Blues on track for double

Left: N'Golo Kante does the work of two in Chelsea's midfield. Below: Under the tutelage of Antonio Conte, Eden Hazard is looking like the player who won the PFA Player of The Year award two seasons ago once more.
N'Golo Kante does the work of two in Chelsea's midfield. PHOTOS: REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Left: N'Golo Kante does the work of two in Chelsea's midfield. Below: Under the tutelage of Antonio Conte, Eden Hazard is looking like the player who won the PFA Player of The Year award two seasons ago once more.
Under the tutelage of Antonio Conte, Eden Hazard is looking like the player who won the PFA Player of The Year award two seasons ago once more.PHOTOS: REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Under the tutelage of Antonio Conte, Eden Hazard is looking like the player who won the PFA Player of The Year award two seasons ago once more.
Under the tutelage of Antonio Conte, Eden Hazard is looking like the player who won the PFA Player of The Year award two seasons ago once more.

With EPL title nearly in the bag and no games in Europe, Chelsea can now focus on FA Cup

LONDON • With Chelsea being runaway English Premier League leaders for so long this season, the question is no longer whether they are able to win a second league title in three years.

Instead, fans are wondering if this season could end in a "double" triumph - winning both the Premier League title and the FA Cup.

Already, some pundits are backing the Blues.

Former Arsenal star Paul Merson wrote in his column for The Daily Star that Chelsea are benefiting from their failure to qualify for Europe last season, when they finished 10th.

Manager Antonio Conte has been able to quickly work his magic at Chelsea, with more time in between games to fine-tune his 3-4-3 system and get his players following his tactics to perfection.

Merson said: "Not being in Europe has really helped them, because they're only really playing once a week and they haven't had to change their team around.

"They haven't had to rest any of their big players like Diego Costa, Eden Hazard or N'Golo Kante, because they've not had Champions League football to worry about.

"It's all about the draw in the FA Cup, so they will need some luck, but who is going to challenge them?"

Even if Chelsea fend off the considerable challenge of Manchester United in tomorrow's FA Cup quarter-final, they could still face opponents who are chasing them for the league title - Tottenham, Manchester City or Arsenal.

Nevertheless, they have lost just four times all season, and have beaten those three challengers during the season.

As such, there should be no fear among the Blues when it comes to facing those sides.

All that is left is for Chelsea to navigate through a likely fixture congestion next month, should they reach the FA Cup semi-finals.

However, with a 10-point buffer atop the Premier League table, they could afford a couple of league defeats, if they want to trot out their best to vie for the FA Cup. The Double dream is on.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 12, 2017, with the headline 'Blues on track for double'. Print Edition | Subscribe