Chelsea’s Premier League title battle and what the post-Club World Cup picture could look like
Following their win over Tottenham at the weekend, Chelsea won’t play another Premier League game until February 19, when they travel to Selhurst Park to take on Crystal Palace.
Thomas Tuchel has given his side a week off before preparations begin for the FA Cup clash against Plymouth Argyle and the Blues then travel to the United Arab Emirates as they seek to win the Club World Cup .
Those who are injured or returning to fitness will remain active at Cobham during their return to the first team.
Chelsea have a less relentless schedule over the next three weeks or so and it presents the Blues with a great opportunity to catch their breath after a two-month spell where they played 16 games.
Tuchel’s side have endured worries about their form and whether they have been drawn into a battle for the top four rather than a title chase.
Spurs were even within touching distance ahead of Chelsea’s victory at Stamford Bridge – had the Lilywhites won their games in hand they would have passed the Blues in the table.
They still could, but a solid showing from Chelsea helped cement their position in the table.
Speaking before the game, Tuchel said: “It’s a big game because of course we can do our calculations, but it’s strange to see the game and see teams competing for the same area of the game. table and have four games less.
“So it can give the false impression that you’re comfortably ahead when you’re not, so we have to make sure it stays that way.
“The best chance is to win direct competitions against direct opponents, it’s a London derby, it’s a big rivalry, we know that and now it’s the third time in a very short time.
“So they know what we are doing, and we know what they are doing. And things are clear. We managed to beat them twice and we will do everything to beat them a third time.”
So, third in the table, does Chelsea have a bad impression?
The Carabao Cup finalists sit third in the table with 47 points from 24 matches. They are one point behind Liverpool and 10 behind Manchester City, but 10 behind Manchester United, 11 behind West Ham and 12 behind Arsenal and Tottenham.
However, the Blues have played more games than anyone else, having not had a game canceled over the festive period and played at Brighton to edge out matches they would miss on the trip to Abu Dhabi.
Luckily for Tuchel’s side, they shouldn’t find themselves in too different a position in the Premier League table when they return from the Club World Cup, although the distance in terms of points between them and their opponents has could change.
In the worst-case scenario, Chelsea should remain third when they return.
Manchester City will face Brentford and Norwich and could extend their lead by another six points but will have played an extra game.
Liverpool face Leicester and Burnley which would see them move seven points ahead after playing the same number of games if they too win both games.
However, those vying for the top four may still have some way to go. Manchester United need to win over Burnley and Southampton and would then be within three points after the same number of games.
West Ham, who next face Watford and Leicester, would still be four points behind Chelsea having played one game more than Tuchel’s side if they were to win those two matches.
Arsenal have only one such game given that their Week 25 clash was supposed to be against Chelsea. A win over Wolves would see them eight points behind with two games less of their London rivals.
Spurs face Southampton and Wolves and would be five points down if they could claim six points but still have two games in hand, with the potential to overtake the Blues.
As Gameweek 24 takes place in the middle of the week, followed by Gameweek 25 the following weekend, it is likely that all games will be caught up during this time.
The chance of Chelsea rivals all maintaining a 100 per cent record seems unlikely, but even if they do, the Blues’ future will be mostly in their hands.
This means they will have time to rejuvenate for the rest of the season, without losing their league position, which should be a huge advantage for the Champions League winners.