The wait for a Premier League fixture under Graham Potter is almost over. Club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton preview the Eagles’ hosting of the Blues across town…
A 3pm matinee in south London’s loudest theatre is the curtain-raiser for Graham Potter’s Chelsea story in the Premier League, four weeks after the Blues’ last top-flight action against West Ham. With a hectic October ahead, the west Londoners will hope to claim back-to-back league victories in the capital as the head coach completes his second match in charge.
Without the usual FIFA international break next month, the Blues will play nine matches at home and abroad, and a total of 13 between now and Newcastle away. By 13 November, when players jet off for the World Cup, around half a million spectators will have watched the Londoners over 42 days.
Saturday’s hosts Palace own the unenviable record of having lost more Premier League matches against the Blues than any other opponent, with the world champions aiming to clip the Eagles’ top-flight wings for the 10th time in a row.
It is derby weekend in north London and Manchester too, and with favourable results Chelsea could leapfrog fifth-placed Man United, who play at Man City on Sunday, and depose Anfield-bound Brighton from fourth.
Chelsea team news
Graham Potter grasped the opportunity to acquaint himself with his players during Chelsea’s 17-day enforced hiatus. The Liverpool game cancellation allowed space for a behind-closed-doors friendly match at Brighton (due to face Palace that weekend) involving many of his squad before some jetted off for international duty.
With two games a week from now till mid-November, the Amex friendly will have helped him work out his options. At the back, with Thiago Silva unlikely to play every match, Kalidou Koulibaly, Wesley Fofana and Trevoh Chalobah (all left on the bench against RB Salzburg) will surely see more action. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, still wearing a protective mask, may make his league debut for the Blues, unless dynamic youngster Armando Broja is unleashed.
Last time out in the Champions League game, the Blues’ coach set up with a back three which spread very wide in possession, allowing wing-backs Reece James and Raheem Sterling to remain high as a constant attacking threat, and Sterling delivered his fourth goal of the season. Palace offer a very different challenge to the Austrians however.
Potter went with what he knew best in that first game, selecting Marc Cucurella, but the goal-threat of Ben Chilwell might be used here or in midweek at home to Milan, and Conor Gallagher could face his former loan club. Edou Mendy may have recovered sufficiently from a knee problem to resume between the sticks, while N’Golo Kante’s return draws closer, the midfielder having trained this week.
Eagles looking for lift-off
The evolving Crystal Palace team bristles with early-20s talent including Michael Olise, Eberechi Eze, Odsonne Edouard and former Blue Marc Guehi. Palace boss Patrick Vieira balances that exuberant youth with regular starts in each department for over-30s such as Jordan Ayew, Luka Milivojevic and Joel Ward.
For all their fluent passing and movement, though, the south Londoners currently sit 16th in the table and remain very reliant on Wilfried Zaha’s pyrotechnics from the left. His four-goal tally is greater than the rest of the squad combined and the 14 shots he has attempted is five more than the next highest, Jeff Schlupp and Jean-Philippe Mateta.
For whatever reason the Eagles have taken the lead four times in the league (not least 2-0 against Man City) but then allowed equalisers on three occasions, although three of their four goals at home have come in the second half.
They have won one of their three fixtures so far at Selhurst Park and shared the points in their last two home and away. There has not been a draw in this fixture since March 1993, when Graham Stuart’s opener for Chelsea was cancelled out by Chris Armstrong.
The Glaziers have conceded the same number of times as Chelsea this season (nine) but could have first-choice keeper Jack Butland back between the posts in place of Vince Guaita for the first time this term.
Counting the shots
Three top-flight clubs this season have attempted fewer shots than Chelsea’s 69 (from one game fewer than most). Bournemouth are lowest with 44, then Villa and this weekend’s hosts, both with 67. All those three have netted six goals, while the Blues have amassed eight.
At the other end of the pitch, the west Londoners have restricted teams to 62 efforts, only bettered by Graham Potter’s old club, Brighton (60), Liverpool (53), Arsenal (52) and Manchester City (40). That said, we have conceded nine times from those shots – a higher goals-per-shot ratio (just under one in seven finding the net) than anyone except Leicester (more than one in four).
It is double derby Saturday delight in the capital with Chelsea starting at Palace (the third derby so far for both camps), hours after Arsenal and Tottenham lock horns at the Emirates. The Blues, of course, were set to play at Fulham on 10 September but it was postponed. Chelsea have won eight of our past nine league derbies on the road.
The Blues have netted eight times in the past three trips to south London, and Graham Potter will be looking for the opening Premier League fixture of his Chelsea career to also deliver the first top-flight goals.
Raheem Sterling combined with Mason Mount to open the Potter account in the Champions League, but in the domestic league one current first-teamer has previously ‘started the car’ for a new coach on two occasions: N’Golo Kante.
First league goalscorer for recent Chelsea coaches
Cesar Azpilicueta (vs Burnley)
Mason Mount (Leicester)
N’Golo Kante (Huddersfield)
N’Golo Kante (West Ham)
Guus Hiddink (II)
Branislav Ivanovic (Sunderland)
Jose Mourinho (II)
Juan Mata (West Ham)
Roberto Di Matteo
Didier Drogba (Stoke)
Nicolas Anelka (West Bromwich)
Didier Drogba (Hull)
Guus Hiddink (I)
Nicolas Anelka (Aston Villa)
Luiz Felipe Scolari
Joe Cole (Portsmouth)
Salomon Kalou (Bolton)
Jose Mourinho (I)
Eidur Gudjohnsen (Manchester Utd)
Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink (Manchester Utd)
The only break in the Premier League season before November allowed a range of players to earn their first cap as a Chelsea player: Raheem Sterling for England, Switzerland central midfielder Denis Zakaria and Kalidou Koulibaly, in action for Senegal.
The last two travelled home after Tuesday games, as did Cesar Azpilicueta (Spain), Armando Broja (Albania), Carney Chukwuemeka (England U20), Wesley Fofana (France U21), Conor Gallagher (England U21), Christian Pulisic (USA), Thiago Silva (Brazil) and Hakim Ziyech (Morocco). Thankfully, no one had a long-haul flight as the Brazil and USA matches were played in Europe.
Earliest back at Cobham was Mateo Kovacic (Croatia), who finished on Sunday, while the rest of the Three Lions boys plus Kai Havertz (Germany) and Jorginho (Italy) completed their tour of duty on Monday. Mason Mount notched his first goal anywhere this season against die Mannschaft but, with his second and third for club and country, Havertz became the first Blue to score a brace against England.
A mammoth month
Chelsea are set to equal a record for matches played in a calendar month in the modern era. There are nine matches scheduled for October, just like there were in the Decembers of 2021, 2018, 2017, and 2013, plus January 2018 and 2002, March 2012, April 2000, and December, January and April in the exceptionally crammed 2012/13 campaign.
Previous generations of players grappled with overwork too: March 1966, when we played current Champions League opponents AC Milan in the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup, was also a nine-game month.
Premier League fixtures - Matchweek 9
Saturday 1 October fixtures
Arsenal v Tottenham 12.30pm (BT Sport)
Bournemouth v Brentford 3pm
Crystal Palace v Chelsea 3pm
Fulham v Newcastle 3pm
Liverpool v Brighton 3pm
Southampton v Everton 3pm
West Ham v Wolves 5.30pm (Sky Sports)
Sunday 2 October fixtures
Man City v Man Utd 2pm (Sky Sports)
Leeds v Aston Villa 4.30pm (Sky Sports)
Monday 3 October fixtures
Leicester v Nottingham Forest 8pm (Sky Sports)
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