Chelsea versus Leeds United is one of English football’s spiciest rivalries, and with so much on the line this weekend, the latest instalment could be phenomenally tasty.
If Chelsea are going to make a charge for the European places, they surely have no time left to lose, while Leeds are fighting to stave off relegation.
Graham Potter is battling to prove himself as head coach of Chelsea, while new Leeds boss Javi Gracia will be looking to achieve a feat last accomplished by Terry Venables, a man who has had a boot in both these camps.
It is a game that evokes images of the likes of Ron ‘Chopper’ Harris and Jack Charlton taking no prisoners in rugged battles, and those that shirk on Saturday will likely pay a high price.
Ahead of kick-off, Stats Perform previews the big game with help from Opta’s best game data.
Return to the 90s
It was more the 1960s and 1970s when the hostility between these sides was at its height, but you have to flash back to the decade when the Premier League was born to pick up on some key context for this newest battle of Stamford Bridge.
Leeds are looking to complete their first league double over Chelsea since their First Division title-winning campaign of 1991-92, when they won 3-0 at home and 1-0 away. This season, Leeds have won 3-0 at Elland Road against Chelsea, a result that was soon followed by Thomas Tuchel’s departure, so what price another 1-0 win for the Whites?
Chelsea enter the weekend having not scored more than once in any of their last nine Premier League games. Indeed, they have managed a meagre four goals during this dry run. Only once have Chelsea experienced a longer such run in the competition, going 17 Premier League games without netting more than once between August and December 1993.
Potter’s team have won just two of their last 15 games (D6 L7) in the league, Chelsea’s fewest over a period of 15+ games in the league since snatching just two victories from 19 matches between December 1994 and April 1995 under Glenn Hoddle. This lean run didn’t stop Hoddle being appointed England boss barely 12 months later.
It was right at the end of the decade when Leeds last won in the league at Chelsea, with Stephen McPhail’s double earning a 2-0 road success for the West Yorkshire visitors in December 1999, taking David O’Leary’s team to the top of the table. Chelsea are unbeaten in their last six at home against Leeds in the competition since, winning the last five.
End in sight to Potter’s plight?
If Chelsea do not emerge from their rut this weekend, you have to wonder if they ever will do so under former Brighton and Hove Albion boss Potter.
He came to west London with a deservedly big reputation and made a strong start, but Chelsea’s free-fall means questions are being asked about whether he has a future at the club.
So far, owner Todd Boehly has resisted making a change, but the heavy spending has to bring a return at some stage, and if Chelsea cannot see off Leeds then Potter will face next-level scrutiny.
No Premier League teams have fewer away wins (one) or fewer away points (six) than Leeds this season (West Ham and Nottingham Forest match them on both counts), with Leeds’ lone win being their shock success at Liverpool in October.
Yet Leeds are bound to fancy this one, and why not? After all, Chelsea have lost their last three games across all competitions, failing to score in any of those. Chelsea have not lost four in a row without scoring since March 1929, but it could happen again.
Working Auba time?
Clearly, Potter does not fancy Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang as the spearhead to his attack, starting the Gabonese striker only four times in the league since taking over, with the former Arsenal and Barcelona man scoring just once.
Aubameyang has played just 131 minutes in the league since the World Cup, with a seven-minute outing at Tottenham last weekend his first appearance in over a month.
Surely, though, it has to be worth giving a once proven goalscorer more of an opportunity during this barren patch. Chelsea have scored just 23 goals in their 24 Premier League games this season, their lowest at this stage of a campaign since 1993-94, when they had 22 at this point.
Gracia to match El Tel?
Leeds won their first match under Gracia against Southampton last time out, so could the Spaniard pull off two Premier League wins from two attempts? The only manager to win their first two Premier League games with Leeds was Venables, a former Chelsea player, in August 2002.
Gracia also faced Chelsea in his second Premier League game as Watford boss back in February 2018, and the Hornets stung the then reigning champions 4-1 at Vicarage Road.
Five years on, could history be about to repeat itself?