How Chelsea's incredibly fortunate injury record has swung the title race

Alistair Tweedale
Antonio Conte has been able to select a consistent team for the majority of the season - PA

When illness was reported to have run through the Chelsea squad before their recent defeat to Manchester United, many felt as though the wheels may be coming off their Premier League challenge.

Antonio Conte declared the title race "50-50" after Tottenham closed the gap at the top to four points, but this has been Chelsea's title for months now and their fate is still very much in their own hands.

Conte has been fortunate in that he has been able to consistently select his favoured starting lineup throughout the campaign. When Marcos Alonso's absence upset the balance of the team at Old Trafford, their inadequacies were laid bare.

But that has not been a problem Chelsea have had to contend with on many occasions. They have been extremely lucky with injuries all year.

As data from Premierinjuries.com shows, between 13 August 2016 and 19 April 2017, Chelsea's players have suffered just 18 'serious' injuries, where we define 'serious' as resulting in at least 10 days on the sidelines. Of all Premier League team only West Brom, with 12, have had to deal with fewer than Chelsea.

'Serious' injuries suffered, Premier League 2016/17

Those injuries have resulted in Chelsea players missing 324 days of the season: in a squad of 25, that equates to less than 13 days per player. Again, West Brom are the only other team less affected by injury.

But West Brom were never going to be a threat to Chelsea in the title race. Each of the teams who are involved at the top of the table have had significantly more injuries than Conte's squad.

Tottenham have suffered 27 'serious' injuries; Manchester City 28; Liverpool 30; Manchester United 32, and poor old Arsenal 37. Each of those teams have lost more than twice as many days to those injuries as Chelsea.

Spurs have had to do without key man Harry Kane for two extended spells; City have lost Vincent Kompany and Sergio Aguero to lengthy injuries; Liverpool are currently missing Sadio Mane with a knee injury, and he will be out until the end of the season; United's defence has been decimated throughout the campaign; Arsenal have struggled without Santi Cazorla for months, among many other long-term knocks.

Chelsea, meanwhile, have seen a player miss three weeks or more on only six occasions all season: John Terry (twice), Jon Obi Mikel (twice), Cesc Fabregas and Branislav Ivanovic. Of those players, Mikel and Ivanovic were considered disposable in January and only Fabregas has played a significant role on the pitch. Even he has been used sparingly.

The players in Conte's preferred starting 11 have suffered 'serious' injuries on just eight occasions all campaign.

There is without doubt some level of fortune here: Kane was twice injured in heavy tackles. Mane sustained his injury in an innocuous collision with Everton's Leighton Baines in the Merseyside derby. Paul Pogba pulled his hamstring playing midweek in the Europa League, something with which Chelsea have not had to contend.

Conte left Eden Hazard and Diego Costa on the bench for the FA Cup semi-final at the weekend Credit: Getty images

But credit should also be paid to Conte for managing his squad so well. Yes, he has been fortunate to see his squad avoid injuries in challenges, but he has in some sense made his own luck. He is the only manager to use all three of his available substitutions in every Premier League match this season.

His decision to drop Eden Hazard and Diego Costa for the FA Cup semi-final against Spurs was derided before kick off, as many complained he was not treating the cup seriously enough.

But come full time he was being lauded as a genius. His team are still on for a domestic Double after beating the second best team in the country, but two of his most potent attacking threats remain fresh for the league game against Southampton on Tuesday.

That said, fortune has favoured Chelsea this season when it comes to time on the treatment table, and the league table shows they are feeling the benefits.

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