'Super-favourites Chelsea'

Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois believes that the key to the Blues' winning run lies in their defence, which has conceded only two goals in 12 league matches.
Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois believes that the key to the Blues' winning run lies in their defence, which has conceded only two goals in 12 league matches.PHOTO: REUTERS

Arsenal boss Wenger says Blues are likely to win title as they seek 13th straight win

LONDON • Arsene Wenger has labelled Chelsea as "super favourites" for the English Premier League title after watching the leaders close in on Arsenal's record for consecutive victories.

Antonio Conte's side have opened up a six-point lead at the top of the table thanks to a superb run of 12 successive wins.

Chelsea have been perfect in the league since a 3-0 defeat by Arsenal on Sept 24.

The west London side can consolidate pole position in today's clash with Stoke City and Gunners manager Wenger conceded yesterday that they are firm favourites to take the title.

"At the moment Chelsea are the super favourites because they are quite big and made a big difference," Wenger said.

"But it is theirs to lose. It's still a long way to go and very difficult for everybody so the head-to-head (matches) will be vital."

Arsenal won 13 consecutive Premier League games on their way to the title in 2001-02, extending the run to 14 the following campaign, but Wenger says he would do nothing but congratulate Chelsea if they match their single-season run.

"What they do is fantastic," said the Frenchman. "If they do it, it's absolutely marvellous because nobody expected that."

Goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois believes the key to Chelsea's stunning turnaround in form lies in the defence that has conceded just two goals during the club's winning streak.

While forwards Diego Costa and Eden Hazard, together with inspirational midfielder N'Golo Kante, have attracted most praise in recent weeks, Courtois says the revamped back-line has laid the foundations for the upturn in form.

He believes the defence has been transformed by Conte's decision to switch to a back-three following the Arsenal loss.

"Letting in only two goals is amazing," Courtois told the Chelsea club website. "After that Arsenal game we had to build a new thing and we did it well.

"Now we are more solid at the back than at the beginning of the season. That is why we have this run at the moment and we just try to keep it going."

But the 24-year-old Belgian also warned that the six-point advantage could quickly disappear.

"In the Premier League things go really fast so we just have to keep the focus on ourselves and play game by game and then we will see," he added.

Bojan Krkic could feature for Stoke after being told he has a future at the club by manager Mark Hughes.

The 26-year-old former Barcelona and Ajax midfielder has only featured eight times in the Premier League this season, scoring three times.

But with Wilfried Bony, Mame Biram Diouf and Ramadan Sobhi all departing for the African Nations Cup next month, Hughes has assured the Spanish striker that he still has a part to play at the club.

He said: "I want to give him more opportunities.

"We've got three attacking players leaving in January, so if he gets that opportunity he will probably stay in the team."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 31, 2016, with the headline ''Super-favourites Chelsea''. Print Edition | Subscribe