Premier League | Stamford Bridge | Sat 21 Feb | 3pm
Diego’s back. Don’t forget your shin pads, lads.
- PSG 1-1 Chelsea (CL)
- Chelsea 1-0 Everton (Prem)
- Villa 1-2 Chelsea (Prem)
- Chelsea 1-1 Man City (Prem)
- Chelsea e1-0 Liverpool (LC)
- Man Utd 3-1 Burnley (Prem)
- Burnley 2-2 WBA (Prem)
- S’land 2-0 Burnley (Prem)
- Burnley 2-3 Palace (Prem)
- Spurs 4-2 Burnley (FAC)
'Every league champion has to rely on a couple of last-minute wins', reasoned Jose Mourinho after Chelsea left it late to see off Everton two Wednesdays ago.
The Special One is correct, of course, but a similar way of thinking may not wash should the Blues be taken to the wire again this weekend against second-bottom Burnley.
Victory at Aston Villa, coupled with Manchester City’s slip-up at home to Hull, stretched their advantage atop the table to seven points, although Chelsea have been far from at their best since sweeping aside Swansea 5-0 on January 15.
Four successive games came and went without a win inside 90 minutes, and after slender successes over Villa and Everton, the Londoners left Paris in midweek with a well-earned score draw having been on the back foot for much of the second half.
But with Diego Costa back from a ban, normal service is likely to be resumed. The Spain international has six goals in his last seven league outings, as the Blues look to maintain their 100% Premier League record over the Clarets (three wins).
Still, Sean Dyche’s competent if naïve charges are capable of a scare, and briefly gave Chelsea one on the opening weekend of the season, taking the lead at Turf Moor through Scott Arfield.
They fought back from 2-0 down to draw with Man City at the Etihad Stadium in December, too, but the numbers are very much against the visitors here.
Chelsea have kept 16 clean sheets in their last 20 league home games; the Clarets have recorded just one shutout in their last 31 Premier League away trips (losing 24) and can boast just one win in 11 outings.
Holding onto points has been Burnley’s problem of late – blowing two-goal leads in three of their previous five encounters – while Danny Ings drew them level at Old Trafford last time out only for the defence to buckle twice more in a 3-1 defeat.
Ings has scored five goals in seven games to heighten talk of an England call-up, and another goal or two at Stamford Bridge would do his chances no harm at all. Burnley will need him firing if they are to win a league game there for the first time since 1971.
John Obi Mikel was the Londoners’ sole absentee from the midweek trip to PSG. The Clarets are hoping to have Matt Taylor and Stephen Ward back in contention, but Dean Marney and Kevin Long are sidelined.
Player to watch: Branislav Ivanovic (Chelsea)
The Blue’s marauding right-back took his goal tally to three goals in five games by heading home a potentially priceless away goal at the Parc des Princes to follow up his winner at Aston Villa and League Cup semi-final clincher against Liverpool.
It’s form that’s led Mourinho to label the Serb one of the club’s greatest ever signings, although Ivanovic himself has previously told FourFourTwo he’s happy to be ‘underrated’.
"For me the biggest rewards in football are winning trophies," he said. "Individual prizes, without false modesty, are also a nice thing and I was glad when I was named in the PFA Team of the Year, but it’s not a priority. I don’t mind if I’m not picked."
Ivanovic topped the aerial duels chart in Chelsea’s triumph over the Toffees, winning 7/10 (3 of them in the opponent’s penalty area), and was all too happy to charge forward for Mourinho’s men. The 30-year-old received the ball on 46 occasions, completed 17/24 passes in the attacking third and sent over 6 crosses.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- Burnley 1-3 Chelsea (PL, Aug 14)
- Burnley 1-2 Chelsea (PL, Jan 10)
- Chelsea 3-0 Burnley (PL, Aug 09)
- Chelsea 1-1p Burnley (LC, Nov 08)
- Burnley 3-0 Chelsea (Div 2, Apr 83)
Dyche was in jovial mood ahead of the season-opening beating by the Blues, telling FFT he had no problem with his ‘Ginger Mourinho’ tag. "It’s a bit of banter, really. There are stories saying I don’t like it, which is absolutely untrue by the way. I’m not bothered with it either way." What he is bothered about is his team blowing leads, conceding from a pair of set-pieces in the recent 2-2 draw with West Brom. "That's Premier League football. We never think a game is dead, you can't switch off for a moment. You've got to be tuned into your performance for every inch of it. The players are learning and adapting but there's nothing as a given in this league."
Mourinho, meanwhile, wants more attention afforded to the physical approach used to combat Eden Hazard, who was fouled nine times by PSG players. "This kid is pure and because he's pure, when he goes to the floor, he goes for a reason. There were nine fouls, in the Premier League it is no different.
"This is what happens game after game. We all know the player is a very good player, we all know that as an opponent you have to keep certain attitudes with him."
Facts and figures
- Chelsea have won 33 and lost just 1 of their last 40 Premier League matches at Stamford Bridge.
- All 4 shots on target in the first half of Burnley vs Chelsea on the opening weekend of the Premier League season resulted in goals.
- Burnley have conceded a league-high 16 headed goals this season, which also accounts for a division-leading 37% of their total goals shipped.
More FFT Stats Zone facts
Costa clicks back into gear; Cuadrado opens his account too. 3-0 Chelsea.