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How Chelsea can preserve their top-four spot this season

Chelsea have performed above the initial expectations under manager Frank Lampard this season, given they have been able to hold onto a top-four spot despite their inactivity over the past two transfer windows.

While they could not reinforce the squad during the summer due to a transfer ban, the case was different in January where they were free to spend after a successful appeal against the embargo at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Still, the hierarchy did not show any intent in strengthening the existing squad and this may place the added pressure on a young Chelsea side, who are now regarded as ‘underdogs’ in the top-four hunt, as per Lampard.

Chelsea are currently holding a slender two-point lead over Sheffield United for the fourth position but they have played a game less when compared to Chris Wilder’s side.

Here are a few ways Chelsea could preserve their Champions League place..

Improve their home record: The Blues have generally had a strong record on their home turf in the Premier League era and that has contributed to them winning the title on five occasions. However, they have not been able to show a similar dominance at Stamford Bridge this term with just five wins from 12 league matches. The Blues have back-to-back home games against Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur following the winter break and they must pick up maximum points from those encounters to avoid being caught by the chasing pack. Only six points separate Lampard’s side from ninth-placed Wolverhampton Wanderers in the standings.

Improve their gameplay in the final third: The west London outfit have excelled against teams, who prefer to play a free-flowing brand of football as they have been afforded with the chance to counter-attack. However, the same has not been the case against sides, who prefer to defend deep such as Newcastle United and Bournemouth against whom they have suffered shock 1-0 losses. The distribution has been average from the wide attackers of late and the Blues may have to make the best use of the crosses from right-back Reece James. The youngster has impressed with his accurate deliveries into the box but much to the fans’ frustration, the forwards have rarely timed their runs to take advantage.

Settle with a defensive combination: Frank Lampard has constantly tweaked the central defensive partnership in recent months and that has somewhat contributed to the disorganisation at the back. The fatigue accumulated from the festive games can be regarded as a reason but the same should not be the case after the winter break. Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen have been the go-to picks for the past few league matches and it remains to be seen whether Lampard makes any changes in the heart of the defence in reaction to a possible defeat in the coming games. Likewise, Lampard needs to decide whether to reintroduce dropped goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga or stick with Willy Caballero for the rest of the campaign.

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