Are Chelsea facing an impossible fixture situation?

Mike Hewitt

If Chelsea lose their FA Cup match against Manchester United, it may be a blessing in disguise. Not just for an over-worked Chelsea, but also the Premier League's schedule-makers.

We're all aware of Chelsea's ridiculous fixture situation at this point, with the Blues set for as many as 70 matches this season. Some have even suggested that Chelsea losing to Manchester United would be a blessing in disguise. They're not wrong. Looking at the fixture schedule, it's looking nigh on impossible that we could even complete all of those matches in a reasonable schedule, should we earn them by advancing to both potential finals.

Making things worse is the fact that the Premier League must be complete by the final day, the 19th of May. That date holds some great memories for Chelsea fans, but this year, rather than Bayern Munich, Chelsea will be playing Everton. They'll still probably be playing a do-or-die match for a Champions League spot, but in the Premier League.

Anyway, let's take a look at the schedule for the next eight weeks: [Potential future fixtures in brackets]

Monday, 1 April: Manchester United - Home - FA Cup

Thursday, 4 April: Rubin Kazan - Home - Europa League

Sunday, 7 April: Sunderland - Home - Premier League

Thursday, 11 April: Rubin Kazan - Away - Europa League

Sunday, 14 April: Tottenham - Home - Premier League OR [Manchester City - FA Cup Semifinal]

Wednesday, 17 April: Fulham - Away - Premier League

Sunday, 21 April: Liverpool - Away - Premier League

Thursday, 25 April: [Potential Europa League Semifinal First Leg]

Saturday, 27 April: Swansea City - Home - Premier League

Thursday, 2 May: [Potential Europa League Semifinal Second Leg]

Saturday, 4 May: Manchester United - Away - Premier League

Saturday, 11 May: [FA Cup Final]

Sunday, 12 May: Aston Villa - Away - Premier League

Wednesday, 15 May: [Europa League Final]

Sunday, 19 May: Everton - Home - Premier League

Now, there's obviously no problem if we fail to reach either final. If we fail to even reach the FA Cup Semifinal, by losing tomorrow, there's zero problem. Neither of the matches against Spurs or Aston Villa would be bumped in that case, by the FA Cup Semifinal and Final, respectively. If Chelsea do win tomorrow, the match against Spurs would be need to be rescheduled. There are several available dates. Either the mid-week slot in the last week of April, mid-week in the first week of May, or the gap between the United and Villa games would do, but if we advance past Rubin Kazan, those first two would go away, leaving just the gap in FA Cup Final week. All in all, the Spurs game isn't a problem. It will be played irrespective of results.

Should we advance to the FA Cup Final, however, we'd be left with yet another match unscheduled, with just a week to play it. If we don't reach the Europa League Final, again, there's no problem, but if we do, there's literally no time to play it. I doubt even the PL would be so harsh as to force us to play a match between two major finals, but you never know with them. In that case, we have to look backwards. We'll know with plenty of time if the match will be bumped, but we won't know until very late if the Europe League Final date will be available.

Let's say, for the sake of it, that the Villa game is bumped and we're in the Europa League Final. Where can we fit the match into our schedule? If it's looking likely, the answer is probably the same slot pencilled into for the Spurs match. It only really makes sense to play the Spurs match first to leave that date open, but that just shifts the problem to that particular match. Anyway, are there any free spots for that match? The short answer is, no. There are three possible, but problematic, possibilities.

They all involve playing four games in a week yet again, and having one such week is creating major problems with our over-played squad. The options would appear to be to play Spurs on the Tuesday after it's currently scheduled, bumping Fulham to Thursday, the Tuesday before the Europa League Semifinal First Leg, and the Tuesday before the Second Leg. It terms of likelihood, either of the second two is more likely. Rescheduling both the Spurs and Fulham matches in a single week is very unlikely, especially when there are two moderately-better dates available. Even then, though, there are no great options.

Of course, this situation would require Chelsea to reach both the FA Cup and Europa League Finals, which is still pretty unlikely. We would have to beat United, City, Rubin Kazan over two legs, and a Europa League Semifinalist over two legs. That's not impossible by any means, but it's improbable at this point. Everybody said as much last season, though, and look how that turned out... Reaching the FA Cup Semifinal today/tomorrow would be great, but if we don't, relieving some of the awful fixture congestion and removing another distraction from our Top Four goal would be reason enough to celebrate. We'll find out in nine-and-a-half hours, I guess.

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