The weekend starts here! The Blues hosting the Reds from Merseyside on Friday night begins the Premier League programme with a big one.
The 100 per cent record may have been taken at the Liberty, but Chelsea are handily positioned second in the table and remain unbeaten under Antonio Conte.
Over the coming weeks, though, a shift of gear will be required in the league as the Blues face a batch of contenders for European places, beginning on Friday night against a team that left Stamford Bridge with a 3-1 win last season.
Soon after sixth-placed Liverpool and a League Cup match at Leicester, the west Londoners will face Arsenal, currently one place behind Jurgen Klopp’s team, Hull City, now eighth, then reigning champions Leicester again, followed (after the international break) by Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United.
Chelsea have scored in each of their last 10 Premier League games against Liverpool.
This is the Liverpool’s fourth away trip already this season, redevelopment at Anfield prompting them to swap fixtures with Burnley. The Blues downed the Clarets 3-0, so it is surprising the Reds had lost that relocated game 0-2. Especially so, as they won 4-3 at Arsenal.
It may be cold comfort for both Chelsea and Liverpool, what with the temporary absence of the strains of Handel and other Champions League pageantry, but there is at least some novelty value to this match taking place on a Friday.
This season there will be 10 games chosen for this live TV slot, last occupied at the Bridge (other than during religious holidays) by Manchester United’s Premier League visit on 22 August 2002.
Back then, there was no consideration for Friday evening being good for the broadcast paymasters overseas. ‘The Chelsea-Manchester United game saw a clash with the Notting Hill Carnival and huge demands on the police over the holiday weekend,’ said then Sky Sports MD Vic Wakeling. ‘We solved that when both clubs offered to play on the Friday night.’
While clearly not as convenient as a Saturday or Sunday, plenty of those present preferred the timing of the 2002 United match to the Monday night slot that has become so established. Somehow even a ‘cold Friday in Burnley’ does not carry the same inhospitable menace as the thought of a long trek north on the first day of the working week. Friday football naturally had a jovial end-of-the-working-week feel, and long-distance supporters could more readily make a worthwhile trip of the journey to SW6.
The Blues have also enjoyed some glorious results on a Friday night, two of them against the mighty Real Madrid. Those were the May 1971 UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup replay, in which Peter Osgood netted the winner in a 2-1 victory, and the UEFA Super Cup at the tail end of August in 1998, decided by Gustavo Poyet’s strike.
Then there was the televised promotion party against Manchester City on 4 May 1984 at Maine Road, in which the Citizens were caned 2-0 by the eventual Division Two champions thanks to Pat Nevin and Kerry Dixon.
That 23 August 2002 game against Man United, by the way, ended in a 2-2 draw. William Gallas and Bolo Zenden’s lead-taking goals were countered by David Beckham and Ryan Giggs.
For the record, Chelsea’s top-scoring no.19 has suffered 15 fouls in his four top-flight games to date (seven at Swansea alone), but committed just four himself. In comparison, Harry Kane has suffered only six fouls in four matches, Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino five, Zlatan Ibrahimovic two, and Sergio Aguero just one in his three outings.
It will come as no surprise to Chelsea fans that the next most fouled footballer in the English top flight is Eden Hazard (12 suffered).