Chelsea learned their path back to Premier League glory today as the 2012-13 Premier League schedule was released. The European Champions will be looking to establish a foothold back in their domestic league after finishing a disappointing sixth place last season.
Let’s take a look at what the Blues have to face to get back to lifting the Barclays trophy (for the complete schedule visit here):
Chelsea kick off the season visiting Wigan on Saturday August 18, which should be a good way for all the newly acquired talent to get their feet wet in Premier League play. But they then must get serious as a week later they host Newcastle in an early test for the Blues.
September begins with all winnable matches against Reading (H), QPR (A) and Stoke (H) with sufficient rest in between each. Though it will also be the same time Champions League play starts, truly announcing the beginning of the long arduous months that are European football. The month concludes with a visit to Emirates, where Chelsea will play arguably their first true must-win game.
October remains open, with only three matches, but it is perhaps their most challenging month. In the middle of Champions League group play, they also have Norwich City coming to Stamford Bridge on the 6th, another visit to North London on the 20th to face Tottenham and finish out the month hosting Manchester United.
By this time, teams will start to settle into their spots in the table, and a clean sweep may be required to get Chelsea to the top.
November is a slight break from tough play, but only insomuch that any team is an easy win in the Premier League: Swansea (A) on the third, Liverpool (H) on the 10th and West Brom (A) on the 17th. However, being in the middle of Champions League group play does make the rotation of players more questionable.
The month ends with a very difficult little grouping of games. After what could be a pivotal Champions League on either the 20th or 21st, Chelsea then hosts Manchester City and Fulham on the 24th and 28th respectively. Both teams have been the undoing of the Blues in recent years, and Roberto Di Matteo will have to be perfect in rotation to keep players fresh and the team competitive.
Chelsea seemed to have lucked out a bit in the incredibly packed month of December, getting West Ham (A), Sunderland (A), Southampton (H), Aston Villa (H) with a week's rest in between each. The holiday fixtures are a little more testy with visits to Carrow Road to take on Norwich and Goodison Park for Everton, on the 26th and 29th respectively.
QPR (H) and Stoke (A) kick off the new year before Chelsea play host to Arsenal in the return leg, starting a trend that seems to have Chelsea playing a contender every other match with Reading (A), Newcastle (A), Wigan (H) and Manchester City (A) through February.
March treats the Blues much more kindly with West Brom (H), Fulham (A), West Ham (H) and Southampton (A). However, Round of 16 Champions League matches fall in between each set of Premier League games.
April is a mixed bag that could prove to be either very tough or a breeze depending on what their opponents, Sunderland (H), Tottenham (H), Liverpool (A) and Swansea (H), make of their seasons. Chelsea benefit from three of those matches being at home but are unlucky that the one away match is at Anfield.
With every Chelsea fan hoping that the Blues enter May with a chance still at the title, the schedule makers have set up quite a difficult home stretch for them to get there. It starts with what could be the match that decides the season, Chelsea visiting Manchester United on the sixth.
After a visit to Villa Park to take on Aston Villa in what could be a must-win for both sides, Chelsea finish their Premier League campaign hosting an always tough Everton side. The schedule makers were not as favorable to the Blues here, as United and City have West Brom and Norwich respectively on the final day, while Newcastle and Arsenal face each other.
The Chelsea schedule is not exactly a favorable one, but then again not one that should be condemned. There is good spacing between “big” matchups and plenty of rest as it is written now.
But we all know that will change as Champions, FA Cup and Carling Cup matches intrude on the English season. However, for right now, I am feeling pretty confident that this Chelsea team should be able to navigate themselves back to an English title.
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