Chelsea are currently on a nine-match winning streak and will look to make it a perfect 10 when they play Sunderland tonight.
It’s an incredible achievement from Antonio Conte’s side, one that’s moved them clear at the top of the Premier League table – but all good things must come to an end.
The Chelsea forward will play no part at Sunderland tonight due to injury. It’s a huge loss with the Belgian contributing eight goals and one assist this season. They might struggle without him.
Eden Hazard’s season
Diego Costa is walking a tightrope
The only player more important than Hazard is Diego Costa and he’s just one yellow card away from suspension. Should he be booked in the next four games (before the accumulative threshold increases from five to 10 yellow cards) he will be banned for one match. He’s played in every game so far this season and scored 12 goals. That his like-for-like replacement is the Michy Batshuayi will only makes his absence worse.
Costa is joined on four bookings by Nemanja Matic, N’Golo Kante and David Luiz. Considering Chelsea’s recent success has been built on a virtually consistent XI, the loss of any of these could be the chink in the armour that denies them victory.
Only nine teams in the history of the Premier League have reached 10 consecutive wins, proving just how tough it is to put such a run together. Of those, only two went beyond 11 wins with Arsenal holding the all-time record with 14 consecutive victories. History suggests Chelsea will struggle to get much further than they already have.
Chelsea’s winning run has coincided with Antonio Conte switching to a 3-4-3 formation, something that other sides struggled to get to grips with. However West Brom showed on Sunday how to frustrate them, limiting Chelsea to just one shot on target before Costa finally found the breakthrough to record a narrow 1-0 win. Chelsea’s upcoming opponents will have been paying close attention.
Sunderland (A) – Wed 14 Dec
Crystal Palace (A) – Sat 17 Dec
Bournemouth (H) – Mon 26 Dec
Stoke City (H) – Sat 31 Dec
Tottenham (A) – Wed 4 Jan
Notts County or Peterborough (H) – Sun 8 Jan
Leicester City (A) – Sat 14 Jan
Congested fixture list
Chelsea have benefited from a lack of European football which has allowed them a week between matches to rest and prepare. Over Christmas they won’t have that luxury, with the fixtures coming around much quicker. It could just be their undoing.