Chelsea will be fearing another case of the winter blues ahead of second Manchester United clash


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The Independent Football

Having started the season with seven wins from eight league games, and without a single defeat in the Premier League, Chelsea have now lost their last two fixtures.

It was a fine start - something Chelsea have come accustomed to since Roman Abramovich took ownership of the club. The Blues have been either top of the Premier League or second after eight games of the season in seven of the last nine campaigns.

Yet another trend of late is a perceived tail off over the chillier months - the winter blues as they have become known.

Defeat to Shakhtar Donetsk last week in Europe, Chelsea's first Champions League defeat since lifting the trophy in May, was swiftly followed by a 3-2 home defeat to title rivals Manchester United.

Tonight, they meet United again, this time in the Capital One Cup. Many changes to the team-sheets of both sides are expected, but a third straight defeat would be worrying for manager Roberto Di Matteo. Chelsea haven't lost three consecutive games inside a season for over a decade. The last time it happened was in September/October 2002 - with defeats to West Ham, Viking and Liverpool, games featuring the likes of Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, Gianfranco Zola and Jody Morris.

Di Matteo has looked to alleviate concerns that Chelsea will melt like a snowman in the sun over the coming months. Speaking after the United game on Sunday he said: "I didn't see any struggle in our team. We know we have a good and strong team. We just have to ride this moment." He will be hoping they can - in recent years winter slumps have ultimately accounted for the sackings of former Chelsea managers Andre Villas-Boas and Phil Scolari.

But is the notion that Chelsea slip on the ice of the winter months a fair one?

During Jose Mourinho's time in charge between 2004 and 2007, Chelsea were first or second in the league after eight games in all three seasons. They had either retained or improved on that position at the half-way stage of the season, 19 games, in every instance.

The story after Mourinho's departure is different. In three of the five completed seasons since the Special One left, Chelsea have been in a worse league position after 19 games than they were after eight.

That includes the two most recent seasons. In 2010/11 Chelsea were top with 22 points from a possible 27. After 19 games they had collected 34 points from 57 and were fourth. Last season they were third after eight games and fifth after 19 - a position they failed to improve on by the end of the campaign.

Under Carlo Ancelotti in the 2009/10 season they were at the top of league after both eight and 19 games. The season before that they had slipped from first to second.

Rocked by Mourinho's departure early into the season, Chelsea were seventh in the league after eight games of the 2007/08 season. They had recovered to third by the mid-way point.

This season, Chelsea were top of the table by a clear four points after eight games. Following defeat to United at the weekend that lead has been cut to just one. Chelsea's 19th league game will also be their last of 2012 and will be away against Everton. History suggests there's no guarantee they'll still be top of the table at the turn of the year.

Additional research by Ewen Lyall.