It's a big start to the Stamford Bridge season as we welcome the champions to SW6, and club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton have looked at all the key talking points in their preview of a truly super Sunday...
In these unaccustomed times the first football match of the season at Stamford Bridge has a reassuring familiarity to it. Home and away, Chelsea versus Liverpool is the most-played English fixture of the 21st century. Remarkably, this is the 64th instance in all competitions since the year 2000. The Blues are chasing a seventh successive win at home in all competitions.
For the first time in 30 years the Reds will arrive as defending champions – and wary ones too. ‘There’s no one big threat,’ Jurgen Klopp observed in the build-up, ‘Chelsea itself is a threat.’
The last time they rolled up at the Bridge with the same status, in 1990/91, it was one of those days when the Blues caused havoc in the Liverpool box and pummelled them 4-2 - a familiar scoreline in this fixture.
Last weekend the Reds had the greater share of seven goals with Leeds, but advertised their current defensive frailties as well as the usual high-octane attacking. Frank Lampard agreed Chelsea’s performance at Brighton was not a great one, but three goals and three points away from home in the opening fixture is the tale of the tape. And on the past two occasions the Blues have started the campaign with a Monday victory, in 2014 and 2016, the title was ours come May.
Chelsea team news
Frank Lampard set his team up in a 4-2-3-1 against Brighton, with Timo Werner at the vanguard and Ruben Loftus-Cheek just behind. Kai Havertz was unspectacular but solid in right midfield, and the 21-year-old earned respect with one late, lung-busting run and saving tackle.
Werner, already proving a likeable character, revealed he had never experienced such ‘big, massive defenders’ as in Brighton’s ‘Land of the Giants’ (ask your grandparents). Lewis Dunk and Adam Webster are both 6ft 4in, and Ben White 6ft 1in. Good job 6ft 7in Dan Burn was not involved, then.
More pertinently, the only answer Albion had for Werner’s clever movement and rocket heels was an illegal one, leading to the opening goal. Interestingly, Liverpool have shown their susceptibility to such pace over the past few months.
Although the Seagulls’ equaliser will have disappointed many, the stunning response from Reece James 100 seconds and 19 consecutive passes later was enough to lift sagging spirits. You can enjoy Reece’s banger again from all available angles here.
The increasingly impressive 20-year-old not only switched to a midfield role after that to close the game out, but supplied the corner from which centre-back Kurt Zouma netted number three.
This bodes well for 2020/21. All last season, the only defenders to score directly from a corner in any competition were Cesar Azpilicueta, from Emerson’s delivery at home to Lille, and Toni Rudiger from Mason Mount at Leicester.
Werner later had an ice pack strapped to the knee injured in the penalty award incident, but declared ‘You’re always fit for these games’, regarding Liverpool.
The squad on the South Coast was missing several key members. It could still be too soon for debuts from England’s Ben Chilwell and Thiago Silva, who joined their new team-mates on Wednesday, and injured Morocco midfielder Hakim Ziyech. Central midfielder Mateo Kovacic is available again after suspension, though, and Christian Pulisic, whose dribbles on the left wing tore the Reds apart in July, may return.
Back-to-back is the big battle
It is a feat to win the Premier League title but quite another to retain it. This century only Chelsea (2004-06), Manchester City (2017-19) and Manchester United (three times) have done so.
Everyone is out to beat the champs, and has worked out plans to turn familiar strengths into exposable weaknesses. The Reds discovered that truth even before Leeds rolled up at Anfield last weekend and put three goals past them.
That made it six outings without a clean sheet for Klopp’s men, who have now been breached three or more times in a third of their past nine league games. One of those was the helter-skelter 5-3 affair involving the Blues in July. That night, 70 per cent of Liverpool’s shots beat the goalkeeper, and 60 per cent of Chelsea’s – it might easily have finished 6-6. The previous occasion Liverpool had shipped three at Anfield was back in January 2019, at home to Palace.
This is their first away trip of the season and, interestingly, the Blues’ 2-0 FA Cup victory over the Reds in March was one of five defeats from their past eight games on the road.
As their narrow home victory over new boys Leeds showed, Liverpool’s final-third play is still full of the hustle and bustle, short corners and one-twos that carved teams apart before the lockdown.
Jordan Henderson was back as the midfield hub, but has come to rely more on firing the ball towards Sadio Mane in the inside-right position to initiate attacks. The expected arrival of Thiago Alcantara will strengthen an area that many think lacks creativity.
Judging by his Leeds performance Mo Salah has returned in a more dynamic mode than was evident for some parts of last season. His hat-trick included two from the spot, but he was a constant threat.
Although they eventually won the clash of pressing and counter-pressing 4-3, it is clear the Reds’ defence can be forced into errors, and their high defensive line offers inviting acres for Chelsea’s pacemen to exploit with the right pass.
Leeds forwards’ movement was especially smart at disrupting the hosts’ offside trap, and luring Virgil van Dijk’s centre-back partner out of position. Chelsea have harassed goalkeeper Alisson with the ball at his feet, or targeted the space behind their attacking full-backs.
Milestones at the Amex
The win at Brighton took Chelsea to 2,000 points in the Premier League, the third club to reach that landmark. It was also the 400th victory in the Roman Abramovich era in the competition, and our 600th in all games in that time.
As Brighton away was a match we drew in 2019/20, the Blues are already two points up in like-for-like fixtures from last season. A win against Liverpool would raise that to five.
The fifth penalty goal of Jorginho’s Premier League career was also Chelsea’s sixth in the opening league fixture of a season over the past 20 years.
