It may almost have been by default but Chelsea now find themselves in the box seat to finish fourth this season and they can edge closer to that aim by beating FA Cup finalists Watford on Sunday.
Maurizio Sarri opted to use Eden Hazard from the substitutes’ bench in Thursday’s Europa League draw at Eintracht Frankfurt so the Belgian should be raring to go when the Hornets visit Stamford Bridge.
Only Tottenham of the four sides chasing third and fourth spots have won any of their last three league games and that was a 1-0 win against Brighton.
Chelsea have moved two points clear of fifth-placed Arsenal and two ahead of Manchester United thanks to draws in their last two matches against Burnley and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team.
Despite their frailties away from home, Chelsea remain solid at Stamford Bridge where they have only lost one top-flight match this term while Watford usually struggle on their travels against the leading sides.
Arsenal have been saving their best performances for the Europa League recently, with impressive victories against Napoli and Valencia being interspersed with dreadful defeats to Leicester, Crystal Palace and Wolves.
Brighton appear to be safe despite being in freefall in the last two months – picking up two points from their last seven matches and scoring just once.
It may be a case of surviving by the skin of their teeth, parting company with Chris Hughton in the summer and starting afresh in August.
The Seagulls will surely pack their defence in the hope of holding on for a goalless draw, but it may be a similar scenario to last month’s 1-0 loss at Tottenham with the Gunners scraping home thanks to a late goal. A draw at half time and Arsenal victory after 90 minutes is available at 3/1.
So poor have Arsenal and Chelsea been recently that Manchester United, who play Huddersfield and Cardiff in their last two games, could still sneak into the top four.
United suffered a shock defeat to the Terriers on a rain-drenched West Yorkshire day on their last trip to Huddersfield in October 2017 but should ease to victory this weekend with David De Gea, so poor recently, to have a quiet time. A United clean sheet is available at 20/21.
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