Football: Spurred on to win 6 more

Above: Chelsea forward Eden Hazard (centre) celebrates after scoring against Manchester City. The Belgian recorded his 12th and 13th goals of the season on Wednesday.
Above: Chelsea forward Eden Hazard (centre) celebrates after scoring against Manchester City. The Belgian recorded his 12th and 13th goals of the season on Wednesday.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Conte urges Blues to assume Tottenham will win the rest of their league fixtures

LONDON • Chelsea will require 18 more points to win the Premier League title, manager Antonio Conte told his players after their 2-1 win over Manchester City at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday.

The London football club's lead was cut to seven points after they lost 2-1 at home to Crystal Palace last weekend, but they preserved that advantage over Tottenham Hotspur by seeing off City.

Spurs will end the season on 89 points if they win their last eight games and Conte said his side must win six of their remaining eight fixtures - which would take them to 90 points - to be sure of the title.

"I like to say only the winners write history," he said. "I have intelligent players. When there is the possibility to send some message, I think these players don't need this message.

"They know very well the situation. The only message I send them is that we must think Tottenham could win eight games.

"For this reason, we must be focused and try to win six games. If we can do this, we will win the title. Otherwise it will be a good season, but not a great season."

With Tottenham having come from behind to win 3-1 at Swansea City, Chelsea's lead would have been cut to four points if they had lost to City.

They took a 10th-minute lead when Eden Hazard scored via a deflection off his Belgium team-mate Vincent Kompany, who made his first City start since January.

  • PREMIER LEAGUE TITLE RUN-IN: ADVANTAGE CHELSEA

  • The English Premier League title is Chelsea's to lose. They need six wins from their remaining eight games to finish the job.

    But it could get tricky at Old Trafford as Jose Mourinho's Manchester United are unbeaten in the league since Oct 29.

    Then comes an FA Cup semi-final against Tottenham Hotspur on April 22. Lose and it could hurt their league campaign psychologically, particularly if the gap has narrowed.

    Southampton and Everton may also pose some problems.

    To keep their challenge going to the wire, Spurs' tough assignments include a resurgent Leicester City, arch-rivals Arsenal and Man United.

  • CHELSEA (72 POINTS)

    April 8 Bournemouth (a)

    April 16 Manchester United (a)

    TBC Watford (h)

    April 25 Southampton (h) April 30 Everton (a)

    May 8 Middlesbrough (h)

    May 13 West Bromwich Albion (a)

    May 21 Sunderland (h)

  • TOTTENHAM (65 POINTS)

    April 8 Watford (h)

    April 15 Bournemouth (h)

    TBC Leicester City (a)

    April 26 Crystal Palace (a)

    April 30 Arsenal (h)

    May 5 West Ham (a)

    May 13 Man United (h)

    May 21 Hull City (a)

A loose kick by home goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois - another Belgium international - enabled Sergio Aguero to level for City in the 26th minute.

But Fernandinho's trip on Pedro gave Hazard a chance to restore Chelsea's lead from the spot 10 minutes before half-time, which he took at the second attempt after Willy Caballero saved his penalty.

"At this point of the season the pressure is very high, and to drop points would have given hope to your opponents," said Conte. "So this is a good win for us against a top team, with great players and the best coach in the world.

"When you face this type of combination, it's tough to win, especially after a defeat by Palace. So this was another step - a big step - against a great team with a lot of qualities."

Chelsea became the first team to secure home-and-away wins in the same season against a side managed by Pep Guardiola, who has lost six games in a league campaign for the first time in his coaching career.

Chelsea, who travel to Bournemouth tomorrow, are unlikely to be sanctioned by the Football Association for Diego Costa's ugly lunge, while grounded, on Kompany.

The striker caught the City centre-half on the knee 20 minutes from time, but the referee Mike Dean appeared to have witnessed the incident, thereby ruling out the possibility of retrospective action.

"It's very difficult to see this type of situation during the game," offered Conte.

Guardiola shrugged off mention of the challenge.

City remain fourth, 14 points below Chelsea, and with Arsenal and Manchester United hot on their heels - both four points back with a game in hand.

"Today the Premier League (title) has gone," Guardiola said.

"We have to think about the last seven, eight games left to get in the Champions League."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 07, 2017, with the headline 'Spurred on to win 6 more'. Print Edition | Subscribe