Chelsea have finally made it through the tough holiday schedule, and will be rewarded with a week long break before facing Hull on Saturday. It will be their longest break between matches since November.
However, despite the tough schedule, the last month or so has been a resounding success for the Blues. They finished December with six wins, one draw with league leaders Arsenal, and two losses, sitting third in the table, only two points behind the top spot.
However, a few big months lie ahead, and if Chelsea are to win the Premier League this year, there are five main things that they will have to do. Read on to find out what they are.
Fernando Torres scores the winner for Chelsea against Manchester City.
Obviously, if Chelsea are to win the League, they will need to win matches. And almost all of their matches at that.
However, there are a few key matches against title rivals that stick out more than others, and could decide the fate of the Premier League.
In fact, the next couple of months might just be the most important for Chelsea's title challenge. Despite their current form, Manchester United are always a team to beat, and Chelsea will face them at Stamford Bridge in two weeks' time.
At the end of January, Chelsea will then play West Ham on the same night that Manchester City face a potentially tricky encounter with Tottenham at White Hart Lane. The following Monday, 3 February, the two title contenders will showdown at the Etihad.
Chelsea's away form has been inconsistent this season, so it is likely to be one of the deciding factors in their title challenge. Not only do they play Manchester City away in February, but they will face Liverpool at Anfield near the end of April. Only time can tell us just how important that fixture will be.
No matter what Jose Mourinho claims, Chelsea need to buy a striker in this transfer window.
Chelsea might already have three strikers, but they only have seven goals between them in 20 Premier League matches.
The money might not be there, as the club recently announced an annual loss of £49.4 million (via Bloomberg), but a few high profile sales would free up the money to strengthen the team where it is most needed.
If what Mourinho says is true, and Chelsea really aren't looking for a striker in January, then they will have to work harder at developing that killer instinct in key matches. As the season comes down to the wire, and matches are more closely fought, Chelsea will need their strikers to provide crucial goals.
As the season progresses, the fixture list starts to build up, and the players get progressively tired; squad rotation becomes one of the most important ways to manage a tiring squad, especially if injuries start to take hold.
Mourinho has so far been incredibly intelligent with his rotation policy, always putting out a team that will win, whilst still saving the big players for the big matches.
Some stability might be required to help improve the situation up front, but other than that, the manager's rotation policy seems to be paying off. It will be interesting to see what happens should we see some more injuries, suspensions, or other unexpected circumstances.
If there is one player who is not benefiting from Jose Mourinho's rotation, however, it is Juan Mata.
The Spaniard, who was so important for Chelsea for the last two seasons, has struggled to build any sort of form for the Blues this year—something which has led many people to believe that he will seek a move away from Chelsea this month.
Again, Mourinho has been vocal on the subject, claiming that Mata is not for sale, and that the club has received no offers for the midfielder (via The Guardian). However, his reaction to being subbed against Southampton on New Year's Day suggests that Mata is less than happy with his present situation, and it could be an increasing source of tension if not resolved.
Furthermore, as such a good player spends more time on the bench, his value will decrease, and Chelsea may be forced to sell him for less than he is truly worth. Perhaps now is the right time to cash in and do both the club and the player a favour.
As mentioned, Chelsea had a near-perfect holiday season, and if they can continue this good form, it will put them in great stead for a season to remember.
Players like Eden Hazard, Oscar and Ramires have been dominating the midfield and scoring some spectacular goals in the process. John Terry is back to his very best in defence, and Cesar Azpilicueta and Gary Cahill are both playing their best seasons in blue so far. We might even see more of David Luiz in midfield if his performance against Liverpool is anything to go by.
Good form is as difficult to maintain as it is to find, but if Chelsea can carry it through the next few months, they may yet be lifting the Premier League trophy come May.