Chelsea welcome Norwich City to Stamford Bridge on Sunday with points needed for both teams to help their causes at either end of the table. Although Jose Mourinho has ruled his team out of the run in, Chelsea are still in with a shout of winning the title, although it would need slip-ups from both Liverpool and Man City for it to happen. Norwich slipped into the relegation zone courtesy of Sunderland’s win over Cardiff last week and with Arsenal to follow on the last game of the season, relegation seems inevitable unless the Canaries can pull off a few shocks in the coming fortnight.
Chelsea were resilient and efficient in their win against Liverpool, a result which turned the title race on its head. Liverpool dominated the match but were undone by Mourinho’s tactics, their tight defensive unit stayed compact and counter attacks enabled the Blues to come away from Anfield with all three points. That leaves only a two point gap between the two teams going into the last two games, with Man City now firmly in the driving seat in term of the race. However, Chelsea were undone in the Champions League this week as they suffered a 3-1 defeat to Atletico Madrid, knocking Mourinho’s men out of the competition at the semi-final stage. This may cause after effects to his team but will hope to avoid defeat again after losing their long unbeaten run at the Bridge under Mourinho at the hands of Sunderland in their last home fixture in the league.
Now on a five match losing streak, Norwich will be rueing the losses to fellow strugglers Swansea, West Brom and Fulham at such a crucial stage of the season. The Canaries always knew that their last set of games would be tough and to collect points from any of those matches being anything but easy. Having already lost to Liverpool and Man Utd, Norwich now have to finish the season away to Chelsea and then home to Arsenal. Having only won two of their last ten fixtures, Norwich’s good form around the half way stage of the season is now coming undone after dropping into the relegation zone for the first time since early November. Neil Adams will be pushing his side to give it their all in the last two matches to somehow avoid the drop, knowing that it may take more than just their quality to do so.
In their previous meeting in the season, Chelsea won a narrow contest at Carrow Road with the score line finishing 3-1. An early goal from Oscar gave the Blues the lead with Anthony Pilkington replying for the hosts after the break. The match was seemingly heading for a draw with both teams cancelling each other out before two goals in two minutes from firstly Hazard and then Willian late on secured all three points. It was Chelsea’s first away win of the season and a very hard fought one at that.
Chelsea have a fully fit squad to choose from after John Terry playing the Champions League match after recovering from injury. Petr Cech is also available after recovering earlier than expected after seemingly suffering a dislocated shoulder in the first leg against Atletico Madrid. Hazard and Eto’o also made their comebacks following injury and are likely to play some part in the match. The Blues however cannot call up influential midfielder Ramires after the Brazilian was ruled out for the rest of the season after receiving a suspension for an incident in the loss to Sunderland.
Norwich may make changes following their poor run of form. Their main problem has been scoring goals with Johan Elmander and Gary Hooper vying for the striking position alongside Van Wolfswinkel who started in their defeat to Man Utd last week. Alex Tettey may be reintroduced into the middle of the field to bring some much needed solidarity to Norwich’s midfield. The only player missing is Joseph Yobo who is out with a calf injury.
Andre Schürrle has shown at times when given the chance that he can fit into Chelsea’s style of play and have an impact. However, the idea of using him as an effective substitute has not gone quite to plan with half of his 28 appearances so far in the Premier League coming off the bench and has not managed a single goal in those games. In contrast, all of his seven goals have come in the 14 games he has started which shows just how much more effective he can be when given the chance to start. He has also been able to demonstrate how clinical he can be in front of goal, with a 100% record from his four clear-cut chances. He will be hoping to display a performance similar to the one against Fulham, in which he was able to net a hat-trick.
Robert Snodgrass has been one of Norwich’s more influential players this season and will have to continue in the same vein if his team are to stand any chance of avoiding relegation, especially with the calibre of opponents remaining. Snodgrass has been able to both create chances and contribute with goals with six to his name this season, Norwich’s joint highest goal scorer alongside with Gary Hooper. Creativity wise, Snodgrass has provided an impressive 65 chances for his teammates with two assists to his name with a chance created every 37 minutes. Furthermore, he has provided 271 crosses with 64 of them being on target whilst 31 out of his 73 attempted dribbles have also been successful.
I just don’t see how Norwich will withstand Chelsea’s firepower especially with the home side playing now without any pressure, being outsiders for the title. With key players such as Hazard and Terry back, Chelsea should run out comfortable winners in this game.
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