Match Preview: Chelsea vs. Burnley #CHEBUR
Turf Moor | February 12, 2017
After gaining 4 out of a possible 6 points in last week's tough matchups against Liverpool and Arsenal, Chelsea get set to begin a relatively easy stretch for the next few weeks. Their next 6 Premier League games are against Burnley, Swansea, West Ham, Watford, Stoke, and Crystal Palace. Although none of those teams will roll over and let Chelsea walk over them, this is a perfect opportunity to erase any lingering doubts over Chelsea's claim to the top of the table. If the Blues are able to earn the full 18 points over that stretch, the title race could be well and truly over. It starts this Sunday against Burnley at Turf Moor, and it is important to stress that this game will not be easy. The Clarets have an outstanding home record and currently remain entrenched in the middle of the table. Sean Dyche has a well drilled squad at his disposal, one that can give Chelsea fits.
I find it difficult to break down Chelsea on a week by week basis, because this team is so methodical and set in their ways there is almost nothing new to talk about every week. Chelsea are top of the table, they arguably have the best form in the Premier League right now, and they are still the only team in the league without any injuries or suspensions. Perhaps the only new tidbit of information that came out this week is that Antonio Conte was not named manager of the month for the fourth straight month (congratulations to former Blues boss Paul Clement who received the honor).
If I were to nitpick, one interesting piece of information to come out of the Blues camp this week was revealed by Conte during his Friday press conference. The gaffer mentioned that there are "possibilities" for Willian and Fabregas in the coming games due to their good forms. At this points, it's a tossup for fans to guess if either of these two players will start against Burnley, because no matter who you pick there is going to be an excellent player on the field. Whether it's Willian/Pedro or Fabregas/Matic, Conte has no real need to be worried about the performance of either.
No matter who Conte picks, there is no doubt that Chelsea are massive favourites for this game and should be able to overcome any resistance by Burnley to comfortably win this match.
Like mentioned before, the Clarets have an outstanding home record, one that is leagues better than their away record. Burnley have won 9 of their last 12 games in their home stadium, but somewhat inredibly have not won a single away match in that same span. To say they feel more comfortable at home would be an understatement. If their away record came anything close to their home record, Burnley would be challenging for a European spot right now. It is for this reason that they pose a legitimate threat to Chelsea on Sunday. At this point it's clear that there is no coincindence that Burnley play better at home, it's a fact.
Manager Dyche plays a traditional 4-4-2 formation, anchored up the middle by goalkeeper Heaton, Michael Keane, and the controversial Joey Barton. There are no special tricks or a special style of play for Burnley, they play simple and hard. A win for them this weekend will likely see them jump into the top half of the standings, and for a club that some predicted to be relegated at the beginning of the year that is a fantastic place to be, and an immense motivator to play for.
Injuries: Long, Marney, Defour (out).
Suspended: Hendrick (red card).
3 matchups to watch
- Costa v. Keane: The 24 year old Keane is one of England's most promising center backs. Transfer rumours have surrounded him for a long time now stating he is likely to move to a top English team (Chelsea is one of those teams rumoured to be interested in him). Talent wise, he may be Burnley's best player. As for Costa, everyone knows how dangerous he can be, but recently he has been tamed. He has 1 goal in his last 5 games, which is a bit of a drought for a striker of his caliber. If Keane can't shut down Diego, we could see the Spaniard break out big.
- Azpilicueta v. Gray: Andre Gray is the man charged with putting balls in the back of the net for Burnley, although with him a main issue is consistency. Aside from a hat-trick against Sunderland earlier in the year, goals have been few and far between. With second striker Ashley Barnes on form right now and with the capable Sam Vokes waiting on the bench, Gray need to produce at a more consistent rate to entrench his position in the starting lineup.
- Hazard v. Ward: Before his goal against Arsenal, Eden Hazard had not scored in the previous 5 games. Like Costa, Hazard is another player who should be held to a high standard offsensively, meaning 1 goal in 5 games is a drought for him as well. If there was a game for him to score multiple in a game, this may be it. Burnleys right-back is Stephen Ward, who isn't exactly a household name among football fans. The Irish international who has spent most of his career with Wolverhampton is not flashy by any sense of the word. What he is, is consistent. He's only missed one game for Burnley the entire season, and at the very least has been a dependable presence on the right. However there is no doubt he is out of his depth when matched up with Hazard.
- Diego Costa scored his first competitive goal for Chelsea against Burnley at Turf Moor
- Incredibly, Burnley have historically been the better sides in meetings between these two teams. They have beat Chelsea 37 times over the years, while Chelsea have beaten Burnley 34 times
- In the reverse fixture at Stamford Bridge earlier in the year, Chelsea won 3-0 on the strength of goals from Hazard, Willian, and Moses