Chelsea vs. Burnley
Venue: Stamford Bridge
Kick off: 4PM
Chelsea play host to Burnley in the Premier League this afternoon looking to strengthen their hold of fourth place in the standings.
Meanwhile, Burnley make the trip to Stamford Bridge having suffered three successive defeats, a run which has left them just four points above the relegation zone.
While Chelsea have plenty of work to do when it comes to putting together a better run of results at Stamford Bridge, recording a 2-0 win over Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup can only help their cause.
Despite the Championship outfit seeing two marginal VAR decisions go against them, they were well beaten by their hosts, who must now find a way to build on the performance this weekend.
Chelsea have suffered home defeats to West Ham United, Bournemouth and Southampton since the end of November, leaving Frank Lampard’s side to rely on victories over the likes of Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal on away territory to keep them in fourth spot.
However, Lampard is the first to acknowledge that Chelsea can ill afford to continue their poor run of form in front of their own supporters, especially against teams who make the trip to West London out of form.
On the majority of occasions, Chelsea have made mistakes at the back which have contributed to their own downfall, but Lampard remains less than impressed with his team’s efforts in the final third.
Chelsea have not scored more than two goals in a match since the 4-4 draw with Ajax, a run which stretches 13 matches in all competitions.
While there remains positive conjecture about the performances of their youthful attack, none of them can say with any justification that they are producing the consistency required to move Chelsea closer to the top three.
At a time when there is constant speculation regarding potential incomings and outgoings to strengthen their bid for a Champions League place next season, responsibility right now falls on the shoulders on the players who are being handed extended runs in the team in a bid to regain their form from September and October.
Sean Dyche will feel that Chelsea’s home form provides Burnley with a window of opportunity to get their own season back on track after a dismal Christmas and New Year period.
Their three successive defeats have come to Everton, Manchester United and Aston Villa respectively, teams who have struggled to impress for large parts of this season.
The 4-2 success over Peterborough United in the FA Cup may go some way to getting the Clarets back on track, although Dyche will be aware that the stakes have risen as he bids to avoid becoming embroiled in a battle to avoid the drop.
After the visit to England’s capital, they go up against Leicester City and Man United before hosting Norwich City in what could turn out to be a pivotal contest at the bottom of the table.
Prevailing just once from their next three outings will be enough to ease any concerns regarding a return to the Championship, but Dyche will also have the long-term development of his team in mind during the second half of the season.
The narrative has been set that Burnley continue to punch above their weight each time that they remain in the Premier League, similar to Bournemouth who have also seen their results drop off in recent weeks.
However, rather than persist with an underdog tag, the onus is on Dyche and his players to prove their worth at a time when the option is there to make significant changes in personnel.
While Dyche will most likely show faith in his current group of players, Burnley have lost nine of their last 13 Premier League fixtures, form which cannot continue if they wish to extend their stay in the top flight.
Chelsea possible XI: Arrizabalaga, James, Rudiger, Zouma, Azpilicueta, Kante, Jorginho, Kovacic, Willian, Abraham, Hudson-Odoi.
Burnley possible XI: Pope, Lowton, Tarkowski, Mee, Taylor, Hendrick, Westwood, Cork, Brady, McNeil, Vydra.