After a dreadful 2015-16 season and the departure of the previously mega-successful Jose Mourinho under a dark cloud, Chelsea started 2016-17 with Italian Antonio Conte at the helm. The first few weeks of the season started with much of the same, with some players clearly displaying a ‘Mourinho hangover’ from the previous season and lacking confidence on the pitch. Conte however has managed to get a lot out of a team that was left in the lurch and even has some players who were outsiders under Mourinho pulling out the stops and putting in solid performances game after game. Now, they are sitting at the top of the league with a high likelihood of winning their fifth title and have been made favourites to make it to Wembley in May and potentially do the double.
Chelsea’s FA cup games so far have been a walkover. They entered the 3rd round to play League One outfit Peterborough United in a home game which saw them demolish The Posh 4-1. Despite a goal for the visitors and a red card for Blues’ veteran John Terry, a brace from a rejuvenated Pedro and one each for new arrival Michy Batshuayi and winger Willian was more than enough to book their place in round four.
Another home game against Brentford at the end of January was again an easy fixture for Chelsea, who managed to keep a clean sheet and still put away four goals in a thumping which showed how much Conte’s men want to win games at the moment. Again, Pedro, Batshuayi and Willian managed to get on the score sheet, along with a last career goal for Branislav Ivanovic, who moved to Zenit Saint Petersburg in the January transfer window.
Wolves went into their last 16 home fixture off the back of an average run in the second tier and again fell victim to Chelsea’s high tempo, clinical play. Pedro booked his place on the ‘indispensable’ list with yet another FA cup goal, backed up by an excellent 89th minute strike by Diego Costa to see off a side which put up the biggest fight so far. The match was a little bit closer than previous games, but class won out eventually and Chelsea booked their place in the next fixture.
The blues have a much bigger challenge in the quarter final, with Manchester United paying a visit to Stamford Bridge on the 13th of March. Despite Chelsea having a home advantage and displaying much better performances than United recently, the Red Devils are fresh off the back of a League Cup title win and Mourinho will be looking for justification that he’s the man for the job following poor runs in the EPL and some shaky outings in the Europa league. Anything could happen in this one as two experienced managers with world class players at their disposal go head to head.
With teams like Arsenal, Man City and Tottenham still in the competition, it looks like Chelsea will still have some tough games ahead of them if they manage to see off United. It will be interesting to see if they can maintain the same performance level and whether closer games will affect the odds of them taking home more silverware as the competition progresses.