The curtain on the season comes down with a trip from west London to west Cardiff. Club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton put their full stop on another nine months of facts and figures…
Sunday brings our first ever visit to the Cardiff City Stadium – all previous away games against the side from the Welsh capital have been at Ninian Park – and the last for a year at least. Following Manchester City’s midweek win at home to Aston Villa there are points and pride to play for rather than a title, while Cardiff bid farewell after just one season in the top tier.
This is the first time Chelsea have played an already relegated side on the last day of the season since 2012 at the Bridge against Blackburn Rovers, six days before That Night in Munich.
There is no such prospect to look forward to this year but plenty of hope for the future once the summer’s ins and outs are completed. Whatever happens in this match, this season’s Barclays Premier League points return will be the highest since the 86 accrued in the 2009/10 Double season under Carlo Ancelotti.
On 19 May 2007, in the dying moments allowed for stoppages after extra time, during the first FA Cup final at the new Wembley Stadium, Paul Scholes flung a desperate ball into the box. It was headed into the centre towards substitute Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (pictured below), who leaped expectantly, only to find his route expertly blocked by Wayne Bridge.
The ball continued unimpeded across goal and was cleared, the final whistle blowing seconds later, and Chelsea lifted the trophy thanks to Didier Drogba’s deft chip. It was the last competitive action as a player on English soil for Manchester United’s Norwegian, who scored three times in 18 appearances against the Blues (though it sometimes seemed more).
Despite great success as a coach at Molde in his homeland, Solskjaer has failed in the primary task he was handed as Malky Mackay’s successor in January and the Welsh side were relegated by the loss at Newcastle last weekend.
A few months earlier the club’s Malaysian owner Vincent Tan had blamed ‘bad transfers we did in the summer’ for their drift towards the drop. Yet under Mackay Cardiff were registering 1.6 points per game; under his successor that has slipped down to 0.9. City were 16th when the Scot was relieved of his duty but hit bottom two games into the reign of the ‘Baby-faced Assassin’ and are rooted again there now.
Nonetheless it seems the 41-year-old is staying and so, insists Tan, is the adopted kit colour the ‘Bluebirds’ have worn for two seasons.
Many Cardiff supporters remain troubled by the ‘identity theft’ from blue to ‘lucky red’ demanded by the owner. Their ‘We’re Cardiff City; we’ll always be blue’ chant is one that naturally resonates with Chelsea fans.
However, back in the early 1900s things might have been different at the Bridge. The Pensioners’ first shirts were actually Eton blue, a much lighter, turquoise colour taken from the horse racing silks of club president, the Earl Cadogan.
The first reference to the club colour we consider traditional is in the 23 September 1907 Chelsea FC Chronicle, which mentions injured player Joe Walton looking forward to the time he could ‘once more don the royal-blue jersey.’ There is no record of protest songs against the radical shift away from light green/blue.
Fans often take a romantic view of end-of-season games such as this Sunday’s, in which little is at stake, hoping perhaps the manager can hand debuts to deserving young players, or provide a valedictory to a great servant who is on his way.
History shows that managers rarely share that view, although Jose Mourinho did blood Steven Watt (his first, brief league appearance) in 2005, Jimmy Smith in 2006 and Sam Hutchinson in 2007. Again, under Guus Hiddink, Michael Mancienne played his last Chelsea match in the last game of 2008/09, and Romelu Lukaku’s first league start for the Blues came at the tail end of 2011/12.
The wonderful success of the U18 side in lifting the FA Youth Cup for the third time in five years shows there is plenty of talent in the pipeline. But this end-of-season the youngsters’ availability will be affected by the one-off Premier League Under-21 play-off final, which takes place at Old Trafford on Wednesday. Opponents Manchester United U21s were managed by Solskjaer between 2008 and 2010.
One regular in Dermot Drummy’s team, Izzy Brown, has joined Dominic Solanke in being away with England U17s. Marco van Ginkel has been asked to take part in the Netherlands training camp ahead of the World Cup.
As ever at this time of year, the contracts of several magnificent players for the club will soon run out. Last season Paulo Ferreira was allowed a touching farewell from the Bridge, coming on as sub with two minutes of the game against Everton remaining.
Even with a win in Wales, Chelsea can realistically only secure the runners-up slot should Liverpool slip up again and lose at home to Newcastle.
However, we will definitely start next season’s Champions League in the September group stage, while Arsenal will have to play extra qualifying matches in late August.
As the Gunners have booked their passage, fellow FA Cup finalists Hull City have also earned a Europa League slot. This means the remaining merit places will go to sides finishing fifth and sixth and Manchester United could be out of all UEFA competitions for the first time in three decades.The Old Trafford side have qualified for European competitions every year since the post-Heysel ban was lifted in 1990.
