Chelsea have the bit between their teeth

Chelsea players celebrating Diego Costa's 84th minute goal, which secured a 3-1 win over Swansea. The Blues next go to West Ham in the Premier League.
Chelsea players celebrating Diego Costa's 84th minute goal, which secured a 3-1 win over Swansea. The Blues next go to West Ham in the Premier League.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Conte feels Blues' league-winning experience 2 years ago will be a key part in the title run-in

LONDON • Antonio Conte believes Chelsea's experience of winning the Premier League two years ago will prove decisive as they attempt to maintain their stranglehold on the title race.

A 3-1 victory over Swansea on Saturday gave Conte's side an 11-point lead over Manchester City although Tottenham Hotspur would have cut that advantage at the top of the table to 10 if they beat Stoke City at White Hart Lane yesterday.

The Premier League trophy will be heading back to Stamford Bridge if the Blues avoid any major slips during the final weeks and the Chelsea boss is convinced his players have shown they can hold their nerve after lifting the trophy during Jose Mourinho's reign.

"It's not easy to keep the concentration for the whole championship. But I have a lot of players who played and won in the past," Conte said. "They know very well the way that we must continue to try to keep at the top of the table, to try and win the title.

"For this reason, I'm lucky. I'm lucky to have a lot of players who, in the past, won a lot.

"If, sometimes, I can see some of them relaxing, it's right for me to try and help them be focused for every moment.

  • 29
    Points left for Chelsea to become this season's Premier League champions.

    63
    Points garnered by Chelsea so far this season - three more than at the same stage in their title-winning 2014-15 season.

"But honestly, it wasn't necessary for me to keep the concentration and focus of the players."

Chelsea have 63 points from 26 games - three more than at the same stage in 2014-15.

Another 29 points from their remaining 12 league games will mathematically seal the title. And Conte has set that as the target.

The Italian told Sky Sports: "We need another 29 points to win the league and if we are able to take 29 points for sure we will win the title.

"But 29 points are a lot, and there are 12 games until the end. It's important to go step by step, to continue to work and have the commitment of the players."

Chelsea appeared in danger of dropping points on Saturday when Fernando Llorente cancelled out Cesc Fabregas' 19th minute opener. But Pedro and Diego Costa scored in the final 18 minutes to seal the win.

Swansea manager Paul Clement was convinced his side should have had a second half penalty when Cesar Azpilicueta handled the ball in the box with the scores level at 1-1.

Conte admitted: "I think for sure Azpilicueta touched the ball with his hand."

But Clement insisted the defeat will not affect his side's prospects of staying up.

"You never want to lose a game, but the performance doesn't damage our confidence. We've had some really difficult away games and picked up some good home results," he said.

"The month of March is vital: Burnley, Hull, Bournemouth and Middlesbrough, all teams around us. Damage limitation today in terms of the results around us, but we focus on our next game against Burnley."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 27, 2017, with the headline 'Chelsea have the bit between their teeth'. Print Edition | Subscribe