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Is Chelsea's Premier League Run-in the Hardest? Analysing the Final 7 Matches

Dan LeveneFeatured ColumnistMarch 28, 2014

Is Chelsea's Premier League Run-in the Hardest? Analysing the Final 7 Matches

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    Sang Tan/Associated Press

    Jose Mourinho thinks Chelsea's title run-in is tougher than that faced by either Manchester City or Liverpool, as noted by Miguel Delaney on ESPN FC.

    He says the Blues, the only side of the three still battling for silverware away from the Premier League, potentially face five additional games against Europe's top sides.

    Is this more Mourinho kidology? Or is he right, and do Chelsea have the hardest run-in of all?

29-31 March

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    Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

    This coming weekend sees the start of what looks pretty set as a three-horse run-in.

    With Arsenal's title hopes ended by a thrashing at Stamford Bridge and the subsequent stutter against Swansea, all eyes turn to Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool.

    Mourinho's side is the only one of the three kicking off in the traditional 3 p.m. Saturday slot with a trip south of the river to Crystal Palace, likely to be a tricky side to break down.

    City look to have a much tougher away day with the Saturday evening kick-off at Arsenal. Arsene Wenger is still looking for the first win of his second thousand games with the club.

    Liverpool host the other lot from north London, with Tottenham heading to Anfield on Sunday, something not likely to trouble Brendan Rodgers' side.

    Verdict for the week: a fixture list harder on City than on the other two.

1-6 April

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    David Vincent/Associated Press

    With Chelsea in Champions League action, while the other two sides can focus purely on the league, it now starts to become clear just why Mourinho thinks the Blues have a raw deal.

    His side cross the Channel to France for a Wednesday match with Paris Saint-Germain and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

    They then have to recover for Saturday evening's visit of Stoke to Stamford Bridge.

    Manuel Pellegrini's side, meanwhile, have the mere matter of a lunchtime Saturday visit by Southampton.

    Liverpool head to Upton Park to face West Ham at 4 p.m. on Sunday.

    Verdict for the week: Chelsea has the toughest ordeal by far.

7-13 April

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    Harold Cunningham/Getty Images

    Chelsea again face a foreign legion, with Paris Saint-Germain heading to Stamford Bridge for the second leg of the Champions League quarter-final.

    They then cross another border on Sunday, as they head west to face relegation-scrapping Swansea.

    The big focus of the weekend, however, will be the clash between two of the main contenders as Liverpool host Manchester City on Sunday.

    Verdict for the week: It will be tough for all three, but the extra game against top opposition again gives Chelsea the biggest challenge.

14-21 April

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    Michael Regan/Getty Images

    Manchester City double up this week, as they fight to relieve the fixture congestion caused by domestic cup runs.

    But the catchup doesn't look so tricky with Sunderland heading to Eastlands on Wednesday evening and then West Brom being the guests on Monday night.

    Sunderland travel to Chelsea on the back of that trip to City as the Blues entertain them early on Sunday afternoon.

    Liverpool are the only one of the three top sides away all week with a trek to Norwich on Sunday lunchtime.

    Verdict for the week: It's probably the least challenging week of the run-in across the board, with no side likely to be excessively tested.

22-28 April

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    Clive Rose/Getty Images

    Should Chelsea remain in the Champions League, this is where things start to get really tricky.

    The first leg of a semi-final is scheduled for the Tuesday or Wednesday of this week, and that could mean Real Madrid, Barcelona or Bayern Munich.

    To make things even more difficult, they face Liverpool at Anfield in the weekend's headline game on Sunday.

    City, meanwhile, are at Selhurst Park on Sunday afternoon.

    Verdict for the week: Should the Blues still be in Europe, this is likely to be their hardest week of the season.

29 April to 5 May

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    Harold Cunningham/Getty Images

    And still the games come for Chelsea.

    A Champions League semi-final second leg on Tuesday or Wednesday evening would be followed by the weekend visit of Norwich to Stamford Bridge (this weekend's Premier League kick-offs are yet to be confirmed).

    City make the relatively short trip to Everton, while Liverpool get the miles in with a date with Crystal Palace.

    Verdict for the week: It's a far bigger test for Chelsea than for their rivals.

6-11 May

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    Scott Heavey/Getty Images

    City finally clear their fixture backlog with the Wednesday night visit of Aston Villa.

    Being the final weekend of the season, all games are set to kick-off at the same time on Sunday. City hosts West Ham, Chelsea travels to Cardiff, and Liverpool welcomes Newcastle to Merseyside.

    Verdict for the week: With two of the three contenders facing sides likely to have little to play for, it is Chelsea's trip to relegation-battlers Cardiff that looks hardest.

Overall Verdict

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    Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

    Mourinho is right: Chelsea's run-in is the hardest of the three.

    In five of the seven weeks, Chelsea face a tougher ordeal than either Manchester City or Liverpool.

    That is thanks, largely, to the presence of the Blues in a competition that has already shrugged off Pellegrini's side and never even bothered Rodgers' this season.

    If Blues can ride this one out and still stay at the top, the achievement will have been immense.

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