Chelsea  Europa League boost before ahead of Brighton with Manchester United and Newcastle injury blow

Chelsea  Europa League boost before ahead of Brighton with Manchester United and Newcastle injury blow

Chelsea’s chances of securing a top-six finish in the Premier League have been boosted by the latest injury news for their two rivals. Mauricio Pochettino’s side travel to Brighton on Wednesday and can ensure a seventh-place finish at minimum with a win, meanwhile Manchester United host Newcastle.

The Blues could end the night sixth and needing just one point on the final day to confirm that spot which is likely to bring Europa League qualification. There is also the slim possibility of chasing down Tottenham in fifth, who would need to lose both their games – home to Manchester City on Tuesday and away to Sheffield United on the final day.

Chelsea take on Bournemouth on Sunday to close off the season but first go to the Amex Stadium in good form having won their third match in a row thanks to a comeback victory over Nottingham Forest at the weekend. Earlier in the day Newcastle had left the door ajar for Chelsea and United in the battle for the European spots as they were held by Brighton.

It means that if Manchester United were to beat Newcastle at Old Trafford, Chelsea could find themselves on the verge of sealing a place in the Europa League. With the caveat that they need to win against Brighton – they haven’t beaten the Seagulls away from home in front of a crowd since 2018 – and that if United win the FA Cup but finish eighth, sixth spot would only be enough for Conference League qualification.

United’s poor form of late has made the FA Cup seem a formality for the second year running though. Manchester City head into their penultimate league game with seven wins in a row and still pushing for a double as they approach the game as comfortable favourites.

Erik ten Hag’s side, meanwhile, may well have to rely on winning at Wembley if results don’t go their way in the next week, but for now the chance to finish above both Chelsea and Newcastle exists. They could remain eighth but level on points with Eddie Howe’s side with a victory on Wednesday, only behind due to a vastly worse goal difference.

That would put them in a direct shoot-out on the final day in what could still be a three-way affair. The form book suggests that Old Trafford will be left largely disappointed again though with just one league win in eight games for United. Newcastle, on the other hand, have three wins in their last five and six in the past eight games.

They will travel to Manchester with some big injury issues to contend with though. Both Callum Wilson and Alexander Isak could miss the game. Wilson has been absent for much of 2024 but Isak has been a mainstay.

The Swedish striker had to go off early against Brighton due to illness and is a doubt for Wednesday. “We’ll see, we have not seen him today [Tuesday],” said Howe. “If not we will see him for Brentford.

“Whenever either one of our two strikers has been missing it has impacted us. For Alex, it was an illness, it’s not serious. He did not train yesterday hopefully we will see him today. We knew on Friday he was slightly under the weather.”

Fabian Schar may also miss the game: “He is working his way back, in a mix between training and being with the medical staff. He is making good progress with his hamstring so we will see.”

Matt Targett, Lewis Miley, Joe Willock, Sven Botman, Jamal Lascelles, and Sandro Tonali will also be out for the game. As for Manchester United, their injury woes show some signs of relenting at an important point stage of the season.

Argentine defender Lisandro Martinez will be in the squad for the clash with Newcastle after spending two months out with a calf problem. He has only played 11 times this season and has been a huge miss for Ten Hag at the back.

His return will be a big boost, especially if Isak is unable to make the game. United could also welcome back Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford, though the latter would rather wait until the weekend to feature.

“Licha Martinez: I think he will return to the squad,” Ten Hag said. “He’s done some sessions with us and we plan for him to be available if this afternoon everything goes right in training. He will return to the squad.

“For some other players we have to see: Rashford, Bruno, Willy Kambwala, if they are fit enough.” Raphael Varane will not be available. “We are planning, definitely, for the last games,” explained the head coach after a summer exit for Varane was confirmed. “Not tomorrow but we hope for Sunday and then, of course, for the last game.”

Chelsea will be hoping that United can stall Newcastle’s progress in some way. Any dropped points for the Toon will be a great help to Pochettino’s European bid.

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