Chelsea arguably find the Premier League table in a healthier state than when they left it.
Even after a crucial win over Spurs on the 23rd January, there was still the concern that teams below had games in hand over the Blues before the clash with Crystal Palace on Saturday.
Returning from Abu Dhabi as world champions, Chelsea have been given the helping hand of both Spurs and Manchester United dropping points liberally, ensuring the gap between third and the chasing pack remains favourable.
Now Thomas Tuchel’s men approach a kinder run of games where top-four could be secured with games to spare.
The dread of Chelsea being dragged into another slog for top-four was palpable in January as the gap to Manchester City widened and the confidence of those below grew.
Another piece of silverware acquired will hopefully provide the incentive to finish the league season much stronger and ensure the 19-point gap between Chelsea and Man City is closed before May.
Looking beyond Saturday’s visit to Selhurst Park, Chelsea’s next four league games appear kind. Trips to Burnley and Norwich are mixed into home encounters with Newcastle and Brentford.
Chelsea won four of the five reverse fixtures before Christmas with an aggregate score of 15-1, the one goal conceded coming against Burnley in a frustrating 1-1 draw at the Bridge.
Sandwiched between all of these league fixtures is the Carabao Cup final against Liverpool, the last 16 of the Champions League versus Lille and the fifth round of the FA Cup at Luton.
It can be tempting given the league title is out of sight to treat the Premier League as a side course to the pursuit of silverware in the cup competitions but Chelsea cannot allow for that to happen if they have any hopes of reaching the summit in 2023.
The stress of a final day shootout for Champions League qualification in three of the last four seasons is what has solidified Chelsea’s gap to Liverpool and Manchester City. That needs to change this season even if Tuchel’s men cannot lift the title.
Comparatively City’s next five league fixtures are Spurs at home, Everton away, Man United at home, Palace away and Brighton at home.
Given their form over the winter period, it would be of little shock to see Pep Guardiola’s title-chasers claim close to maximum points.
But as Liverpool have shown whilst Chelsea have been focusing on other competitions, a run of four or five wins will capitalise on any potential stumble.
Even repeating Chelsea’s return of 13 points from identical fixtures would likely see a gap increase over those below who have all shown little sign of consistency.
There is still room for Tuchel to walk away from this league season with a sense of progression and it starts with a win on Saturday afternoon.