When you think of congested fixture lists, all the talk usually revolves around Christmas and the month of December whilst very little is ever centred around February.
For Chelsea, things will be slightly different this season as the deciding point of their season will fall from the 10th to the 27th of February with the Blues set for six games in 17 days over four different competitions. Needless to say, there won’t be any time to slip into the usual lethargy of the February winter blues.
Sarri’s men will travel to the Etihad on the tenth of February to face Manchester City in a game they can ill afford to lose given the pressure behind them in the chase to get into the top four. Whilst Arsenal seem to be stuttering in their bid to get back into the Champions League spots the same can’t be said for Manchester United who are currently steamrolling any team in their way.
It will be two and a half weeks later when Chelsea are back in action in the Premier League again when they welcome Tottenham Hotspur to the Bridge on the 27th and really the headlines write themselves for this one. Pochettino’s troops are four points ahead of Chelsea thanks to a late Harry Winks winner against Fulham at Craven Cottage a few weeks back. No one saw Spurs losing that game and even Oddschecker had tipped Pochettino’s men to beat the Cottagers as part of their Sunday Super Acca so there were no great surprises, but it did reveal that the North London outfit are considerably weaker without Harry Kane.
Their talismanic striker will still be out through injury when they go head-to-head and this the ideal chance for the Blues to bring Spurs back into the scrap for the top four with a win. Lose and it could well be the last time Tottenham are within touching distance during this campaign.
Chelsea's February fixture list is congested and horribly spaced… 🙁
10th PL- Man City (away)
14th UEL – Malmo (away)
17th FA- Man Utd (home)
21st UEL – Malmo (home)
24th LC – Man City (final)
27th PL – Tottenham (home)
— Hiffey (@CheIseaChurch) January 28, 2019
Chelsea’s Europa League commitments begin on Valentines Day with a trip to Sweden to take on Malmo FF in the round of 32. The Blues will have to be up for this fixture and defend resolutely as the hosts will undoubtedly give it a good go right from the off in the hope they can take a lead to Stamford Bridge and then put 11 men behind the ball.
Sarri is known to enjoy the Europa League and will be hoping his new signing Gonzalo Higuain will be able to lead the line effectively in Europe. Higuain is not cup-tied thanks to a change in the rules last year despite turning out for AC Milan in the group stages earlier on in the competition. All in all, Chelsea should progress and even rack up a few goals during the return home leg on the 21st but it will all come down to how they initially fare on a freezing night in Malmo.
Drawing Manchester United in the fifth round of the FA Cup has to be considered somewhat unfortunate as it has severely added to Chelsea’s February workload. Sarri would have hoped to have drawn the likes of Doncaster, Wimbledon or Swansea but instead has ended up with Solskjaer’s barnstorming Manchester United. The Red Devils will travel to Stamford Bridge on the 17th which means this fixture is sandwiched right in the middle of the clashes with Malmo and given how high the stakes are in both competitions, resting players doesn’t look like an option, either.
It will be one of those nights where the fire from the crowd at Stamford Bridge will be needed to help the players thaw out after an arduous journey to Sweden only 72 hours before.
— B/R Football (@brfootball) January 23, 2019
League Cup Final
You could make a case for all of Chelsea’s fixtures over this period being their biggest of the season but the League Cup final against Manchester City is the one that will pay out instantly. All of the other fixtures are a means to an end, a very important end that is but this is the one that can officially deem Chelsea’s season a success, should they win it.
The Blues will make the short and familiar trip to Wembley on the 24th to face Guardiola’s City in a game that will see Chelsea play the Citizens for the second time in 14 days. It was back in August last year that City beat Chelsea in the Community Shield final under Wembley’s famous arch and Sarri will be wanting to put matters right. The trophy obsessed Guardiola is sure to send out a team that will close down and harass Chelsea every second of the 90 minutes and given that this will be the Blues’ fifth game in 14 days, fatigue seems a very real danger.
The hallowed turf of Wembley does have a habit of inspiring and focusing a team despite what might be going on around them. In reality, Sarri’s troops will be just as eager for silverware and this will be a final that should sizzle from the kickoff.
Even the most ardent Chelsea supporter will admit the that the Blues will be up against it over February. The worst case scenario is Chelsea get dumped out of all the cup competitions they are in without any silverware as well as having fallen out of the top four. The best case scenario is Chelsea stay in all the cup competitions and are crowned League Cup champions of England after having moved to third in the Premier League table.
The answer probably lies somewhere in the middle and may have to come down to prioritizing. One thing is for sure and that is February won’t be the month manager Maurizio Sarri finally decides to give up smoking.