Chelsea FC: Previewing and Predicting the Next 6 Games on the Blues Schedule

Kevin Stott@@KevinStott11Senior Analyst IFebruary 17, 2014

Chelsea FC: Previewing and Predicting the Next 6 Games on the Blues Schedule

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    Lefteris Pitarakis/Associated Press

    After absolutely shooting out of the gates to start off the year 2014, Chelsea seems to have hit a little speed bump as of late with a home draw to West Bromwich Albion in league play and a loss to Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium in the FA Cup in a five-day period last week which saw the Blues allow more goals (three) and losses (one) than the torrid team had in total since Dec. 17.

    Oh, the humanity.

    Looking at Chelsea's schedule, it seems the Blues can do themselves a great favor by winning at least four, maybe five of their next six games, which include four English Premier League fixtures and the two legs of its UEFA Champions League round of 16 series against Turkish Super Lig giant Galatasaray and former Chelsea god Didier Drogba.

    On paper—or on the computer at least brother—it looks like a very promising stretch for Chelsea with the slim possibility the Blues can win all six of these games and both hold on to first place in the EPL and qualify for the Champions League quarterfinals over this span.

    Let’s examine.

Chelsea vs. Everton, February 22

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    Jon Super/Associated Press

    What: English Premier League Week 27
    When: Saturday, February 22, 2014
    Where: Stamford Bridge, West London, England, United Kingdom
    Time: 12:45 (UK) 7:45 a.m. ET/4:45 a.m. PT
    Last Season: Chelsea won 2-1 (May 19)
    Worldwide Livestreams and TV Channels:
    TV: NBC Sports Network, NBCSN Live Extra (US); BBC One, BT Sport 1 (UK)
    Potential Entertainment Grade: A-

    What better way to celebrate George Washington’s birthday than to take in a little English Premier League soccer? But if you plan on watching this promising match between Chelsea and Everton and you live in the United States, well, you’re going to have to set your alarm clock.

    In this fixture last season, the Blues chewed up the Toffees, 2-1 in the last game of the season, on May 19—a date that will go down in Chelsea history. When these two clubs last met in league play this season at Goodison Park, Everton handed the Blues their first loss of the season, and earned new manager Roberto Martinez his first win as Steven Naismith’s header late in the first half proved to be the difference in a 1-0 home win.

    But here, at Stamford Bridge, it will be a different story for the Toffees (6-3-4 road, 23 goals for, 19 goals against) against first-place Chelsea (17-6-3) as the Blues are an unbeaten 11-2-0 in West London—outscoring foes 28-9—and boast the best defense in England’s top flight (21 goals allowed).

    Everton’s (12-9-4) four losses is still the second-lowest total in the Premier League behind Chelsea (three) and with goalkeeper Tim Howard, Kevin Mirallas (5 goals/5 assists) and Manchester City loanee Gareth Barry (3 goals/3 assists), the Toffees have kept themselves in the thick of the league race despite losing manager David Moyes and Marouane Fellaini to Manchester United over the summer. Insert joke here.

    One guy who the Blues won’t have to worry about facing is loanee Romelu Lukaku (9 goals), who couldn’t play against his own club anyway, and the young Belgian striker is now targeting a March 1 return from an ankle injury according to ESPNFC.

    Chelsea should find a way to win this game somehow, though expect a real dogfight and a little luck to go the home team’s way. The Blues are hoping to get the services of captain John Terry back and they will certainly need him as the Europa League champions can ill afford to fritter away points as it looks like one of the tightest league races in years is on the horizon.

    So, can Everton and Leighton Baines break Jose Mourinho’s home win streak in league play for Chelsea? If any club can, it’s the Toffees, but getting the Blues on the heels of a tough home draw to West Bromwich Albion followed by an elimination loss to Manchester City in the FA Cup in the same week? Consider Everton’s timing pretty lousy here.

    PREDICTION: Chelsea 2 Everton 1

Galatasaray vs. Chelsea (Leg 1), Feb. 26

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    Uncredited/Associated Press

    What: UEFA Champions League Round of 16 (Leg 1)
    When: Wednesday, February 26, 2014
    Where: Turk Telekom Arena, Sisli, Istanbul, Turkey
    Time: 19:45 (UK) 2:45 p.m. ET/11:45 a.m. PT
    Worldwide Livestreams and TV Channels:
    TV: Fox Sports 1, Fox Soccer 2Go (US)
    Potential Entertainment Grade: A+

    Hats off to whoever wrote the script here. Didier Drogba versus his old teammates on the international stage in the most prestigious competition in Europe for a chance to advance to the quarterfinals? And twice? Mercy. Oh my. I think I’m catching a case of the vapors. Let me get some water...