Previous scorers were Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink (2000/01 at home to West Ham), Frank Lampard (2008/09, home to Portmouth), Lampard again (2012/13 at Wigan); Eden Hazard (2016/17, West Ham again the visitors) and Jorginho himself (2018/19 at Huddersfield).
Jorginho’s dispatch made it 16 successes in a row for the Blues in the top-flight. The last penalty failure was by Hazard in the 2-1 win against Manchester City on 5 April 2017, and the man who saved it was none other than one of our present ’keepers, Willy Caballero.
However, like the title-winner against Crystal Palace two seasons earlier, the Belgian spared his own blushes by netting the rebound. That means the last outright failure from the spot was by Diego Costa on 31 January the same year – away to Sunday’s opponents in a 1-1 draw.
Man in black
Paul Tierney will take charge of his first Premier League game of the season and his fourth ever at the Bridge; the previous three were all Chelsea wins (5-0 versus Huddersfield, 3-0 Watford, 2-1 Aston Villa).
When is Frank Lampard’s press conference?
Our head coach will speak to the media today (Friday) around 1.30pm. You can catch his pre-match views on the 5th Stand app or official website.
How to watch Chelsea matches this season
Each of the Blues’ first three outings was selected for live coverage anyway, but Premier League clubs voted to allow all 28 September matches to be televised in real time. That means an additional 11 live games, six of which will be on Sky Sports, three BT Sport, and one each on the BBC and Amazon Prime.
To see where all the Blues games can be viewed where you live, check the Premier League website’s television guide, updated through the season.
Chelsea TV’s matchday shows are on the 5th Stand app, Facebook Live, and the official YouTube channel. Sunday's starts at 3.15pm and includes extra analysis on Jorginho.
Women’s FA Cup map laid out
At half-time during Sunday’s remarkable rout of Bristol City, former Blues full-back Claire Rafferty drew the balls from the sack for the remainder of the 2019/20 FA Cup. Should we win the quarter-final tie away to Everton on Sunday 27 September, either Brighton or Birmingham await in a semi-final to be played four days later. The final is to be staged behind closed doors at Wembley on 1 November.
Amazingly, each of the nine goals against City featured a different goalscorer. Fran Kirby breached the dam with her first WSL strike since May 2019, while recent signing Pernille Harder racked up an assist and a goal within five minutes of coming off the bench.
They also came close to matching their own record for shots on target with 21, just short of the 22 registered against Yeovil in 2017.
Billy’s shirt story
Shortly before Chelsea beat Manchester City to clinch the title for Liverpool, their left-back Andy Robertson donned the famous royal blue for a selfie and posted it on the team’s social media chat. ‘For one night and one night only,’ he recalled in his autobiography, ‘everyone of a Liverpool persuasion would be supporting Chelsea.’
The shirt had come into Robertson’s possession through a swap with Billy Gilmour at the end of our 2-0 FA Cup victory over the Reds in March. Gilmour himself came on as a late sub in the City match, no doubt to the approval of his watching Scotland team-mate.
Tykes in third round
The Blues will host Barnsley in round three of the Carabao Cup next Wednesday at 7.45pm after the team sitting 15th in the Championship won away at Middlesbrough, three places below them, on Tuesday.
Austrian coach Gerhard Struber’s high-pressing team are away to second-placed Reading on Saturday. Infamously, the Tykes won our most recent encounter at Oakwell in the 2007/08 FA Cup by a goal to nil.
Thursday’s draw means the winners of this game will meet Leyton Orient or Tottenham away in round four.
Matchday programme available
We may not be attending games but the official matchday programme can still be ordered for this game, featuring an exclusive interview with new signing Timo Werner following his impressive Blues debut against Brighton.
For maximum value, why not subscribe now for £80 (including P&P for UK customers). This guarantees delivery of the home programme of every men’s team match in all competitions to your door throughout the 2020/21 season.
115 years of history at the Bridge
One-hundred-and-fifteen-years ago this month the first ever football match at Stamford Bridge was a friendly against Liverpool. The game, which kicked off at 5.15pm on Monday 4 September 1905, was a trial for the huge new stadium that had been constructed in a matter of months.
It introduced a new kind of match-day programme and ball-boys to the world of football, and was attended by 5-10,000 spectators, who cheered each of the four goals for Jacky Robertson’s rapidly-built team, as well as the huge punched clearances of goalkeeper Willie Foulke.
Remarkably, by Chelsea’s third season the Bridge was home to the biggest fortnightly crowds in Britain, if not the world, and would become the last stadium to host FA Cup finals before Wembley took over.
For absent friends
No elevated chatter and clatter in local pubs and restaurants. No one-way throng along the Fulham Road. No ‘happy new season’ at the turnstile. No impulsive chant created for new players, or summoned from the heritage songbook. No collective kickback at the marginal ebbs and flows. Instead, remotely, in homes, bars, on the move, we fixate on screens, sneak an earbud listen. Not present, but always there. For the club, for the team, for each other. For the ride, whatever.
Chelsea v LiverpoolKick-off: Sunday, 4.30pmCoverage: Sky SportsReferee: Paul TierneyVAR: Michael Oliver
Premier League fixtures
SaturdayEverton v West Brom 12.30pm (BT Sport)Leeds v Fulham 3pm (BT Sport)Man Utd v Crystal Palace 5.30pm (Sky Sports)Arsenal v West Ham 8pm (Sky Sports)
SundaySouthampton v Tottenham 12pm (BT Sport)Newcastle v Brighton 2pm (Sky Sports)Chelsea v Liverpool 4.30pm (Sky Sports)Leicester v Burnley 7pm (BBC One)
MondayAston Villa v Sheffield Utd 6pm (Sky Sports)Wolves v Man City 8.15pm (Sky Sports)
Check out some more pre-match stats