4th win in a row will lift Blues' European prospects

LONDON • Nemanja Matic knows Chelsea will boost their chances of a top-four finish if they get a fourth successive Premier League win when Stoke City visit Stamford Bridge today.

The Blues' win at Norwich this week moved last season's champions into the top half of the table for the first time since August and within eight points of fourth-placed Manchester City.

And their Serbian midfielder Matic believes that, with the side now lying 10th, they can close the gap to the Champions League places if they can win all their remaining 10 league games.

"It is very important to win games. We are a big team and have to keep doing this if we are to get closer to the first four," he said. "I know it's very difficult to catch them but we will give our best to win every game from now on."

Centre-back Gary Cahill insists the impressive form of striker Diego Costa since interim manager Guus Hiddink took charge means the club are capable of moving up the table.

  • 8
    Number of points Chelsea are behind fourth-placed Manchester City for Champions League qualification

"It is perfect timing to have Costa back to his very best with the big games we have coming up. He's scoring goals and long may that continue," Cahill said. "I'm sure for a striker, if you start scoring goals, you think you will score every time you get on the pitch. He is in that mindset now.

"Ultimately for us, if we have Diego in form and scoring goals, it's great for the team."

Stoke moved above Chelsea and up to seventh by beating Newcastle United 1-0 on Wednesday. That was a third successive victory for Mark Hughes' side, who are only five points outside the Champions League positions.

However, their defence will be stretched thin today as they will be without four defenders.

Hughes said yesterday that defensive duo Phil Bardsley and Geoff Cameron have joined Glen Johnson and captain Ryan Shawcross on the treatment table.

"We've got five fit defenders at the moment, but some of them aren't 100 per cent fit. We are a little bit stretched but the guys are putting their hand up and getting out there, so that's good," he told the British media."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 05, 2016, with the headline '4th win in a row will lift Blues' European prospects'. Print Edition | Subscribe