Every game now is another game for Chelsea to slip up, or for them to break neutrals hearts.
Antonio Conte’s side have been the champions-elect for quite a while now, but they certainly aren’t home and dry just yet. This weekend, they travel from east London to west to play West Ham United at the London Stadium.
Chelsea have been there before this season – and lost. That was in the EFL Cup. Since then, West Ham have improved massively, and defeat once again at the hands of Slaven Bilic’s side could really open up a title race.
The man in the middle this time, though, just might favour Conte’s Blues.
Andre Marriner has been picked to referee this game, and in the three games he’s taken charge of involving West Ham, he has averaged over two yellow cards against the Hammers, more than he’s given against any other club except Watford and Sunderland.
Of course, just over two yellow cards per game is hardly cause for calling a bias: Marriner is a ref who likes to let the game flow. His fouls-per-tackle ratio is low, and he has given just one red card all season.
He’s also more than happy to let the game flow when it’s in the box, too. Marriner gives, on average, one penalty every four games or so. Chelsea, though, have managed to build a lead of 10 points so far without relying much on penalties at all: they’ve only scored two all season.
The most striking of Marriner’s stats, though, is the exact balance between home and away wins. Usually home wins are higher – just because most games in the Premier League are won by the home team – but for Marriner, home and away wins are exactly equal. Given that most games usually end in a home win, does that mean Marriner favours the away side?