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1718 burnley turf moor 03 1000x500It’s a rare event tonight, a Thursday home game and it brings last season’s Premier League champions Chelsea to Turf Moor for a game that was called off recently because of their involvement in the FA Cup.

Chelsea are unbeaten at Turf Moor in the Premier League era with our only victory against them coming on the opening day of the season at Stamford Bridge. We have to go back to the 1982/83 season for our last home success. Then we were fighting against relegation from the old Second Division, a fight that we lost, but beat them 3-0 in a game that was played 35 years ago next Monday. Billy Hamilton scored twice with Terry Donovan getting the other goal from the penalty spot.

With having won at Stamford Bridge, we have the opportunity to complete the double over them tonight. That hasn’t happened since the 1968/69 season. We won the home game 2-1 that season with two goals from Dave Thomas. He was on the mark later in the season at Stamford Bridge when Doug Collins scored twice in a 3-2 win.

It seems incredible that we are even looking at doing the double over the team that a year ago were lifting the Premier League trophy but we are and it is probably even more incredible that we are only two places below them in the league at this stage of the season. There is a gap of eight points mind you.

We go into the game on the back of an unbeaten run of six games of which all the last five have been won and, suddenly, from hoping to cement seventh place, we are now looking to potentially move ahead of Arsenal in sixth place as the chase for European football continues.

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With Ben Mee currently out of the side, Jack Cork has worn the captain’s arm band and tonight he will lead us out against his former club. Asked about the possibility of playing in Europe, Cork said: “It would be great for everyone at the club, the fans, the staff and the players, to experience something like that and be involved in it.”

Another of his former clubs, Southampton, could make it far more difficult to qualify should they win the FA Cup and Cork added: “Now it’s really concentrating on the last few games and making sure we can really push it towards the end and make sure that position is safe and secured and then maybe look at other teams in the FA Cup o get results that we need. It would be a great achievement and I’m sure everyone, if we got the opportunity, would love to do it.”

Our win at Chelsea was the only victory we’ve had this season against a top six team but Cork added: “We’ve had some good draws and points but it would be great to follow that up with another win. It’s never going to be easy. Any game in the Premier League is tough and against the bigger teams these days it does seem that little bit harder, so for us to get the points we need to be at our best and play like we have done in recent weeks.”

Cork has been on the pitch for every minute of every Premier League game this season in this his third spell with the Clarets. He’ll lead the team out again tonight in the continued absence of Mee who has again been ruled out, as has Scott Arfield who hasn’t kicked a ball for us now in almost ten weeks.

I don’t envisage much change to the team which could be the same as that which beat Leicester last Saturday although Georges-Kévin NKoudou could come back into the reckoning after missing out with a hamstring injury.

Our line up could be: Nick Pope, Matt Lowton, Kevin Long, James Tarkowski, Stephen Ward, Aaron Lennon, Ashley Westwood, Jack Cork, Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson, Chris Wood, Ashley Barnes. Subs from: Tom Heaton, Phil Bardsley, Charlie Taylor, Dean Marney, Georges-Kévin NKoudou, Jeff Hendrick, Nahki Wells, Sam Vokes.

Having won the title last year, it could be said Chelsea are experiencing a difficult season. Having said that, they are fifth in the table but Champions League qualification is now looking difficult given the top four’s lead.

It’s been a strange season with a lot of speculation and supposed falling out between the club and the manager but that’s something that has been very Chelsea in the Roman Abramovic era. They’ve certainly never been slow to replace managers and a lot of pundits think that will happen again this season.

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Having said that, and regardless of the fact that they have an FA Cup semi-final this weekend, one we at Burnley would like them to win, they are still a very tough opponent and certainly are likely to provide us with by far the most difficult home game we have remaining.

They have a good away record with eight wins so far, one more than us. It includes a win at Tottenham while they’ve also drawn at Arsenal and Liverpool. They are not a team easily beaten either on the road as was witnessed last Saturday at Southampton where they trailed 2-0 with only 20 minutes remaining. Eight minutes later and they led 3-2 and went on to win the game by that scoreline.

It’s almost impossible to determine what their line up could be tonight but Conte seems to have confirmed that Emerson Palmieri (pictured) will make his first Premier League start. Ross Barkley is also expected to play but Danny Drinkwater is likely to miss out with a groin injury.

They will definitely be without Marcos Alonso who has today been given a retrospective three match ban for Saturday’s incident with Shane Long.

The Chelsea team against Southampton was: Thibaut Courtois, Cesar Azpilicueta, Andreas Christensen, Gary Cahill, Davide Zappacosta, Cesc Fàbregas, N’Golo Kanté, Marcos Alonso, Willian, Eden Hazard, Alvaro Morata. Subs: Willy Caballero, Ross Barkley, Pedro, Tiemoue Bakayoko, Victor Moses, Olivier Giroud, Emerson.

 

LAST TIME THEY WERE HERE

 

Chelsea were at Turf Moor in mid-February last season on the day that both Ashley Westwood and Robbie Brady made home debuts. They were first starts for both players who had both debuted a week earlier as substitutes at Watford. They replaced the suspended Jeff Hendrick and Scott Arfield, who dropped to the bench.

We didn’t win the game but the point we got from the 1-1 draw was fully deserved after what was a brilliant performance from the Clarets, not as though it started all that well with Pedro opening the scoring after just seven minutes.

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Midway through the half we were level with a sensation free kick from Brady that left Thibaut Courtois helpless. “What a strike, Courtois didn’t even smell it,” Jamie Carragher told Sky viewers.

For a while in the second half we looked more than capable of winning the game, but Chelsea held firm, just as we did in the latter stages when they went looking for a winner.

Our five game winning run at home was over, but this was as good a performance as we’d seen from Burnley in the Premier League.

The teams were;

Burnley: Tom Heaton, Matt Lowton, Michael Keane, Ben Mee, Stephen Ward, George Boyd, Ashley Westwood, Joey Barton, Robbie Brady (Scott Arfield 65), Ashley Barnes, Andre Gray (Sam Vokes 82). Subs not used: Paul Robinson, Jon Flanagan, Tendayi Darikwa, James Tarkowski, Johann Berg Gudmundsson.

Chelsea: Thibaut Courtois, Cesar Azpilicueta, David Luiz, Gary Cahill, Victor Moses (Willian 72), N’Golo Kanté, Nemanja Matic (Cesc Fàbregas 67), Marcos Alonso, Pedro (Michy Batshuayi 87), Eden Hazard, Diego Costa. Subs not used: Asmir Begovic, Kurt Zouma, Nathan Aké, Nathaniel Chalobah.

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