Maurizio Sarri has Chelsea moving in the right direction once again, and while there’s still some ground to make up before the Blues can consider themselves a title threat again, the signs are looking positive as the team heads into the Christmas fixture programme.
A UEFA Champions League spot certainly seems a more than a reasonable possibility, with Chelsea odds-on in the Premier League betting to secure a top four spot. But it remains to be seen whether they’ve given Liverpool and Manchester City too much of a head-start or whether they can reel them in as we head into 2019.
The Blues have been relatively kindly dealt with by the Premier League’s fixture computer as they have three eminently winnable games to negotiate their way through this festive period.
We take a look at the challenges ahead for Sarri’s Blues during the always-hectic Christmas spell…
Leicester City (H), Saturday December 22
The Blues host Leicester on December 22, where they’ll look to continue their run of dominance over the Foxes in the Premier League.
Chelsea haven’t lost to Leicester since their 2-1 defeat at the King Power Stadium in December 2015, but it’s been plain sailing for the Blues ever since.
Five wins and two draws against the Foxes should give Sarri all the confidence in the world to put out a strong, attacking lineup and go for the jugular against the 2015 Premier League Champions.
And with this game followed by back-to-back away trips, victory on home soil would be a huge fillip heading into a pair of tricky – but winnable – road games after Christmas Day.
Watford (A), Wednesday December 26
It’s payback time on Boxing Day for the Blues, who travel to Vicarage Road to face Watford, who thrashed them 4-1 in the corresponding fixture last season.
That win for Watford was revenge for the last two games against the Blues, with Chelsea hitting four past the Hornets in two successive games at Stamford Bridge.
With an average of six goals a game from their last three meetings, the clash could deliver a Boxing Day bonanza with goals flying in once again.
Crystal Palace (A), Sunday December 30
Chelsea fans get the lunchtime kick-off on December 30 as they travel across town to Selhurst Park to take on Crystal Palace.
The atmosphere at Selhurst Park is always a bit special when the big guns come to play Palace, and it’s fair to expect another lively atmosphere when the two teams face off before the New Year.
Chelsea won 3-1 and 2-1 in the last two meetings between the two sides, but the last time Chelsea visited Selhurst Park they came away with nothing after Palace ran out 2-1 winners.
The raucous atmosphere generated by Palace’s passionate fans can often be a 12th man for the side, so Chelsea will surely look to score as soon as possible and silence the home fans early.
It’s the early kick-off game on December 30, and it could send Blues fans into New Year’s Eve with an extra spring in their step.