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Monday, 10 December, 2018

Stuttering Swansea set for another damaging defeat

Determined Blues can keep their European hopes alive

Chelsea's Eden Hazard
1 of 1

BT Sport 1, 5.30pm Saturday

Chelsea haven't quite given up on their quest to qualify for the Champions League and they can stay in the hunt by beating Swansea at the Liberty Stadium.

Finishing in the top four is unlikely for the Blues, who are five points behind fourth-placed Tottenham and eight adrift of Liverpool, who have played one game more.

But Spurs have had a wobble, failing to win in three games, and Liverpool face a tricky trip to Stamford Bridge next Sunday, only four days after the culmination of their Champions League semi-final tie against Roma.

To have any hope Chelsea must win their last four matches and they are strong favourites to overcome the Swans, who are going through their worst run since appointing Carlos Carvalhal in December.

Swansea are without a win in six games and last Sunday's 5-0 loss at Manchester City has left them 17th - four points above Southampton, who travel to Wales in the 37th round of matches.

Carvalhal will not want the gap to Southampton to reduce before that match and needs his players to rediscover the focus, discipline and energy which contributed to thier memorable home wins over Liverpool (1-0) and Arsenal (3-1) earlier this year.

However, getting back to that standard is going to be tough.

There was no disgrace in losing to City but the scale of the defeat may have left some mental scars, leaving the Swans vulnerable to a Chelsea team determined to finish the season on a high.

Two weeks ago Chelsea's top-four hopes were apparently in tatters as they trailed 2-0 at Southampton midway through the second half.

But a three-goal salvo in 11 minutes turned the match around and they looked far more convincing last week, deservedly winning 2-1 at Burnley and brushing the Saints aside 2-0 in their FA Cup semi-final.

Olivier Giroud has starred in the revival, scoring three goals in three appearances, and has edged ahead of Alvaro Morata in Antonio Conte's selection plans.

Star man Eden Hazard is playing well and Willian looked sharp in the FA semi-final before being surprisingly withdrawn.

Chelsea's return to winning ways might have come too late but with FA Cup final places up for grabs there should be no easing up on the final straight.

Swansea's need is greater but their defining moments may come after this weekend.

They have three very winnable games left - a trip to Bournemouth and home matches against Southampton and Stoke - and just one more victory may be enough to seal their top-flight safety.

However, they look short of confidence and might not put up much resistance against the Blues, who can get in front by half-time.

A bet on the Blues to win the game will only appeal to big-hitters but the Chelsea-Chelsea half-time full-time wager looks value at odds-against.

Chelsea-Chelsea double result
1pt 11-8 Hills

Bet on this match at

Team news
Federico Fernandez and Kyle Bartley (both knee) are doubts and Renato Sanches, Leroy Fer and Wilfred Bony are absent. Luciano Narsingh is a doubt.

David Luiz (ankle) is doubt and Danny Drinkwater (calf) and Ethan Ampadu (ankle) are unavailable. Marcos Alonso is suspended.

Key stat
Swansea have not won any of their last six games.

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Swansea have not won any of their last six games
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