Chelsea’s inconsistent form continued at the weekend with a hugely disappointing defeat to Sheffield United, and they will have to turn it around immediately against relegated Norwich on Tuesday with their grip on a top four place in danger.
The Blues – who may slip to fifth if results go against them beforehand – will know the fate of Manchester City’s European ban appeal by the time they kick off on Tuesday. The ban being upheld, and the ‘extra’ Champions League spot it would open up, would give them a five-point cushion back to Wolves with just three games left. If overturned though, Chelsea will have all sorts of motivation.
Norwich are officially gone and to be frank, there was an air of inevitability about their limp 4-0 thrashing by West Ham on Saturday. They have been outclassed for much of the season and, despite playing pleasant football, they have been found wanting at the back on countless occasions.
When Is Kick Off? Tuesday 14 July
What Time Is Kick Off? 20.15 (BST)
Where Is it Played? Stamford Bridge
TV Channel/Live Stream? Sky Sports (UK), FuboTV (US)
Referee? Jonathan Moss
Chelsea could welcome back N’Golo Kante from his hamstring problem, but he is unlikely to be risked ahead of Sunday’s FA Cup semi final against Manchester United at Wembley. Fikayo Tomori could make most of his side’s shaky defending and his recovery from injury to play a part, and fellow defender Andreas Christensen could miss out after limping off at half time against Sheffield United.
Lampard, who said he ‘learned a lot’ from the defeat at Bramall Lane, will probably revert to his customary 4-3-3 formation with Olivier Giroud, Mateo Kovacic and Marcos Alonso all in line for returns.
Norwich have a lengthy injury list, with Grant Hanley, Christoph Zimmermann, Moritz Leitner and Sam Byram all out. Todd Cantwell could return after starting from the bench last time out, and Kenny McClean could come in to bolster an often out-run midfield.
Chelsea: Arrizabalaga; Azpilicueta, Zouma, Rudiger, Alonso; Mount, Kovacic, Loftus-Cheek; Willian, Giroud, Pulisic.
Norwich: Krul, Aarons, Klose, Godfrey, Lewis; McClean, Tettey; Cantwell, Buendia, Hernandez; Pukki.
Chelsea’s six games since the restart have told the story of their season in miniature. Four wins and two defeats have demonstrated their inability to string a good run of results together; an inability which may come back to hurt them at this crucial stage of the season.
They can score, but were nothing short of woeful against Sheffield United and again showed far too much fragility from set plays and counter-attacks.
On the other hand, they’re coming up against a Norwich side who have conceded the most goals, scored the fewest and kept the fewest clean sheets in the league this season – and who officially have nothing left to play for.
Last time these sides met was a thriller at Carrow Road in August, when a far more competitive Canaries side gave Chelsea a scare before the Blues ran out 3-2 winners thanks to Tammy Abraham’s winner.
Here are both sides’ recent results in all competitions.
Sheffield United 3-0 Chelsea (11/7)
Crystal Palace 2-3 Chelsea (7/7)
Chelsea 3-0 Watford (4/7)
West Ham 3-2 Chelsea (1/7)
Leicester 0-1 Chelsea (28/6)
Norwich 0-4 West Ham (11/7)
Watford 2-1 Norwich (7/7)
Norwich 0-1 Brighton (4/7)
Arsenal 4-0 Norwich (1/7)
Norwich 1-2 Manchester United (27/6)
Despite the defeat to Sheffield United, this game should be a relatively easy ride for the Blues. They will have half an eye on the FA Cup tie at the weekend, but should still be alert to Norwich’s attacking threat (such as it is) on this occasion.
Prediction: Chelsea 3-1 Norwich