Nineteen down. Nineteen to go.
We begin the second half of the season by playing Brighton for the first time all season, and looking to keep it at most a six-point gap to the leaders Manchester City (who play away at Brentford, kicking off 45 minutes after we do). City may seem rampant at the moment, on one of them season-defining winning runs (nine and counting, with 17 — SEVENTEEN — scored just in their last three), but it’s still a long ways to go and a lot can change (or not change).
We do play City in January (and Liverpool as well), but we mustn’t look beyond this game.
Date / Time: Wednesday, December 29, 2021, 19.30 GMT; 2:30pm EST; 1am IST (next day)
Venue: Stamford Bridge, SW6
Referee: Mike Dean (on pitch); Kevin Friend (VAR)
Forecast: Mild but breezy
On TV: none (UK); none (USA); Star Sports Select HD1 (India); SuperSport MaXimo 1 (NGA); elsewhere
Streaming: Amazon Prime (UK); Peacock (USA); Hotstar (India); DStv Now (NGA)
Chelsea team news: Romelu Lukaku and Callum Hudson-Odoi returned from COVID isolation and put in match-changing performances over the weekend. Kai Havertz has now also returned to training, though there’s been no word about Timo Werner. Meanwhile, Mateo Kovačić continues to build fitness and it looks like N’Golo Kanté might have avoided suffering any major damage on Sunday. The same cannot be said for Thiago Silva, who was absent from training yesterday, alongside Ruben Loftus-Cheek.
Chelsea have won back-to-back matches in over a month, since beating Leicester City and Juventus by a combined 7-0 scoreline in mid-November. But the schedule is relentless, the injuries never-ending, and the pressures not abating. It’s time to keep grinding, keep hustling, keep winning.
Brighton & Hove Albion team news: Brighton have had two of their games postponed this month, which means they have two games-in-hand as they sit midtable. That they’re still up there is a bit surprising and highlights just how good their start to the season was. After winning four of their first five games, they went eleven games without a win (though losing only three times during that span). They finally got win number five over the weekend, beating Brentford, 2-0.
The two goalscorers in that game, Neil Maupay and Leandro Trossard (who is questionable for this game) have combined for 11 of their 16 goals this season, which is the fourth lowest total in the division. But they’ve also only conceded 17, which is fifth best after the top three and Wolves. They will have to make do without Lewis Dunk and potentially Shane Duffy as well in this one however.
Former Chelsea prospect Tariq Lamptey is back on track and back to first-choice after recovering from an early season hamstring injury. He will be a handful for Marcos Alonso and the rest of our left flank.
Previous: We’ve never lost to Brighton in a league match (in 12 tries), and have only lost once, back in 1933, in our 16 competitive meetings, but two of the last three have ended in a draw, including a 0-0 in this fixture last season (with the Super League protest going on outside the empty stadium at the same time).