Sports Mole provides predicted lineups, team news and a full match preview of Chelsea’s trip to Burnley in the Premier League.
The Blues have been held in three of their last four top-flight outings, but they trail Manchester City and Liverpool by just a couple of points heading into this weekend’s fixtures.
A telling statistic from what has been an underwhelming campaign for Burnley thus far is that they have let in 17 goals during a run of nine matches that has yielded just eight points.
It took the Clarets 20 matches to concede as many goals in the 2017-18 campaign, with that defensive record playing a big part in their seventh-placed finish and subsequent short-lived European adventure.
Competing on the continent when most sides were still in pre-season mode perhaps explains why Burnley took so long to get going in the Premier League this time around, as they stuttered to one point from the first 15 on offer.
Matching last season’s finish was always going to be difficult, and with less than a quarter of 2018-19 played it is looking likely that simply avoiding the drop will be the main challenge for Sean Dyche and his men.
The Clarets may have taken seven points from their last four matches, which is one more than their previous 11 stretching back into last season, but they have struggled to push on from back-to-back wins over Bournemouth and Cardiff City at the end of September.
Having gone into half time just the one goal down at the Etihad Stadium, Dyche was left to rue a big call that went against his side early in the second half, leading to an avalanche of goals and a further dent being made to their goal difference.
Burnley are still three points afloat of the relegation places, however, and their next four matches after this tricky fixture come against sides in and around them.
The immediate challenge for Dyche is to regain some momentum, although that may be tricky this weekend as the Clarets have picked up just one win in 25 attempts against the Premier League’s established top six, albeit with that victory coming away to this weekend’s opponents on the opening day of last season.
Recent form in Premier League: LLWWDL
Recent form (all competitions): LWLWDL
Maurizio Sarri can become the first Chelsea boss to remain unbeaten across his first 10 Premier League matches should the Blues dodge defeat in East Lancashire on Sunday.
That would be quite the start for a manager who pleaded for time before a ball had even been kicked this term, citing a shortened pre-season and some upheaval from the Antonio Conte regime that he feared would carry into this season.
Chelsea have instead hit the ground running, despite a completely different style of play to what we have become accustomed to in the Roman Abramovich era, finding themselves within touching distance of top spot nearly three months into the campaign.
The Blues have gone nine games unbeaten at the start of a top-flight season on five previous occasions, including in 2005-06 and 2014-15 when lasting the distance and lifting the trophy.
Matching the feat of compatriot Conte, who won the Premier League title in his maiden campaign at Stamford Bridge, may not have been on Sarri’s agenda when putting pen to paper in the summer, but should his side continue their good form then a rethink will be required.
That dramatic draw made it two in a row for Chelsea on home soil in the league, with Liverpool claiming a point at the end of September, but the Blues regained their momentum with a 3-1 win against BATE Borisov in the Europa League on Thursday night.
Minus injured forward Eden Hazard and tired playmaker Jorginho, Sarri made eight changes to his starting lineup and was rewarded with a positive display from his fringe players, namely English midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek.
Loftus-Cheek bagged three goals on the night to all but secure Chelsea’s place in the last 32 of the competition, while at the same time making it 13 matches without defeat for Sarri since the Community Shield loss to Man City. With no more big-six rivals to face for another month, the ex-champions’ run may go on and on.
Recent form in Premier League: WWDDWD
Recent form (all competitions): WDWWDW
Sarri has a big decision to make on the back of the straightforward win over BATE, as Loftus-Cheek did all that he possibly could to force his way into his manager’s thoughts for this weekend’s trip to Turf Moor.
Jorginho, N’Golo Kante and Mateo Kovacic have been the preferred midfield trio, though the latter has started two games this week and may be given a breather, opening the door for one of Loftus-Cheek or compatriot Barkley to come in.
Barkley, incidentally, could become the first Englishman to score in three consecutive top-flight games for Chelsea since Frank Lampard in February 2013.
Hazard remains a doubt after injuring his back against Man United a week ago, but Sarri will likely gamble on the Belgian’s fitness as he has been arguably the division’s best player so far this term.
In terms of the home side, Dyche welcomes back Robbie Brady for the first time since he badly injured his knee last December.
Dyche will likely stick with key midfield man Steven Defour in the centre of the park, despite the fact that the midfielder’s return coincided with the heavy loss to Man City last time out.
Burnley possible starting lineup:
Hart; Lowton, Tarkowski, Mee, Taylor; Gudmundsson, Defour, Cork, Brady; Hendrick, Vokes
Chelsea possible starting lineup:
Kepa; Azpilicueta, Rudiger, Luiz, Alonso; Kante, Jorginho, Kovacic; Willian, Morata, Hazard
Head To Head
Chelsea have lost just one of their last eight Premier League meetings with Burnley – the aforementioned 3-2 loss in August 2017 that would spell the beginning of the end for Conte.
However, the Clarets have not beaten the Blues at Turf Moor since a 3-0 win in the second tier 35 years ago.
Chelsea have kept just two clean sheets in 36 top-flight away games against Burnley, coming in goalless draws in 1963 and 1970.
We say: Burnley 1-2 Chelsea
Burnley have been beaten in six of their last seven home Premier League matches on a Sunday, losing each of the last four. They come up against a Chelsea side who are the only top-flight team yet to fall a goal behind on their travels this season, and this will be seen as another chance to put three more points on the board.