After a 16-year hiatus (not counting a League Cup match in 2012-13 at Elland Road), Chelsea and Leeds United resume the rivalry that was once a centerpiece occasion.
The violence and warfare (on the pitch, in the stands, and in the streets) of the ‘60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s may be long behind us, but football memories are long. Even in the weirdness of pandemic football, this might be a massive occasion, especially under the lights delayed to a late night Saturday kick-off (which probably wouldn’t have happened under normal circumstances and drinking habits). As it is, we will have fans in the stadium for the first time since March, albeit just 2000, with no away fans at all.
Since the rest of the top four (Spurs, Liverpool, Leicester City) all play on Sunday, we have a chance to go top of the league for a night as well with a win.
Date / Time: Saturday, December 5, 2020, 20.00 GMT; 3pm EST; 1:30am IST
Venue: Stamford Bridge, SW6
Referee: Kevin Friend (on pitch); Michael Oliver (VAR)
Forecast: Freezing cold
On TV: Sky Sports Main Event (UK); NBCSN, Universo (USA); Star Sports Select HD1 (India); SuperSport Premier League, Canal+ Sport 3 (NGA); elsewhere
Streaming: Sky Go (UK); NBC Sports Live; Telemundo Deportes En Vivo (USA); Hotstar (India); DStv Now (NGA)
Chelsea team news: Chelsea are fully fit and after rotating nine players midweek (only goalkeeper Edouard Mendy and midfielder Mateo Kovacic retained their spots from last weekend), we should also be well rested physically and mentally for this encounter. Of course, Chelsea’s excellent performance against Sevilla saw several (ostensibly backup and rotational) players push their case for more starts (such as Olivier Giroud or the previously injured Kai Havertz).
The 4-0 win that guaranteed top spot in the Champions League group was our seventh in our last eight in all competitions, stretching the unbeaten run to 15 games. It’s our longest such run since the early days of Sarriball in 2018, when we got up to 18 unbeaten in all competitions before crashing to a 3-1 defeat at White Hart Lane to Tottenham. This current run feels a lot more solid than that one ever felt, and while that may just be my bias speaking, no team have scored more than Chelsea’s 22 and only Spurs have conceded fewer than our 10 thus far.
Leeds United team news: Idolized legendary spymaster general Marcelo Bielsa got Leeds back into the top flight by winning the Championship last season, and they’ve gotten off to a decent start with four wins in their first ten games, three of which have come away from home including last weekend’s 1-0 win against Everton at Goodison Park. Unsurprisingly, given Bielsa’s tactics and style, Leeds have conceded more goals than they have scored; only Fulham and West Brom have conceded more in fact.
Former Chelsea prospect Hat-trick Bamford leads the line for The Whites, and leads it quite well actually, keeping Spain international Rodrigo Moreno firmly rooted to the bench. Only Vardy, Salah, Son, and Calvert-Lewin have scored more goals this season than Bamfordinho’s seven. The 27-year-old had to wait a while and take the long road towards fulfilling his Premier League destiny but now he’s here and he probably would love nothing more than to score at the Bridge.
Bamford’s more than capably supported by former USA National (high school) Player of the Year Jack Harrison (now in his third season on loan at Leeds from Manchester City) and former Rennes winger Raphinha. There’s strength in midfield, too, with Kalvin Phillips shutting things down and ticking play over and Mateusz Klich running about. They may not be star players like they were in the second division, but they’re certainly more than capable at this level, too.
After giving up eight goals in two games, Leeds have kept back-to-back clean sheets since returning from the November international break, but it wouldn’t be surprising if this turned out to be a high-scoring affair.
View from the enemy: Through It All Together
Previously: Speaking of high-scoring affairs, Chelsea’s trip to Elland Road in the 2012-13 League Cup saw us hit the five-spot, with second-half goals from Juan Mata, Eden Hazard, Victor Moses, Branislav Ivanovic, and even Fernando Torres.