Mauricio Pochettino’s managerial tenure at Chelsea has got off to an awful start, but Luton Town’s visit to Stamford Bridge on Friday could turn his fortunes around.
Following an evenly-contested 1-1 draw against bitter rivals Liverpool on the opening weekend, the Blues succumbed to their old habit of collapsing on their travels.
Despite being a man up for most of the second half, Chelsea suffered a dismal 3-1 defeat away to cross-city rivals West Ham United on Moises Caicedo’s nightmare debut last Sunday.
Less than 45 minutes into his maiden Premier League appearance for the troubled London outfit, the most expensive signing in the competition’s history gave away a penalty to seal Chelsea’s fate in the capital derby.
Another forgettable result in a high-profile contest left Pochettino to pick up the slack as his quest to post his first league victory in charge of the Pensioners lingers on.
Luton’s arrival at the Bridge could offer the Argentine manager a golden opportunity to get off the mark, with the visitors looking to recover from a dreadful 4-1 defeat at Brighton & Hove Albion on matchday one.
Although the Hatters’ dream run from English non-league football to the elite division in only nine years remains one of the most romantic stories in the country, Brighton dialled a wake-up call on Rob Edwards’ side.
Luton’s bid to bounce back from their Amex disaster in front of a raucous Kenilworth Road crowd in round two hit the buffers as their game against Burnley was postponed.
Having failed to convince the Premier League that improvement works at Kenilworth Road would be completed in time, Luton must wait to play their first home game.
Fresh legs after being handed an extra period to rest and prepare could be the visitors’ best chance to defy the odds and prove us wrong for highlighting them as top relegation contenders in our Luton season predictions.
While the upcoming return to the Bridge would typically be a welcoming boost for Chelsea, their long-term struggle in front of their devastated home faithful tells a different story.
The aforementioned draw against Liverpool was the Blues’ ninth consecutive home fixture without a victory (D5, L4), all competitions included, suggesting three points are anything but a foregone conclusion.
Chelsea’s rotten competitive home record stretching back to the beginning of April doesn’t even begin to explain the depth of their problems at once their impenetrable fortress.
Barring a gut-wrenching 2-2 draw against last season’s relegation fighters Nottingham Forest, Pochettino’s men have netted one goal or fewer in seven out of eight previous home outings.
Chelsea’s notorious profligacy may reinforce Luton’s faint hopes of picking up their first points in the Premier League, though their last visit to the Bridge didn’t go well.
During their second consecutive season in the Championship in 2020/21, the Hatters went down 2-1 at Chelsea in the opening FA Cup round, marking their second straight defeat in west London.
Before entering the Championship play-offs last term, Edwards’ men had gone winless in three successive away league matches (D2, L1), conceding at least once on each occasion.
On the evidence of their first top-flight travel this season and their travel sickness toward the end of the previous campaign, their poor four-match away record against the Blues (D1, L3) looks likely to worsen.
Injuries to numerous first-team stars have undermined Pochettino’s early life at Chelsea, with Carney Chukwuemeka joining an ever-growing contingent in the treatment room.
The 19-year-old midfielder is the latest Blues player to pick up an injury after various fitness problems sidelined Christopher Nkunku, Benoit Badiashile, Reece James, Trevoh Chalobah and Wesley Fofana.
As for Luton, Gabriel Osho, Jordan Clark, Reece Burke, and Dan Potts are still out with injuries, while marquee summer arrival Ross Barkley should be in contention after missing out on the opening-day trip to Brighton.
Chelsea potential starting line-up:
(3-4-2-1): Robert Sanchez; Axel Disasi, Thiago Silva, Levi Colwill; Malo Gusto, Enzo Fernandez, Romeo Lavia, Ben Chilwell; Raheem Sterling, Conor Gallagher; Nicolas Jackson.
Luton Town potential starting line-up:
(3-5-2): Thomas Kaminski; Mads Andersen, Tom Lockyer, Amari’i Bell; Issa Kabore, Pelly Mpanzu, Marvelous Nakamba, Luke Berry, Giles; Elijah Adebayo, Carlton Morris.
We Say: Chelsea 2-1 Luton Town
If Pochettino’s side are to reach the heights promised in our Chelsea season preview, this is a must-win contest in its strictest sense.
Given the home side’s defensive sloppiness, we cannot rule out the possibility of Luton troubling the scoresheet, but we still expect the Blues to get into the win column.
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