zidane 108
Patrick Vieira 107
Didier Deschamps 103
Olivier Giroud 102
The shut-out in the home derby against Crystal Palace made it 10 goals without reply at Stamford Bridge for the Blues, who have now also managed 138 minutes of Premier League football without conceding. No top-flight team since the start of 2019/20 have conceded fewer home goals than Chelsea’s 18 in 21 games.
Seven of our past nine home matches have produced victories with a clean sheet, the exceptions being the 2-1 win against Manchester City and the ten-man loss to Liverpool.
Two of those were 4-0 scorelines, the highest winning margins so far at the Bridge under Frank Lampard in the league. The result in our most recent game meant the Blues had taken three points from the Eagles for six games in a row for the first time. Such a shame none of us are there to cheer the boys on.
Not everyone who dons the 10 shirt is handed a classic ‘number ten role’ – that of flamboyant, free-moving attacking playmaker. There is still a caché that comes with the jersey, but also a requirement to weigh in with good assist and goal statistics.
For the majority of the seasons since fixed squad numbers were introduced in 1993/94, Chelsea’s wearer of that jersey has been a flair player rather than a grafter. The best, like Chelsea’s third incumbent in two years, Christian Pulisic, have combined both.
Last season, wearing 22, the ‘Ten from Penn’ scored 11 goals and set up eight from 30 games – impressive numbers. Last season’s 10, Willian, managed 11 and nine from 47, while the previous wearer, Eden Hazard, averaged 16 goals and 11.6 assists in five seasons.
Chelsea number tens since 1993/94
Eden Hazard 2014-19
Juan Mata 2011-14
Yossi Benayoun 2010/11
Joe Cole 2003-10
Slavisa Jokanovic 2000-02
Pierluigi Casiraghi 1998/99
Mark Hughes 1996-98
Gavin Peacock 1993-96
Southampton matchday programme
The official matchday programme can still be ordered for £3.50 plus postage. You may also subscribe, guaranteeing delivery of every men’s team programme in all competitions throughout the 2020/21 season.
Tommy Robson (1944-2020)
Skilful outside-left Tommy Robson, who played seven times for Tommy Docherty’s Chelsea in 1965/66, died last week aged 76. It was his misfortune to be understudy to the brilliant Bobby Tambling while with the Blues, but he thrived at later club Peterborough, netting 128 goals in a club record 559 appearances. Everyone at Chelsea sends thoughts and condolences to his family and friends.
Premier League fixtures
Everton v Liverpool 12.30pm (BT Sport)
Chelsea v Southampton 3pm (BT Sport Box Office)
Man City v Arsenal 5.30pm Sky Sports
Newcastle v Man Utd 8pm (Sky Sports Box Office)
Sheffield Utd v Fulham 12pm (BT Sport Box Office)
Crystal Palace v Brighton 2pm (Sky Sports)
Tottenham v West Ham 4.30pm (Sky Sports)
Leicester v Aston Villa 7.15pm (Sky Sports Box Office)
West Brom v Burnley 5.30pm (Sky Sports Box Office)
Leeds v Wolves 8pm (Sky Sports)
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