In her latest blog for the official Chelsea website, season ticket holder Hannah Kurzawski reflects on the race for a top-four finish...
With just six Premier League games remaining, the race for top four is set to run right until the last kick of the season.
There are just three points currently separating Spurs in third and Manchester United in sixth, with the Blues poised tantalisingly close to a top four position, sitting just outside in fifth on goal difference. The slightest falter from any side could mean missing out on Champions League football next season.
Chelsea’s triumphant team display against Brighton at Stamford Bridge last Wednesday evening meant the Blues kept up the fight in the battle for top four. It was the likes of Callum Hudson-Odoi and Ruben Loftus-Cheek who stole the show, proving to manager Maurizio Sarri that he was right to name them in the starting eleven.
Hudson-Odoi’s quick pace and tricky footwork caused problems for Brighton’s defence, and he was rewarded with an assist in setting up Olivier Giroud to score Chelsea’s first of the evening. It was great to see Callum get his first Premier League start for Chelsea, it was totally deserved and he didn’t disappoint. He played with a level of maturity and confidence, no doubt boosted by the two England caps he received over the recent international break.
Loftus-Cheek found himself grabbing not only an assist but a goal as well, with a wonderful curl into the top right corner, outdoing Eden Hazard’s similar strike just minutes before.
After the game I saw several Chelsea fans on Twitter commenting that Ruben had a real Michael Ballack-like quality about him, an all-round player who has a real presence on the field. The general consensus was that if we could play like we did on Wednesday evening for the remainder of the season, we have every reason to feel that a top-four finish is well within our grasp.
Chelsea’s six remaining fixtures are split evenly home and away, with the Europa League quarter-finals – and hopefully, semi-finals – to also play in between. All the teams fighting for the top four are in the quarter finals of either the Europa League or the Champions League, with none remaining in the FA Cup, so it really is a tight affair in terms of remaining games to play.
Tonight, the Blues welcome West Ham to Stamford Bridge, which being a London derby always proves to be a lively fixture. Chelsea will be hoping to improve on the 0-0 draw against the Hammers at the London Stadium in September.
Sandwiched in between the two Europa League quarter-final ties against Slavia Prague, the Blues make the trip to Liverpool, and this, on paper, is perhaps one of the tougher remaining league games that Chelsea have this season. However, the Blues have caused several upsets at Anfield in the past, and knocked Liverpool out of the League Cup there earlier this season. This will be a crucial game for both sides, and could have a big impact on how the top six will look come May 12th.
A week later Chelsea face Burnley at home, and we could face a Clarets team still fighting their own battle at the other end of the table, eager to gain points just as much as we are. The Blues comfortably won 4-0 at Turf Moor back in October, and I’m hoping for a repeat of this performance in a few weeks’ time at Stamford Bridge, especially as it’s on my birthday. A similar score would do wonders for our goal difference too, which could be vital.
At the end of April is another huge game, with the Blues travelling to Old Trafford. There are points to both gain and prove here, with United having knocked Chelsea out of the FA Cup in February, and the league home tie ending in a draw after Ross Barkley’s 96th-minute equaliser back in October. With just two points currently separating Chelsea and United in the league table, the result of this game could be a big decider in the battle for the top.
Our last Premier League game at Stamford Bridge this season is against Watford, who reached the final of the FA Cup at the weekend. The Blues won 2-1 at Vicarage Road back in December, where Eden Hazard scored his 100th and 101st goals for the club. More of the same on May 4, please Eden.
And finally, Chelsea finish the 2018-2019 Premier League season at Leicester City, who got the better of the Blues at the Bridge in December with a 1-0 win. With so much still to come before this fixture in five weeks time, it’s difficult to predict how much bearing this game will have on Chelsea’s final league position, but either way, let’s hope the Blues can finish the season on a high – perhaps even with a Europa League final still to look forward to.
Everything is all still to play for – come on Chelsea!