THESE fixtures against the Premier League’s big six, or the ‘superpowers’ as Sean Dyche would call them, are becoming an increasingly futile and frustrating exercise for clubs like Burnley.

After last week’s demolition at the Etihad against Manchester City the Clarets were handed another thankless task against Chelsea. To the surprise of nobody the outcome was the same.

In a league that was not so long ago lauded for its unpredictably, heralded for the fact anybody could beat anybody, the divide is widening at a worrying rate.

Burnley have long been considered to have the kind of style and system that can frustrate and trouble the big beasts of the division, but since that opening day win at Chelsea in August 2017 the Clarets have now gone 14 games against the big six without victory, losing 10 of their last 12.

In their last five against those sides the Clarets have conceded 18 goals and scored once. This from the side that were actually best of the rest last season. Neutrals must be turning off in their thousands from such one-sided processions.

Neil Warnock described Cardiff City’s task at Liverpool on Saturday as ‘virtually impossible’. Sean Dyche would never be so defeatist, but deep down he knows taking anything against a side like Chelsea is a bonus.

Burnley’s battle doesn’t lie in these games. They won’t be judged in May on how they did against the likes of Chelsea and City, even if the performances have been far below the high standards they’ve previously set.

But it is bloodying the noses of the big clubs that supporters will often remember come the end of a campaign. These days it’s hard to leave a scratch, never mind draw blood.

Yes, Dyche’s side look a long way from their best at the moment and the signs are worrying, but even on a good day it’s becoming impossible for clubs like Burnley to keep up with the pace of progress in the top six, especially against those sides who now have a touch of magic in the dugout as well as on the pitch.

Burnley, buoyed by the sight of Robbie Brady back in the side for the first time in almost 11 months, actually started brightly, without really troubling Kepa Arrizabalaga. But as soon as they went behind they were bystanders.

As Chelsea began to take control, dominating the midfield battle, Joe Hart made a one-handed, reaction save to tip Alvaro Morata’s header over when the Spaniard redirected Ross Barkley’s miscued shot, before Morata played in Willian, the Brazilian opening his body to send a shot beyond Hart only to see it rebound off the post.

If that was Willian at his best then his worst was on show towards the end of the first half, throwing himself to ground as Matt Lowton waved a leg at and earning a yellow card for diving.

But by that stage Maurizio Sarri’s side led. Midway through the first half Jeff Hendrick was robbed of possession near halfway. N’Golo Kante found Ross Barkley and his through ball dissected Steven Defour and James Tarkowski to allow Morata to poke a shot beyond the advancing Hart.

Morata was in the mood now. He broke the offside trap but was again denied by Hart, before a smart turn against Ben Mee opened up the goal, only for the shot to hit the side netting.

But it was Kante and Barkley who combined again for the second. Just as they did for the opening goal they were given too much space to advance into, with Kante finding Barkley, who drifted unopposed from the centre circle before a crisp, low finish with his left foot found the corner from 25 yards.

Just as it did last week at the Etihad the second goal quickly brought a third. Willian cutting in from the left, past a lethargic challenge from Gudmundsson, and finding the bottom corner.

Still Chelsea weren’t done. Oliver Giroud, on for Morata, drew a fine save from Hart, tipping a header onto the bar. But when the Clarets failed to clear the resulting corner Ruben Loftus-Cheek hammered home to complete the misery for the Clarets.