The Blues have a lunchtime date in West Yorkshire this weekend. Club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton preview the restoration of this traditional away fixture in our calendar…
Chelsea, this season’s fifth-best team on the road, take on Leeds United, the 12th-most successful hosts, at the three-quarter stage of the Premier League season. The 3-1 victory in the reverse fixture in December sets up the possibility of a first Blues ‘double’ over our historic rivals in the top flight for 84 years.
Ten matches remain to be played and soon some mid-table clubs will know their fate – neither in the hunt nor out for the count. Generally the hardest teams to face in the run-in are those with an axe still to grind. And plenty of edges have been sharpened in this fixture’s past.
‘We’ve surprised a lot of teams,’ Leeds midfielder Kalvin Phillips noted this week, ‘and a lot of teams have surprised us.’ The Blues are a less-familiar foe, having played just the once at Elland Road in the past 17 years. The only visit since the Whites’ relegation was a 5-1 League Cup quarter-final thrashing by the Blues in December 2012, though Neil Warnock’s men led 1-0 at the break.
Chelsea have not lost a match played in the Saturday 12.30pm slot, home or away, since December 2019 at Everton. This season there have been lunchtime wins at home to Palace (4-0) and away to Newcastle (2-0), followed by last month’s 1-1 draw at Southampton.
Since Thomas Tuchel’s arrival Chelsea have conceded just two Premier League goals, four fewer than the next most thrifty teams.
— KEY STAT
Chelsea team news
Tuchel has had the rarity of a clear midweek to prepare his players for the lunchtime trip to Yorkshire this weekend and has made it clear he intends to spread the load around the squad over the remaining matches this season. Chelsea have used 27 players to date – five more than Leeds.
Since his arrival, the Bavarian has made a point of involving players who were on the periphery of the match day squad and judging from the celebrations at recent games there is a growing sense of togetherness. Collective, focused energy can be a tremendously powerful thing, especially as a campaign nears its close.
The latest to benefit is Kai Havertz, whose elusiveness and acceleration wreaked havoc against Everton, having a hand in a host of chances, including both goals and one disallowed finish.
The 21-year-old’s assimilation has been hampered by injury and illness, but he looked liberated in a new ‘9½’ role and achieved 95.2 per cent passing accuracy, despite some audacious touches in the final third.
Callum Hudson-Odoi also excelled in a familiar role, though different than of late, down the left, as the Chelsea head coach looked for improvement in creating good goalscoring opportunities with pace and fluidity.
Attacks win games, defences win trophies, as the saying goes. On another excellent night for the backline, Andreas Christensen and Kurt Zouma were not far behind in terms of accurate distribution, and both initiated attacks that ended with attempts on Jordan Pickford’s goal.
The third 2-0 victory at the Bridge under Tuchel makes him the first Premier League coach ever to not concede in any of his opening five home fixtures. Yet again on Monday, despite the change of personnel, the opposition were restricted to just one shot on target.
The Blues will know to expect all-out attacking from Leeds who, despite losing at West Ham, created more openings than has been the case in their past few games. Chelsea will, though, aim to exploit the Whites’ openness, especially after winning possession in midfield. The hosts have conceded a league high of 29 first-half goals this season – four more than Chelsea’s overall total.
The team selected may reflect the fact that Mason Mount and Jorginho are suspended for the crucial second leg against Atletico on Wednesday. Tammy Abraham could be a Blues’ injury doubt with that troublesome ankle.
This is the Blues’ first league visit to Elland Road since a 1-1- draw in December 2003 in the season they were relegated. Marco Bielsa’s Leeds play a different brand of football to the team of Eddie Gray back then.
They are close to Chelsea in terms of adventurous passing and keeping possession, and their dynamic approach generally creates chances. Converting them has been more problematic of late – 17 attempts at West Ham produced two on target and none in the net, former Blue Patrick Bamford being chief among those off-target.
Their host of injured players are gradually returning, however, and Kalvin Phillips and Rodrigo featured in that 2-0 defeat at the London Stadium.
Statistics show there are well-worn routes to Leeds’ goal, and these were exploited by the Hammers. Though very comfortable on the ball, their defenders are not the tallest, losing more aerial challenges than they win, and rigidly man-mark at set-plays.
