On the road again
The Far East Stand Fri 8 Sep 2017
No Chelsea fan will forget the last time the Blues played a competitive match outside London. Or for that matter, the last time we played at a football ground other than Stamford Bridge or Wembley.
If you don’t include our pre-season games in Beijing and Singapore, nearly four months and seven games have passed since that glorious Friday night at the Hawthorns last May when Michy Batshuayi’s late goal against West Bromwich Albion sent Chelsea supporters the world over into a unified state of delirium.
Much has happened since then with new players coming in, some familiar faces leaving and a new campaign kicking off with the disappointment of losing to Burnley quickly alleviated by wins against Tottenham and Everton. But in all of that time, the Blues have not had to venture away from our home at the Bridge and our second home at Wembley for a league or cup match.
However, that situation will change this weekend when we make the 170-kilometre trip north to take on Leicester City in a meeting between the last two Premier League champions.
It can be difficult to leave behind the comforts of home after such a long time but maybe we shouldn’t feel too worried about Antonio Conte’s side, especially when you realise how well we did on our travels last season.
Take away the games against London rivals Arsenal, Crystal Palace, Tottenham and West Ham, and in our 15 league matches outside the capital in 2016/17, the Blues complied an excellent record, winning 11 games, drawing three and losing only once.
That travel record appears even more impressive if you factor in our wins in the League Cup at Leicester and FA Cup at Wolverhampton Wanderers, but the fact of the matter is that we secured 36 of a possible 45 points from those 15 games which certainly went a long way to ensuring that the Premier League trophy returned to its rightful place in west London after a one-year residence in the Midlands.
It marked a remarkable turnaround in our away form from the season before when we enjoyed only five wins outside London, drawing four games and losing the other six. That gave us a total of only 19 points, 17 less than we managed when we swept to the title last season.
Emulating that excellent record in the 2017/18 season will be a very tough ask of Conte’s side, especially against a team like Leicester, who will be keen to bounce back from their own disappointing title defence last year when they were soundly beaten 3-0 in both of our league clashes.
However, with confidence restored after the Burnley surprise and the likes of Danny Drinkwater, Davide Zappacosta and Eden Hazard looking ready to join the fray for the Blues, maybe we can be as good on the road this season as we were in our last glorious campaign.