Chelsea earn victory despite Alvaro Morata's misery continuing at Burnley
BURNLEY, England -- Three quick thoughts from Chelsea's 2-1 Premier League victory over Burnley at Turf Moor on Thursday:
1. Morata misery continues as Chelsea win at Burnley
Alvaro Morata's Chelsea nightmare hit a new low at Burnley, with the struggling forward reacting petulantly to being substituted after appearing to blow his chance of starting in Sunday's FA Cup semifinal against Southampton.
Although Chelsea maintained their faint hopes of catching Tottenham and securing a top-four finish with their 2-1 victory at Turf Moor, Morata -- who has scored just one Premier League goal in 2018 -- produced another toothless display alongside fellow striker Olivier Giroud.
A second-half miss, after racing clear of the Burnley defence, highlighted the £58 million man's lack of confidence and prompted Antonio Conte to replace him with Eden Hazard on 70 minutes. That decision led to Morata kicking a bottle near the dugout, reacting angrily to Burnley supporters in the Main Stand and then continuing his fit of pique on the bench before being consoled by substitute Cesc Fabregas.
With Conte expected to restore Hazard to starting XI on Sunday, the manager is unlikely to start with two forwards, and Giroud would appear to be in pole position to start following Morata's performance against Sean Dyche's men.
Chelsea were still able to claim their second away win in five days, however, with Victor Moses scoring the winner after Ashley Barnes had cancelled out Kevin Long's first-half own-goal opener. With Spurs now only five points clear of Chelsea after picking up just one point from their past two games, Conte's men still have an outside chance of making the top four and qualifying for the Champions League.
Had Morata scored the goals he was bought to deliver, though, they may already be sure of top-four finish.
2. Glimpse of life after Hazard should worry Chelsea
Hazard was named on the bench by Conte at Turf Moor simply to rest the Chelsea playmaker ahead of Sunday's FA Cup semifinal against Southampton at Wembley.
But with speculation continuing to swirl around the Belgian's future at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea's performance without their No. 10 offered a worrying glimpse into the future for the club.
Without Hazard, Conte deployed Morata alongside Giroud in a front two, with Moses and Pedro playing supporting roles. It was a formation that was good enough to defeat Dyche's team, with Moses scoring one and making another, but while it was effective, it was also desperately lacking in flair.
By the time Hazard was introduced as a 70th-minute substitute for Morata, Chelsea had done enough to win the game, but they will be among the also-rans again next season if Hazard leaves this summer and this kind of lineup becomes the norm.
He is Chelsea's best player by a long distance, which is why the likes of Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain are keen to sign him this summer. Hazard has yet to sign a new contract at Stamford Bridge, and the likely absence of Champions League football next season will not help Chelsea if they have to persuade him to stay.
But for 70 minutes, they had a look at life without Hazard, and it wasn't pretty.
3. Burnley's England contingent have off night
Gareth Southgate has been a regular visitor to Turf Moor this season, but the England manager stayed away for the visit of Chelsea and his absence may have done a couple of Burnley's World Cup hopefuls a favour.
Four of Sean Dyche's squad -- Tom Heaton, Nick Pope, James Tarkowski and Jack Cork -- have been involved with England this season, but Pope and Tarkowski are the two most likely to make it on the plane to Russia. Both of them had an off night against Chelsea, though, with Tarkowski, in particular, unconvincing against Morata.
Having arrived at Turf Moor out of form and desperate for a goal, Morata was not exactly at the peak of his powers, but his pace and movement still troubled Burnley centre-half Tarkowski.
In the first half, he conceded a dangerous free kick by tugging and then tripping Morata on the edge of the penalty area before being caught upfield when the Spain international broke clear early in the second half. On that occasion, Tarkowski was still 30 yards behind Morata when he shot at goal, but the Chelsea forward's lack of form showed as he fired horribly wide.
Pope, meanwhile, will not want to look back on Chelsea's early goal after misjudging the cross from Moses that led to it. Pope, who has claimed the No. 1 spot from Heaton following his early-season shoulder injury, came for the cross and missed it before seeing the ball bounce off teammate Kevin Long for a messy own goal.
Both Tarkowski and Pope have done well this season and earned their England chances, but they cannot afford more nights like this if they are to make Southgate's squad.
Mark Ogden is a senior football writer for ESPN FC. Follow him @MarkOgden_