PREVIEW: Chelsea v Luton Town
A substantial loosening of the purse strings at Stamford Bridge over the summer was meant to lead to the Blues reigniting their Premier League title aspirations again this season, although it hasn't quite worked out that way just yet.
Owner Roman Abramovich gave manager Frank Lampard the funds with which to compete in the transfer market, making some big, big money signings, the most eye-catching, a £71m move for Bayer Leverkusen's German international Kai Havertz
There was more too, Lampard shelling out a reported £50m for Leicester's English international Ben Chilwell, £45m on RP Leipzig's Timo Werner and £33m for Ajax's Hakim Ziyech.
Rennes keeper Edouard Mendy arrived too, displacing Kepa Arrizabalaga as number one, with experienced Brazilian Thiago Silva signing from PSG, and Nice defender Malang Sarr on board too.
He did move on Alvaro Morata for £50m, with Mario Pasalic heading out to £13.5m, while Pedro going to Roma and Willian to Arsenal but the main bulk of the deals were to bolster the firepower to make an impact on the top four after finishing some 33 points behind champions Liverpool last year.
It didn't quite kick into life from the start, a 3-1 win at Brighton was followed by a 2-0 home defeat by Liverpool.
Three draws from four league games were then followed by a fine run of form as Chelsea started to elevate themselves into talks of potential challengers.
They won eight out of 10 in all competitions to lift themselves up to third in the table, just two points off the summit.
However, a 1-0 defeat at Everton ended that run, immediately followed by a 2-1 loss at Wolves.
Although West Ham were brushed aside 3-0, Chelsea lost at to Arsenal and Manchester City, drawing with Aston Villa too as they began to undo all of their earlier good work.
They saw off Morecambe 4-0 in the FA Cup and beat Fulham 1-0 to record a first away league victory since late November, but the 2-0 defeat at Leicester on Tuesday night sees Lampard's men eighth in the table and already some 11 points adrift of leaders Manchester United, not where Abramovich expected to be after his summer spending.
It means the pressure is now firmly on Lampard, with some bookies having him as low as 8/15 on to be sacked, but ex-Chelsea midfielder has come out fighting this week, telling reporters: “I don't listen to it. It's only everywhere if you want to scroll through social media or something, but I don't do that.
“I'm not stupid, I know the pressures that come with managing a top football club, but I just do my job, it doesn't matter to me."
Team news: Luton have Tom Lockyer available to them after he won his appeal to overturn the red card picked up against Brentford on Wednesday night.
Martin Cranie might also be in contention, but Gabriel Osho won't be following his loan move to Rochdale.
For Chelsea, N'Golo Kante is out with a hamstring injury, although joint top scorer Olivier Giroud is fit, while defender Fikayo Tomori has gone to Italian giants AC Milan on loan.
Top scorers: Hatters: James Collins (9). Blues: Olivier Giroud, Timo Werner (9).
Man in the middle: David Coote – vastly experienced Premier League referee who has taken 14 games this season, showing 50 yellow cards and two reds, including one Nations League contest between Armenia and Estonia.
Has officiated Luton before, the most recent time a 4-0 League One win over Peterborough United at Keniworth Road in January 2019, sending off the visitors' Ryan Tafazolli on 25 minutes.
Prior to that, Coote had the 3-1 home defeat to Portsmouth in November 2016 and the 3-0 reverse to Newport County November 2015, with one more game, also a loss, Town going down 3-2 to Wycombe in March 2015.
Assistant referees are Dan Cook and Sian Massey-Ellis, with the fourth official Paul Tierney.
In charge: Frank Lampard – a legend of the modern era, the midfielder began his career at West Ham United, with a loan spell at Swansea City, before becoming a regular at Upton Park, moving to Chelsea for £11m in June 2001.
It was at Stamford Bridge he became a true club hero, winning the Premier League three times, FA Cup four times, League Cup twice, Community Shield twice, not forgetting a Champions League and Europa League triumph too, finishing as the Blues' top scorer of all time with 211 goals.
