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chelsea 1000x500 2The facts are in the league table. Following Cardiff’s defeat this afternoon against Liverpool, we need two points to be mathematically certain of staying in the Premier League next season or we basically need Cardiff to fail to win one of their three remaining games given the gap in the goal difference.

I’m not convinced that I could ever have thought I’d be writing that with four games to go when I made my way home from the Turf after the Boxing Day defeat against Everton. That was probably as bad as it got, result wise, this season. We were 3-0 down with less than a quarter of the game gone and fans were walking out that early in the game.

It left us in the bottom three with half of the games gone and the one saving grace was that we were only three points behind Southampton and Cardiff who were, therefore, within touching distance. What’s happened since has been incredible. Only Manchester City, Liverpool, Manchester United and Arsenal have won more points than us since that day. And based on the second half of the season, to date, Fulham and Huddersfield would be joined by Brighton in suffering relegation with Bournemouth hovering on the edge.

The season can’t be split into two in that way though and that means we’ve had to carry that poor first half with us meaning it was always going to be a relegation battle. For a long time I really thought that it might be too big a task, but here we are now, on the verge of safety, and only someone with a glass virtually empty wouldn’t expect us to be in the Premier League next season.

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Midfielder Jack Cork, who started his career with Chelsea, admitted, speaking about us almost being there: “It’s not been the best or easiest ways to do it, but it has shown we have a lot of good people at this club who will never give up and want to keep going. That’s been proven in the last three wins. They were games on paper that looked tough, but everyone has stood up and been counted.”

He added: “This season, if we could manage to get a couple of results in these last games, could be as good (as last season) because of the position we were in at Christmas, below Cardiff and close to Huddersfield with some big games coming up. Especially after the Everton loss, everyone got together and said ‘look, we need to do this now or it’s going to be too late’. Everyone got on board with it and it clicked.”

Cork played every minute last season in the Premier League and he’s not too far away this season. He came off injured in the home game against Chelsea which forced him to miss the game at West Ham. Other than that, once again, he’s played every minute of every game and he’s going to be in the team tomorrow.

Sean Dyche gave us an update on the injuries three days ago so we know that Phil Bardsley isn’t likely to be fit to return. The only player not mentioned was Aaron Lennon who is close to a return.

I’d expect the team, unless the head tennis has caused any more injuries, to be unchanged which would see us line up: Tom Heaton, Matt Lowton, James Tarkowski, Ben Mee, Charlie Taylor, Jeff Hendrick, Ashley Westwood, Jack Cork, Dwight McNeil, Ashley Barnes, Chris Wood. Subs: Joe Hart, Kevin Long, Ben Gibson, Stephen Ward, Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson, Robbie Brady, Matěj Vydra.

Chelsea have had a decent weekend in the battle for the top four. Liverpool and Manchester City have already claimed the top two places but there is a major battle going on for third and fourth, the two Champions League places. Spurs, currently third, were beaten yesterday at Manchester City while Arsenal this afternoon lost at home against Crystal Palace and Manchester United were hammered at Everton.

All four of them have four games remaining with Spurs on 67 points, Arsenal and Chelsea on 66 and Manchester United with 64 points. A draw tomorrow would see Chelsea move into that top four above Arsenal, who they currently trail on goal difference, and a win would see them go third.

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It will be tough for us. They might have lost seven away games this season but they’ve been beaten only once at home and that, surprisingly, was against Leicester on the Saturday before Christmas with Jamie Vardy scoring the only goal. Liverpool, Manchester United, Everton, Southampton and Wolves are the teams to take points.

Chelsea are likely to be without Antonio Rudiger because of a knee injury but have no new injuries with Eden Hazard (pictured), undoubtedly their best player, is expected to be fit having recovered from the injury he sustained against Slavia Prague.

Chelsea’s last league game was the very 2-0 defeat at Liverpool last week when their team was: Kepa, Cesar Azpilicueta, Antonio Rudiger (Andreas Christensen), David Luiz, Emerson, N’Golo Kanté, Jorginho, Ruben Loftus-Cheek (Ross Barkley), Callum Hudson-Odoi (Gonzalo Higuain), Eden Hazard, Willian. Subs not used: Willy Caballero, Mateo Kovacic, Pedro, Olivier Giroud.

 

LAST TIME WE WERE THERE

 

I’m not sure any Burnley fan there will ever forget our last visit to Stamford Bridge. At the third time of asking we’d stayed in the Premier League in the 2016/17 season with 40 points but the fixtures had given us the toughest start possible with the opening five away games.

The first of them, on the opening day of the season, was at Chelsea and surprisingly, given they were champions, wasn’t selected for television so we had a Saturday 3 p.m. kick off on what was the hottest day of the season.

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Things didn’t start well for Chelsea. Former Claret Gary Cahill was sent off after 14 minutes for a foul on Steven Defour and Burnley took advantage with a superb first half performance. Sam Vokes, who had scored our last four goals in the previous season, had the ball in the net but had it harshly disallowed, but he wasn’t to be denied. He scored twice in that first half, either side of a Stephen Ward goal and we went in at half time with a 3-0 lead.

Burnley fans at half time were almost unable to believe what they’d seen but it was real and we had been by far the better side although we knew Chelsea would come back at us which they did.

Alvaro Morata pulled one back with just over twenty minutes to go but things swung our way again when Chelsea were reduced to nine men on 81 minutes. This time it was Cesc Fábregas sent off but, incredibly, David Luiz scored again with just a couple of minutes of normal time remaining.

Suddenly there was panic in the stands but the closest we came to another goal was from a Robbie Brady free kick which hit the foot of the post.

What a day it was, what a result, and it set us up for a memorable season.

The teams were;

Chelsea: Thibaut Courtois, Antonio Rudiger, David Luiz, Gary Cahill, Cesar Azpilicueta, N’Golo Kanté, Cesc Fábregas, Marcos Alonso, Willian, Michy Batshuayi (Alvaro Morata 59), Jérémie Boga (Andreas Christensen 18, Charly Musonda Jr 90+2). Subs not used: Willy Caballero, Fikayo Tomori, Kenedy, Kyle Scott.

Burnley: Tom Heaton, Matt Lowton, James Tarkowski, Ben Mee, Stephen Ward, Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson (Scott Arfield 75), Steven Defour (Jon Walters 75), Jack Cork, Jeff Hendrick, Robbie Brady, Sam Vokes. Subs not used: Nick Pope, Kevin Long, Charlie Taylor, Ashley Westwood, Ashley Barnes.

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