After securing a UEFA Europa League semi-final place for the first time since 2012, Maurizio Sarri will turn his attention to UEFA Champions League football for next year, as Chelsea battle with Burnley at Stamford Bridge.
A narrow 4-3 victory over Slavia Prague catapulted Chelsea into the final four, winning 5-3 on aggregate, while they were pegged back by Liverpool in the English Premier League a little over a week ago, that result effecting their top four hopes once again.
Manchester United stuttering against Everton is a blessing for Sarri’s side, however, they’ve come up against a Burnley outfit at just the wrong time.
After four consecutive defeats, Sean Dyche has lit of a dynamite of results, winning three on the spin, all by a 2-0 scoreline. Chelsea doubled that tally in their previous encounter, a 4-0 thrashing at Turf Moor that continued Sarri’s unbeaten start as The Blues boss.
Before the pair meet on Monday, we have created a combined Chelsea and Burnley XI, using statistics courtesy of WhoScored.com.
*statistics correct at time of writing*
Goalkeeper: Kepa Arrizabalaga (Chelsea) 6.63
Yet to miss a league game in his maiden season in England, Kepa Arrizabalaga has seemingly put the debacle in the Carabao Cup final behind him and has focused on improving his own game.
David De Gea is the only keeper from the top six to have saved more from outside of the box than his fellow Spaniard (De Gea 52, Arrizabalaga 36), whereas nobody between the sticks has made more accurate short passes (634).
Right-back: Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea) 6.97
Now in his seventh season with The Blues, Chelsea’s current vice-captain can only be herald as a club hero, having yet to make less than 25 appearances in the division during his stay in the capital.
He continues to lead the way for total amounted passes (2263) and accurate short passes for a right-back (1933).
Centre-back: James Tarkowski (Burnley) 7.11
Burnley have always built on a rear guard with a bite and toughness, with James Tarkowski optimising this approach. His constant development earned him a call up to Gareth Southgate’s senior squad last year.
Tarkowski has blocked the most shots of any player in the division (47) and has the third most amount of clearances (204).
Centre-back: David Luiz (Chelsea) 7.08
Where Tarkowski is a no-nonsense action kind of character, David Luiz has built a career on nonsense, largely to his benefit.
Only Sean Morrison of Cardiff City has made more key passes as a centre-half (Morrison 19, David Luiz 18) and he is joint third for successful dribbles (10).
Left-back: Marcos Alonso (Chelsea) 7.13
Marcos Alonso’s winner against Slavia Prague in the first leg of the UEFA Europa League tie managed to re-direct a few of his critics who felt he was losing his touch.
No left-back has had more shots (42) and only Crystal Palace’s Patrick van Aanholt has had more inside the penalty area (van Aanholt 23, Alonso 21).
Right midfielder: Willian (Chelsea) 7.10
Another of Chelsea’s longest servants still at Stamford Bridge, fans of The Blues will be bitterly disappointed to see the Brazilian leave after six years of constant entertainment.
Willian will be disheartened by his scoring escapades, having not netted in the league since 12 January. Willian will have a warm reminder of his strike against The Clarets earlier in the year, so will be looking to recreate that on Monday night. He does provide so much more than goals however; only two other wide players have made more key passes (55).
Central midfielder: Jorginho (Chelsea) 6.87
All of the hoo-ha surrounding Jorginho’s inability to defend has vaguely disintegrated and many are beginning to realise he is a genuinely talented footballer.
No midfielder has made more passes than the Italian (2865), nor made more accurate short passes (2480).
Central midfielder: N’Golo Kante (Chelsea) 6.95
If Chelsea were to lift the UEFA Europa League trophy at the end of the campaign, N’Golo Kante will have added a major trophy in each of his last four seasons in England (2 x English Premier Leagues, 1 x Emirates FA Cup), plus the small matter of the FIFA World Cup.
It is a demonstration of his invaluable contributions each week, especially as only team mate Jorginho has made more passes from the centre of the park (1957). Kante can also claim third for short key passes (42) from the same kettle of fish.
Left midfielder: Pedro (Chelsea) 6.96
Pedro is very much acquainted with UEFA Champions League football, especially during his spell in Spain with Barcelona and has played 45 times this term in trying to recreate this fortune for Chelsea.
Of players out wide over the age of 29, only two have made more short key passes than Pedro (17), with Willian the only name to have a higher dribble count amongst the seasoned campaigners (Willian 54, Pedro 51).
Attacking midfielder: Dwight McNeil (Burnley) 7.17
Dwight McNeil will never forget his breakthrough into the Burnley mould, having been a teenage sensation; England boss Gareth Southgate selected the 19-year-old to train with his senior Lions just a matter of months ago.
Two goals and an assist in his past four starts has raised a few eyebrows, in no small part to his tender age; of those under the age of 20, only Ryan Sessegnon of Fulham has attempted more dribbles than McNeil (Sessegnon 64, McNeil 50).
Forward: Eden Hazard (Chelsea) 7.79
Spectators were treated to an Eden Hazard special against West Ham United two weeks ago. He was unable to deliver the goods against Liverpool and will hoping to burn up Burnley in his typical brilliant style.
Still in the race for the Golden Boot with 16 goals, Hazard has his eyes firmly fixed on the king assister, currently joint top with Christian Eriksen of Tottenham Hotspur and Ryan Fraser of Bournemouth (all 12).
By Nathaniel Kay