Throw a mid-week Champions League tie against Galatasaray into the mix and it is easy to see how the next seven days for Chelsea will be a lot tougher than the same period for Manchester City.
The Premier League pacesetters’ next clash is with Arsenal, who retain outside title hopes, while City’s prospects have been boosted by Chelsea’s surprise defeat at the weekend which meant the gap between the top two shrunk to six points.
In fact, the race was blown wide apart at the weekend with vital wins for City at Hull, Liverpool over Manchester United at Old Trafford and Arsenal against their north London rivals Tottenham Hotspur.
Look at it mathematically and City fans will figure out that wins in two of their three games in hand will restore them back at the league’s summit, regardless of their rivals’ results.
There is further comfort for City in the fact that they next face rock-bottom Fulham on March 22 while Chelsea now have Ramires and Willian suspended for their upcoming league game following their red cards at Villa Park.
A win against Fulham could close the gap to just three or four points if Chelsea lose or draw to what will be a refreshed, motivated Arsenal side, also looking for a win in Arsène Wenger’s 1000th game in charge.
The loss of Vincent Kompany could be an issue, though, as the defender saw red just 10 minutes into the Hull game. Martin Demichelis and Joleon Lescott display nowhere near the levels of commitment and solidarity that we are used to seeing from Kompany, so City will sorely miss their captain. That said, a win against Fulham is expected.
Into Europe and three-times continental champions United have a difficult task tomorrow as they try to overcome a 2-0 deficit to Olympiakos from the first leg in Athens.
Manager David Moyes said on Sunday that they would draw on the support from the crowd to try and advance in the Champions League.
“[There was] phenomenal support inside the ground here today. If they give us that level of support on Wednesday night we’ll have a great chance of getting through [to the quarter-finals],” said the under-fire Scot.
It sounds easy when said like that, but in reality they were barely in the games against Liverpool and Olympiakos and it will take a much better performance to see them advance in the competition.
After conceding three penalties against Liverpool, United will be glad to know that Olympiakos missed two penalties back in December against Anderlecht and missed one against Panathinaikos in the Greek league two weeks ago.
This should be no consolation, though: beating Olympiakos will require more concentration in defence, better link-up play between the front men and the midfield, and ultimately sparks of brilliance from Wayne Rooney or Robin van Persie – which United have been severely lacking and are in desperate need of tomorrow night.
Main image courtesy of Paul Currie/Action Images, with thanks.