After crashing out of the Champions League, there will be no better tonic for Chelsea than regaining top spot in the league. Defeat for Jose Mourinho’s side last weekend would have ruled them out of title contention, but the Blues can now heap the pressure on Liverpool ahead of Monday’s trip to Selhurst Park.
Then again, that pressure doesn’t compare with the strain which a defeat would place on Norwich and their beleaguered rookie manager Neil Adams. The former youth coach has only been in charge for two of his side’s five consecutive losses, but needs to break his duck soon. The Canaries have fallen into the relegation zone for the first time since early November, and require a near-miraculous result against the Blues or Arsenal - and possibly both - to escape.
Having lost their last eight away games on the spin, it doesn’t look likely. Norwich will take the league’s joint-worst attack to face its best defence, complemented further up the pitch by newly crowned PFA Young Player of the Year Eden Hazard. Chelsea could collectively end the season trophyless though, a fate which would be all but sealed if they fall short this weekend.
KICK-OFF: Sunday, 4pm
PAST THREE MEETINGS…
Norwich 1 (Pilkington) Chelsea 3 (Oscar, Hazard, Willian), Premier League, October 2013
Norwich 0 Chelsea 1 (Mata), Premier League, December 2012
Chelsea 4 (Torres, Lampard, Hazard, Ivanovic) Norwich 1 (Holt), Premier League, October 2012
In their last seven games, Chelsea have lost to Aston Villa, Crystal Palace and Sunderland. If they had won those matches, the Blues would have already wrapped up the title.
Norwich have scored 28 times this season, the joint-fewest in the league with Crystal Palace.
The Canaries, who have hit 11 away goals, travel to Stamford Bridge, where just 11 opposition goals have been conceded.
Norwich, the only team not to reach double figures in terms of away points gained this season, are up against the side with the league’s best home record.
The Canaries haven’t beaten Chelsea in 20 years.
Chelsea have only twice failed to score three or more goals in their last nine matches with Norwich.
Chelsea to win: 1.18
Norwich to win: 17.0
Chelsea’s third round FA Cup match against Norwich in 2002 was, on the face of it, nothing special. But in the 62nd minute of a regulation win against lower league opposition, Gianfranco Zola scored one of the best goals seen on these shores. Meeting Graeme Le Saux’s low corner at the near post, the Italian magician let the ball fly between his legs before perfectly timing a flicked volley into the top corner.
TV: Live on Sky Sports 1 at 4pm, highlights on BBC1 at 10.30pm on Monday