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Monday, 17 December, 2018

Chelsea can't afford to lose Hazard to Real Madrid

Five things we learned this weekend

Chelsea's Eden Hazard scores against Tottenham at Wembley
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1 Sometimes you get it right even when you get it wrong

"If you win the plan worked," said Antonio Conte after his Chelsea side reached the FA Cup final thanks to a 4-2 victory over Tottenham on Saturday, although as all good punters will tell the Blues boss it is decisions not results that determine long-term success.

The decision to rest Eden Hazard at Wembley could easily have backfired and it was not until the brilliant Belgian entered as a second-half substitute that Chelsea actually started to play some decent football.

If Chelsea go on to win the double Hazard will have been the difference maker and his cameo off the bench showed just how important he is for a Blues side than can lack sparkle, particularly when Cesc Fabregas is also not in the starting 11.

Real Madrid are reportedly pushing hard for Hazard this summer but Chelsea cannot afford to sell him if they want to kick on next term.

2 Winning the league is no priority for promoted sides
Brighton showed in their 2-0 defeat at Norwich on Friday that winning promotion is the main aim for Sky Bet Football League sides with an average performance, and that was also evident in League Two.

Promoted Doncaster have not won in three matches but nearest challengers Plymouth didn't exactly go all-out to cut into Rovers' advantage during a goalless draw at Colchester.

There's two points between the sides but unfortunately for anyone on either team ante-post, it's not exactly top priority.

3 Gung-ho Blades gunning for century target
The one exception seems to be in Sky Bet League One, although it could just be that Sheffield United are miles better than the rest.

Chris Wilder's champions were rampant at MK Dons, winning 3-0, and the Blades have had the target of reaching 100 points in their minds for a while now after winning six matches in a row by an aggregate margin of 15-1.

A win on the final day will see the Sheffield side hit the century and that can only spell trouble for relegated Chesterfield at Bramall Lane. 

4 Playoff hopefuls getting edgy at wrong time
Millwall could not believe their luck as they stayed in the top six of League One despite getting hammered 3-0 at home to Oxford after Southend also slipped up at Shrewsbury.

"Maybe we were a little bit nervous" said Lions manager Neil Harris, while Southend boss Phil Brown went even and suggested his team lacked bottle against the Salop side: "It's about the pressure, it's about handling the pressure and we did not do that."

It could be worth bearing that in mind when Millwall head to Bristol Rovers on Sunday and Southend host Bury. 

5 Newport on brink of great escape
Michael Flynn has done a fabulous job at Newport, who have won six of their last ten matches, and Saturday's success over Accrington saw County exit the Sky Bet League Two relegation zone for the first time since November.

But while Newport continue to pick up, 23rd-placed Hartlepool have collected only two points from the last 21 available and seem to lack the fight of their relegation rivals.  

Hazard's cameo off the bench showed just how important he is for a Blues side than can lack sparkle
E.W. Terms
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