LONDON (AFP) – Despite manager Jose Mourinho’s insistence that Chelsea cannot win the Premier League this season, beating Norwich City on Sunday would leave them top of the table with a week remaining.
Title rivals Manchester City and Liverpool will each have a game in hand by then, but although Chelsea need both teams to slip up if they are to finish above them, Mourinho’s men remain in contention.
The last home game of the season also gives Chelsea an opportunity to leave their fans with a positive memory of the campaign, after Wednesday’s Champions League elimination by Atletico Madrid at Stamford Bridge.
The Champions League had appeared to be Chelsea’s most likely route to silverware, but although their destiny in the league is out of their hands, Mourinho expects a strong finish to the season.
“The only thing we can do is win both matches,” said the Chelsea manager, whose side finish their campaign at Cardiff City on May 11.
“Imagine if we are not champions because we don’t win these two matches. It wouldn’t be a good feeling for the players.
“We know that we play against two teams that desperately need the three points, but we also need the points to finish third and guarantee a Champions League spot next season.
“More than the points, we need to win both matches and we need to win the last match at home (to Norwich).”
Chelsea need only a point to make sure that they finish above fourth-place Arsenal and qualify automatically for next season’s Champions League.
Chelsea go into the weekend with a five-point cushion over their London rivals, but can afford to finish level on points with them as they boast a far superior goal difference (+43 to +24).
Mourinho will be able to call upon midfield quartet Frank Lampard, John Mikel Obi, Nemanja Matic and Mohamed Salah after all four missed the 3-1 loss to Atletico due to either suspension or ineligibility.
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Brazilian midfielder Ramires, however, remains suspended, while goalkeeper Petr Cech is out with a dislocated shoulder.
There are also fitness concerns over John Terry, Eden Hazard and Samuel Eto’o, all of whom overcame injuries to play against Atletico, as well as Oscar, who has a hip problem.
Hazard, meanwhile, must hope that his post-match comment to a French broadcaster that Chelsea “aren’t made for playing football”, which earned him a rebuke from Mourinho on Friday, does not cost him his place in the side.
Norwich hope to have Nigeria centre-back Joseph Yobo available after a calf injury, but attacking midfielder Anthony Pilkington is unlikely to feature due to a hip complaint.
Last weekend’s 4-0 loss at Manchester United saw Norwich slip into the relegation zone and with a home game against Arsenal to follow on the season’s final day, Carrow Road outfit are in dire straits.
Stand-in manager Neil Adams is still to pick up a point since succeeding the sacked Chris Hughton, but centre-back Michael Turner says that the team are determined to make amends for their performance at Old Trafford.
“We have got back on the training ground and worked hard every day and are fully focused on the next game at Chelsea,” he said.
“It was something we had to put behind us quite quickly. We know there are two games left and we have to put our all into them. We can’t mope about thinking about getting beaten at Manchester United.
“I think we will need something from both games. That is where we are. We go into the Chelsea game to try to get something and take it from there.
“From the players’ point of view, we are fighting for our lives and we will give it everything we have got, and hopefully it will be enough.”
Having been stunned by Sunderland in their previous home league game, Chelsea are hoping to avoid succumbing to three successive defeats at Stamford Bridge for the first time since 1993.