Back in December, when Chelsea first met Wolverhampton Wanderers this season at their home stadium Molineux, the Blues had managed to recover from the first blow struck on them in the year by picking up two wins right after a 3-1 loss to Tottenham, which ended an 18-match unbeaten streak under new coach Maurizio Sarri. Nuno Espírito Santo’s Wolves dealt the second blow on us and from that point on, Chelsea’s performances began their erratic pattern.
Much has changed ever since that first encounter. Two players that started that match, midfielder Cesc Fàbregas and striker Álvaro Morata, are no longer part of the team. Stylistically, it seems that Sarri is (finally) looking to peers such as Jürgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola who upon their arrival at Premier League, were forced to make adjustments on their tactical styles so they could be a better fit in England.
A repeat of that 2-1 loss last year would be a major surprise today.
Date / Time: Sunday, March 10, 2019, 14:05 GMT; 10:05am EST; 7:35pm IST
Venue: Stamford Bridge, SW6
Referee: Michael Oliver — in his fourth match this season refereeing Chelsea, third of which at home. With Oliver on the whistle, Chelsea won their two Bridge games against Crystal Palace (3-1) and Manchester City (2-0).
Forecast: Cloudy with sunny intervals
On TV: Sky Sports Main Event (UK); NBCSN, Telemundo (USA); Star Sports Select 1 (India); elsewhere
Streaming online: BBC Radio 5 (UK radio); NBC Sports Live, Telemundo Deportes En Vivo (USA); Hotstar (India); Chelsea TV Online (int’l radio)
Chelsea team news: The hosts almost have a clean slate in terms of injuries, with only Danny Drinkwater with an Achilles problem and Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who has been working hard on putting an end to his back issues, doubtful to feature in the match because of fitness issues.
Tiredness can still be a problem, with two locked-on starters in defender David Luiz and midfielder Jorginho and four rotational pieces, midfielders Ross Barkley and Mateo Kovacic and attackers Pedro and Willian, making appearances in our mid-week 3-0 win against Dynamo Kiev in the Europa League’s round of 16 first leg. Goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga, who got the starting nod last Thursday, did not need to work as much on the pitch as his outfield teammates.
After losing the League Cup to Manchester City by the slimmest of margins in a penalty shootout, Chelsea have put some solid performances and results to put all crisis talks of the past at rest — for now. We can only hope this continues today, as we are ought not to put a dent in our top four claims.
Wolverhampton team news: The Wolves remain a solid mid-table team this season, doing very well for a recently promoted side from the Championship. They have only one of their last 10 matches, against last place Huddersfield away, and got important wins against opponents such as Leicester (4-3), West Ham (3-0) and Everton (3-1).
They have also upset more top four teams following their surprising win against Chelsea back in December last year. In the Premier League, they took down Tottenham away with a 3-1 victory. And they eliminated Liverpool from FA Cup contention quite early in the competition with a 2-0 win over the Reds at their home turf.
With regards to availability, Wolverhampton are also in luck with injuries. Their only absence today will be centre-back Ryan Bennett, who picked up a second suspension by accumulating 10 yellow cards this season in the PL.
As for potential sources of worry, we cannot help but look at striker Raúl Jiménez. The Mexican international has 11 goals — one of them against us — and 6 assists in 29 league games this season, having scored and assisted the two goals in Wolverhampton’s 2-0 win over Cardiff last weekend. His Portuguese counterpart Diogo Jota, who was the other goalscorer of that dreaded December night, can also feature. And we should be sure that they will do what they can to be a troublesome tandem for us once again.
Previously: Last time we faced Wolverhampton at the Bridge, we handed them a 6-0 defeat.