The festive fixture frenzy is over, in terms of the Premier League at least, and now we can take stock of the festive games and see if it has been a Blue Christmas or not. From the 23rd December to the first day of 2014 the Pensioners played Arsenal, Swansea, Liverpool and Southampton. Here we will have a look at those games, the highlights, low points and what it all means for Chelsea’s ambitions in 2014. Oh, and Happy New Year to all Blues fans!
Arsenal v Chelsea, 23/12/13 – result: 0-0
Not the great game many had predicted and hoped for, this one was a dour bore draw in which neither side committed too many men going forward. Away from home Jose Mourinho was clearly happy to take a point whilst Arsene Wenger, perhaps wary that he had never got the better of his Portuguese counterpart in nine attempts (including a 2-0 home loss in October in the League Cup), appeared equally happy to settle for a draw.
Of course, in the context of the title race the stalemate was probably better for the home side, preserving as it did Arsenal’s two point superiority over their opponents. The result left Liverpool top at Christmas but in a game with just six shots on target – four of them to the away side – neither side did enough to win the game as Chelsea crowded the middle of the park and got the point they crossed the capital for.
Chelsea v Swansea, 26/12/13 – result: 1-0 to Chelsea
The Blues edged their Boxing Day clash 1-0 against Swansea but in truth their dominance deserved a far more convincing scoreline. Eden Hazard scored the decisive goal to give Chelsea a fifth win in seven league games but Samuel Eto’o spurned two good chances as the home side amassed 19 shots in total. In the end an increasingly animated Mourinho was thankful for the final whistle and he again bemoaned the profligacy of his men in his post-match interview.
Chelsea v Liverpool, 29/12/13 – result: 2-1 to Chelsea
Liverpool were the opposition for the third game in a week and the Stamford Bridge faithful were again sent home happy, although they may have been worried when their side went down to a goal from Martin Skrtel after just three minutes. The defender had a simple finish after Philippe Coutinho’s free kick fell kindly off a Luis Suarez flick and things looked bleak for the home side.
The free kick was conceded after a very poor challenge by Eto’o that could have seen the Cameroonian dismissed but Mourinho will have been delighted by the way his side fought back. The midfield alliance of Hazard, Oscar and Willian, with fine support from David Luiz, was too much for Liverpool and the home side equalised on 17 minutes when the effervescent Hazard supplied a fine finish. Just 17 minutes later the Pensioners were ahead when Eto’o was able to guide the ball past Simon Mignolet and the Liverpool keeper will have been disappointed not to have made the save.
In a fine game both sides could have added more goals and whilst Liverpool could easily have won a penalty – or two – the home side were worthy winners and produced one of their finest displays of the season to end the year just two points behind Premier League pacesetters Arsenal.
Southampton v Chelsea, 01/01/14 – result: 3-0 to Chelsea
2014 started in excellent style for Chelsea as they got their joint biggest away win of the campaign at Southampton to complete the double over the south coast side. The game was 0-0 at the break but the introduction of Oscar and Willian early in the second half was crucial and three goals in 22 minutes from Torres and the two subs made sure of the points.
Mourinho will have been delighted with the way his side played and kept their patience and Chelsea are starting to look like serious title contenders without yet hitting top gear. 10 points from 12 is a fine return and with the FA Cup tie against Derby on the 5th the Blues will resume their Premier League campaign with a trip to Hull on the 11th before a home game against Man United eight days later, the gap between games sure to be a welcome break for the players, if not the fans.
How will Chelsea do in 2014?
Without wanting to tempt fate too much, things are looking all set for a very fine 2014 for Chelsea and those connected with the club. There is sure to be money available in the January window but whether Mourinho is able to get the calibre of striker required is doubtful. However, the current squad has enough strength in depth and ability to produce great things and whilst a world class forward would elevate the Blues to serious Champions League contenders, even without one we predict silverware to make its way to Stamford Bridge before the summer.
Well set in the Premier League, just two points off the top, Chelsea have a real chance of delivering the title. They have played away at five of the top eight, only having home games against Liverpool and City, whilst they have also visited Stoke who have a habit of taking points from the top sides (they have drawn with Everton and City and beat the Blues). On balance they probably have the easiest fixtures of the sides challenging for the title and they should finish no worse than second as Mourinho continues to work his magic.
Whilst the Champions League may prove too difficult for this developing Chelsea side they should have a real chance in the FA Cup and so the Double is a real possibility, albeit one with more ifs and buts than a schoolboy’s lamest excuses. The Champions League is of course on hold until February and if Chelsea can continue to improve then who knows? Certainly they have a great chance of making the last eight given they face Galatasaray in the next round.
So, all in all it’s been a fine Christmas for Chelsea and the New Year has every chance of being very happy too!