It is still early in the season but the next six games may go a long way to determining whether Chelsea will retain their Premier League title.
Four of Chelsea's next six matches are away from home, starting with today's journey to Blackburn Rovers, which may offer hope to those clubs attempting to cut the champions' five-point lead at the top of the table.
Whereas Carlo Ancelotti's side are virtually unbeatable at Stamford Bridge, they have looked vulnerable on their travels, with a 1-0 defeat to Manchester City followed by a 0-0 draw with Aston Villa in their last two away games.
Ancelotti, who is today chasing his 50th victory in his 71st game in charge of the club, yesterday admitted to being puzzled by Chelsea's failure to score on their travels.
"Our last two games away we didn't score against Man City and Aston Villa. That is strange for us. We had a great performance when we won 6-0 at Wigan but we have to do better away," he said. Ancelotti, who is relieved that big central defender Alex is fit, accepts it will be a physical contest at Ewood Park, but instead of castigating Blackburn manager Sam Allardyce for his style, he admitted that he would do the same in Big Sam's size 12s.
"To use physical strength, body and power is part of football. So I think that if I am Blackburn coach I would like to use the same kind of play," he said. "They are physical and they use that physical power to win the game. Not only physical, they are also very good players."
Not that Chelsea are adverse to playing rough themselves. Didier Drogba has enjoyed his physical tussles with various Blackburn defenders and admitted the difficulty of the challenge makes victory all the sweeter.
Drogba said: "These are the kind of games you have where you always remember them, the weather is never so good, it's always a real battle. It's difficult to go and play at places like Blackburn, but when you win you always remember them. Results in difficult places always strengthen the team. You need to show them that you are physically there, you can match them, and then we can play."
Allardyce yesterday attacked the high wages paid by clubs like Chelsea, which is making it extremely hard for him to sign players, even those on loan. Indian poultry giant Venky's is expected to complete a takeover of the Lancashire club next month, but has made it clear that only £5m will be made available for players in January's transfer window.
Allardyce said: "They [wages] are astronomically high and have now made it very difficult to even take a very talented free transfer which is what the norm would be for Blackburn in the past, or a small fee with good wages.
"Now astronomical wages are making it very difficult to take somebody who might not even have a transfer fee attached to them, because of the net value that they want and the net value that they're worth. And they know if you don't give it to them somebody else will."
Ronnie Clayton: 1934-2010
Former England and Blackburn captain Ronnie Clayton has died at the age of 76. Rovers are planning to pay their respects prior to today’s match. Clayton, who played at right-half, spent his entire club career with Blackburn and won 35 England caps.Reuse content