FA must help Chelsea in fixture pile-up

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Football News

If Chelsea manage to overcome Benfica in the Champions League they will ask the Football Association to reschedule their FA Cup semi-final – and the English game's governing body must acquiesce.


While it may not be wise to get ahead of ourselves, as the Portuguese side will pose more than a few problems for the struggling Blues – Didier Drogba has done little to help their chances.


If it does happen then the FA should do something they rarely do and give an English team special treatment with regards to fixture scheduling.


If the Stamford Bridge club do overcome Benfica over the two legs, they will be faced with a Wembley fixture on Sunday afternoon and the first leg of the semi-final the following Wednesday.


This should usually not be a problem for a side who claim to be one of the foremost in the country and so should be able to handle a midweek fixture, but circumstances are a little different from usual.


To play two semi-finals in three days is a daunting task for any side, but Chelsea are ailing at the moment and have looked heavy legged in the past couple of weeks, where a troubled Premier League campaign has been interspersed with various cup commitments.


Some weight must be attributed to the argument that they are the only remaining English side in European competition and so should be aided where possible by the governing body in this country.


What with the nature of commercial success running in line with success on the pitch, you imagine there would be no problem moving the game to the Friday night if it were a Premier League fixture – a more commercially savvy, some would say orientated, body.


The FA could never really be accused of such a thing, in fact, it would not be unreasonable to suggest they are as far away from having their finger on the pulse as it could get.


There are difficulties around the rearrangement because normally it would only be a case of swapping the two ties, but the Sunday is April 15 and the 23rd anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster.


Liverpool, quite rightly, never play on that day and you would say that this must take precedence over an extra 24 hours rest for a group of players.


Television companies would most probably have something to say about moving a semi-final from a Sunday afternoon to a Friday night, especially when it could possibly be a London derby with Tottenham Hotspur.


Spurs replay their FA Cup quarter-final tie with Bolton Wanderers on Tuesday, originally abandoned after Wanderers midfielder Fabrice Muamba suffered a heart attack on the pitch.


Chelsea will also point to the example of the action taken from associations on other countries who have given teams special dispensation to move fixtures ahead of key European games.


Both Chelsea’s next and last Champions League opponents, Benfica and Napoli, were allowed to move games to a Friday ahead of their last 16 fixtures – something that the French football association are taking to another level.


“The last French club in the European Cup, OM is defending the position of France in the Uefa index in the interest of French football,” a statement issued on the Ligue de Football Professionnel (LFP) website read.


While the LFP have jurisdiction over the game, they came to a decision with the FFF (French FA) that saw Marseille’s game against Montpellier moved back an entire week to help them recuperate properly between the clashes with Bayern Munich.


The French associations are understandably worried about their UEFA coefficient, which is currently below Portugal and they will likely lose a Champions League place if Marseille do not progress past the Bundesliga side.


English clubs have no need to concern themselves with coefficients, as they would need to perform particularly badly over the next two or three seasons to be in any danger of suffering.


One thing it does do, though, is provide a precedent that the FA can work from in order to justify a fixture change.


Even if you aren’t a Chelsea fan, there must be some part of you that wants the club to do well representing England and the Premier League in Europe’s premier club competition.

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Didier Drogba
European News
Premier League
UEFA Champions League
FA Cup

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