After a goal-laden Thursday night, we put the European campaign to bed and head back to the Bridge with three points the target. Club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton consider the Clarets…
The Easter break is upon us and Chelsea will be aiming to kick a recent habit of disappointing losses and hark back to happier holiday weekends. Last season Spurs broke their long duck at the Bridge and the previous season, also on Easter Sunday, Manchester United beat the champions elect 2-0 at Old Trafford.
Prior to that the Blues won four of the six games scheduled over the long weekend, drawing another (also surprisingly losing at home to Sunderland). The most recent Easter Monday fixtures were a Demba Ba-driven FA Cup quarter-final replay victory over Man United in 2013, and a draw at Fulham the year before.
Eden Hazard likes Mondays. The Belgian scored twice in our last fixture on that day, against West Ham, and has a record of nine in 17 top-flight games at the start of the week.
Thirty-three per cent of Chelsea’s goals in the Premier League this season have been scored from the 76th minute on.
— Key stat
Going into the penultimate top-flight engagement on home soil, Chelsea are unbeaten in seven league games at the Bridge and are the fourth strongest home side in the top flight overall, behind City, Liverpool and Arsenal; Burnley have the 13th best away record.
It has been a streaky, testing season for the Clarets, and the highest position they have attained was 11th after the opening day. Sean Dyche’s side had qualified for the Europa League by finishing seventh in 2017/18, and that meant a truncated holiday and early pre-season for UEFA qualifying rounds starting in July.
Failing to reach for the group stage at the last, the Lancastrians promptly lost their first four league matches, won their next two, then took three points in only one of the ensuing 11 games.
A club-record unbeaten run of eight undefeated in the Premier League (five of them wins) from December to February was then consigned to memory when four straight losses threw them back into the relegation mix. Since the end of March, though, Burnley have managed three straight victories by two-goal margins.
For Chelsea, Thursday’s 5-3 aggregate success was achieved thanks to the club’s best first-half haul in Europe since the 5-0 Champions League victory against Genk in 2011/12. The Blues became the second Premier League club (after Manchester City) to reach a century of goals in all competitions. Olivier Giroud’s 10th strike of the European campaign places him as joint leading goalscorer in UEFA competitions this season alongside Lionel Messi.
The result adds two new appointments to the May diary, taking the running total of games this season to 62. The club record is 69 in 2012/13.
The Blues will now travel to Frankfurt for the opening match of the semi-final on Thursday 2 May, with the decisive leg at the Bridge a week later on 9 May. The Germans have not reached this stage since 1980 in the UEFA Cup.
It will be Chelsea’s 24th semi-final tie since the arrival of Roman Abramovich, and the 14th in Europe since April 1966. It is also the third time Maurizio Sarri has reached the last four in a competition after this season’s Carabao Cup and the 2016/17 Coppa Italia in his Napoli days.
Any earlier slip-ups by our rivals this weekend must be fully exploited on Monday as Tottenham, Arsenal and the Manchester clubs are all in action again on Tuesday or Wednesday. Arsenal face a trip to Wolves, City are at Old Trafford for the final Mancunian derby of the season, and Spurs host Brighton.
Form is the last six matches home and away.
*Can also qualify for 2019/20 Champions League by winning 2018/19 Europa League.
Cardiff’s away win against Chris Hughton’s plummeting Seagulls may have mildly disappointed Burnley as a defeat for the Bluebirds would have left them 11 points behind the Lancastrians with 12 points to play for.
Still, Burnley already have a vastly superior goal difference and should Neil Warnock’s team fail at home to Liverpool on Sunday the Clarets would effectively need one more point to secure their top-flight status.
Form is over the last six matches home and away. * denotes already relegated.
Manchester United, who have lost five of their past seven games, are at Everton this Sunday, then host Manchester City on Wednesday ahead of our trip to Old Trafford next weekend.
Emma Hayes will be determined to arrest a run of three games without success by winning in Lyon tomorrow. The concluding leg of the Champions League semi-final is at Kingsmeadow a week later. Click for tickets
In eight days, two-time winners Chelsea Under-19s clash with Barcelona in the UEFA Youth League semi-finals in Nyon, Switzerland, with Hoffenheim or Porto awaiting the victors in the final.
The promotion picture in the Championship will be clearer after Easter as all teams play twice this weekend, yesterday and Easter Monday. After that most clubs will have just two fixtures to fulfil.
Norwich City, relegated in 2016, currently lead the table by five points ahead of Sheffield United, twice a Premier League club 1992 to 1994 and in 2006/07, and Leeds United, who departed the top tier 15 years ago.
Those three are so far the only clubs guaranteed either promotion or a play-off place. Eight-placed Derby, coached by Frank Lampard and Jody Morris, could still finish in the top six.
Chelsea Academy graduate Tammy Abraham, on loan at fifth-placed Aston Villa, has become the first striker to score 25 league goals for the Villans since Andy Gray in 1976/77.
THE BEST THAT CAN HAPPEN THIS WEEKEND (AND MONDAY)…
Premier League fixtures
Manchester City v Tottenham 12.30pm - Sky Sports
Bournemouth v Fulham 3pm
Huddersfield v Watford 3pm
West Ham v Leicester 3pm
Wolves v Brighton 3pm
Newcastle v Southampton 5.30pm - BT Sport
Everton v Manchester United 1.30pm - Sky Sports
Arsenal v Crystal Palace 4pm
Cardiff v Liverpool 4pm - Sky Sports
Chelsea v Burnley 8pm - Sky Sports
Tottenham v Brighton 7.45pm - Sky Sports
Watford v Southampton - 7.45pm
Wolves v Arsenal 7.45pm
Manchester United v Manchester City 8pm - Sky Sports