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Chelsea strengthen their hold on the Champions League places with a commanding display

Chelsea strengthen their hold on the Champions League places with a commanding display

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Chelsea edged above both Arsenal and Tottenham into the third place with a win over Swansea City...

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By Shikharr Chandra

It was a perfect end to the weekend that started brilliantly for the Blues. With Spurs losing ground against relegation battlers Wigan Athletic on Saturday, Chelsea knew that they would finish the weekend in the top four regardless of the result at Stamford Bridge against the Swans.

Interim manager Rafa Benitez made a couple of changes to the side that beat FC Basel in the midweek with Demba Ba coming into the starting XI replacing Fernando Torres. John Obi Mikel was kept on the bench with referee Mark Clattenburg making his return to Stamford Bridge for the first time since the controversial league fixture against United. David Luiz continued his run in the center of the midfield alongside Ramires. Chelsea welcomed back Gary Cahill in the starting lineup in place of Branislav Ivanovic.

The Pensioners, whose last home defeat came against Swansea in the Capital One Cup where they exited in an embarrassing way, knew they had to avoid a similar result if they wanted to keep their Champions League hopes alive.
 
*Top five standings as on 29 AprMatchesGoals
 TEAMSPTSPWDLGSGA
1 Manchester United 85 35 27 4 4 79 36
2 Manchester City 71 34 21 8 5 61 31
3 Chelsea FC 65 34 19 8 7 68 35
4 Arsenal 64 35 18 10 7 66 36
5 Tottenham 62 34 18 8 8 60 43

The game started with Juan Mata being handed over the Supporters Club Player of the Year award and with a huge welcome to Chelsea's record goal-scorer Sir Bobby Tambling. Frank Lampard, who is on course to chase down the goal scoring record, started on the bench.

It was a relatively slow start by both the sides until the introduction of Frank Lampard midway through the first half after an injury to Ramires. Lampard set up Oscar right before the half time with a through ball which the Brazilian dispatched with ease past Michel Vorm. Lampard then added to his goals tally with Chelsea after he blasted the spot kick past the Swansea goalkeeper. There was a sense of relief around the Stamford Bridge as Lampard finally ended his six-week long goal drought which was met by a huge roar by the supporters.

Oscar opened the scoring for the Blues

Chelsea failed to add anything in the second half with Juan Mata coming the closest to scoring. Swansea on the other hand never looked threatening as the likes of Michu and Pablo Hernandez could hardly trouble Petr Cech who made his first save with 89 minutes gone.

The win saw the Blues move ahead of Arsenal into the third place with a game in hand after the Gunners were held by champions Manchester United. They have also moved three points clear of London rivals Tottenham who too have a game in hand over their neighbours Arsenal.

Chelsea have two important fixtures coming up when they take on Manchester United away and Tottenham in their own backyard. The tie against Swansea was their 65th game of the season and they could have another six more to go. The Blues also travel to Villa Park which could be a very tricky game for the Pensioners as the Villains look to avoid the drop. Chelsea play their last game against Everton who could have a huge say as they themselves have an outside chance of getting into Champions League next season.

Did Rafa get it right?

Sunday's three points could have a massive say as we enter the defining point of the season and although manager Rafa Benitez has got a lot of stick during his tenure at Chelsea, what must be praised his how well he has coped with the fixture fatigue. Benitez will now play his 43rd game as Chelsea manager when his side welcome FC Basel at Stamford Bridge on Thursday.

For now on though the Blues can breathe easily as their aim of getting into the Champions League spots look better than ever and with a place in the Europa League finals up for grabs on Thursday, it could be a fitting end to a good couple of weeks for Chelsea who have had a season to forget.

Do you think Chelsea can finish in the top four? Leave your comments below or discuss with the writer on Twitter @ShikharrC

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