With the Premier League dominating the fixture calendar this month, another away trip has arrived quickly after the weekend loss. Club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton look at the prospects for the Blues to begin another good run...
The intensity of the Premier League continues unabated and this Premier League fixture demands a rapid turnaround for Chelsea and hosts Wolves, who both lost just three days ago. The reverse at Stamford Bridge comes in another midweek slot towards the end of next month, and the Blues won both fixtures last season.
The repercussions of the Londoners’ first defeat in 18 games were not as bad as might reasonably have been expected as the Manchester clubs, Liverpool and Tottenham all drew as the weekend unfolded. The last time each of the so-called big six failed to win in a round of matches was a midweek in January 2016 (when eventual champions Leicester beat Tottenham).
The frustration comes from the sense Chelsea were just two Everton post-widths away from leadership of the table, but this is a growing group that will still have faltering steps in its development.
Tonight, in the immortal phrase of Iain Dowie, is about the Blues’ boucebackability, and we have taken the points on three of the past four visits to Molineux. Wolves have also conceded more goals to Chelsea (32) than to any other Premier League opponent.
Chelsea’s last seven Premier League goalscorers at Molineux have played for the England national team: Tammy Abraham (3), Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Mason Mount, Fikayo Tomori and Frank Lampard.
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Chelsea team news
Frank Lampard may continue to stick with the 4-3-3 system despite having lost wide attackers Callum Hudson-Odoi and Hakim Ziyech to injury. Another player who can fit that brief, Christian Pulisic, has made a timely return to fitness and the others could be back for the derby at home to West Ham next week.
Without any of the three wingers, Kai Havertz, just back from laying low with coronavirus, was asked to play wide right at Goodison Park. Recently, the young German played in midfield alongside N’Golo Kante and Mason Mount – an option for consideration this evening. Rather than individuals it was a collective zip and intensity that was missing at Goodison Park, however.
Although they rode their luck at times, Everton successfully restricted Lampard’s attackers to such an extent that his star performer Reece James not only made the most tackles but attempted the most shots from right-back. The Toffees are the first team to beat the Blues to nil away from Stamford Bridge since Sheffield United in July, and the quest for a win in the two stadiums either side of Liverpool’s Stanley Park continues.
Chelsea did the league double over Wolves last season. Tammy Abraham, who could come in for Olivier Giroud, will hope to find the net as he has scored six goals in four league appearances against the hosts. That includes a hat-trick in this fixture last season, a 5-2 thrashing. Mason Mount netted in that game as well as the 2-0 that closed the season at the Bridge. Joint leading scorer Timo Werner will be keen to end his run without a goal, having previously netted seven in seven.
While Frank Lampard has a 100 per cent record as a coach against Wolves, Nuno Espirito Santo has lost two and drawn one of his four encounters with the Blues. Everton was Lampard’s 50th Premier League match. He has so far managed 26 wins and 10 draws, and suffered 14 defeats.
Wolves are on a run of three defeats in five outings, two of them away from Molineux. The third came at home to Midland rivals Aston Villa on Saturday lunchtime – handing the Old Gold side a few precious hours longer than the Blues to recover before tonight’s game.
Santo recently changed his defensive system for the first time in three years, switching from three central defenders to two. It was prompted by the enforced self-isolation of Conor Coady and Romain Saiss, but he has persisted with the back four, with mixed results: a win, a draw but most recently back-to-back defeats.
The two losses coincided with the absence of injured leading marksman Raul Jimenez – who has scored twice in four games against Chelsea – and the need to engineer chances in a different way. Wanderers have lost four of the five games played without Jimenez in their starting line-up, and scored almost a goal a game fewer.
Initially Daniel Podence moved centrally from his usual position on the left flank, but Fabio Silva was handed his first start as lead striker against the Villans. Neither has the same characteristics as the Mexican target man, and the often unstoppable winger Adam Traore seems to maybe have missed the usual lay-offs. Usually half Wanderers’ attacks come from the dribbling Spaniard’s right flank.
A further difficulty came when scheming central midfielder Joao Moutinho was shown a second red card on Saturday, meaning he will miss tonight’s game. Ruben Neves is a natural replacement to initiate their rapid counter-attacking style.
Although Leander Dendoncker and others offer an aerial threat, Wolves have managed just two headed goals this campaign compared with Chelsea’s five. The first goal may prove decisive: neither Wanderers as hosts nor the Blues as visitors have won from a losing position so far this campaign.
