Chelsea have their sights set on further consolidating their top four place when they travel north to take on Sheffield United at Bramall Lane on Saturday (5.30pm, live on Sky Sports).
Chelsea have been one of the Premier League’s form teams since the restart, winning four out of five to set themselves up nicely to earn Champions League qualification for next season regardless of whether or not Manchester City are admitted to European competition.
In the more likely case that City’s ban is upheld on appeal, fifth would be enough to secure a Champions League berth. Chelsea enjoy an eight-point advantage over Wolverhampton Wanderers in sixth with just four matches left to play. Things would be a lot tighter if not, but even then, Chelsea are now in a pretty favourable position.
In fact, Frank Lampard’s side moved ahead of Leicester into third with their 3-2 win away to Crystal Palace on Tuesday. Olivier Giroud and Christian Pulisic had them two up early on, but it wasn’t quite as comfortable as it might have been thereafter. Tammy Abraham added a third to restore that two-goal lead after Palace had got one back, but Palace immediately grabbed another and then hit the post late on. It was an eventually hard-fought three points.
Chelsea have had a few ups and downs over the course of the campaign, but their underlying numbers have always had them pegged as the third-best team behind Liverpool and Manchester City, and that is now where they now stand. Lampard has done a very solid job in his first year at the helm, and with reinforcements already signed for next season, it is now just a case of finishing off the job and securing Champions League football.
Six points from Saturday’s match and the subsequent home fixture against bottom side Norwich, who will quite possibly already be relegated by that stage, would position them well ahead of a tough pair of closing fixtures away to champions Liverpool and at home to Wolves.
Sheffield United haven’t had quite as good a time of it since the resumption of action. When the Premier League was paused back in March, just five points separated Chelsea in fourth from United in seventh, and Chris Wilder’s side had a game in hand. Now, they have both played the same number of matches and there are nine points between them.
After taking just one point from their first three matches back, Wilder’s side have recovered well to take seven from the subsequent three, including all three points from Wednesday’s 1-0 win at home to Wolves. John Egan grabbed an injury time winner to close the gap between Wolves in sixth and United in seventh to a single point.
The Blades have wildly exceeded expectations this season. Many had them down as prime relegation candidates. Surely even their most ardent supporters would have only dared to dream of midtable security. Instead, they have been in and around the European places all season. With even eighth potentially offering a route into the Europa League, they still have a solid chance of securing their first-ever qualification to continental competition.
With that said, for all their deficiencies, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur do still loom large in the rear-view mirror. Sheffield Utd also have a difficult final stretch, with Chelsea’s visit followed by encounters with fourth-placed Leicester, Everton and Southampton. The publicly available prediction models have them in line to miss out in ninth.
Three points on Saturday would change that equation. The two sides drew 2-2 at Stamford Bridge way back in August of last year, with two goals from Abraham seemingly setting Chelsea on their way to victory before United came back to score twice and grab a point.
Wilder’s side do seem to have found their feet again after struggling in their first few fixtures back. While Chelsea have been impressive, they have a couple of key potential absentees in midfield and it does feel like a repeat of that earlier result isn’t out of the question. If Chelsea do come out on top, it’s unlikely to be by more than the odd goal, so backing United on a handicap market seems a solid play here. So these are the betting tips for this Sheffield United vs Chelsea preview:
- Bet on Sheffield United +1 goal on the Asian Handicap @ 5/6 with BetVictor.
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