Twenty days, and seven games. That is the task in front of us. Well, I say task, the real task is to win as many of these seven as possible.
Five of those are Premier League games, arguably the most important, and three of them are away. When you look at the fixtures, they aren’t the most challenging on paper, until you dig a little deeper.
Between the three, they have only lost once at home in 24 games, and that was Norwich, who have turned their heads and have since won their last five games at home, along with Stoke and Everton, who have won and drawn four each of theirs so far.
Some may think it’s the wrong time to play them, that we could well be rocketing into the 20-odd points behind category. That so, but we’re not alone. The whole Premier League has the next four games in 10 days, which is why the congestion should well work to our advantage.
Our cup tie at Leeds proved we are in good stead for the busy period. Marin, Lampard, and Moses all started, whilst Ramires could return, and Mikel will be back after serving a suspension this weekend.
Our midfield is very strong, which is the reason I think we will come out the festive break as the title contenders that we really are. We face Aston Villa, QPR, and Norwich, who will all display un-experienced midfields, and should Rafa Benitez spread the minutes out between ours, this is where we will exploit them.
Torres is slowly beginning to show some form, 6 goals in 5 games, regardless of opposition, is a good base, although the real test is whether he can score those vital goals, to sneak games by the 1-0 or 2-1 scorelines, which is the telling test for a lot of strikers, being able to win a game on their own.
Our semi-final clash with the Swans has been kind to us. It comes four days after the FA Cup Third Rounds, where we face Southampton away, and Swansea face Arsenal. Why is this kind you ask? Well, the tie with So’ton gives us a chance to rest our massive impact players, the Hazards, Matas, and Torres’, as they may well be playing huge chunks of the next four games, so a chance to recharge their batteries ahead of the semi-final and a few more crunch league games.
Add to the fact that both Torres and Mata played 50+ times last year, and I don’t think we have reason to worry.
We face teams that have their defensive mindset well worked out during this period as well, but with 17 goals in our last 5 games, they’ve certainly had time to practice hitting the net.
They do say that players don’t mind lots of fixtures if they are winning, and with 4 wins in 5, and a chance to build on that first against Aston Villa, we may come out the other side of January feeling very positive indeed.
By Brad Smith