The season is drawing to an end and these two clubs have had differing fortunes. Burnley have had a spectacular campaign as they have been by far the best of the rest. Sean Dyche’s men still have a chance of finishing in the top six and that would represent one of the best achievements in Premier League history considering the past success of the club. Meanwhile, Chelsea have faltered in their title defence and are left scrambling to restore pride during the final weeks.
It was seen as a great achievement that Burnley managed to stay up last season, but their continual rise since underlines the quality work being done by Dyche. The English manager is one of the front-runners for the Manager of the Season award and he would be a worthy winner. The Clarets were talked about as a potential relegation side, but they could finish the campaign in a European position. Arsenal’s recent struggles away will have buoyed the Lancashire team and a top-six finish isn’t impossible by any stretch of the imagination.
Chelsea managed to come from behind against Southampton to avoid another embarrassing defeat, but their overall performance showed the problems that the club have faced this season. Antonio Conte hasn’t been able to find the same success that he did last season and his time at Stamford Bridge is coming to an end. They still have an outside chance of finishing in the top four, but it would take a near-perfect end to the season and that seems unlikely given their recent form. The FA Cup is their best chance of success and that may lead to them resting players on Thursday to keep them fresh for Wembley this weekend.
In the earlier meeting between the two clubs this season, Burnley sprung a surprise victory at Stamford Bridge to give a glimpse of what is to come from the club this season. Sam Vokes (2) and Stephen Ward scored the goals for them on that afternoon, while Alvaro Morata and David Luiz got on the score-sheet for Chelsea. The home side had two players sent off, with Gary Cahill and Cesc Fabregas receiving their marching orders.
The weekend saw the first time that Burnley scored twice in the opening ten minutes of a Premier League match.
Chelsea’s win against Southampton was the first time that they came back to win a Premier League game from two goals behind since 2002.
There were doubts about whether Chris Wood could be as effective in the Premier League, but Burnley was the perfect fit for him and he has proven himself as a very good player in the top division. Sean Dyche is excellent at identifying targets that are tailormade for his Clarets’ team and the New Zealand international is a great example of that. He has contributed nine goals and one assist this season, with a goal involvement 134.5 minutes. That is an impressive record in the top-flight and he will be determined to finish the campaign with a bang. Since returning from injury, the 26-year-old has been in excellent form and that should worry Chelsea, as their defence has been far from convincing in recent weeks. Wood will look to bully their centre-backs with his physicality and that will cause them a lot of problems, especially Andreas Christensen. The young defender has shown promise this season, but he is guilty of making bad mistakes. Five goals and one assist in his last five matches show that the striker is at the peak of his powers. If he plays well on Thursday, the home side has a great chance of taking the points.
The French international was an eye-catching signing made in January and he showed at the weekend why he was signed by Chelsea. He is dominant in the air and has a knack for scoring important goals. Alvaro Morata has had an underwhelming first campaign in England and in Giroud, they have an experienced Premier League player to step up when required. He will know that his role will be a limited one for the most part, but he has earned a start on Thursday and it will be interesting to see if he can continue his good form. Against Southampton, he scored twice to help his team fight back from behind and that determination will have impressed his manager. Burnley are a well-organised team and the visitors will have to take their chances when they come. They will be hoping that Giroud is at his best on Thursday to secure another victory to increase the pressure on the teams above.
Georges-Kevin N’Koudou is a doubt as he is suffering from a hamstring problem. Ben Mee and Jonathan Walters are two other doubts for the home side. Meanwhile, Steven Defour and Robbie Brady will be certainties to miss out.
Danny Drinkwater is unlikely to feature as he continues to battle back from a calf strain. Ethan Ampadu won’t be available, while David Luiz is a couple of weeks away from a return.
This is going to be an interesting match to watch, as Burnley go into the match as favourites against a top-six club. The gap between the two teams has narrowed a lot since their first meeting and Chelsea’s fight has been questioned in recent weeks. They don’t look as committed as they were last season and there are clearly deeply-ingrained issues at the club. They have little left to play for, while the home side will have Arsenal in their sights. Considering they have won their last five matches, a Clarets’ victory is the most likely result on Thursday.
Burnley 1-0 Chelsea