Slipping up against Crystal Palace created misplaced euphoria that Tottenham could catch us in the race for the Premier League title, and while the defeat was untimely, Chelsea still have the momentum and quality to see them over the line.
It would take a collapse of monumental proportion to stop us on our relentless pursuit of a title that would make amends for the absolute horror show of last season, with the team performing at the peak of their powers. Only a series of injuries to our best players could threaten to derail Chelsea, and even then you would back Antonio Conte to get whoever was left fit to play singing from the same hymn sheet and firing on all cylinders.
All that remains is for Chelsea to focus on themselves and keep winning in the remaining seven games of the campaign. Sound simple enough, especially for a team that has blown everyone away and lost only two of their last twenty-five league fixtures.
Bookmaker Ratings have already declared the title race as all but over, but Conte will not allow his players to lose focus and concentration, especially not at this stage of the season with destiny in our own hands.
Important win at Bournemouth
The sign of true champions is their ability to bounce back from adversity, and while the 2-1 win at the Bridge against Manchester City amidst all the questions that were being asked of Conte and the players was hugely important, putting in a superb performance at Bournemouth to win 3-1 proved our class. You have to take your hat off to Tottenham for keeping things interesting, but the champagne is already chilling nicely in ice buckets ready for us to toast our title success.
We answered all the questions that Bournemouth threw at us, particularly in the second half, to come away from the Vitality Stadium with a vital three points, and while the Cherries deserve credit for having a real go, we showed our true quality. Marcos Alonso’s superb free-kick typified a performance in which everything came together, with strong defending and the magic of Eden Hazard, Pedro et al came to the fore. Whether it has finally silenced those who started to get excited that the title race was back on remains to be seen.
We now move onwards to two home games which will provide contrasting tests, with struggling London rivals Crystal Palace and title-chasing Manchester City coming to the Bridge after the international break.
Focus is the key
Finishing the season with a flourish would be a fitting end to what has been a fantastic season for Chelsea, but if recent weeks are anything to go by, then teams will continue to up their game against us until the end of the season. Conte became accustomed to being in this situation during his time at Juventus where, despite being the best team in Serie A, they had to remain focused until they ended any mathematical chance of anyone catching them at the summit. His knowledge and experience will undoubtedly come into play during the final seven games, with Conte likely to keep the players’ feet firmly on the ground instead of let complacency set in and prevent them from feeling like the job is done.
Manchester United provide the first obstacles in our quest to finally put the title race to bed, with another encounter with Jose Mourinho likely to create firework at Old Trafford.
We would be more than delighted with a repeat of the 4-0 scoreline at the Bridge back in October when Chelsea tore them apart at will, but given they are currently on a twenty-one game unbeaten run (you would never have thought it given they have barely budged from sixth for what feels like an eternity), there is no question that they have to be respected. The Blues may be backed by punters who take part in the free competitions run by Bookmaker Ratings to win the game and take one big step towards the title, but Conte will know that the lads will have to be right up for it and prove, once again, why we would be worthy champions.
Conte has the luxury of picking from a fully fit squad, with everyone coming through the Bournemouth game unscathed and no suspensions to worry about to match. Mourinho, on the other hand, has a series of casualties to worry about as Manchester United’s injury problems show no sign of ending, with Ashley Young, Juan Mata, Phil Jones and Chris Smalling definitely ruled out of the clash at Old Trafford.
However, they may have Antonio Valencia, Wayne Rooney and David De Gea back fit, but if the latter of the three does not prove his fitness in time, you cannot help but feel that Chelsea have a wonderful opportunity to take all three points back to the Bridge.