It's not just the Champions League draw that's been kind to Chelsea Football Club today. The schedule for the group stages has just come out, and it's a fairly straightforward one: we kick off against Schalke 04 at home, play Maribor twice in the middle and finish with a very winnable match against Sporting should we be in trouble. Here's the full list:
Wednesday September 17: Schalke (H)
Tuesday September 30: Sporting (A)
Tuesday October 21: Maribor (H)
Wednesday November 5: Maribor (A)
Tuesday November 25: Schalke (A)
Wednesday December 10: Sporting (H)
Of course, the schedule alone doesn't tell the whole story, because Champions League fixtures have an impact on Chelsea's Premier League schedule too. Let's look at how these games are bracketed ...
Sa Swansea City (H) -- W Schalke (H) -- S Manchester City (A)
Sa Aston Villa (H) -- T Sporting (A) -- S Arsenal (H)
Sa Crystal Palace (A) -- T Maribor (H) -- S Manchester United (A)
Sa Queens Park Rangers (H) -- W Maribor (A) -- Sa Liverpool (A)
Sa West Bromwich Albion (H) -- T Schalke (A) -- Sa Sunderland (A)
Sa Newcastle United (A) -- W Sporting (H) -- Sa Hull City (H)
That's four straight difficult matches following meaningful Champions League games. Fortunately three of them are against fellow Champions League teams, and the one that isn't is proceeded by what should be the most straightforward European tie of all: Maribor at home.
Here's what City, Arsenal and Liverpool are looking forward to before they play us: City will travel to Bayern, Arsenal host Galatasaray and Liverpool travel to Real Madrid. So they're all looking at fairly challenging games too -- what might be more concerning is the matches against 'weaker' teams ahead of important CL ties. The Newcastle and Crystal Palace matches look concerning, but fortunately the former should be after qualification is wrapped up and the latter is ahead of the Maribor home game.
All in all, a favourable schedule to go alone with a nice little draw.