Chelsea have an opportunity to move back into the top four on Monday night. They are welcoming Burnley to Stamford Bridge, a team who more or less secured their safety last weekend against Cardiff City. It is a game that the home side should be winning. It won’t be straight forward though, as the visitors have been much improved since the turn of the calendar year. They will go into the game with nothing to lose and that makes them a dangerous opponent.
Maurizio Sarri had had a mixed first season in charge of Chelsea. His team have an opportunity to finish in the top four and win the Europa League this season. Both avenues would provide Champions League qualification and it is crucial that the Blues achieve that for next season. The uncertainty surrounding the future of Eden Hazard and the transfer ban means that they must be at Europe’s top table. If they are to gain qualification through the Premier League, they need to win on Monday night.
Burnley are set to achieve Premier League safety for another season. Sean Dyche deserves a lot of credit for that achievement and not enough is said about their ability to punch above their weight in the richest league in world football. The return of Tom Heaton was a major reason for the stark improvement since the turn of the year. He has been excellent between the sticks and given confidence back to the players in front of him. They will be eager to show what they can do on Monday night.
Callum Hudson-Odoi became the youngest player to start in three successive Premier League matches in Chelsea’s history.
Burnley have won their last three games in the Premier League to ease their relegation fears.
This could be the farewell tour for Eden Hazard as rumours linking him to Real Madrid refuse to go away. The Belgian international has been excellent this season in a team that has struggled at times. He has contributed 16 goals and 12 assists in the Premier League, which underlines his improved end product under Sarri. The future of Chelsea remains uncertain taking the transfer ban into consideration and they will be desperate for Hazard to stay at the club. It will be almost impossible to replace him and the supporters are aware of his importance. Going into the run in, Hazard has the ability to carry Chelsea to the Champions League and he will see Monday’s fixture as an opportunity to improve his record in the final third even more. As ever, he is the main Chelsea threat to worry about.
Everybody knows what to expect from Burnley. They are well drilled and difficult to break down, while in attack, they are combative and rely on powerful strikers to cause problems for opposition sides. Chris Wood has had another impressive year in front of goal and built on his excellent partnership with Ashley Barnes. Last weekend, he scored twice to take his tally for the season to ten goals. Considering he is playing in a team fighting against relegation, that is a good return in front of goal. Chelsea have shown in recent weeks that they are vulnerable at the back. They conceded three times during the week against Slavia Prague and Burnley can take confidence from that. Their defenders won’t be looking forward to facing Wood, as he can cause them a lot of problems, both in the air and with his movement.
Marcos Alonso and Eden Hazard are expected to be ready to start for the home side. Antonio Rudiger is a week away from a return, which means Andreas Christensen will start in defence. Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Callum Hudson-Odoi will be hoping to be named in the starting eleven for another Premier League fixture.
Phil Bardsley, Peter Crouch and Steven Defour are doubts for the visitors. Meanwhile, Aaron Lennon is not expected to feature for the visitors. They are likely to start with both Chris Wood and Ashley Barnes in attack.
This is going to be another test of Chelsea’s Champions League capabilities, as they can’t afford to drop any more points against teams in the bottom half of the table. Burnley won’t make it easy for them. It will be a physical match, with the home side given no space to create opportunities, which will mean the flair players will be expected to step up. They should have enough to win, but it won’t be a runaway victory.
Chelsea 2-0 Burnley