Chelsea have had a couple of disappointing results, but the general feeling around Stamford Bridge will be one of optimism during the second international break of the season. The Blues are currently in fourth position and are six points behind the two Manchester clubs. Although they will be slightly disappointed by that, they showed last season that they can go on a winning run and it is way too early for that deficit to be considered terminal. Here are five reasons for supporters to be optimistic during the international break:
They have two in-form strikers
Alvaro Morata has had a great start to life in the Premier League with six goals from his first seven matches, including a hat-trick against Stoke City. His dribbling ability and link-up play make him a much better fit for the Chelsea system than Diego Costa was last season. There were initial concerns regarding the decision to sell the striker, but the impact of his replacement suggests it was a good call.
The news that he will be missing for more than a month with a hamstring injury is a blow, but Michy Batshuayi has been excellent when he has been given an opportunity. The Blues’ back-up striker will be keen to make the most of his chance during the following weeks. The 24-year-old has scored five already this season in the cup competitions and should prove to be an able deputy whenever he is called upon.
They are back in the Champions League
It was weird for the Blues to be out of Europe completely last season and supporters will be delighted that their club are once again competing in the Champions League. The competition has only just started, but they have already secured one of the best results so far with a disciplined performance against Atletico Madrid. They managed to win away from home and that will give them confidence that they can be contenders this year.
The result was by no means a fluke as they had more possession and more shots than the La Liga side. Antonio Conte has never won the Champions League, but he has a tactical mind that suits knock-out football. His game-plan for the Atletico game was spot on and it will serve as a reminder to the rest of Europe’s elite that they are a force to be reckoned with under the Italian.
Eden Hazard is back from injury
The club have had to be careful with the Belgian attacker during the last few weeks as it was important to build his match fitness slowly. Hazard hadn’t taken part in pre-season at all and was far behind his team-mates in terms of preparation. However, he was the star performer of the side’s win over Atletico Madrid and started the match against Manchester City just days later.
These were his second and third starts of the season. The fact that they were in quick succession suggests that he is reaching full fitness and he will be raring to go after the international break. At the age of 26, the next two seasons will be his chance to establish himself as one of the leading players in Europe. There has been a steady improvement since Conte was appointed and he will be desperate to continue that upwards trajectory. Once he reaches his peak fitness level, Chelsea will be a lot better as a result.
Their loan policy is finally proving to be a success
Last season, Victor Moses underlined the worth of Chelsea’s loan policy as he broke into the first-team and played a key role in the title victory. Unlike previous managers, Conte is open to giving fringe players an opportunity in the first-team and that is an encouraging precedent for the future, as those out on loan can see a path to being a regular at Stamford Bridge.
Their lack of squad depth this seasons that they will need a few to step up and the early signs are that they will. Andreas Christensen has been very impressive during the opening few weeks, while Charly Musonda and Kenedy both have roles to play across all competitions. If they all enjoy successful seasons, the likes of Tammy Abraham, Lewis Baker and Kurt Zouma will all be more likely to commit themselves to the club for their immediate futures.
Their upcoming fixtures
The schedule for October offers them with a good opportunity to build momentum ahead of a key fixture against Manchester United at the beginning of November. They have Premier League matches against Crystal Palace, Watford and Bournemouth; a Champions League double-header against AS Roma and an EFL Cup tie against Everton. Conte’s men will be the favourites for every match and six wins will make their rivals sit up and take notice.
Chelsea must recover from their narrow home defeat against Manchester City as they came up against a team at the top of their game. There is more to come from the Blues, especially based on their start last season. They didn’t have a quick start and went on to win the title. It is early days and anybody ruling Chelsea out is speaking too soon.