By Tim Harrison
The Blues host Palace on April Fools’ Day after the irritating international break, and Chelsea have a quiet determination not to let the visitors make them look like dipsticks.
A steely sense of resolve is in the air at Stamford Bridge. As plans for a new birds’ nest-style stadium crack on, there’s a feeling this may be the start of another spell of dominance like the one the club enjoyed under Jose Mourinho’s first tenure.
Tony Conte faces three rapid-fire games on the trot, with matches against the Eagles, Man City and Bournemouth in the space of a week.
The rearranged match at home to Watford has still to find a date, meaning the Blues are facing – for the first time in this Europe-lite season – fixture congestion.
But the squad can cope. The fact that Gary Cahill was suspended for England’s dull victory over Lithuania meant the current team captain could join the training staff at Cobham to work on moves to defeat Sam Allardyce’s team, who are showing distinct signs of revival after a rocky spell.
Nathan Ake, recalled from Bournemouth and eager to restart his Chelsea career, hopes to start one of the trio of imminent matches, while Kurt Zouma is also keen to re-establish himself.
It may be entirely coincidental, but seeing assistant coach Steve Holland nestling alongside England manager Gareth Southgate for the recent internationals has come at a time of three-at-the-back experimentation for the Three Lions. Holland will be hugely missed when he leaves the club for the national assistant coaching role on May 21.
On the trophy front, the Blues have been allocated more than 32,000 tickets for the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley on April 22, in the west side of the stadium (so turning to the right after marching down Wembley Way).
With Spurs on such sharp form, and Harry Kane expected to be back to play – at the very least – a substitute’s role, only an April fool would predict that result.
The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and unless specifically stated are not necessarily those of Hammersmith & Fulham Council.
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