Opponents have had success arrowing corners into the six-yard box to put goalkeeper Illan Meslier under pressure, helping produce 14 set-piece goals this season, 30 per cent of the total conceded and the most in the top flight.
The Yorkshiremen have also given away the most penalties in the league, and could react quicker to parried shots: they have conceded 11 goals from follow-ups, the most in the top flight alongside Sheffield United. Only Everton, Palace and Villa have caught opponents offside fewer times.
On their home patch, Bielsa’s men have beaten five teams from the lower half of the league to date, but none from the top 10, with Leicester, West Ham, Everton and Villa all recording wins.
How to watch Leeds-Chelsea
This match will be covered live by BT Sport in the UK. To find the relevant broadcaster where you are elsewhere, see the Premier League’s broadcast schedule pages.
Chelsea TV’s global available matchday shows – including early team news, exclusive interviews and analysis – are on the 5th Stand app, Facebook Live and the official YouTube channel.
Can Thomas match Big Phil?
Luiz Felipe Scolari is the only Chelsea coach prior to Thomas Tuchel to have started his career at the Bridge with an 11-game unbeaten run across all competitions. Guus Hiddink did the same, but in his second caretaker spell at the club.
Big Phil extended his run in 2008 to 12, comprising nine wins and three draws, before losing 0-1 to Rafael Benitez’s Liverpool in game number 13 through a Jose Bosingwa own-goal.
Blues in White Rose country
Chelsea have lost only one of the past 24 Premier League matches against Yorkshire clubs, winning 17 and drawing five. Already this season Sheffield United have been beaten 2-1 at Bramall Lane in the league and Barnsley knocked out of the FA Cup 1-0 at Oakwell. The Blues have won six of the past seven top-flight trips to the county.
The Londoners’ most recent league win at Elland Road, though, happened a few weeks shy of 21 years ago. The 1-0 win on 1 April 2000 came from a cool drive by left-back Jon Harley (now coaching the next generation at Cobham). A flurry of late bookings made it 34 yellow cards and four reds in six matches between the clubs – a reminder of the ancient enmity.
Who’s coming up?
At this stage of the 2019/20 Championship campaign Leeds lay second behind West Bromwich, with Fulham third. Those three eventually rose to the Premier League, though our SW6 neighbours did so through the play-offs after finishing fourth, and the Yorkshiremen pipped the Baggies to top slot.
Current front-runners for promotion are rampant leaders Norwich, on a long unbeaten streak, followed by home kings Watford, Swansea whose defence is the best in the division, and high-scoring Brentford,
The Canaries were founding members of the Premier League but have suffered five relegations since; this would be their fifth elevation. Should Fulham’s future lie in the second tier, the west London derby will take on a new guise if the Bees secure their first top-tier season since 1946/47.
Toffees teetering into Tottenham territory
Monday’s victory over Everton made it 26 league games unbeaten for the Blues at the Bridge against the Toffeemen. The longest such run against any opposition in the Blues’ history is 27, recorded against Spurs from 1990 to 2018.
Women march on
Chelsea Women secured the first half of what we hope will be a double victory over Atlético Madrid when they completed a 3-1 aggregate win with a 1-1 in the second leg staged at Monza, Italy, because of travel restrictions. The draw for the Women’s Champions League quarter-finals takes place today (Friday) from 11am.
More pressingly, there is the small matter of defending the Continental Tyres League Cup trophy in Sunday’s final against Bristol City at Vicarage Road. The match kicks off at 2.30pm and can be watched live on BT Sport. Chelsea have beaten City 14-0 on aggregate in the WSL this season but Emma Hayes will allow no complacency when silverware is at stake.
Premier League fixtures
Newcastle v Aston Villa 8pm (BT Sport)
Leeds v Chelsea 12.30pm (BT Sport)
Crystal Palace v West Brom 3pm (Sky Sports)
Everton v Burnley 5.30pm (Sky Sports)
Fulham v Man City 8pm (BT Sport)
Southampton v Brighton 12pm (BBC One)
Leicester v Sheffield Utd 2pm (Sky Sports)
Arsenal v Tottenham 4.30pm (Sky Sports)
Man Utd v West Ham 7.15pm (Sky Sports)
Wolves v Liverpool 8pm (Sky Sports)