New Delhi: Jose Mourinho's Chelsea starts off with a difficult away tie against Stoke City at the Britannia stadium on Monday. And from there on they face tricky three fixtures up to New year's day, as the period looks to be very important for the London giants in the title race.
Chelsea who lead the Premier League table since the start of the season, are tied on points with rivals and defending champions Manchester City. But they have a chance to get back to a three-point lead if they win on Monday against a determined Mark Hughes' Stoke side.
Chelsea's next three fixtures after Monday are a Boxing Day home tie against an in-form and fourth placed West Ham United. They then take on fifth placed Southampton at home who recently hammered Everton 3-0 at the St. Mary's breaking a five-match win-less streak. After that Mourinho's side travel to White Hart Lane to face Tottenham Hotspur.
From now up till New Year's its 12 points at stake and any slip here could see Manchester City overtake Chelsea in the league table. City have a much easier fixtures road facing West Brom, Burnley and Sunderland with the latter two ties being at home.
City have started to go on a nice run since their 3-2 victory against Bayern Munich in the UEFA Champions League Group Stage encounter last month. The Citizens have been on an eight-match winning streak and are currently are playing their best football this season and that make them very dangerous. Mourinho will be wary of City's challenge and the threat they possess.
So far the road for Chelsea has gone smoothly as Mourinho hasn't had any major injury concerns with relatively having a similar team play mostly. The rotation policy and his tactical brilliance here will be crucial for Mourinho as four fixtures await in the next 10 days. Mourinho will also hope none of his major players get injured during this phase.
Stoke at the Britannia is a tough fixture for visiting teams and last season's fixture here saw Chelsea lose the game 2-3. But Monday's game provide a new entity altogether and Chelsea's eye will be primarily focused on the three points.