Domestic football has paused for an unusual January international break and here we explain why there is one now and which Blues will be away with their country.

After our much needed and well-deserved win over Tottenham, Chelsea are not in action again until Saturday 5 February. We welcome League One side Plymouth Argyle to the Bridge for an FA Cup fourth round tie that day, before travelling to Abu Dhabi ahead of our efforts to win the Club World Cup for the first time in our history.

The break has come at a good time for Thomas Tuchel and his men following a fixture-filled few weeks since the last international break, back in November. But why is there another one now?

Why is there an international break in January?

FIFA have created this one-off international break during the next fortnight to allow non-UEFA national sides to catch up on World Cup qualifiers that were originally postponed in September 2020 for Covid reasons.

With UEFA World Cup qualifying already complete, except for March’s play-offs, the European body are not involved in this break. However, CONMEBOL, CONCACAF and AFC all have World Cup qualifiers scheduled, and of course the Africa Cup of Nations is taking place in Cameroon.

Which Chelsea players are on international duty?

Thiago Silva – Our Brazilian defender, who passed 100 international caps last year, is in their squad for World Cup qualifiers against Ecuador in Quito on Thursday, and Paraguay at home next Tuesday. Brazil have already secured their place at the tournament in Qatar later this year.

Christian Pulisic – The USMNT star has three big games in seven days to look forward to as the condensed CONCACAF World Cup qualification process continues.

The US host El Salvador in Columbus this Thursday, 27 January, before travelling to Ontario to take on neighbours and table-toppers Canada on Sunday. They then return home to play Honduras in Minneapolis on Wednesday, with all three fixtures expected to take place in sub-zero temperatures.

The US are currently in second place in qualifying, a point behind Canada and a point ahead of Mexico and Panama. The top three teams qualify automatically, with the team in fourth heading into an intercontinental play-off set for June 2022.

Edouard Mendy – The goalkeeper has been away with Senegal since the Liverpool game at the beginning of this month. Mendy’s participation at the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations was delayed by a positive Covid result, but he was back between the Senegalese sticks for their goalless draw against Malawi that secured top spot in their group.

Today (Tuesday) the Lions of Teranga play Cape Verde in the last 16, kick-off 4pm UK time. The winners will play Mali or Equatorial Guinea in the quarter-finals on Sunday. The final is set for the following Sunday 6 February, a day after our Plymouth game.

When is the next international break?

The next international break is the customary one in late March. World Cup play-offs will take place in Europe, Italy among those involved, with qualifying also continuing in Asia, Africa, and the Americas. England play friendlies against Czech Republic and Ivory Coast.