    The opening leg here takes place in Istanbul’s Turk Telekom Arena—a stadium mentioned in the first chapter of Tom Clancy’s novel Threat Vector, as well as Galatasaray—where Chelsea may find its toughest sledding of this six-game stretch here against the sometimes nicknamed Cimbom. No, not Cinnabon, Dappy. Cimbom. Like, well like nothing we’ve heard before. Now skedaddle, meathead. I have words to type here. Serious ones.

    One thing we can expect here is smiles galore, for awhile at least, as Drogba and his former Blues teammates trip on the reality of seeing each other on opposing sides of the ball for the first time ever.

    Then somebody will score and this opening leg will get real serious, real quick. Or Branislav Ivanovic may give the old Ivorian a little mid-week elbow in the spleen and we will all be forced to examine our feelings in seeing Our Boy getting bruised by Our Boys.

    For Chelsea, winning in Turkey will likely come down to being able to score two goals away from home in this situation and with Eden Hazard in a groove, Samuel Eto’o playing better, Fernando Torres now healthy and newbies Willian and Nemanja Matic fitting in like they’ve been Blues all along, the Europa League champions should be able to find a way to beat Gala goalkeeper Fernando Muslera at least twice in this one.

    On defense, expect Chelsea netminder Petr Cech and the Blues storied defense to be tested a little more than usual by the likes of the exalted Drogba, Wesley Sneijder, Felipe Melo and Burak Yilmaz. And if the Premier League leaders can somehow score two goals or more here, it will make the return leg in West London on March 18 that much easier.

    The Blues should be able to do just that, but whether or not they can actually win the game in Turkey remains to be seen and this one seems it could be the toughest of the coming six.

    PREDICTION: Galatasaray 2 Chelsea 2

Fulham vs. Chelsea, March 1

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    Sang Tan/Associated Press

    What: English Premier League Matchweek 28 
    When: Saturday, March 1, 2014
    Where: Craven Cottage, London, England, United Kingdom
    Time: 15:00 (UK) 10 a.m. ET/7 a.m. PT
    Last Season: Chelsea won 3-0 (April 17)
    Worldwide Livestreams and TV Channels:
    TV: NBC Sports Live Extra (US)
    Potential Entertainment Grade: C

    At first glance, this London derby with 20th-place Fulham (6-2-18) seems like an easy three points for Mourinho & Company but this Cottagers team (3-1-9 home) is incredibly feisty, and is now fighting for its Premier League lives. Fulham just tied defending league champions Manchester United at Old Trafford (2-2) and gave Liverpool the scare of its life in its last EPL game (2-3).

    But as always for Steve Sidwell (6 goals) and Fulham—which sold Dimitar Berbatov (4 goals) to AS Monaco over the winter transfer window—giving up goals (league-high 54) is a major problem and the club’s -32 goal differential was seven worse than the second-closes team at press time. And the Cottagers 18 losses is the worst in the Premier League, a gruesome three more than its closest competitors (Crystal Palace, 15).

    Toss in a sudden managerial change—from Rene Meutensten to Felix Magath—and stability is another problem at this point in time, as well as the Cottagers’ porous defense and its waning confidence. If Chelsea can’t start finding a way to go out and seize road wins against lessor league opponents like this, well then, the Blues probably doesn’t deserve to win the title anyway.

    Here, my royal blue crystal ball sees a Torres brace in one of his last great performances for Chelsea with Cech registering yet another clean sheet over the Cottagers and continuing to prove that leaving Thibaut Courtois on loan at Atletico Madrid was probably a pretty wise move.

    And remember this one, as this may be the last time the Blues play Fulham (20 points) for quite some time should the club indeed end up being relegated in May.

    PREDICTION: Fulham 0 Chelsea 2

Chelsea vs. Tottenham Hotspur, March 8

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    Scott Heppell/Associated Press

    What: English Premier League Matchweek 29
    When: Saturday, March 8, 2014
    Where: Stamford Bridge, West London, England, United Kingdom
    Time: 17:30 (UK) 12:30 p.m. ET/9:30 a.m. PT
    Last Season: Teams tied 2-2 (May 8)
    Worldwide Livestreams and TV Channels:
    TV: NBC Sports Live Extra (US)
    Potential Entertainment Grade: B+

    Another Saturday in early March, another London derby for Chelsea, this time with fifth-place Tottenham Hotspur (15-5-6) which is still in the thick of the race for both a precious Champions League berth as well as potentially a league title, though more of a stretch. But a win here in SW6 against The Special One would provide the kind of spark Spurs would just love heading down the homestretch.

    Tottenham striker Emmanuel Adebayor (8 goals) will be the man the Blues need to focus on, but with guys like Cesar Azpilicueta, Gary Cahill, John Terry and Branislav Ivanovic, Chelsea’s defense can honestly play with anyone in the world. Yes, anyone, including defending European champions Bayern Munich and Spanish giants Real Madrid and Barcelona.

