In the early hours
The Far East Stand Fri 23 Feb 2018
If there’s one thing that has united Chelsea fans across the Far East over the past month, it would be the sleep deprivation we have subjected ourselves to in order to follow our beloved Blues.
Of course, we’re quite used to waking up in the early hours in this part of the world to get our English football fix. However, the past month has been a bit ridiculous with five consecutive Chelsea games kicking off at what translates to 5am in Tokyo and Seoul, 4am in Singapore and Beijing and 3am in Bangkok and Jakarta.
Not since late last season, when we had a sequence of four games in five which kicked off at that witching hour, have we gone through such an exhausting routine which has resulted in us consuming copious amounts of caffeinated beverages and nodding off at our office or school desks the next day.
What made it easier for us back then is that we were closing in on the Premier League title at that point and the excitement of watching us clinch it at The Hawthorns on that famous Friday evening in May made it all seem worthwhile.
However, it’s a different story in February with everyone still jockeying for position in the league or looking to advance to the next stage of the cup competitions. Of course, the excitement is still there but there’s still so much football left with three months to go in the season.
Of course, there are times when you have to question the sanity of setting the alarm clock for 4am to watch a football match. Like the games against Bournemouth and Watford, when we gave up precious bedtime to watch Chelsea beaten heavily by teams battling to avoid relegation.
At that point, the wiser course of action would have been to chuck out the alarm and sleep through the next few matches. But such is our fixation with the Blues that many of us still rose early to catch the games against West Bromwich Albion, Hull City and Barcelona. And on those occasions, we could feel justified at missing out on some shut-eye time.
The first two brought a huge improvement in form and gave us the big, comprehensive wins we had been hoping for after the losses against Bournemouth and Watford.
But with all due respect to West Brom and Hull, it was the performance against Barça on Tuesday which would pique our interest at what may be yet to come from us in these closing months of the campaign.
While we may not have got the win that our efforts on the evening deserved, it may have been our most accomplished performance since the 2-1 away victory at Atletico Madrid last September.
Like our memorable last meeting with Barça in 2012, our opponents had the lion’s share of possession. However, unlike six years ago, when we were constantly under the cosh and nervously willing the game to end in order to end our torment, there was a feeling that we had things under control.
Against a team that has yet to lose in La Liga and the Champions League this season, it would be fair to say we merited a win. So despite the setback of conceding a late equaliser, we can travel to the Camp Nou next month with real belief that we can win the tie and advance to the quarter-finals.
Hopefully, we can look back at those disappointing results against Bournemouth and Watford as just a mere blip, after an exhausting run of 23 matches in 80 days. With the team getting a few days to recover and refocus after those disappointing performances, there does seem to be a new air of optimism as we head into the business end of the campaign.
We don’t know what the rest of the season holds for us, but after delivering a fine performance against one of Europe’s top clubs, there’s plenty of reason to believe that we can take on - and beat - whomever stands in our way in the next couple of months.
And, of course, there's plenty of reason for us to continue setting our alarms to watch the Blues in action in the early hours of the morning!