Chelsea gain Champions League edge over top-four rivals after clever Marina Granovskaia trick


Chelsea's main intention when sending their youngsters out on loan is for development. The opportunity for regular minutes at an elite level and the hope those players can use it as a springboard to jump back into first-team plans in the future.

This season, Levi Colwill certainly fits that bracket with Huddersfield Town. An 18-year-old centre- back taking his very first steps into senior football in the Championship and flourishing under Carlos Corberán as the Terriers aim for a play-off spot. But an inadvertent benefit to Marina Granovsakia's ability to secure Premier League loans for Cobham talent offers an opportunity to hurt Chelsea's rivals throughout the season.

Armando Broja's strike at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Wednesday evening was part of Southampton's incredible 3-2 victory over Antonio Conte's side. That result means that even if Spurs were to win their other three games in hand, they cannot overtake Chelsea in the league table.

Southampton also held Spurs to a 1-1 draw in late December, further halting Conte's progress. Tino Livramento, sold with a buy-back clause from Chelsea last summer, was the man of the match in the Saints' 1-1 draw with Manchester United on the second weekend of the season. A Boxing Day victory away at West Ham in which Broja won a crucial penalty also took points off another top-four rival.

Southampton have also been a thorn in the side of Manchester City in both league fixtures, doing something Chelsea could not by remaining unbeaten against the champions. Conor Gallagher's exceptional loan spell at Selhurst Park has also brought unexpected league gifts.

Gallagher scored twice in a 2-2 draw with West Ham. First there was an influential outing in Palace's 3-0 thumping of Spurs where he got an assist. Then an enthralling 2-2 draw with Arsenal at the Emirates and a massive goal to clinch a shock 2-0 win at the Etihad over Manchester City in October.

Palace still have to host two of Chelsea's fierce rivals in Arsenal and Manchester United where Gallagher can inflict more damage. The last of the Premier League loan trio in Billy Gilmour has naturally found it most difficult to influence things given the Canaries are embroiled in a relegation scrap.

Since Dean Smith's arrival, Norwich's form has slowly improved to inject hope of a survival bid. Having just returned from injury, Gilmour could assist his parent club in some other big shocks as Norwich still have to face City, Liverpool, Manchester United, West Ham and Spurs.

For the trio, the aim this year will have been to increase their chances of breaking through under Thomas Tuchel in the coming seasons at Stamford Bridge.

But these small wins are eqully helping to lessen the strain on Tuchel's squad to secure a top-four place. From a Chelsea perspective, this is truly a win-win.

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