    When these two clubs met on Sept. 28 at White Hart Lane, it ended 1-1 so the home team will be looking for all three points in this one which could evolve into a fairly high-scoring affair with Nemanja Matic, Eden Hazard and Cahill scoring for the Blues and Adebayor banging one in for Tottenham which is a very respectable 9-9-2 away (21 goals for, 14 goals against) for manager Tim Sherwood who will be replaced this summer by Cesare Prandelli.

    PREDICTION: Chelsea 3 Tottenham 1

Aston Villa vs. Chelsea, March 15

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    Kirsty Wigglesworth/Associated Press

    What: English Premier League Matchweek 30
    When: Saturday, March 15, 2014
    Where: Villa Park, Birmingham, England, United Kingdom
    Time: 17:30 (UK) 12:30 p.m. ET/9:30 a.m. PT
    Last Season: Chelsea won 2-1 (May 11)
    Worldwide Livestreams and TV Channels:
    TV: NBC Sports Live Extra (US)
    Potential Entertainment Grade: B-/C+

    This fixture may not be as thrilling as some of the others in this slideshow, but for Chelsea, securing all three points in this match against 12th-place Aston Villa (7-7-12) at Villa Park will be imperative—especially after leaving two (points) on the table after West Brom’s late goal in the disappointing draw—as the Blues battle Manchester City, Liverpool and Arsenal for the Premier League title.

    And what’s good for Chelsea and manager Jose Mourinho here is the fact that manager Paul Lambert’s Lions are much, much better away from Birmingham than they are at home (3-2-8, 12 goals for, 21 goals against). Go figure.

    Christian Benteke (7 goals) is Villa’s biggest threat on offense but the big guy has been quiet as of late and just four points above the nightmarish relegation zone (28-24) on Feb. 16, the Claret and Blue had better not take anything for granted these next three months.

    In the first meeting this season on Aug. 21 at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea eked out a 2-1 win as the Blues benefited from an early Antonio Luna own goal before Benteke knotted it at 1-1 right before halftime.

    Chelsea ended up winning the game over Villa on a Branislav Ivanovic goal at the 73-minute mark, something Blues fans have become quite accustomed to over the last three seasons—defenders scoring goals, including some extremely crucial ones.

    This game could be very similar.

    PREDICTION: Aston Villa 1 Chelsea 2

Chelsea vs. Galatasaray (Leg 2), March 18

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    Uncredited/Associated Press

    What: UEFA Champions League Round of 16 (Leg 2)
    When: Tuesday, March 18, 2014
    Where: Stamford Bridge, West London, England, United Kingdom
    Time: 19:45 (UK) 2:45 p.m. ET/11:45 a.m. PT
    Worldwide Livestreams and TV Channels:
    TV: Fox Soccer 2Go (US)
    Potential Entertainment Grade: A+

    “Another A+” you chirp? Why yes, another A+. The potential is certainly there. Didier Drogba finally returning home to play at Stamford Bridge. The possibility, and probability, that the game will decide who ends up advancing to the quarterfinals. The raucous London crowd singing like they’re getting paid for it, still a bit affected by the previous night’s St. Patrick’s Day festivities. Why, my stomach hurts already and it’s a month away.

    What actually ends up happening here obviously will depend much upon what happened in the first leg in Istanbul but, odds are, neither team buried the other in that first leg. If Chelsea did somehow come up with two road goals at the Turk Telekom Arena, well then I imagine you’ll be sick of the phrase “Park the bus” at about the 11:11 mark of the first half here.

    Despite having Drogba and all his magic, Galatasaray and the visitors should have trouble scoring on English soil, especially if the pressure is on, although having another veteran player like Wesley Sneijder calming the side should help.

    But one wonderful thing about this Chelsea roster is its depth and with guys like Oscar, Demba Ba, Andre Schurrle, David Luiz, Ashley Cole and stud Frank Lampard all also able to contribute and provide valuable minutes, Mad Man Mourinho pretty much has it made in terms of personnel despite all his talk of little horses and milk.

    PREDICTION: Chelsea 3 Galatasaray 0


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    Scott Heppell/Associated Press

    So, Chelsea goes 5-1-0 over this somewhat crucial, end-of-winter stretch with the Blues winning all four of their Premier League games (Everton, Fulham, Tottenham and Aston Villa), and winning at home and drawing—or possibly even winning—on the road in Turkey against Drogba and Galatasaray in Champions League play. So 6-0-0 is a distinct possibility, although it will take the offense being at the top of its game for that blue-sky scenario to come to fruition.  

    Next up on Chelsea's schedule after these featured games as spring is ushered in are Premier League dates vs. rivals Arsenal at Stamford Bridge (March 22); at Crystal Palace (March 29); vs. Stoke City at home (April 5); at Swansea City (April 12); and against Sunderland (April 19) in West London, all very winnable games for the Blues.

    Chelsea and its fans really couldn’t ask for anything more.

    >Follow me on Twitter: @KevinStott11