After a run of three successive Premier League wins, and a 6-1 thrashing of Middlesbrough in the Carabao Cup, whisperings of hope, and having turned a corner were starting to make their way around Stamford Bridge.
However, a humbling 4-1 defeat at the hands of a rampant Liverpool at Anfield on Wednesday evening quickly extinguished those hopes. Chelsea could have conceded more, as Darwin Nunez hit the woodwork four times. The Blues now desperately need a win against Wolves, but already lost to Gary O’Neil’s side in December.
Chelsea first goalscorer odds: our picks
Stamford Bridge is not a particularly cheery place of late, and scoring the first goal will be crucial to keeping their supporters on side against Wolves. Here are our picks for who could net the opener for Chelsea.
Christopher Nkunku – 5/1
The bookmakers’ favourite to open the scoring in West London is Frenchman Christopher Nkunku, and it’s not hard to see why. Nkunku was one of the vanishingly few bright spots for the Blues on their painful trip to Merseyside.
After Carney Chukwuemeka drove through midfield, Nkunku exhibited excellent close control in the penalty area to evade the attentions of Virgil van Dijk and slotted the ball perfectly into the bottom right corner.
Nkunku is also the most proven goalscorer in the Chelsea squad, having scored an astonishing 58 goals in all competitions in his final two seasons at RB Leipzig. The 26-year-old scored his first Chelsea goal in the reverse fixture in December, after coming back from injury.
Wolves will likely pack their penalty area densely with players, so Nkunku’s deft touches and clever finishes in tight spaces could be the difference. It would be a great occasion for Nkunku to score his first goal at home in blue.
Cole Palmer – 23/4
One of the few undisputable hits of Chelsea’s transfer mania over the last two seasons has been Cole Palmer. The Englishman was not getting adequate playtime at boyhood club Manchester City, and has settled very well in West London.
Palmer is Chelsea’s top scorer on nine Premier League goals. Remarkably, five of these goals have come from the spot, including crucial strikes from 12 yards against Arsenal, Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur.
Though Nkunku will likely take over his mantle of being Chelsea’s main goal threat, Palmer will likely retain penalty-taking duties, such is his record from the spot.
Raheem Sterling – 6/1
Raheem Sterling had a nightmarish trip to Molineux on Christmas Eve. The England international missed a golden chance early on, which was made all the worse by his decision to shoot himself instead of squaring for his teammates queuing up for a tap-in. To add insult to injury, the winger was booked for diving late on.
Sterling will be desperate to make amends, and in fairness, has a good record against the side wearing Old Gold, and scored four against them in his Manchester City days.
Although the 29-year-old has never been the most cold-blooded finisher, his intelligent runs, determination and speed will always get him chances. There is a reason why only Mo Salah is the only active Premier League player with more goals than Sterling.
Mykhailo Mudryk – 21/2
From the right-wing to the left-wing, Mykhailo Mudryk will likely get the chance to start against Wolves, after Noni Madueke’s disappointing performance at Anfield. A year on from his £89m move from Shakhtar Donetsk, Mudryk’s career in West London has not gone as he would have hoped.
The Ukrainian winger is blessed with a great deal of raw talent. He is blisteringly, frighteningly quick, has surprising upper-body strength, produces some superb touches and can strike a ball hard and true.
But the key word there is ‘raw’. Mudryk is very inconsistent within games, often taking an inexcusably loose touch for every brilliant one and can struggle to do the basics.
Despite this, the 23-year-old has a respectable 0.42 non-penalty goals and assists per 90 minutes this season, a figure only bettered by three Chelsea regulars. His record at Stamford Bridge is also good, with three of his four goals in all competitions coming at home.
After not starting a league game since December 27th, Mudryk will be desperate to kickstart his Chelsea career with an opening goal.