Chelsea is currently steamrolling towards another Premier League title. They look unstoppable. The London side will easily qualify for next season’s Champions League. Chelsea missed out on Europe’s premier club competition this season thanks to a disastrous start in the previous year. With Antonio Conte’s men playing so well, there might be a small annoyance that they’re not in Europe this season. If they were, Chelsea might very well be the tournament favorites.
This is, of course, a big what if. Chelsea is enjoying a lighter schedule than many of the top European teams. Their good form is due in part to a far less congested calendar. However, across Europe, there has been no standout team in any of the major leagues. Real Madrid had an impressive unbeaten streak early this year, but they haven’t looked a sure bet to win anything this season.
Simply looking at league form, there has been no better team in Europe this season than Chelsea. Conte’s switch to a 3-4-3 formation was a masterstroke that took advantage of the players he had, as well as give him something he’s comfortable with. Chelsea’s massive win streak earlier this season was no fluke.
Chelsea’s turnaround this season is largely thanks to Conte’s fresh ideas. That said, there have been plenty of resurgent performances this year thanks to players like Eden Hazard and David Luiz’s return. Luiz, in particular, is a key cog in Conte’s machine. His ability to pass and control the ball allows him to act as a sweeper in the side’s three-man defense. Hazard’s finishing has also done a 180. Where last year it seemed he couldn’t score if he was the only man on the pitch, he now routinely embarrasses defenders. The Belgian scored four in the League last year but has 10 already this season.
Looking around Europe you can see that Chelsea are certainly the most in form club on the continent. Real Madrid look set to win La Liga, but haven’t looked great in the Champions League. Barcelona will always be counted favorites (not anymore) but their form has been off and on as well. Last season’s runners-up, Atletico Madrid, are currently stuck in a battle for fourth domestically. They haven’t exactly set Europe alight this season. If Chelsea were in the Champions League it seems likely their biggest threat would come from Spain, but even they wouldn’t be huge underdogs.
Elsewhere in Europe, there are question marks abound. In Germany, Bayern Munich have looked, at best, disinterested for much of their league campaign. Thomas Müller’s form is becoming a real concern in Munich. They have the squad to win the competition, but on the pitch, they look like they’d be lucky to get past Arsenal. Dortmund had a good group performance, but they’re outside the top four in the Bundesliga and have a very leaky defense. Leverkusen, well, Chelsea would sweep aside Leverkusen with little problem.
Italy and France don’t have too many teams that look like they’re about to challenge for the Champions League either. PSG haven’t looked the same since Luiz and Zlatan Ibrahimovic left. Juventus would be the only real threat in the competition and might have enough familiarity with Conte to cause Chelsea enough trouble.
Chelsea, of course, doesn’t play as much as all of these teams. The 2012 winners get to relax during the midweek games when many of these teams are exerting valuable energy. Chelsea’s form in relation to the Champions League clubs should, as a result, be taken with a grain of salt. Chelsea will get the chance to show what they can do next season, so until that time all we can do is guess. But, seeing as they are easily the best team in England, it’s hard to envision any of Europe’s elite fancying a shot at the Blues right now.