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Sunday, 16 December, 2018

Chelsea can edge win over in-form Burnley

Clarets' winning streak could come to an end against focused visitors

Olivier Giroud inspired a dramatic Chelsea comeback at Southampton
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Premier League
Sky Sports Premier League & Main Event, 7.45pm Thursday

Chelsea were given some encouragement when Tottenham drew 1-1 at Brighton on Tuesday and they can close the gap to their London rivals to five points by beating Burnley at Turf Moor.

Champions League qualification remains unlikely for the Blues, who are 25-1 for a top-four finish.

To have realistic hopes they need maximum points from their remaining five games and the trip to Burnley comes at awkward time, just three days before the FA Cup semi-final against Southampton.

However, Chelsea showed plenty of fighting spirit in their 3-2 success at Southampton on Saturday, recovering from a 2-0 deficit with three goals in the space of nine second-half minutes.

That win kept alive Chelsea's faint top-four hopes and gave them a timely confidence boost at a key stage of the season.

Antonio Conte may make a few changes with Sunday's Wembley clash in mind but he has good options after Pedro and Olivier Giroud made important contributions off the bench against Southampton.

While Chelsea hope to avoid Europa League football, Burnley are striving to secure it after establishing a nine-point gap to eighth-placed Leicester.

Despite being included among the pre-season relegation favourites, the Lancashire outfit have been one of the success stories of the season and their 52-point tally is already 12 more than they managed in 2016-17.

Burnley have won five successive matches – their best run in Premier League history – and another victory would lift them above sixth-placed Arsenal.

However even their manager Sean Dyche admits they are far from the finished article.

During their five-match winning run the aggregate shot count was 54 for Burnley and 60 for their opponents but they won those games by being clinical in attack and defending doggedly.

It helps to have an excellent goalkeeper, Nick Pope, who has forced his way into the England's World Cup reckoning with a string of fine displays.

The defence has been nice and settled and hasn't been too badly affected by centre-back Ben Mee's recent absence due to a shin injury.

Burnley's defensive record is the third-best in the division but their goal-tally of 32 is the joint-lowest among the top 12 teams.

However, strikers Ashley Barnes (four goals in the last six games) and Chris Wood (five in his last five) are going through purple patches and could give Chelsea's back three a serious examination.

Burnley should get the points needed to stay in the top seven this term but it will be a huge challenge to climb any higher in the future.

They simply cannot match the quality of the top clubs and are likely to come up just short against the Blues, who cannot afford any more slip-ups in the top-four race.

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Team news
Georges-Kevin N'Koudou (hamstring) is a doubt and Steven Defour, Ben Mee, Scott Arfield and Robbie Brady are definite absentees.

Marcos Alonso is set to start a three-game suspension. Danny Drinkwater (back) and David Luiz (ankle) are out but Ross Barkley (hamstring) could be involved.

Key stat
Burnley have not kept a clean sheet in their last seven home matches.

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While Chelsea hope to avoid Europa League football, Burnley are striving to secure it after establishing a nine-point gap to eighth-placed Leicester
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