Chelsea maintained their push for a top-four finish in the Premier League with a 2-1 victory at European hopefuls Burnley.

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Chelsea maintained their push for a top-four finish in the Premier League with a 2-1 victory at European hopefuls Burnley.

Chelsea maintained their push for a top-four finish in the Premier League with a 2-1 victory at European hopefuls Burnley.

Victor Moses scored his fourth goal of the season

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.

  • Chelsea must be ready to fight in FA Cup semi – Conte

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.

‘Burnley remain on European path’

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.

Double trouble for Chelsea

Chelsea’s Olivier Giroud and Alvaro Morata had twice as many touches in the opposition penalty area (right) as Burnley’s Ashley Barnes and Chris Wood

Chelsea last deployed a conventional front two in a Premier League fixture on 27 August 2011, when Fernando Torres and Didier Drogba were paired together in a 3-1 victory over Norwich.

On this evidence, though, it may become a more common theme, with Conte delighted by the showing of Morata and Giroud.

“They showed a great link and a great combination and at the same time they worked very hard for the team,” he said.

As Chelsea dominated midfield, the Spain-France forward axis worked in tandem all evening, running off the ball and providing outlets in front of and behind the Burnley defence.

With Morata and Giroud performing like a well-established partnership, it made for a troubling evening for Clarets centre-backs James Tarkowski and Long and goalkeeper Pope, whose mistake under pressure led to the opening goal.

In contrast, the Burnley front two of Barnes and Chris Wood found themselves isolated and their involvement rather more sporadic.

Man of the match – Victor Moses (Chelsea)

Victor Moses’ elusive running was evident throughout. His cross led to Chelsea’s opening goal and he scored the winner in the second half.

‘It is not simple to play Burnley’ – what they said

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte: “We played a good game against a difficult team because it is not simple to play against Burnley. We played the game very well and the two strikers worked very well.

“They played a fantastic game with and without the ball. The whole team played an intensive game. We deserved to win.”

Burnley manager Sean Dyche: “I was really pleased. Against the top sides it is a different kind of feel. Seen the money they have spent?

“We have moved forward a long way but there is still a gap between us and the top six. They are bringing Eden Hazard on as a sub. You can’t forget you are playing against the top end of the market.”

Conte’s 100th game – the stats

  • Chelsea recorded back-to-back league victories for the first time in 2018
  • Since beating Chelsea in their first match of the season, Burnley have collected only four points from 10 Premier League matches against the ‘big six’ sides (P10 W0 D4 L6)
  • This was Antonio Conte’s 100th match in charge of Chelsea in all competitions – only Jose Mourinho (72) has won more of his first 100 games in charge of the Blues than Conte (65)
  • Ashley Barnes has scored five goals in his past seven league appearances
  • Barnes’ past seven league goals have all been assisted by different players (Arfield, Long, Hendrick, Lowton, Wood, Lennon and Gudmundsson)
  • Two of Chelsea’s past eight goals in the league have been own goals (Kevin Long on Thursday and Martin Kelly for Crystal Palace) – their previous two came across a total of 167 goals
  • This was the first Premier League match to feature two Italians in a Chelsea team (Emerson and Davide Zappacosta) since May 2003 against Liverpool (Carlo Cudicini and Gianfranco Zola)
  • This was the 500th game on a Thursday in English top-flight history

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