Those are the nice margins in football, and it is intended that the first season of Frank Lampard responsible for Chelsea will depend entirely on the coming months.
Chelsea currently occupies fourth and final place in the Champions League for next season, but their grasp has loosened in recent weeks with Sheffield United and Tottenham who both close the gap.
The men from Lampard are facing important matches in the next five weeks, which will probably prove to be a defining period of their season with an FA Cup tie against Liverpool and a two-legged Champions League knock-out showdown with Bayern Munich.
They will also host both Manchester teams, Everton and Tottenham to include their former boss Jose Mourinho. There’s no sugar on it, it’s just making or breaking for Lampard and his young Chelsea side.
The Chelsea side of Frank Lampard will be facing a seasonal period in the coming five weeks
Chelsea vs Manchester United (17 February, Premier League)
Chelsea is the first on this test run to welcome the men from Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to Stamford Bridge for a collision on Monday evening under the lights.
United is not an immediate serious threat to their top four ambitions, although the win could bring them in three points, so it is an opportunity for Chelsea to give himself some real breathing room.
The men from Lampard have been poor at home lately and have only won once at Stamford Bridge since December 4 – so he will be keen to put an end to that run.
Their opening day 4-0 tampering with United will also give some extra incentive. Winning this will not only give them confidence to tackle this difficult period immediately, but it could also completely eliminate United from the Champions League race and make them less worried about a team. In other words: it’s a big game for Chelsea.
The Blues will desperately try to make up for it after a 4-0 thrashing by United on the opening day
Chelsea vs Tottenham (February 22, Premier League)
For this there will be rivalry in the air, with a London derby for the ages on the cards.
In general there is bad blood between Chelsea and Tottenham, but this time a certain Jose Mourinho was thrown into the mix. It is master versus apprentice while Lampard prepares to close horns with the man who made him one of the best midfielders in the world.
No love will be lost for Mourinho, who now manages another of Chelsea’s rivals after his United spell.
Should Chelsea fail to score points from their draw with the men of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Tottenham could manage well by the time it arrives. A tense affair is certainly billed.
Lampard will fight his former manager when Jose Mourinho returns to Stamford Bridge
Earlier in the season, Mourinho disrupted Chelsea feathers by saying that he was “worried” about the Blues during his punditry tasks for Sky Sports, despite having started a great run under Lampard at the time. It got so bad under the skin that assistant manager Jody Morris went to Twitter to respond.
Chelsea reminded Morris of his behavior and responsibilities after the action, and the club then experienced a relapse in form.
The victory in this, for Chelsea, would be huge. If not, they can get a little hot under the collar. Especially when it comes to Morris.
Chelsea vs Bayern Munich (February 25, Champions League)
If there is one game that Chelsea fans are looking forward to, it is this one.
Nostalgia appears when Blues fans remember the Champions League final of 2012, in which Lampard and Co München overthrew in their own backyard with last-drama, to be crowned kings of Europe for the first time.
Things have changed dramatically since then. This time, Lampard returns to the helm and leads a youthful team that enters the tie as clear underdogs. Few people expect them to improve.
The Blues will depend on their big name stars to get something from Bavaria for the crunch return on Stamford Bridge.
Days after returning to English soil, Chelsea travels to the south coast to face a side of Bournemouth fighting for their lives in the Premier League. Lampard cannot afford to equip players for both trips, which means that the stress levels will be at a peak this week.
The last time Chelsea faced Bayern Munich, Lampard and Co. became European champions
Chelsea vs Liverpool (March 3, FA Cup)
It’s a nice problem to have when you compete on different fronts, but Chelsea has an interesting situation when they face Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool in the fifth round of the FA Cup.
On the one hand, the competition offers an excellent opportunity for silveware for the first season for Lampard. It would greatly increase his stock.
But on the other hand, the club legend will be wary of a team burnout. Progress in the FA Cup at the expense of securing a Champions League place would not be so kindly met in the boardroom, although it would bring a smile to the supporters’ faces.
Lampard and Chelsea are also somewhat in the dark regarding who they will actually play. Liverpool fielded what was essentially a team under 23 in the final round against Shrewsbury, after having seen the draw.
The question is now asked: will Klopp reward those same young players by giving them an outing that they will never forget under the lights at Stamford Bridge?
Liverpool played a youthful side in the final round, including 16-year-old Harvey Elliott
Chelsea vs Everton (March 8, Premier League)
Immediately after the cup match, Chelsea immediately finds opposition in Merseyside.
Everton by Carlo Ancelotti now seems to be really accelerating and is starting to cherish his own European ambitions.
When the two parties met in Goodison Park in December, it’s safe to say that Everton stole the show. Chelsea looked slowly at the hosts dashed to a 3-1 win under the then interim manager Duncan Ferguson.
Changes need to be made, although Lampard and Co might quietly admit that they would like to get a point out of this tricky one.
The Blues travel to the Midlands and shortly thereafter, on March 14, take on Aston Villa in another match where they visit the home of a relegation battler. No doubt new legs are needed, because Villa is fighting to keep its top flight.
Four days after this, the decisive return of the Bayern Champions League collision comes into play.
Everton defeated Chelsea in December and is now in charge of former Blues boss Carlo Ancelotti
Chelsea vs Manchester City (March 21, Premier League)
Chelsea may think they have weathered the storm just for the men of Pep Guardiola in western London.
That said, with a tough collision with Real Madrid on the cards, City will have played both legs and either still fly high in Europe, or back home with tails between legs.
Guardiola wants to end up as close to the top of the table as possible, no matter what happens, which means Chelsea will not get an easy ride.
Previous results may well mean that Chelsea must seriously win to get a grip on the top four position, although City does indeed travel very well in the capital.
So far, Guardiola’s men have won every time they have visited London, except for a recent 2-0 accident against Tottenham.
Of their three other games in London – against West Ham, Crystal Palace and Arsenal – City fell behind 10 times.
City will be desperate to end the season as strong as possible and to travel well in London