A few weeks ago, this fixture looked like it could be a dead rubber, but both of these teams have something to play for as we enter the final week of the Premier League season. Chelsea are now on the tails of both Tottenham and Liverpool with Champions League being a possibility for them. Although it remains out of their own hands, they have given themselves a chance and they will know that anything can happen at the end of a season, with pressure and momentum often playing a huge part. Meanwhile, Huddersfield Town are still in the relegation fight, despite having three more points than both Southampton and Swansea City.
The year of 2018 has been an underwhelming one for Chelsea on the whole, yet they could finish the season by qualifying for the Champions League and winning the FA Cup. Considering the disconnect between club and coaching staff, that would be a great achievement and provide a platform to build on over the coming seasons. It is obvious that the club need stability and it is unlikely that Antonio Conte is the manager to provide that. He hasn’t looked happy all season and a change could benefit everybody connected to the club. That said, it would be nice to see him finish on a high and a win on Wednesday is needed for that.
Huddersfield Town are close to achieving safety and are in a strong position heading in to the final two matches, but their remaining fixtures don’t make for nice reading. They have to face Chelsea and Arsenal in their final two games. They are currently three points above the drop zone, but their inferior goal difference is a concern. One more point should be enough to see them safe, but that is far from guaranteed. The Terriers will take a lot of heart from their dogged performance against Manchester City. They became only the third team to avoid defeat at the Etihad Stadium in the Premier League and kept a clean sheet against the Champions, which is impressive.
Alvaro Morata is a doubt with a knock. Olivier Giroud is expected to remain in the starting eleven after a crucial goal against Liverpool closed the gap on the top four. Danny Drinkwater remains on the sidelines with a calf strain. David Luiz and Ethan Ampadu are the other two absentees for the home side.
Chris Lowe and Michael Hefele are both doubts for the trip to Stamford Bridge. Elias Kachunga and Danny Williams remain on the sidelines. Neither are expected to feature for the remainder of the campaign.
- Since the beginning of the 2015/16 season, Olivier Giroud has scored 17 headers, which is more than any other player in the top five European leagues.
- Huddersfield Town became the first team to keep a clean sheet at the Etihad Stadium in the Premier League this season.
There were raised eyebrows when Chelsea chose to sign Olivier Giroud in January. The French international had been out in the cold at Arsenal and had to rely on substitute appearances to make his mark. It was thought that a similar role would be awaiting him at Stamford Bridge, but in recent weeks, he has emerged as the premier striker at the club ahead of Alvaro Morata. The Spanish striker has struggled to adjust to the Premier League and the experience possessed by Giroud makes him a great short-term option for Antonio Conte. He is a perfect fit for the system and leads the line effectively, while bringing the midfield players into the game in the final third. The 31-year-old is in good form having scored four goals in his last five matches across all competitions. This included a vital winner against Liverpool this past weekend. The World Cup will be in his thoughts and a strong finish to the season could see him make the French squad for Russia. That coupled with potential Champions League qualification will be more than enough motivation to perform well on Wednesday.
The Australian international has been one of the driving forces behind Huddersfield’s progression as a club over the last two seasons. He has settled into English football quickly and has proven himself in the top-flight this season. For a central midfielder operating in the bottom half of the table, his return of four goals and three assists is very impressive. His underlying numbers show his value to the Terriers, as he averages 1.56 chances created and 2.73 ball recoveries per ninety minutes. The former Manchester City player contributes in both halves of the pitch and he will be key at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea will look to dominate the central areas with Ngolo Kante and Cesc Fabregas. Mooy will need a strong showing to ensure his team isn’t overrun.
The Champions League race being back on means that Chelsea will go into this fixture with renewed optimism and that is bad for Huddersfield. The Terriers worked extremely hard against Manchester City and their energy levels may be lower than usual for the match at Stamford Bridge. The home side should have enough quality to get the three points and increase the pressure further on the teams above. A top four finish remains unlikely, but I expect the Blues to take it to the final day.