February could decide the fate of Chelsea's campaign
Photo by Visionhaus

Premier League clubs were recently rewarded the first winter break in the top flight, and many will be eager to return to action after the brief lay off. All but Chelsea, who have a mammoth month in terms of February fixtures and may wish for a few more days on the training ground. 

Frank Lampard will welcome Manchester United as the first visitors to Stamford Bridge on Monday night, followed by the local London derby against Tottenham Hotspurs the following Saturday. 

Bayern Munich make it a trio of home ties in a row for the Blues, as the Bavarians set up a tasty Champions League round of 16 clash on the 25th, before heading back to league action with a trip to Bournemouth to round off a gruelling 12-day period. 

Race for the top four

Chelsea are currently teetering inside the top four on 41 points, with the chasing pack gradually increasing the temperature on a pathway into Europe. 

Ole Gunna Solskjaer’s side are six points adrift of the Blues, whereas Spurs are spying even closer, short by just four points. Sandwiched in between the pair are Everton (seventh on 36 points) and surprise package Sheffield United (fifth on 39 points), so Lampard can truly not afford to let his once promising position slip away.

Jose Mourinho was left red-faced in the last meeting with his former employers, Chelsea masterminding a 2-0 away victory at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in December, thanks to a Willian double. 

Lampard will have less fond memories of his visit to Old Trafford in what was his competitive managerial debut on the opening day of the season; a resounding 4-0 defeat at the hands of the Reds was not the dream start everyone envisioned. 

Chelsea have undoubtedly improved since that loss, beaten just twice in their last ten matches across all competitions, and with neither United or Spurs in sparkling form themselves, six points is extremely accessible for the Blues.

Bayern bare a different test

If pitting against two of your largest rivals wasn't trial enough, then another level awaits Chelsea as Germany's giant comes to the capital.

Bayern are a formidable force in Europe and once again top the Bundesliga table, but only by the finest margins, having drawn with second-place RB Leipzig last weekend.

Hans Flick replaced Niko Kovacic in November, having been on his backroom staff, overseeing a mighty turnaround from fourth place to the positive predicament they presently find themselves in. 

To add more misery to Chelsea's situation, Bayern were the only team in the Champions’ League group stages to record a 100%-win rate from their six matches, as well as the top scorers with 24 goals, including the 7-2 demolition of Spurs in London on matchday two.

Lose the home tie and Chelsea could already be waving goodbye to the quarter-finals; they have lost on just three occasions at the Allianz Arena in their past 35 games. 

So really nothing to fear... Chelsea can take optimism from their most famous encounter with the Germans, that memorable night in 2012 when the Blues beat Bayern in their own stadium to lift the Champions League trophy, in which Lampard himself was a key figure on the field. 

Bournemouth a potential banana skin?

Coming through the other side unscathed would be admirable, if not unlikely, for Chelsea yet there will be little time for rest bite with the Cherries not far over the horizon. 

It seemed Eddie Howe was destined to face the drop only a short period ago; back-to-back wins against fellow strugglers Brighton & Hove Albion and Aston Villa revitalised their chances of remaining in the top division for a fifth successive season. 

Bournemouth have to play Burnley before Chelsea, off the back of a narrow 2-1 defeat to Sheffield United, which could leave the coastal club back in the danger zone, meaning they have everything to play for when Lampard leads the Blues out at the Vitality Stadium on the 29th. 

This - alongside the fact that Howe already has one over the Londoners this term, a 1-0 win at the Bridge in mid-December- means Bournemouth will have to come out fighting and cause a major banana skin for their visitors if they do not approach this in a professional and tactical manner.