Dating game: Chelsea face three matches in five days following FA Cup draw with Manchester United
Chelsea are facing a nightmare fixture pile-up next month which could see the FA Cup quarter-final replay with Manchester United part of a spell of three games in FIVE days.
Sunday's Old Trafford comeback may have kept the heat off Rafa Benitez but it seems set to make his job of making a top four finish even harder.
FA chiefs decided against entering into negotiations with Premier League bosses over a possible replay this coming Sunday, when the Blues are scheduled to play West Ham.
Instead, Wembley officials will convene a meeting with United and Chelsea after the Blues play Steaua Bucharest in their Europa League last 16 second leg on Thursday.
The looming international break means the replay cannot be rescheduled until the first week of April.
And with the Wembley semi-final weekend fixed for April 13 and 14, Chelsea's congested fixture list is likely to become even more cluttered.
With United due to play at Sunderland on March 30 and Chelsea at Southampton the next day, the replay has been pencilled in for Tuesday April 2 - although clashing with a Champions League date will not go down well with UEFA.
But even that could give Chelsea just 48 hours to recover for the first leg of their Europa League last-eight game - which could involved a lengthy flights to Russia or Turkey the morning after the United game - and a home game against Sunderland just three days later.
Chelsea may ask for the Southampton game to be postponed, but there is no guarantee that request - likely to be opposed by the relegation-fighting Saints - would be approved.
Sunday's Old Trafford draw was Chelsea's 30th game under Benitez in just 105 days and their total of 51 matches played already this season is six more than any other club in the Premier League.
The Blues will play as many as 19 games in the 66 days starting on Thursday if they go all the way in both the Europa League and the FA Cup.