The league campaign resumes this weekend in the West Midlands. Club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton preview the game...
Chelsea won seven of the first eight meetings with Wolverhampton Wanderers in the Premier League era, but were unable to better the Old Gold team in two attempts last season. As a result, a win this weekend would triple the Blues’ points tally against a side coached by Nuno Espirito Santo, who rarely seems ruffled.
December’s loss at Molineux came on the back of a run in which the newly-promoted Midlanders collected one point from a possible 18. Maurizio Sarri’s men even led at the break but were made to pay for squandered chances, succumbing late on to Wolves’ only two shots on target.
‘Leve-leve’ (meaning ‘Take it easy’, a phrase ubiquitous on the island of Santos’ birth, Sao Tome) will meet ‘Leave it out’ this weekend, however. Buoyed by victory at Carrow Road, Romford-born Frank Lampard will expect his team to shake off an indifferent sequence on the road and bring an end to the hosts’ 10-game unbeaten run in the league at Molineux – their best in the top tier for 40 years.
Tammy Abraham at the double
The Blues’ leading goalscorer Tammy Abraham has now managed the second most multiple-goal league matches for Chelsea over the past two and a bit seasons (80 games). Eden Hazard scored two or more eight times in 71 outings, while Alvaro Morata did so in two of his 47 appearances.
Should he find the net more than once again this weekend, Abraham will become only the third Premier League footballer aged 21 years or under to net twice or more in three successive matches. (The others are Dele Alli in January 2017 and Ronaldo in December 2006). The youngster’s record against Wolves is also impressive – he grabbed three goals in two meetings with them while at Bristol City.
Eight of England’s last 18 debutants have passed through Chelsea’s Academy, including Abraham. The others are: Nathaniel Chalobah, Jack Cork, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Mason Mount, Dominic Solanke, and Declan Rice.
On a connected point, the average age of the Blues’ starting 11 in the draw with Sheffield United was 24 years and 158 days – the youngest ever to represent Chelsea in the Premier League match – and English players aged 21 or under already have more top-flight minutes under their belts for the west Londoners this season than in any since 2004/05.
Turning attempts into goals
While Frank Lampard will be delighted with the form of his young players, especially Abraham and Mason Mount, he will be pushing the whole squad to produce a better return from the number of attempts on goal. The Blues have managed the third most shots (68) of the campaign after Liverpool (70) and Manchester City (77), but share fifth place for goals scored (six). Jorginho’s scheming influence this season is emphasised by the fact he has initiated 11 moves leading to a shooting opportunity so far this season – the most in the league.
Saturday’s hosts have Wolves have created 39 chances, one more than the most shot-shy side, Sheffield United.
At the other end of the field, though, the Blues have faced the fourth fewest shots but have the second worst record for conceding, after Norwich. Maybe opponents are creating clearer or closer-range goalscoring opportunities, and perhaps the long injury list has simply led to less solidity in midfield and the defence.
Wanderers waylaid by Europa League?
The 3-2 defeat at Everton a fortnight ago came in what was already Wolves’ 10th competitive game of the season. They won all six of their Europa League qualifiers – their first continental campaign for 38 years – but the tale in the top flight has been very different.
After four Premier League games they are yet to lead and have drawn three times, losing once. Sluggish starts have led to three of the five opposition goals to date arriving in the opening quarter hour.
The group stage of the Europa League competition brings trips to Istanbul, Bratislava and Braga before December, and the repetitive dysrhythmia of Thursday/Sunday cycle that requires careful planning.
Last season Chelsea enjoyed a perfect start of five straight top-flight wins before the first Europa League night in Greece, then dropped points in half the next 12 league fixtures up to mid-December, when the Europa League and its 48-hour turnarounds paused.
With so many internationals on their books, Wanderers also find little relief in international breaks nowadays. Raul Jimenez scored home and away against the Blues last season, and had hit form before globetrotting with Mexico, but the central Americans’ match in Argentina unhelpfully finished around 5am on Wednesday. However Leander Dendoncker, who missed Belgium’s first match through injury, returned for the thrashing of Scotland.
Wolves’ key absentees this weekend will be left centre-half Willy Boly and influential wing-back Matt Doherty. Adama Traore is likely to deputise for the latter but Boly’s usual stand-in, Romain Saiss, is injured, so Jesus Vallejo may make his Premier League debut.
Carabao Cup and Champions League catch-up
Grimsby Town secured their passage to round three of the Carabao Cup earlier this week by beating Macclesfield on penalty kicks. Wednesday week’s trip to Stamford Bridge will be the first since a 4-1 FA Cup victory for Chelsea in February 1996.
Tuesday’s first Champions League visitors, Valencia, can be seen in action at Camp Nou on Saturday evening. Los Che, currently 10th in the Primera Liga (one place above Barcelona), sacked their coach Marcelino this week.
Before coming to the Bridge for next Sunday’s Premier League clash, Liverpool entertain Newcastle this weekend, then fly to Italy to face Carlo Ancelotti’s Napoli on Tuesday.Emma Hayes’s Chelsea Women side follow-up their opening day victory over Spurs, backed by a record crowd, with a trip to Brighton on Sunday at 2pm. The Blues won 4-0 there last season.
The development squad’s 7pm kick-off at the Bridge tonight (Friday) against Brighton’s Under-23s will feature two young players returning from injury: Callum Hudson-Odoi and Reece James. The game will be streamed on the 5th Stand app and website, while stadium tickets for adults are £5, concessions free.
Supporters’ sleep-out for homelessness charities
The fabled Stamford Bridge terraces will host a sponsored sleep-out on 16 November, organised by the Chelsea Supporters’ Trust in aid of two local homelessness charities: the Oswald Stoll Foundation and King’s Road-based Glass Door Homeless Charity.
Up to 200 members and season ticket holders (18 and over) are invited to experience a night in the open without the comforts of home while raising £100 each to help these worthy organisations. All the details are here
Safe standing at Molineux
Although the installation of 5,400 rail seats in Molineux’s South Bank home section was expected to be completed before Saturday’s match, that does not mean that ‘safe standing’ will be in operation. There are moves to trial the system, but at present it is not currently permissible by law in the top two tiers of English football.
Premier League fixtures
SaturdayLiverpool v Newcastle 12.30pm (BT Sport)Brighton v Burnley 3pmManchester United v Leicester 3pmSheffield United v Southampton 3pmTottenham v Crystal Palace 3pmWolves v Chelsea 3pmNorwich v Manchester City 5.30pm (Sky Sport)
SundayBournemouth v Everton 2pm (Sky Sport)Watford v Arsenal 4.30pm (Sky Sport)
MondayAston Villa v West Ham 8pm (Sky Sport)