Weblog: The football punter

Quiet start expected at Stamford Bridge

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Chelsea's supporters were royally entertained from the first whistle in Thursday's Europa League quarter-final at Stamford Bridge but more patience could be required at home to Burnley.

Maurizio Sarri's side raced into a 3-0 second-leg lead over Slavia Prague, virtually finishing the tie after 17 minutes, as Chelsea remained on course to secure a Champions League qualification spot via Europe's secondary competition.

However, there are no guarantees of winning that tournament given that Arsenal, Eintracht Frankfurt and Valencia will all fancy their chances in the final four. Sarri seems determined to fight on two fronts, so victory is vital for Chelsea to challenge for a top-four Premier League finish.

However, dogged Burnley can be awkward opponents and Chelsea could need time to wear down the tenacious visitors.

With that in mind, backing the first goal to come after 23 minutes may bring rewards. It has landed in seven of Chelsea's last eight Premier League matches.

There has also been a goal before that mark in only three of Chelsea's last ten Premier League matches at Stamford Bridge, with two of those early strikes coming against relegated pair Fulham and Huddersfield.

Chelsea have failed to find their slick passing game on a consistent basis this season with one criticism being that playmaker Jorginho slows down the game as he struggles to adjust to English football.

It will have not been lost on some that Jorginho was absent from the team on Thursday and, while Chelsea's supporters have almost certainly gone too far in barracking the Brazilian-born Italy international, he does seem to be feeling the pressure as Sarri's on-field lieutenant.

If Jorginho is said to be playing below par the same cannot be said of the brilliant Eden Hazard and at some stage the outstanding Belgian should find a path to goal either for himself or a teammate.

Burnley are in decent nick, pulling themselves out of relegation trouble with three straight wins at home to Wolves and Cardiff and away to Bournemouth.

Sean Dyche has once again found a way to get the Clarets to outperform their modest wage bill and in recent matches they have found their attacking prowess, scoring ten goals in their last five matches.

Against that is Chelsea's rock-solid defence at Stamford Bridge in the Premier League, which is at odds with their more inconsistent efforts on the road.

Sarri's side have played seven home league matches in 2019, conceding just twice and keeping five clean sheets. They have also leaked a first-half goal just once in their last 14 home league encounters.


First goal after 23rd minute

The Football Site

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