For a top, established Barclays Premier League football club such as ours, the international break is a peculiar time.
On one hand, the fact we have so many players going off to represent their respective nations is testament to the quality of the work being carried out at Cobham and Stamford Bridge, but on the other, training sessions for those left behind can become rather low-key affairs.
However, as assistant first team coach Steve Holland explains, for one particular group of players, the international break represents a wonderful opportunity to showcase their talent.
‘We’ve been working with a group of only four players for the past six or seven days, so first and foremost it means the focus is very individually specific and not team-based,’ Holland tells the official Chelsea website.
‘Secondly, there are opportunities for younger players and reserve players to be under the eye of the manager in order to support the training group.
‘Roberto [Di Matteo] would normally work with 20 players, so opportunities are limited for younger players unless there are injuries, but the international break is a time when they will get a chance to train with some senior players and under the scrutiny of senior management staff.’
Holland’s own role while the group is depleted doesn’t change too dramatically, but while his main focus is on the players who are available to train, he is also required to keep an eye on those involved in internationals elsewhere in order to make the correct decisions regarding their individual requirements when they return.
‘As the players begin to come back it’s a case of trying to establish match minutes,’ he says. ‘Oriol Romeu, for example, was involved with Spain Under-21s, while Oscar, Ramires and David Luiz played for Brazil.
‘So it’s about establishing who needs to train, who needs to rest and how many players do we need to do the work we want to do in preparing for the Queens Park Rangers game.’
It’s been a solid start to the league campaign by Di Matteo’s side, with three successive wins ensuring we top the table as we prepare to return to league action.
Saturday sees us make the short trip to take on Mark Hughes’s side at Loftus Road, but while preparations ahead of such an important game need to be meticulous, the first game back after an international break, as Holland explains, is often one of the most difficult to prepare for.
‘It’s very difficult, without a doubt,’ he says. ‘We’ve been helped by internationals being moved from Wednesday night to Tuesday night. It might not sound much, but that extra one day makes a big difference.
‘When they played internationals on a Wednesday, the players wouldn’t come back until a Thursday afternoon, bearing in mind they’re flying in from all over the world, not just Europe.
‘So, on a Thursday, all you would be doing is touching base with them, which means you only have one day – the Friday – to prepare for a Saturday game.
‘That’s better now in that we can allow the players to recover and then have two days to prepare for the QPR game. It’s not ideal, but it’s better than it was, and it’s the same for everybody.’