Amid the rising tide of Omicron and a raft of cancellations this weekend in the Premier League and across English football, Chelsea are still set to play as we travel to Wolverhampton in what could be a defining game not just for our festive fixture list, but for our season and fading title-challenge in general.
The mood is a bit low after just three wins from seven and nine points dropped that have seen us fall four points behind Manchester City and three points behind Liverpool. City’s game away to Newcastle and Liverpool’s game away to Spurs are both still set to go ahead today as well.
Needless to say, three points would bring us some much needed holiday cheer. We certainly could use some, and not just in football.
Date / Time: Sunday, December 19, 2021, 14.00 GMT; 9am EST; 7:30pm IST
Venue: Molineux Stadium, Wolverhampton, England
Referee: David Coote (on pitch); Kevin Friend (VAR)
Forecast: Misty and cool
On TV: none (UK); USA, Universo (USA); Star Sports Select HD2 (India); SuperSport MaXimo 1 (NGA); elsewhere
Streaming: none (UK); NBC Sports Live, Telemundo Deportes En Vivo (USA); Hotstar (India); DStv Now (NGA)
Wolverhampton Wanderers team news: Wolves have two players on their COVID list, backup striker Fábio Silva and midfielder Yerson Mosquera, who’s not made a single Premier League appearance. More consequential will be the absences of Raúl Jiménez (suspended) and Hwang Hee-Chan (injured) — they have 7 of Wolves’ (just) 13 total league goals so far. Defender Rayan Aït Nouri is also out, while Jonny Otto and Pedro Neto have not played all season due to long-term injuries.
UPDATE: Just kidding. Jiménez is back for this one. He served his suspension already. Boo.
Wolves have one of the best defensive records in the league (only the top three have conceded fewer) and one of the worst offensive records to match (only Norwich City have scored fewer in fact). Ten of their seventeen games featured one total goal, or less, including the last six on the bounce: two 1-0 wins, two 1-0 defeats, two 0-0 draws. The two 1-0 defeats were to City and Liverpool.
Chelsea team news: As if the prospect of eking out a win wasn’t annoyingly daunting enough, we will have to do so without Romelu Lukaku, Timo Werner, and Callum Hudson-Odoi, all of whom tested positive midweek and are thus isolating. Ben Chilwell also remains out, while Jorginho and Ruben Loftus-Cheek are doubtful due to injuries and overload.
Half-fit (at best) duo Mateo Kovačić and N’Golo Kanté are set to start in midfield, with few options left for Tuchel for rotation from Thursday’s disappointing 1-1 draw at home against Everton. Chelsea created more than enough chance to win that game, but failed to take advantage before noticeably tiring in the second half. Without (m)any fresh legs to add into the mix, we’re going to have to find some deep reserves to push through.
As scheduled right now, we will have seven days before our next league match, on Boxing Day against Aston Villa (we may or may not play a League Cup quarterfinal against COVID-hit Brentford in between).
Previously: Tuchel’s first ever game in charge of Chelsea was a nil-all draw at the Bridge between these two sides. That was still better than our last visit to Molineux this time last year, which ended 2-1 in favor of the home side thanks to Pedro Neto’s 90th-minute winner.