With Wednesday’s match, Chelsea finished a stretch of 2.5 months of twice-weekly matches. Starting with the 1-0 win over Manchester United following the November international break, Chelsea played 22 games in 75 days (3.4 days/game) across four competitions, winning half of them, drawing 8 and losing 3. It’s the draws that really hurt the perception even if one of them was enough to advance in the FA Cup on a penalty kick shootout eventually.
We now have a massive four full days to recover for Monday’s game (Watford away), before getting no less than an entire week — an entire week! — to recover for the game on the Monday after (West Brom at home). Then we switch gears, first for the FA Cup clash against Hull City that was generously moved to a Friday, affecting travel for visiting fans but giving Chelsea three full days to then get ready for Barcelona at the Bridge in the Champions League Round of 16. The Barca match will be just the fourth match in a three-week span which will surely feel like boring and lazy paradise for the players (well, besides the existential crisis of Chelsea sitting fourth, possibly even fifth before Monday’s kick-off).
Why does this matter? It matters because even though Conte has rotated the squad well (and arguably the results reflect the constant flux), injuries are still an issue (Christensen the seventh player hamstrung this season!). Muscle injuries tend to happen when players don’t get a chance to rest and recover properly. Conte has reduced his training (perhaps not enough?), but the cumulative effect of all those games, travel, training, etc has certainly contributed to the results, and not in a positive way. This isn’t necessarily an excuse; it’s just a fact of life at most clubs who play such busy schedules.
Beside the fixture list easing up a bit (in frequency, if not difficulty), there is good news in the arrivals of Olivier Giroud and Emerson Palmieri, both of whom are likely to be utilized more than the players they’re replacing, Michy Batshuayi and Kenedy. The two new arrivals trained yesterday at Cobham while the rest of the squad enjoyed their rare day off. Injured duo Willian and David Luiz were there as well to work on fitness drills, with the former expected to be back for Monday’s game and the latter hopefully not far behind either in his recovery from an ankle injury.
With Chelsea severely affected on Wednesday by not having a center forward, not having Willian available, and Christensen getting injured early — no word yet on the extent of his injury unfortunately — having players available to play those positions (in order, Giroud, Willian, and hopefully David Luiz?) would be a most welcome boost.