Blog Post, Chelsea, Clubs, English Premier League



W2W4 previews the midweek action by highlighting its most compelling storylines as Chelsea look to pip Tottenham to the Champions League.

Chelsea chase fourth place

With four successive victories in the Premier League, Chelsea are turning the screw on Liverpool and Tottenham as the race for the top four twists and turns to the final day.

The Blues’ victory over Liverpool means they can move level on points with Jurgen Klopp’s side if they beat Huddersfield on Wednesday. With a significantly inferior goal difference, they would still need Liverpool to slip up at home to Brighton to overtake them, but the Reds’ recent draws against West Brom and Stoke offer encouragement in that regard.

If Chelsea sneak a Champions League place right at the death, it would be quite a turnaround given their dreadful start to 2018. Antonio Conte has looked ready to quit Stamford Bridge for some time, but the way he has galvanised his team over the past month should intrigue potential suitors in the summer. The Italian would surely whip Arsenal into shape, for example, were the Gunners to opt for his high-intensity approach.

But before any of that, Conte must lead Chelsea past Huddersfield. As the Terriers demonstrated in a 0-0 draw against Manchester City, that task could be far from straightforward. David Wagner’s side became the only team to earn a clean sheet away to the champions on Sunday, with an organised and resolute defensive display, and a similar effort at Stamford Bridge will pose problems for the hosts.

Man United squad running out of time

The debate over whether it is the manager or the players who should be blamed for Manchester United’s lack of progress this year is certain to drag on, but ahead of Thursday’s trip to West Ham the general consensus appears to back Jose Mourinho.

United were desperately disappointing in the 1-0 defeat to Brighton, which leaves the likes of Anthony Martial, Luke Shaw and Matteo Darmian, along with several others, facing a race against time to secure their futures at the club. If recent speculation is believed, the trio are already edging towards the exit door, with Martial attracting interest from Juventus and reportedly disgruntled by the way he has been treated.

It is a common complaint from those who fail to meet Mourinho’s standards, whatever they might be, and usually ends with a parting of ways. Mourinho may have been burnt by his rejection of Mohamed Salah and Kevin De Bruyne, and the same could eventually go for Martial, but the contract extension he signed in January means he holds all the power.

And rightly or wrongly, it seems Mourinho will be given carte blanche in the summer to push ahead with another overhaul.

No more Spurs slip-ups

It was a bad time for Spurs to turn up in flip-flops at West Brom, as the Baggies extended their unlikely survival bid with a late 1-0 victory. Newcastle were also “on holiday” in the first half against Watford, according to Rafa Benitez, and so Wednesday’s clash at Wembley pits together two teams who have clocked off early for the summer.

That doesn’t make a great deal of difference to the Magpies, who are destined to finish mid-table, but it could spell the end of Spurs’ Champions League hopes unless they immediately turn their form around.

With Chelsea now breathing down their necks, it is vital that Mauricio Pochettino’s side win on Wednesday. If the unthinkable were to happen, and they suffer another defeat, then the Blues could leapfrog them with victory against Huddersfield.

It’s not like we’ve seen Spurs crumble when the pressure is on before…

Record-breaking City?

Manchester City may have missed the opportunity to break the Premier League record points total (95, set by Chelsea in 2004-05) against Huddersfield, but Wednesday’s home match against Brighton affords them another chance.

Surely they will crown the campaign with the record-breaking moment it deserves, to ensure this team goes down in history as one of the greats.

Matthew Stanger covers European football for ESPN and is the editor of The Set Pieces. Twitter: @MatthewStanger





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