Jose Mourinho has no new injury concerns ahead of his Chelsea side’s home clash with Norwich City on Sunday.
Ramires is still out suspended and will be for the rest of the season, while the game may come too soon for first choice keeper Petr Cech, whose season was thought to be over with a dislocated shoulder. However, he had returned to training before the loss against Atletico Madrid. Mark Schwarzer will again likely deputise, should Cech not be deemed match fit.
Mourinho will be buoyed by having quartet John Obi Mikel, Frank Lampard, Nemanja Matic and Mohammed Salah all to choose from – the former two serving suspensions and the latter two being ineligible for the Atletico game, easing his stretched midfield.
John Terry is also able to return to league duty after a successful comeback from injury in midweek, and so could feature against the relegation-threatened Canaries.
Eden Hazard and Samuel Eto’o also returned from injuries against Atletico , while Oscar was an unused substitute Wednesday despite carrying a knock, so all three may play some part come Sunday.
Norwich manager Neil Adams also has no new injury worries, with Anthony Pilkington still out with a hip problem, though Joseph Yobo could feature for the first time under former academy boss Adams after being out since March.
Looking to avoid back to back home league defeats under Mourinho for the very first time, it won’t be easy for the Blues as for the second home game running they face relegation-threatened opponents. Solace will however taken by Norwich’s recent torrid run, winning one of their last seven and not winning any of their last five. Anything other than an unlikely win for the Canaries will leave them perilously close to dropping out of England’s top table after three seasons.
Chelsea’s form however is much stronger by comparison, having only lost three times in the last 10 league games. However, those losses came against unlikely victors in Aston Villa, Crystal Palace and Sunderland. Including the Atletico game, a loss for Chelsea would mark three consecutive home losses for the first time since 1978, when Chelsea finished bottom of Division 1.
Since their first meeting in 1962, the Blues and the Canaries have historically proven worthy adversaries, though recently Chelsea have had the advantage. Having played 40 times, the head to head record makes for good reading for Chelsea fans – winning 16, losing 12 and drawing 12, though Stamford Bridge has rarely proved to be a happy hunting ground for Norwich, with their last win coming in a league game in 1993. They defeated Chelsea a year later at Carrow Road, but have failed to beat them in any meeting since.
Chelsea will be looking to complete a second consecutive league double over their opponents, having won 3-1 in October at Carrow Road, with the goals coming from Oscar, Eden Hazard and a stunner from Willian.
After their exit in the Champions League, Mourinho and his men can turn their attention solely to an increasingly unlikely Premier League title charge, knowing a victory will put them top of the table for at least 24 hours with just one round of fixtures to play.
With title rivals Manchester City and Liverpool playing Everton and Crystal Palace on Saturday and Monday respectively, a slip up for either will give Chelsea renewed hope for a league title for the first time since 2010. However, anything other than six points from the remaining two games for Chelsea will make winning the league a nigh-on impossible feat.
There is still something to play for though if you’re a Chelsea fan. A win on Sunday can guarantee at worst a third place finish this season, meaning automatic qualification for the Champions League group stages next season, ruling out the need for a potentially tricky play-off in late August.
Of course, Norwich also have their reasons to take three points back to East Anglia. Currently sitting in 18th place and in the relegation zone on goal difference, a coupon-busting result at the Bridge will ease worries of relegation, especially with their well-documented awful end-of-season run-in – hosting Liverpool last week, away to Chelsea this week and sign off the season with a trip to Arsenal.
If Norwich are to take something from Sunday’s game, they will need something they have rarely got this season – goals. Along with Crystal Palace, the Canaries are the lowest scorers, with just 28 goals from their 36 games. What makes their job even harder is that Chelsea are the owners of the meanest defence in the league, conceding only 26 times so far.
So with plenty for both teams to play for, and the chance to give their fans real optimism for entirely different reasons with victory on Sunday, we should be in for a great game.