Premier League leaders Chelsea can take another step closer to the championship crown with victory over Burnley at Turf Moor this weekend (1.30pm Sunday, Sky Sports 1).
Antonio Conte’s side continued their march towards the title with a comfortable 3-1 triumph over rivals Arsenal last weekend, with efforts from Marcos Alonso, Eden Hazard and Cesc Fabregas ensuring the hosts at Stamford Bridge added another three points to their tally for the campaign.
The Blues were superior in all departments and once again showcased the balance they have between scintillating attack and solid defence, which is surely of the envy of most other managers in the Premier League. Chelsea’s rise to the summit of the standings owes more to their phenomenal record against the bottom 14 clubs in the division than it does to their results against their fellow top six sides, with a 2-2 draw against Swansea City in September the only time they have dropped points when facing a team other than Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur or Liverpool this term.
Burnley were beaten 2-1 by Watford when they last took to the field, a result which means they have still only taken a single point from their matches away from home in the Premier League this season. The reason Sean Dyche’s charges are almost certainly safe from relegation is their home form, though: nine wins from their 13 fixtures at Turf Moor, including victories in each of their last five in front of their own supporters, has lifted the promoted outfit into the sanctuary of mid-table.
Dyche has done a tremendous job this year, particularly given the Clarets’ struggles during their most recent stint at this level, and is perhaps the only top-flight boss who could feasibly challenge Conte for the 2016/17 Manager of the Year award.
Hazard has been nursing a slight calf injury in the last few days but is expected to start on Sunday, which means Chelsea are likely to name an unchanged starting XI once more. The one change Conte may be contemplating is including Fabregas alongside N’Golo Kante in the centre of midfield at the expense of Nemanja Matic. The former Arsenal and Barcelona man is an excellent passer who possesses the type of vision, guile and creativity that could be essential against opponents like Burnley, who will almost certainly look to pack plenty of men behind the line of the ball this weekend.
Burnley will not be able to call upon midfielders Jeff Hendrick (suspension), Steven Defour (hamstring), Dean Marney (knee) and Kevin Long (knee) for their date with the league leaders. Dyche has tended to favour a 4-4-2 formation this year but may opt for a 4-5-1 on this occasion, with an extra midfielder bound to aid their overall game plan of sitting deep, ceding possession and denying their opponents space in the final third of the field. The pace and direct running of striker Andre Gray will be vital at the top of the pitch as Burnley look to transition quickly from one end to the other, while central defenders Michael Keane and Ben Mee will have to be at their best to keep Diego Costa quiet.
Our Preview’s Burnley v Chelsea Betting Tips
Burnley will make life difficult for Chelsea on Sunday afternoon, but this preview believes that Conte’s side should still have enough quality to collect all three points. The Clarets’ tremendous record at home means this will probably be a low-scoring and hard-fought affair. Chelsea are 4/9 to win, so for the betting tips’ selection it could be worth backing an away win to nil at Turf Moor. Another wager worth considering is Hazard, who scored a superb solo strike in the 3-1 defeat of Arsenal last weekend, to find the net at some point within the 90 minutes. A summary of this preview’s betting tips:
- Chelsea ‘to win to nil’ @ 11/10 with Stan James.
- Eden Hazard to score anytime @ a best price of 8/5 with Bet365.
Greg Lea is a freelance sports writer. Read the articles that he has written at Just Bookies.