With a comfortable 2-0 win against Stoke City at the Britannia Stadium, Chelsea regained their 3-point lead over Manchester City in the Premier League, as we move into Christmas.
However, during the post-match interview, Jose Mourinho said that for Premier League players, “there is no Christmas, just football”. By saying this, Jose is actually alarming his team.
Digging into Chelsea’s Christmas fixtures, the team will have to face West Ham United at Stamford Bridge on Boxing Day, then immediately departing for St. Mary’s Stadium to face Southampton on 28th December. On New Year’s Day, the team will have to travel to London rival’s White Hart Lane for the game against a mighty Tottenham Hotspur side.
Three fixtures in a spam of 6 days, will challenge the stamina and the depth of all squads in Premier League. That is precisely why Christmas fixtures have always proven to be decisive to the title challenge. The Christmas fixtures are unique for English football while major leagues around Europe have winter breaks.
Chelsea, with a 20-man squad (which is quite small comparing to other title challengers), has to use their squad wisely to prevent fatigue and injuries as far as possible.
In the following paragraph, let me walk you through the details of our opponents during this Christmas phase.
West Ham United had caused Chelsea problems back in January, when the two teams last met at Stamford Bridge. Adopting a defensive style of playing, West Ham United successfully kept Chelsea at bay with a 0-0 draw. In this season, West Ham United have been performing exceptionally well, currently standing 4th in the Premier League. They have defeated Manchester City earlier this season. Steward Downing and Andy Carroll are on a goal spree and are playing well. Chelsea may have to work a little bit harder to find a win from this fixture.
Secondly, Southampton has been one of the most surprising teams in the league this season. Despite the fact that number of important players have left the team, they do not seem to be bothered by the changes in the squad. Currently ranking 5th in the Premier League table, Southampton are now full of confidence. Even though they experienced a short span of harsh time some time ago with 5 straight defeats, a clean 3-0 win over Everton has proved that they can still be dangerous. With only 48 hours between the games with West Ham United and Southampton, the stamina of Chelsea’s attacking players would be in certain doubt.
While, Tottenham Hotspur is currently ranking 7th in the Premier League table with in-form attacking players Erik Lamela, Harry Kane and Christian Eriksen, the Blues have won 3-0 in the reverse fixture at Stamford Bridge early this December. However, Mauricio Pochettino’s men can always cause problems to the opponents with the squad that he is managing. This game will not be a piece of cake for the Blues.
Chelsea’s Christmas fixtures consist of 1 home game and 2 away games. Comparing to our main title competitor Manchester City, which will play West Bromwich Albion (ranking 15th), Burnley (ranking 18th) and Sunderland (ranking 14th) in their Christmas fixtures. It can be seen that our Christmas fixtures are tougher than City. Also, City has the advantage of playing 2 home games and an away game at Christmas.
These fixtures can be decisive on the road to title challenge. Jose Mourinho, by saying “there is no Christmas, just football” in the interview, is actually warning his players to be careful over these festive season.
If the team does not give their best over this period of time, it is highly possible that City will overtake the Blues by New Year’s Day. Jose Mourinho knows how important it is to keep the lead on the top of the table after this series of closely-packed fixtures and therefore, is sending an alert (also a Christmas wish) to his fellow players.
Lastly, may I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
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Edited By: Harshal Ahire