Chelseafinally return to Premier League action this weekend when they travel toAston Villa. After nearly three months off, this restart feels very disconnected from the 29 games already played. Regardless of how it might feel, though, they are connected and the Blues are right in the middle of the top-four fight.
On 48 points in fourth place, only three above fifth-placeManchester United, are Chelsea ready for the restart and how will they fare?
Looking at Chelsea Ahead of the Premier League Restart
Fully Fit Squad
Chelsea have had their fair share of injuries this campaign. Thanks to the stoppage, though, several players have recovered and are back fit.The Guardian’s Jacob Steinberg confirmedthat bothMateo KovacicandChristian Pulisichave returned to full fitness and will be available for selection.
Ruben Loftus-Cheektechnically recovered from his Achilles rupture before the season paused. However, he didn’t make an appearance, only making the bench twice. He featured in Chelsea’s friendly against Reading last week, so he should be available for selection as well.
Tammy Abrahaminjured his ankle a few games before the season came to a halt, butaccording to Oliver Harbord of Football.London, he is ready to go and should once again start at centre-forward when the season resumes.
Finally,N’Golo Kante returned to full-contact trainingwith the squad last week. Upon the resumption of training, the club granted his compassionate leave request to train from home and individually at Cobham due to his concerns about the Coronavirus. Whether he’s comfortable playing in a match upon when league restarts is another issue, but most likely he’ll make himself available for selection.
The rest of the squad remains healthy and prepared to recommence the season. The main question is: who does manager Frank Lampard play with only 11 spots available and a plethora of options at each position? To ease his frustration, he will have the benefit ofnine substitutes on the bench instead of seven and can make five changes instead of three. These are new rules the Premier League has introduced for the remainder of the season.
Not So Light Work
In terms of difficulty, the Blues have a medium-level remaining schedule. They have to face two of the three teams above them in the table, hosting second-placeManchester Cityon Thursday, June 25 in their second game back. On the penultimate matchday, they host champions-electLiverpool.
Lampard will also take his men to Bramall Lane to faceSheffield United, who are pushing for a Europa League place and maybe even a Champions League spot.Wolverhampton Wanderers, in the same fight as Sheffield United, visit Stamford Bridge on the final day of the season.
Thankfully, Chelsea will face more relegation battling teams than just Aston Villa. BothWatfordandNorwich Citywill come to West London and Chelsea will travel across the capital to take onWest Ham Unitedin July as all four fight for survival.
Crystal Ball Prediction Time
When the season resumes, Chelsea will be in three competitions. They trailBayern Munich3-0 after the first leg of the Champions League Round of 16. To put it bluntly, they won’t overturn the deficit.
In the FA Cup quarter-finals, Chelsea travel toLeicester Cityin two weeks’ time. Only three games from a first trophy for many of these youngsters, Chelsea should go all in. But a semi-final loss wouldn’t be a shock, considering who’s left in the competition.
That leaves the most important for last, the Premier League. According toESPNandBBC Sport, league table positions rarely change during the final ten games of a season. So, statistically speaking, Chelsea should hold on to their top-four spot and qualify for the Champions League for the second year in a row.
Plus, with key players like Pulisic, Abraham and Kante back to full fitness, Chelsea seem poised for a strong end to the season. Fourth place is almost guaranteed.