Chelsea vs Burnley Preview: Can Clarets upset the odds?
Photo by Darren Walsh via GettyImages

Form

Chelsea will hope to kick-start their Premier League form again after a frustrating Christmas period. Frank Lampard’s men defeated Arsenal but were beaten by Southampton and could only draw against Brighton, dropping five points out a possible nine over that spell.

Burnley also found life tough amid the festive season. The Clarets lost all three matches against Everton, Manchester United and Aston Villa, scoring only once in that period.

A Christian Pulisic hat-trick helped Chelsea topple Sean Dyche’s team at Turf Moor but Jay Rodriguez scored the goal of the day with a 35-yard howitzer. Burnley shared the spoils in an entertaining 2-2 draw when the two teams faced at Stamford Bridge lasts season.

Chelsea sit in fourth, only four points ahead of fifth-placed Sheffield United,  but the Blues have a game in hand. Likewise, it is only four points separating Burnley from the dreaded relegation zone. 

Team News

Lampard will be without Pulisic after the American picked up a knock in the FA Cup clash with Nottingham Forest last week. Marcos Alonso will also struggle to make the team as he is struggling with a recent muscle injury that he picked up. Ruben Loftus-Cheek remains a long-term absentee.

Burnley will be without Ashley Barnes who is to see a specialist for his groin injury. Phil Bardsley and Rodriguez have both been unable to train this week due to illness but Dyche will hope that they can still make the cut. Johann Berg Gudmundsson will definitely be missing after picking up another hamstring injury in the FA Cup victory against Peterborough United.

Predicted Line-Ups

Chelsea: Kepa; James, Rudiger, Zouma, Azpilicueta; Jorginho; Kante, Mount; Hudson-Odoi, Abraham, Willian.

Burnley: Pope; Bardsley, Tarkowski, Mee, Taylor; Hendrick, Cork, Westwood, McNeil; Wood, Rodriguez.

Key Clashes

Willian v Phil Bardsley

Bardlsey is struggling with illness but it’s hard to imagine that the former Stoke City hard-man will let that keep him out. Nonetheless, he may be feeling a little bit more ill after the game if Willian put in a top-level performance. The Brazilian is capable of the spectacular, as he showcased earlier on in the season at Turf Moor, and, if he is used from the left, he could inflict some serious pain on Bardlsey.

Jorginho v Ashley Westwood

Chelsea’s Italian maestro is integral to much of Chelsea’s good build-up play; it’s no coincidence that the team lack a flow when he isn’t in the eleven. It will be tough for Westwood. Does he press and risk being caught in-behind? Does he back off and allow Jorginho more time to pick a pass? These are impossible decisions. Burnley could really do with a striker tracking back into midfield.

Reece James v Dwight McNeil

This would be an intriguing battle of the youngsters if James keeps his place on the right of defence. The academy product has been impressive since coming into the Chelsea team but has had to rotate with Cesar Azpilicueta and Emerson over the course of the season. McNeil will be happy to go toe-to-toe with James, looking to exploit the potential defensive naivety of his opponent.

What the managers have said

Dyche on a marked improvement:

“Going forwards, we do have a tough run of games, but you do have to play them all.

“There are tranches of games which are very tough and we are in that now.

“We’ve just had Everton and Manchester United, now we have the next run coming up with Chelsea, Leicester, Arsenal and Man U again.

“Then we go on a different run to the end of the season where we only play three of the big teams, so you can look at it any way you like.”

Lampard on form:

“When you analyse the three games that we’ve lost – West Ham [United], Bournemouth, Southampton – it always gives you a bad feeling losing at home in front of your fans. We’ve created 50 chances in three games and scored no goals so if that is the case and you’re playing in the Premier League and you let teams stay in the game then they will have quality to hurt you.

“We need to take our chances in home games and I need to be pretty firm about that because it’s easy to say we’re unlucky or the ball hasn’t dropped for us but we have to get that right.”

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