It may also go to the wire. Only Leicester and Manchester Utd have a better record in second-half performances away from home than Chelsea, and over the last 15 minutes of all top-flight matches Wanderers have conceded five, while Chelsea have netted six.
How to watch Chelsea-Wolves
Before Everton’s winner on Saturday Chelsea had not conceded a top-flight penalty since the Watford match in November 2019. The Blues had bucked this season’s trend up to that moment, as penalties (or those unawarded) have been unusually instrumental in deciding the destination of points. Wolves also succumbed to a late Villa strike from 12 yards in the Midlands derby.
In fact, 54 penalties have been awarded after just 117 matches, which is on course for a huge new high of 175 in total. The Premier League averaged around 79 spot-kicks per season between 1992 and 2020, and the most in one campaign is 106, recorded in 2009/10 and 2016/17 – both title-winning season for Chelsea. Frank Lampard still holds the record for most penalties scored in the Premier League.
|1 Leicester||7 (8) for||1 (1) against|
|2 Liverpool||5 (5)||2 (5)|
|3 Brighton||4 (5)||5 (5)|
|4 Fulham||2 (5)||4 (4)|
|5 Chelsea||3 (4)||1 (1)|
|6 Manchester Utd||3 (4)||4 (4)|
|7 Newcastle||3 (3)||1 (2)|
|8 Aston Villa||2 (3)||0 (1)|
|9 Manchester City||2 (3)||4 (4)|
|10 Sheffield Utd||2 (3)||0 (1)|
|11 Crystal Palace||2 (2)||3 (3)|
|12 Everton||2 (2)||1 (2)|
|13 Leeds||2 (2)||4 (4)|
|14 Southampton||2 (2)||2 (2)|
|15 Tottenham||2 (2)||3 (3)|
|16 Arsenal||1 (1)||0 (0)|
|17 Burnley||0 (0)||1 (1)|
|18 West Bromwich||0 (0)||3 (3)|
|19 West Ham||0 (0)||2 (4)|
|20 Wolverhampton||0 (0)||3 (4)|
Fitting in the European fixtures
Chelsea are potentially three excellent performances away from reaching the Champions League final for the third time – no club needs to win every match to progress.
Diego Costa’s Atletico Madrid present arguably the toughest possible first hurdle to overcome, as Frank Lampard admitted. The Blues have beaten them twice previously, drawn three times, and lost once. Most recently, we became the first visitors to win at their new Wanda Metropolitano Stadium in September 2017.
Although, like the Premier League, there is no winter break in Spain this season, La Liga has extended the five substitutions rule to spread the workload on players. Atletico have not been assisted with Friday evening starts ahead of Champions League matches, as some national leagues offer.
The context around the two Round of 16 legs (and any further knockout rounds) has taken shape, with the midweeks of the middle fortnight of February and first half of March now free of fixtures. However, tough domestic meetings with big rivals lie in wait after both Madrid matches.
|Atletico Madrid a||Tue 23 Feb||Manchester Utd h|
|Atletico Madrid h||Wed 17 Mar||Liverpool a|
|Quarter-finals first leg||6/7 Apr||Crystal Palace a|
|Quarter-final second leg||13/14 Apr||Brighton h|
|Semi-final first leg||27/28 Apr||Fulham h|
|Semi-final second leg||4/5 May||Manchester City a|
Francis Glibbery 1941-2020
Frannie Glibbery, a photographer whose work graced the match programme and official club newspaper Onside for many years, sadly died last week in Devon after a lengthy illness complicated by Covid.
West Londoner Frannie, who was 79, had enjoyed a lengthy career as a copywriter before lifting the lens for the Blues. He preferred the texture of black and white to colour, portraiture to live action, but his shuttered eye captured all kinds of candid and iconic moments.
From behind the scenes at Harlington to views from the open-top bus, he chronicled the Blues’ resurgence from mid-90s achievers to champions of England. Our thoughts and appreciation for his contribution go out to his family and friends. A couple of his iconic photos are below.
Premier League fixtures (all on Amazon Prime Video)
Wolves v Chelsea 6pm
Man City v West Brom 8pm
Arsenal v Southampton 6pm
Leeds v Newcastle 6pm
Leicester v Everton 6pm
Fulham v Brighton 8pm
Liverpool v Tottenham 8pm
West Ham v Crystal Palace 8pm
Aston Villa v Burnley 6pm
Sheffield Utd v Man Utd 8pm