Chelsea’s fixtures for the new year start at home, with the Blues of London entertaining the blue side of Manchester. Club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton set the scene for Sunday at Stamford Bridge…
The match of the weekend is at Stamford Bridge on the first Sunday afternoon of 2021 when Chelsea take on Manchester City. Between them, the pair have claimed nine of the past 16 Premier League titles.
Going into the New Year just seven points separated the top nine clubs. Like one of those end-of-the-pier horse race amusements, a well-time run of victories could hand the eventual champions an unassailable lead over the huddle behind.
Seven points shy of leaders Liverpool, Frank Lampard’s side are aiming for a third successive home league win against the Citizens for the first since 2009, when four in a row were achieved with an aggregate of 12 goals to nil.
The Mancunians have lost 26 times to Chelsea since the advent of the Premier League, more than they have against any other side.
Chelsea team news
New Year is the time for resolutions, and Chelsea’s could be to build on the energy and creativity shown for much of the draw with Aston Villa to embark on another long unbeaten run.
Chelsea’s head coach seems likely to revert to the central defence that stood strong during the unbeaten spell earlier this season, with Kurt Zouma and Thiago Silva paired. Reece James has not recovered after sitting out Monday’s action with a hamstring problem.
He will also ponder the best midfield to select against a City side that could be depleted in that area.
Lampard will hope to see the marksmanship displayed by the contestants of Sunday’s darts final at Ally Pally. And if Hakim Ziyech is fit again there will be no shortage of ammunition.
The Moroccan, out since the Leeds victory, has had a huge impact this season. He sets up more than two shooting chances per game, has one goal and three assists in seven league appearances, and will now hope to net his first Blues goal at Stamford Bridge.
The Blues’ most recent scorer at the Bridge was Olivier Giroud against Villa. The opening goal in that draw was his 32nd Premier League header, comprising 36 per cent of his total of 89. The France striker may start on the bench as Tammy Abraham netted in the previous two games.
The team scoring the opening goal has won eight of the past 10 league meetings between these two sides.
City’s Covid question marks
This is the first of eight matches across three competitions crammed into January that, on top of the Covid outbreak, will test for Manchester City’s title credentials to the full.
The Citizens are unbeaten in the league since a previous trip to London at Tottenham in November, keeping five clean sheets in six games. But they have not enjoyed themselves recently in west London and it was a 2-1 defeat at Stamford Bridge that finally killed off last season’s challenge.
Even Pep Guardiola’s assiduous preparations will have been disrupted by the positive Covid tests for some of his squad over the festive period.Gabriel Jesus and Kyle Walker (as well as two staff members) were identified as having tested positive before Christmas. Further tests require him to plan without three more players as yet unspecified.One thing is surely likely though. Even at 32 years of age, a fit-again Sergio Aguero would go straight back into City’s starting 11. Ferran Torres offers versatility and Jesus greater intensity of pressing, but the Argentinean’s cutting edge is well-known.
It is a reduced tally of goals compared to previous years that is noticeable about the Mancunians this season – they have the best defence statistically, but only the 10th most potent attack. Their shooting accuracy has been 13th best in the top flight.
Surprisingly, 71 per cent of their away goals have come in the first half of matches, while 60 per cent of their hosts’ goals have arrived after the break. Last season offered a far more even spread over the 90 minutes.
Other changes seem more positive, not least the young Rodrigo Hernandez replacing Fernandinho, now 35, as midfield anchor. While his tackling and interception stats do not measure up to those of N’Golo Kante, his positional sense and accuracy of passing help City control possession.
Cultured centre-back Ruben Dias may also prove the long-term heir to Vincent Kompany, and John Stones seems to have eradicated the errors of judgment that marred his early career in Manchester.
Pending test results, though, we do not know what sort of team Guardiola will be able to field at the Bridge.
How to watch Chelsea vs City
This match will be covered live by Sky Sports in the UK.
To find the relevant broadcaster where you are elsewhere, see the Premier League’s broadcast schedule pages
Our Blues-centred match coverage on the 5th Stand app, Facebook Live and official YouTube channel begins 70 minutes before kick-off with assessment of the teamsheets and exclusive interviews.
Goals scarce on matchweek 16
Are strike forces running out of steam because of the hectic schedule? There were just 12 goals scored in the last round of matches, an average of 1.5 across the eight fixtures (two were postponed). One visiting team, Leeds, accounted for five – making the split eight for away teams and four for home sides. Late into November the average number of goals per game was 3.14.
The ‘amnesty’ for receiving a one-match suspension for five Premier League cautions will come into force after match 19 (after that the sanction is two matches for 10 yellows up to and including the 32nd game). Chelsea have completed 16 games so far and the only player under imminent threat is N’Golo Kante.Premier League lookings:Kante 4, James 3, Azpilicueta 2, Mount 2, Thiago Silva 2, Alonso 1, Chilwell 1, Christensen 1, Giroud 1, Havertz 1, Ziyech 1, Zouma 1
The Brexit transfer window
From today, Premier League players will have until 11pm on Monday February 1 to complete a move between clubs. This season the winter window will be like no other as a result of Britain leaving the European Union and its freedom of movement laws.
Now, like those around the rest of the world, players inside the EU can only be signed by an English club, or vice-versa, on production of a governing body endorsement (GBE) from the Home Office. The criteria for a GBE include the number of international caps and FIFA ranking of home country.
Regarding youth recruitment, elite youngsters from EU academies can no longer be signed at 16, but 18 instead.
Chelsea will hope to sing in the new year on the right note against City. Three draws and one loss have come and gone since our last victory in the first league game of January, a 3-0 drubbing of Palace in 2016.
Diego Costa will not now play a part in our Champions League Round of 16 tie with Atletico Madrid. The Brazil-born striker, instrumental in Chelsea’s Premier League title triumphs of 2014/15 and 2016/17, has been released from his contract with the La Liga leaders at the age of 32. It was previously announced that ex-Tottenham full-back Kieran Tripper will miss the first leg because of a worldwide ban.
The first official matchday programme of 2021 can be ordered online, still for £3.50 plus postage.
Premier League results and fixtures
FridayEverton 0 West Ham 1Man Utd 2 Aston Villa 1
SaturdayTottenham v Leeds 12.30pm (BT Sport)Crystal Palace v Sheffield United 3pm (Sky Sports)Brighton v Wolves 5.30pm (Sky Sports)West Brom v Arsenal 8pm (BT Sport)
SundayBurnley v Fulham 12pm (Sky Sports)Newcastle v Leicester 2.15pm (Sky Sports)Chelsea v Man City 4.30pm (Sky Sports)
MondaySouthampton v Liverpool 8pm (Sky Sports)