By Tim Harrison
The Blues have a relatively restrained and low-key festive programme... and a thoroughly relaxed New Year, thanks to TV changes.
After a challenging trip to Goodison Park this weekend (it’s another 12.30pm kick-off, so defeat for late-risers Chelsea is a near-certainty), there’s the visit of Brighton to the Bridge on Boxing Day... a day when the District line and Overground is suspended, making it even trickier for fans.
The tubes are also up the Swannee when Stoke City bowl up to SW6 on Saturday 30 December, but after that gritty encounter, the boys in blue can take a rest.
The London derby at Arsenal was to have been played on New Year’s Day, but the match has been pushed right back to the evening of Wednesday 3 January, so everyone can sip a sherry on New Year’s Eve and see in 2018.
Four days later, Chelsea Ladies – like the men, snapping at the heels of Manchester City – also play Arsenal in a Saturday lunchtime clash at Kingsmeadow, Kingston. The news has just emerged that ladies’ manager Emma Hayes is expecting twins in June, the delivery perfectly timed to allow her to see this season to a conclusion!
The Ladies have the toughest draw possible in the semis of the Conti Cup, being picked to play City in mid-January. The only plus is that the Blues have home advantage.
Meanwhile, there are no obvious signs of pregnancy in the Conte household. It’s been an interesting journey for Tony’s men since the unexpected lifting of the Premier League trophy in the spring.
With dealings in the transfer market actually weakening, rather than strengthening, the squad, it’s no great surprise that the Blues are struggling to keep up with in-form Man Utd and Liverpool, and, of course, with soaraway entertainers Man City.
A fourth-place finish now looks likely when the final whistle sounds at St James’ Park at 4.45pm on Sunday 13 May when Chelsea round off a curious season against Newcastle United.
Conte still prefers his teams to play with a recognised target man, with Alvaro Morata returning to full fitness again after a back spasm, but also sees the value of an Eden Hazard/Willian/Pedro front three formation, to addle opposition defences.
However Christmas pans out, results-wise, the Blues should still be in contention for one of the runners-up places in a league season which is turning into a procession rather than a keenly fought competition.
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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