A Blue Up North previews Chelsea’s home match against Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Chelsea host Wolverhampton Wanderers this Sunday as The Blues return to Premier League action. It is a match up that has provided dividends recently, with the Londoners currently on a run of 6 successive victories over Wolves in all competitions at Stamford Bridge.
This is a match that the build up will be overshadowed by FIFA’s puzzling announcement regarding Chelsea’s transfer ban. The club were expecting the same treatment as all other clubs appealing against a ban have received a freeze on the ban while the appeal is being investigated. Not so for The Blues who now cannot register a new player for a year.
Maurizio Sarri’s team have come out of a very tough run of matches on a roll of 3 victories. Having lost in both domestic cup competitions, the squad have pulled together with their manager and performances recently have been much improved.
So it is with a renewed belief that The Blues head in to this match. Chelsea may have lost away at Molineux back in December, but their opponents have been on an inconsistent path since. They do currently lie in 7th place, just below Chelsea, but they are 13 points behind their opponents. While The Blues are looking up the table, Wolves are looking over their shoulder. After 3 league matches without a win, including losing at bottom club Huddersfield Town, they bounced back against Cardiff City last weekend.
They will be without defender Ryan Bennett, who starts a 2 match ban. We can expect Rui Patricio to return in goal, but otherwise manager Nuno Espírito Santo has a fairly settled side who are enjoying playing just 1 match a week with plenty of recovery time in between.
Maurizio Sarri on the other hand will need to rotate his squad once again as his key players battle against fatigue. Eden Hazard, Antonio Rudiger, Cesar Azpilicueta and Gonzalo Higuain did not play against Dynamo Kiev on Thursday and will surely all return.
The big question on most fan’s lips will be if either Ruben Loftus-Cheek or Callum Hudson-Odoi will get an all to elusive Premier League start. Their contribution to the victory during the week would certainly imply that both deserve their spot, but the manager’s belief that the team requires more experience may sadly override that.
However with the intimidating cauldron of the Olympic Stadium in Kiev up next where The Blues will definitely need their most experienced and level headed players, surely Sunday’s match is a great opportunity for the younger players. Andreas Christensen and Emerson Palmieri will probably start.
But Sarri is unlikely to put more trust in the youngsters, after all victory on Sunday could propel The Blues in to 4th place and Wolves are a dangerous opponent. They have amassed more points against the top 6 than any other side from the other 14 places, including the 3 points over The Blues at home.
If neither are given a starting place it would be a real shame especially with the transfer ban starting immediately. The club are now in even greater need for their services moving forward.
Chelsea will need to be on form, both in their play and their mentality, to dispatch their opponents. Some of their play recently has finally quickened and they will need this turn of speed against such a dangerous team. But if Chelsea dominate possession, play with an increased tempo with support for their striker, while being focused and together in defence, they should increase their home winning streak against Wolves.
It would be 3 points that would move Chelsea up into the much coveted 4th place, if only for a couple of hours, but that would be a psychological boost. And a statement that The Blues are still in the hunt for Champions League football next season.
Written by Jon Ellis, home and away season ticket holder. Follow him on Twitter @ClitheroeBlue