Chelsea returned from the international break this weekend with a hard fought 1-0 win over Newcastle United. Substitute Christian Pulisic made a nice run into the box and centered to Callum Hudson-Odoi who subsequently laid it off for Marcos Alonso and the Spaniard bashed it in. With the win, the Blues made it five wins on the bounce in all competitions.
Chelsea Begin Critical Month With Win Over Newcastle
Beating Newcastle, a relegation battling team, at home generally isn’t cause for huge celebrations. However, it was a key win to kick off a critical four weeks at Stamford Bridge. The entire month between now and the November international break is a chance for Chelsea to take charge of their season and make a statement of intent.
Blues Overcome Early Adversity
Entering the season, the squad had very few expectations, unlike most seasons. Club legend Frank Lampard was about to begin only his second managerial season and first in the Premier League. The club had a transfer ban placed upon it which meant no new summer signings. Therefore, several unproven youth players would have to carry the load.
To add insult to injury, an inexperienced manager with a squad full of unknowns would have to navigate playing every three days with participation in the Champions League. Not exactly set up for success.
After some early defensive issues which led to dropping points, Chelsea have found their form of late. After eight league games, they sit tied for third, but behind Leicester City on goal difference. In Europe, they lost at home to Valencia before winning on the road at Lille. After two matchdays, they’re level on points for second, but again behind on goal difference.
Chelsea Back On The Up
The Blues have improved as the season has progressed and if they can continue their good run of form over the next four weeks, they can vault themselves into great positions in all competitions.
In the Premier League, the west London side will face Watford before the November break. They will also travel to Burnley, certainly a beatable side. And they’ll wrap up this period at home to Crystal Palace, who have a torrid schedule having lost to Manchester City and are about to play Leicester and Arsenal. It’s safe to assume the Eagles will be downtrodden, beaten up, and vulnerable.
The Blues should be salivating at the mouth with such a favorable schedule. If they do rack up the points, they will find themselves in a fantastic position to battle for the top 4, a lofty dream back in August.
Ready For Continental Challenge?
In Europe, Chelsea play their two group stage matches against Ajax with the first in Amsterdam midweek. The Dutch lead the group with six points, but a surprising amount of people favored Chelsea to win the group following the draw.
If Chelsea are indeed the jewel of the group, they need to prove it in these two games. Four points must be the goal and nothing less. Valencia will likely pick up four or more against Lille, the weakest side in the group, so the pressure’s on.
Plus, if Chelsea can take four points off last year’s semifinalists, that bodes well for confidence. A win and draw for this young team with many players making their first European foray will show them they belong and deserve to be there both as individuals and a team. And maybe, just maybe, that will give them confidence to make a run in the knockouts.
November Ripe For The Taking
Finally, Lampard and Co. have the Carabao Cup Round of 16 match against Manchester United. Sure, it’s the least prestigious of all the competitions in England, but it’s a chance for Chelsea to avenge their opening day loss at Old Trafford.
Moreover, should they beat the Red Devils, they’ll be three matches from a final at Wembley. Most importantly though, the Carabao Cup presents an opportunity for silverware, something not on the radar at all at the beginning of the year.
The four weeks between now and the November international break is insanely busy for Chelsea. Seven games in 22 days, a slog presenting a test of character for this young side. And they started off well; they struggled to break down the Magpies in the first half, but in the second, they pinned the visitors back for long stretches and the attackers came to life.
So, there are many important questions to be answered over the coming weeks; how will Chelsea handle the mental and physical fatigue and win the games they’re expected to against relegation-battling teams? Will they rise to the occasion against stiff competition in Europe? How will the pressure of building expectations and hope due to their recent good form affect them?
Chelsea have a very difficult month ahead. However, it’s certainly manageable. And if they take care of business, especially on all three fronts, they’ll be in prime position for a successful season even the most optimistic of fans couldn’t have imagined at the start of the campaign.
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