Chelsea are the current champions of Europe, and being the champions of Europe comes with a price. The price, in this case, is having a very congested fixtures schedule when the FIFA Club World Cup comes around.
From the 20th of November to the 1st of January, Chelsea have 12 matches to play in different competitions at an average of one match every 3 to 4 days.
If the blues make it to the Carabao Cup quarter-final, the fixture is likely to be sometime around this period. This means that Chelsea could play as much as 13 matches in just 41 days at an average of a match every 3 days, as seen in the image below.
The schedule leading to the Champions League away game is similar to what every other UCL participant will face. However, things get interesting from the game against Zenit.
As it is now, Chelsea have to take a long flight to far away Russia to face Zenit in the UCL, and then travel back to London in time for a Premier League game against Leeds just 3 days later. After the game against Leeds the blues will have to travel beyond Russia to Japan for the Club World Cup.
The question then is, how can Chelsea manage to overcome challenge the fixture schedule combined with the long travel hours? Here are 3 possible ways to navigate through the problem.
1. Request for a postponement of the Leeds game
Chelsea could request for a postponement of the Leeds game.
The best case scenario would be for the blues to take a relatively short trip from Russia to Japan immediately after the Zenit game, set up a training camp while in Japan, and prepare adequately for the Club World Cup matches.
The snag, however, is that such request is very unlikely to be granted by the Premier League.
Even if it were, there is also a long term disadvantage in the sense that the Leeds game will have to squeezed in down the line in between other fixtures. But it won't matter much to the blues if they are able to focus well and land the Club World Cup trophy.
**Thomas Tuchel faces a problem on how to get Chelsea through a different fixtures schedule in December
2. Heavily rotate the squad going for the Zenit squad
Thomas Tuchel could decide to take a second string XI to Russia with substitutes from the academy, especially if the blues have been able to secure qualification for the knockout stage by then.
Doing this could allow him leave the key players in England, sparing them of the tiresome travelling.
The rested players could then play against Leeds in the Premier League before making a single travel to the East for the Club World Cup. This could help the team's performance at the tournament.
The disadvantage to this option is that it is impossible to travel for the Zenit game without some of the players that would still feature in Japan. This means that some players will definitely have to travel twice.
Apart from this, the Zenit game might end up being an important game which the blues cannot afford to lose or draw, depending on how things go in the other group games. If this happens to be the case, it means the key players will have to travel twice.
3. Do a Klopp and leave a second string team/academy to play the Leeds game
Two years ago, Liverpool were in a similar situation, howbeit a worse one.
The reds were to play a Premier League game against Aston Villa just a day before their first Club World Cup game in Qatar. Jürgen Klopp decided to leave the Premier League game in the hands of the u-23 team and manager. Of course, the reds received a 5-0 thrashing.
**Liverpool's academy players lost 5-0 to Aston Villa in 2019 with the senior team travelling to Qatar for the CWC
Chelsea's situation isn't as bad as this. The blues will still have about 4 days after the Leeds match before their first Club World Cup match.
Tuchel could decide to take his best team to Russia for the UCL game against Zenit and leave some of squad players behind in London to play the game against Leeds, alongside a couple of players from the academy.
Tuchel could then travel straight to Japan from Russia with his best team and begin preparations for the Club World Cup. The rest of the squad can join up with squad in Japan after the game against Leeds.
This is the least likely option for Chelsea to take as it could mean surrending the league game against Leeds. A loss/draw against Leeds could end up being costly in the title race.
In the end, Thomas Tuchel is most likely to travel with his full squad to Russia, back to London, and then to Japan.
There could be rotations in the lineup for each game but having the squad travel the total distance may be harmful to the club's bid to conquer the world in Japan.
Whatever happens, Chelsea will not be the first English team to face this challenge and will certainly not be the last. Thomas Tuchel has 2 months to figure out how to win the FIFA Club World Cup in December without sacrificing the UCL and EPL matches.
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