11 mins: It’s a game of gently swaying fortunes so far. Wolves had a few minutes of fun, and now Chelsea are having theirs. Pulisic plays in Giroud, who gets to the byline but can’t quite wrap his foot around the ball and his cross goes straight to Rui Patricio.
8 mins: An excellent cross from Reece James curls towards the far post, where Rui Patricio comes, claims, and clatters into Boly.
7 mins: Wolves are dominating this, but haven’t made any actual chances. Coady dispossesses Giroud, runs forward and sends a 30-yard shot way off target.
4 mins: A lovely run from Nelson Semedo, who tricks his way past mount, plays a one-two with Dendoncker, whose first-time backheel return pass was really very good, and then has a shot from 20 yards, which deflects wide. Saiss heads the corner over the bar.
3 mins: Thiago Silva gives the ball away and Neto is released down the left, but the Brazilian gets back to block the cross and snuff out the danger.
1 min: Peeep! Chelsea get the game under way, with an aimless and pointless hoik down the right.
Right then, the players are out and ready for action. Football imminent!
at 1.06pm EST
If an empty stadium remains a bit depressing, an empty stadium putting on a pre-match light show to astound non-existent fans is sadder still. That’s what’s going on in Molineux currently, as the players gather in the tunnel.
And here’s Nuno Espirito Santo, who is asked about the absence of Moutinho and Traore::
Joao Moutinho is suspended, and Adama is on the bench. This is what the squad is for. The quality, talent and experience of Moutinho is important but Ruben is also very important. I don’t see an issue. It’s not about responding [to defeat at the weekend] because against Villa we did a very good game. It’s a new challenge, a very different opponent, a talented squad. What I want is to compete, to play a good game and to perform well.
Frank Lampard has had a chat with the TV folks:
Pulisic naturally brings us some width, the ability to go past people, so I’m pleased. He’s had a few issues with a hamstring but he’s trained for a few days and he’s straight back in. In the last few seasons Liverpool and Man City have pulled away, but this year, albeit early days, it looks slightly different. But I’m not concerned with that, I just want to win to get us back on track.
Looks like a perfect evening for football in Wolverhampton. Forecasters predict 7C, 8mph winds and no rain tonight.
at 12.31pm EST
Here’s PA Media’s take on the teams:
Ruben Neves returned for Wolves to replace the suspended Joao Moutinho for the visit of Chelsea. Willy Boly also came in for Adama Traore for the Premier League clash at Molineux. Frank Lampard made one change for the visitors with Christian Pulisic starting in place of Mateo Kovacic, who dropped to the bench.
Team news is in, and these are tonight’s line-ups:
Wolverhampton: Rui Patricio, Boly, Coady, Saiss, Nelson Semedo, Dendoncker, Neves, Marcal, Pedro Neto, Silva, Daniel Podence. Subs: Hoever, Ait Nouri, Vitinha, Ruddy, Traore, Kilman, Otasowie.
Chelsea: Mendy, James, Zouma, Thiago Silva, Chilwell, Havertz, Kante, Mount, Pulisic, Giroud, Werner. Subs: Kepa, Rudiger, Jorginho, Abraham, Kovacic, Gilmour, Azpilicueta.
Referee: Stuart Attwell.
Here’s a strange fact I noticed while researching this game: last season only two Premier League teams won, on average, more than 1.65 points per away game: Liverpool and Manchester City. The season before three teams managed it – that pair plus Tottenham. This season that number is currently being exceeded by Manchester United, Leicester, Spurs, Aston Villa, Chelsea, Southampton, West Ham and Everton. Eight teams! That’s two more than the number (six, maths fans) that are managing it at home, and achieved despite Liverpool and City having the 16th and ninth best away records in the division respectively – had either of them performed to anywhere near their normal high standards on the road this season there would be 10 sides, half the entire division, performing on their travels at a level normally only reached by the very elite.
I’ll admit, it’s not a statistic that has a great bearing on this game, but I considered it curious and wanted to tell someone about it.
Another thing: approximately 8% of all league games finish goalless, but only four of the 109 matches played by Chelsea and Wolves, a piffling 3.7%, have done so – and of those one was played in 1911, and another in 1925. There have been nearly as many 5-2 wins in this fixture (three) as 0-0 draws. If past results are any indicator (and they’re not, really, but bear with me) it is more likely that one of these sides will score six (which has happened give times) than both will score none. Only about 0.8% of league matches end 3-3, a much more unlikely scoreline than 0-0 – except in games between Chelsea and Wolves, when 4.6% of all games have ended with six goals shared equally.
As I’m sure you’ll agree, this is very exciting. As is the fact that a Chelsea win would take them, at least temporarily, top of the table, while a Wolves win would take them to ninth. So let’s hunker down and look forward to sharing a warming evening/morning/whatever-it-is-where-you-are round the Premier League brazier. Welcome! Here’s a Chelsea-focused kind-of-preview thing from yesterday:
at 12.01pm EST