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Kovačić hoping to ride Chelsea’s ‘amazing’ new defense to top-four spot

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Chelsea v Burnley - Premier League Photo by Darren Walsh/Chelsea FC via Getty Images

After Thursday’s 1-0 win over Spurs, Chelsea are back in the top six for the first time in several weeks, though it’s a bit of a false dawn as far as our European hopes for next season are concerned.

With the three teams immediately below us, Everton, Spurs, and Aston Villa, all having one or two games-in-hand, we would be back on the outside looking-in once again without ever kicking a ball should they win those postponed matches. And while we’re only four points off fourth place Liverpool at the moment, that would certainly put a fair few teams between us and Champions League qualification for next season.

That said, we have most of the second-half of the season still left to play catch-up — provided no cancellation due to more COVID-19 concerns — and that’s something we can look forward to, as Mateo Kovačić told the official website after the derby win.

“We played well against Tottenham and if we continue like that I think we can certainly get back into the top four. I think with this team we are good enough and we deserve to be there but you have to work hard for it. So let’s take things game by game and see where it takes us.”

Thomas Tuchel has been in charge for less than two weeks and only three games, but we’re certainly seeing some patterns emerge as to how he wants his team to play and what his preferred styles may be. We may be lacking a high-octane offense at the moment — thanks in part to continuing issues with poor finishing in front of goal — yet the defensive discipline and the structured possession has provided enough of a base from which to carve out decent-to-good results. Granted, none of the opponents in those three games were exactly hell-bent on attacking gung-ho, but avoiding counters is equally as important as defending deep with our backs to the wall.

Defense wins championships, as the old saying goes, or in this case, defense is what could carry us back into the top four.

“That’s three [clean] sheets [in a row] now and the defence and the goalkeeper is doing amazing and it makes us very confident in them. The whole team is doing well defensively, we are doing great and I think we have improved a lot in the last three games.

“We need to keep moving forward like this because there is a still of lot of the season to be played and I think we can do great things. We have started well under the new coach. That’s two wins in a row, plus a draw in his first game, and he’s explained to us exactly what he wants from us.

“We have started well but I think we can do even better.”

-Mateo Kovačić; source: Chelsea FC

Our next chance to go even better, to keep winning and not conceding comes Sunday (sans Thiago Silva!), when we travel north to take on bottom of the table Sheffield United — though who are seemingly also turning a corner as well, belatedly, with three wins in their last five league games (after zero wins in their first 17).