Chelsea beat Burnley to keep top-four hopes alive

Chelsea maintained their push for a top-four finish in the Premier League after Victor Moses scored the winner in a tight 2-1 victory at European hopefuls Burnley.

Kevin Long’s own goal set Antonio Conte’s men on their way in the first half, but Ashley Barnes deflected Johann Berg Gudmundsson’s wayward shot to equalise for Burnley at Turf Moor.

Victor Moses’ right-footed shot into the bottom corner proved decisive and ensured the Blues, who trailed fourth-placed Tottenham by 10 points last week, narrowed the gap to five points.

Chelsea have the opportunity to increase the pressure on their London rivals when they travel to Swansea on 28 April.

Mauricio Pochettino’s team face Manchester United in the FA Cup semi-finals on Sunday and do not play in the league again until they meet Watford on 30 April.

Sean Dyche’s Burnley remain seventh and on course for the Europa League with an eight-point advantage over Leicester City in eighth.

With one eye on the semi-final, Chelsea’s strength in depth afforded Conte the luxury of making six changes to his starting XI without it impairing their performance.

They were accomplished going forward despite the absence of Cesc Fabregas and Willian, while Eden Hazard appeared only as a second-half substitute.

Chelsea fielded a two-man attack – in the form of Alvaro Morata and Olivier Giroud – for the first time in seven years.

While Chelsea’s finishing was profligate at times – particularly when Morata missed a one-on-one with Burnley goalkeeper Nick Pope after N’Golo Kante sent him clear – they were exemplary in their defensive work, restricting an obdurate Burnley to only two shots on target.

While defeat ended Burnley’s run of five consecutive victories, it did nothing to dampen their hopes of European football next term.

It has been a season of spiralling ambitions in east Lancashire since Dyche’s side beat Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on the opening day.

However, not even the most optimistic Clarets fan could have anticipated being stationed on the brink of European football – for the first time since taking part in the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup in 1966-67 – with four games remaining.

Barring an unthinkable collapse, a place in the Europa League second qualifying round between 26 July and 2 August appears a probable destination. The seventh-placed Premier League team is set to qualify for the Europa League unless Southampton win the FA Cup.

Meanwhile Southampton have to “take more risks” and “just go for it” says manager Mark Hughes, after the Saints were held to a goalless draw against Leicester at the King Power.

The Saints remain four points from safety and are winless in their last eight games as they head into Sunday’s FA Cup semi-final against Chelsea at Wembley.

“We need to be on the front foot,” said Hughes. “We have to ask more questions than we did of Leicester.”

Southampton’s Shane Long was denied from close range in the second half after Leicester striker Kelechi Iheanacho went close before the break.

Saints keeper Alex McCarthy also tipped over Jamie Vardy’s prodded effort as Leicester searched for a winner.

“Defensively we were better but we have got to get the balance right,” added Hughes. “We need to defend properly and be a threat the other way.

“Only time will tell to see whether the point is enough for us. We are looking to get maximum points from every game now.

“The players are a little bit flat and we have got a big game at the weekend but we are not in the situation where we are downhearted.”

Southampton’s next Premier League match is on 28 April when they host Bournemouth – one of four remaining games of the season.

 

  

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