It’s fair to say that it was a reasonably tough festive period for Chelsea, arguably more so than it really should have been! The Blues have picked up just two Premier League wins since the start of December, amounting to just six points from a possible 21 on offer, as they failed to beat the likes of Everton, Wolves and Aston Villa. As a result, they have gone from hot on the heels of those at the top of the league table down to a dreaded eighth place.
Pressure is beginning to mount on Chelsea boss Frank Lampard, who is now one of the favourites to be the next Premier League manager sacked, but if you thought it was going to ease anytime soon, then think again, as a gruelling schedule, which includes just four games at Stamford Bridge, could prove to be make or break for the former Blues midfielder.
With the FA Cup third round clash against League Two side Morecombe aside, the Blues will restart their Premier League campaign with a short trip down the Fulham Road to Craven Cottage. Scott Parker’s Lilywhites won’t be a push over as they continue to fight for safety, and a win over their local rivals would be all the sweeter.
The Blues then have a midweek trip to the King Power Stadium, where they will go head-to-head with Brendan Rodgers’ Leicester City. The Foxes are currently third in the table, and worryingly for Lampard, Chelsea haven’t beaten Leicester in their last four league outings.
Back-to-back home encounters against Burnley and Wolves will bring an end to January, and whilst you’d fancy the Blues to pick up all three points again Sean Dyche’s Clarets, the Wolves clash won’t be as straightforward for Lampard’s men.
February is when Chelsea really have their work cut out. The Blues begin the month with a very tricky midweek trip to the north of the capital, where they will take on Tottenham Hotspur, the side who knocked them out of the Carabao Cup earlier this season.
After just a few days rest, Lampard and his men will be making their way up north for a clash with Chris Wilder’s Sheffield United. They are a far cry from the side who beat Chelsea 3-0 at Bramall Lane last season, but with relegation on the cards for the Blades, they won’t go down without a fight.
A home fixture against Newcastle after a rare week’s rest will give Lampard’s side the chance to pick up a crucial six points, should they beat both the Magpies and Sheffield United, but a trip to St. Mary’s the following week has a real potential to put any sort of run Chelsea have put together to bed.
Only Spurs and Manchester City have beaten Southampton at home this season, and their recent victory over reigning champions Liverpool proves how much of a force they can be on the south coast. That aside, Chelsea, who haven’t beaten the Saints in their last two attempts, could also have one eye on the midweek trip to the Wanda Metropolitano in Madrid.
The Blues beat Atlético Madrid 2-1 in the Spanish capital when they last met Diego Simeone’s side in the Champions League, and despite Atléti’s current form, which has seen them climb to the top of the La Liga table, Chelsea are currently the slight favourites to qualify in the UEFA Champions League odds.
February is rounded off with Manchester United coming down to the Bridge. Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s side have found a bit of rhythm in the league, and by the time the sides clash on February 27th, the Red Devils could be soaring at the top of the Premier League table.
It’s certainly crunch time for Lampard, and as Roy Keane said following their 3-1 defeat to a covid-stricken Manchester City, it is in the west London club’s DNA to not give managers time, and looking at his calendar for the next few months Lampard will certainly be thinking that he is on borrowed time.
Will he prove his worth or will his Chelsea love story come to a bitter ending?