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Chelsea cannot afford to lose another game after Manchester City

Top four on the line, and zero margin for error.

Watford v Chelsea - Premier League

Chelsea, having won just 8 points from 21 possible since the turn of the new year, dropped out of the top four for the first time since the eighth game of the season after Sunday’s loss to Manchester United, and while that was always a likely outcome of that particular game, combined with other less likely losses thus far this season — take you pick: Burnley, Crystal Palace, West Ham, Bournemouth, Watford — Chelsea have been left with zero margin for error if we are to make it back to the Champions League next season.

With the loss, the Blues enter the final quarter of the 2017-18 season two points behind Spurs in fourth and four points behind Liverpool in third. Let’s not even worry about United. But while that doesn’t sound too concerning yet, Chelsea take on Manchester City next weekend, which we can safely assume will be another zero pointer. All other top four teams have very winnable games on tap, which likely means that Chelsea will be starting at a deficit of five points to Spurs and the last top-four spot.

What does that mean? It means that Chelsea will basically have to win out. Or win at least 7 of the last 9 and draw the rest — with the assumption that 76 points will be enough for fourth — including the head-to-head six-pointers against Spurs and Liverpool. On the plus side, both of those games will be at the Bridge (April 1 and May 5, respectively). But, unlike last season, this season Chelsea have yet to show the consistency required to go on such a winning streak.

It’s never too late of course. Perhaps the clarity of the task ahead will help focus the minds and efforts.

Here’s Chelsea’s remaining schedule (all times PST), with the Burnley match still waiting to be rescheduled. It’s doable.

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