Chelsea are currently in 4th position with only two weeks of the Premier League season to go, which means that a top-four finish is within their grasp. This weekend, they welcome Watford to Stamford Bridge, in what will be a very difficult match for them. The Blues have hardly been convincing in the Premier League recently taking only two points from their last three matches. Meanwhile, Watford have avoided their usual drop-off after Christmas and are one win away from clinching a top ten finish.
The home side will have their minds on the upcoming Europa League semi-final second leg against Eintracht Frankfurt. The first leg ended 1-1 and Chelsea were the dominant team for much of it. They will be confident of reaching the final of the competition and that would provide a huge opportunity to win a major trophy. Although they will earn a Champions League place if they do triumph, they won’t want to rely on that, therefore a top-four finish is imperative. They go into the final two matches knowing that two wins will achieve that.
Javi Gracia is two matches away from being the first manager to complete a whole Premier League season as Watford manager since the club’s return to the top-flight. They have had a number of highly-rated coaches at the club, but the Spaniard appears to be the best fit of the bunch. Their performances in the Premier League have been excellent at times, while they have also managed to reach the FA Cup final. The players may have one eye on that game, but this weekend provides another opportunity for them to show their quality against top-six opposition.
Since his Chelsea debut, no defender has scored more goals than Marcos Alonso. The Spaniard has scored 15 times.
Since the start of the 2016/17 season, no player has received more yellow cards than Jose Holebas (33)
The last two months have seen a breakthrough from Ruben Loftus-Cheek, after a frustrating start to the season. The midfielder was left out of squads entirely at the start of the campaign, which left many questioning why he stayed at Stamford Bridge. He saw his reputation increase last summer as he starred for England at the World Cup. Many feared that his failure to earn a move would slow down his progression. However, he has worked hard to become a part of Maurizio Sarri’s plans. That was most evident on Thursday as the England international was the most dangerous player on the pitch during the Europa League semi-final. Although he didn’t score, he caused problems for Frankfurt all evening. Sarri may be tempted to rest him on Sunday, but the midfielder will be desperate to keep his place. The 23-year-old has contributed five goals and two assists, but considering his limited game-time, that is a very impressive return.
The Frenchman will be a player that could be on the move this summer. He has been excellent for Watford during the last two seasons, helping them progress as a club, but he has the ability to play at a higher level. He is a complete midfielder, capable of dominating in both halves of the pitch. Doucoure’s attacking presence is shown by his contribution of five goals and six assists. Meanwhile, he has averaged 2.9 ball recoveries a game, which underlines what he offers his team out of possession. Chelsea have struggled to find a settled midfield combination, but N’Golo Kante has been a mainstay. It will be fascinating to see the Watford lynchpin face his compatriot on Sunday, with a powerful physical battle expected.
Eden Hazard is expected to start after being rested during the week. Loftus-Cheek is a doubt, but he is likely to be available. Gary Cahill and Antonio Rudiger will both be unavailable for the hosts.
Troy Deeney will be back for the away side following his suspension. Watford will want him to get minutes on the pitch ahead of the FA Cup final. Etienne Capoue, Miguel Britos and Sebastian Prodl are all out injured.
Chelsea have slipped up a lot during recent weeks, while the Europa League provides a distraction. However, they should have enough to beat Watford, who have one eye on the FA Cup final and nothing left to play for in the Premier League. At times on Thursday, the Blues were incredible to watch against Frankfurt, showing signs of progression under Sarri. The future, as ever, is uncertain at Stamford Bridge, but a victory on Sunday will go a long way to clinching a top-four finish.
Chelsea 2-1 Watford