Was released in June 2014, heading to New York City, before returning to England and Manchester City, where he racked up a 600th top flight appearance, moving back to the States to finish his career in February 2017.
Also played 106 times for England, scoring 29 goals, as he played in both the World Cup and European Championships.
Appointed manager of Derby County in May 2018, leading the Rams to the Championship play-off final which they lost to Aston Villa 2-1.
With the vacancy arising at Stamford Bridge in June 2019 following Maurizio Sarri's departure, he took over on a three year deal, leading the Blues to fourth in his first season.
One to watch: Mason Mount - young midfielder came through the ranks at Chelsea and like many Blues youngsters was sent out on loan, heading to Dutch side Vitesse Arnhem in July 2017, playing 38 times, scoring 14 goals.
Headed to Derby in July 2018 when Lampard was in charge and made 44 appearances, scoring 11 goals for the Rams.
Back in the Chelsea side now though and has played 33 times this term, scoring five times.
Also becoming a regular in the England squad too, with 13 caps and three goals for the Three Lions.
Friendly faces: Mick Harford – Back in August 1992, the forward left Luton Town after scoring 92 goals in 217 games, moving to Chelsea following the Hatters relegation from Division One.
He went on to score the Blues first goal in the Premier League, netting in a 1-1 draw against Oldham Athletic, going on to score 11 times in 34 matches.
Despite being the top scorer in the 1992–93 season, he was sold in March 1993 to his hometown club Sunderland in a £250,000 transfer deal.
Played for both: Kerry Dixon - born in Luton, he started out at Chesham and then Dunstable Town before moving to Reading in 1980 for £20,000.
Scored over 50 goals for the Royals in three years, as he was snapped up by Chelsea for £150,000, plus a bonus if he played for England, which he did in 1986, managing four goals in eight games.
Spent nine years at Stamford Bridge, scoring 193 goals, as he is the third highest goalscorer for the Blues of all time.
Left in 1992 and went to Southampton in a £575,000 deal, joining Luton on loan in February 1993, the move becoming permanent in October.
Scored 20 goals in 88 games, joining Millwall for £5,000, before going to Watford and finishing his career with Doncaster and then Basildon United.
Became Doncaster player-manager, but was sacked in 1997, having coaching stints in non-league following that.
We've got form: Luton were regular opponents of Chelsea during the 1950s, 70s and 80s with their paths often crossing in both Division One and Division Two.
Town's first trip to Stamford Bridge was an FA Cup clash in January 1927 that the Blues won 4-0 in front of a crowd of 41,441.
From there, Town managed to get a first win in November 1957, thanks to a hat-trick from Gordon Turner.
With the two teams in the the top flight, Luton earned back-to-back wins in the early 80s, David Moss and Ricky Hill netting in a 2-0 win in 1981, the following season Raddy Antic and Brian Stein securing a 2-1 triumph.
They also picked up an 3-1 success in 1986, Mike Newell notching a brace with Stein on target once more.
Since then though, Town have drawn three and lost two of their last five games, one 3-3 draw in 1991 seeing Lars Elstrup, Sean Farrell and Kingsley Black all finding the net.
In total, the Hatters have won four from their 22 visits, with seven draws and 11 defeats, scoring 22 goals, conceding 43.
Last time out: Luton, then managed by David Pleat last met Chelsea under Glen Hoddle in the FA Cup semi-final back in April 9, 1994, losing 2-0.
Gavin Peacock scored a brace of goals that day as the hosts went on to suffer a 4-0 defeat in the final to Manchester United.
Hatters: Juergen Sommer, Des Linton, Julian James, A Harper, Trevor Peake, John Dreyer, Paul Telfer, Scott Oakes, Kerry Dixon, Ceri Hughes, David Preece.
Subs used: John Hartson.