The allocation of a Fair Play place to teams from each of the top three rated national associations in UEFA’s rankings has occasionally come to the rescue of English clubs. However, the organisation’s interim rankings placed England fifth behind Finland, Norway, Sweden and France.
The race for the Premier League Golden Glove
Petr Cech 16
Wojciech Szczesny (Arsenal) 16
Artur Boruc (Southampton) 14
Tim Howard (Everton) 14
Hugo Lloris (Tottenham) 13
Manchester City require just a point to secure their second Premier League title in three years.
Barclays Premier League fixtures
Sunday, all kick off at 3pm
Cardiff v Chelsea
Fulham v Crystal Palace
Hull v Everton
Liverpool v Newcastle
Manchester City v West Ham
Norwich v Arsenal
Southampton v Manchester United
Sunderland v Swansea
Tottenham v Aston Villa
West Brom v Stoke
We have only conceded one goal in the first half of our 18 Premier League games in 2014. Connor Wickham managed it in our last home game.
Chelsea have won 14 and drawn two of the 16 games we have been ahead at half time. We have only been behind at the break in three games which is the lowest in the Premier League.
The Blues have won 20 and drawn two of the 24 league games when we have scored the opening goal. Stoke away and Sunderland at home were the only occasions we lost after taking the lead.
We have won 31 points from a possible 54 away from Stamford Bridge this term.
|Apr 13||Swansea (a)||W 1-0|
|Apr 19||Sunderland (h)||L 1-2|
|Apr 22||Atletico Madrid (Champions League a)||D 0-0|
|Apr 27||Liverpool (a)||W 2-0|
|Apr 30||Atletico Madrid (Champions League h)||L 1-3|
|May 4||Norwich (h)||D 0-0|
Premier League scorers (69)
Hazard 14 (4 pens), Eto’o 9, Oscar 8, Schurrle 7, Lampard 6 (1 pen), Ba 5, Torres 4, Willian 4, Ivanovic 3, Salah 2, Terry 2, own goals 2, Cahill 1, Mikel 1, Ramires 1.
League games since
An away win: 0
An away draw: 5
An away defeat: 2
If selected, Cesar Azpilicueta will make his 50th Premier League start for the Blues.
Willian and Andre Schurrle’s next appearance will be their 50th of the season for club(s) and country. Branislav Ivanovic is due to play his 50th Chelsea game of the season.
The Blues need two goals to reach a century for the season.
Congratulations to Tomas Kalas who celebrates his 21st birthday next Thursday (15th). Also later in the month Petr Cech turns 32 on 20 May and Demba Ba 29 on 25 May.
Cardiff City are completing a season in the top flight for the first time in 52 years. Their last season in 1961/62 they were relegated to the Second Division together with Chelsea.
Since beating Fulham on 8 March, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side have only picked up five points from eight games, conceded 22 goals in the process.
Cardiff have conceded the first goal in 25 of their Premier League games this season. They have proceeded to lose 19 of those, drawn four and won two.
Their total of 31 goals is the second lowest in the top flight. Only Norwich have scored fewer.
The Bluebirds have failed to score in 19 of their 37 Premier League games this season, more than any other team. At home it’s eight from 18.
Cardiff’s home record is five wins against Man City, Swansea, West Brom, Norwich and Fulham, five draws with Everton, Man Utd, Sunderland, Aston Villa and Stoke and eight defeats against Tottenham, Newcastle, Arsenal, Southampton, West Ham, Hull, Liverpool and Crystal Palace.
Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
Days in charge: 129
|Mar 29||West Brom (a)||D 3-3|
|Apr 5||Crystal Palace (h)||L 0-3|
|Apr 12||Southampton (a)||W 1-0|
|Apr 19||Stoke City (h)||D 1-1|
|Apr 27||Sunderland (a)||L 0-4|
|May 3||Newcastle (a)||L 0-3|
Premier League scorers (31)
Mutch 7, Campbell 6, Caulker 5, Whittingham 3 (1 pen), Cala 2, Bellamy 1, Daehli 1, Gunnarsson 1, Jones 1, Kim 1, Noone 1, Odemwingie 1, own goal 1.
League games since
A home win: 3
A home draw: 0
A home defeat: 1
THE MAN IN THE MIDDLE
The match referee is Michael Oliver. This will be his fourth Chelsea game of the season. The previous three were all comfortable victories for the Blues: at Swindon in the Capital One Cup, and the Southampton and Tottenham matches at the Bridge.
Ramires is suspended (third of four). The ban will carry over to the first game of next season.
Visit again tomorrow for Part Two of the Briefing.