The 2016-17 season has been full of twists and turns so far and Chelsea have captured the feel of the campaign perfectly. Antonio Conte’s team reflects the inconsistencies that have been shown so far but their recent form has been nothing short of spectacular. Chelsea have recorded six victories in a row and have not conceded a single goal since they suffered a humiliating 3-0 defeat against Arsenal at the Emirates last month. Their tight 1-0 victory against Middlesbrough last Sunday gave them the advantage they needed, as they climbed to the top of the Premier League table for the first time this year.
Many people wrote the Blues off at the start of the season after they endured a hugely disappointing 2015-16 campaign. Under Jose Mourinho, Chelsea struggled to defend their title and were clawing their way out of the relegation zone heading into 2016. Eden Hazard, Diego Costa and Nemanja Matic, the stars of Chelsea’s title-winning season, had become invisible and came under huge criticism from fans. However, they have turned it back around this season and the quality of their star players is starting to show once more. Costa is currently the Premier League’s top goal-scorer and Hazard has re-found his form, producing stunning displays for club and country.
Chelsea now sit at the top of the table, just one point off Liverpool in second place but the fixtures schedule could dictate who will go into 2017 as title favourites.
Liverpool have made a fantastic start to the season under Jurgen Klopp and have already picked up victories against Arsenal, Chelsea and Leicester City. They have been beaten just once – a shocking 2-0 defeat to Burnley at the start of the season – and have mounted one of the most impressive attacking threats in the league. Draws against Tottenham, Manchester United and Southampton have capped off a hugely impressive run and it has put the Reds into the driving seat going into the Christmas period. Chelsea may have taken a slim point lead at the top of the table but Liverpool, who have already played a number of their rivals, have the opportunity to capitalise on a period of relatively easier fixtures.
In the next six games, Liverpool face just two clashes against teams in the top half of the table, with two teams coming from the bottom six. The 0-0 draw against Southampton at St Marys on Saturday was perhaps one of Liverpool’s toughest fixtures and they will go into their next few games as resounding favourites. The Merseyside derby on 19th December promises to be one of Liverpool’s most challenging matches of the festive period but given their dominance in the season so far, it will be the Reds fans that will go into the clash with confidence. Liverpool could potentially pick up maximum points before Christmas, though a draw against Everton would be more than acceptable. If they did achieve that, they could be in a commanding position going into their blockbuster clash against Manchester City on New Years Eve.
In comparison, Chelsea have two of their most challenging games of the season coming up in the next two weeks and despite their incredible form of late, they will not have forgotten their defeats against Arsenal and Liverpool earlier in the campaign. Those losses were the only occasions Chelsea have faced their title rivals this season so they will be keen to show they are able to pick up wins against Tottenham and Manchester City, who are their opponents in the coming fortnight. Mauricio Pochettino’s side remain the only unbeaten team in England and Harry Kane, who returned from injury against Arsenal just two weeks ago, has now scored four goals in his last three games. Spurs have been hammered by injury problems this season but in the London derby, they still present a serious threat to Conte’s side.
Manchester City, under Pep Guardiola, were tipped to become league champions in the summer and after a bright start, they have certainly simmered down. Liverpool and Chelsea have dominated the headlines for their impressive attacking displays but City have also plodded along quite comfortably and sit just one point off Chelsea, level on points with Liverpool. They have lost just once this season in their opening 11 Premier League fixtures and that was against Tottenham, so Chelsea need to be aware of the threat they pose.
If they lose to Tottenham and Manchester City, Chelsea risk falling behind Liverpool, who look set to separate themselves from their rivals in December. Victories in the next two weeks could change the dynamics of the season dramatically and should Chelsea come out of the Christmas period unscathed, they will certainly be favourites to win the league before the summer of 2017.