Chelsea look to twist knife in Premier League
Having claimed the season`s first major trophy, Chelsea will attempt to tighten their stranglehold on the Premier League title race when they visit West Ham United in mid-week.
London: Having claimed the season`s first major trophy, Chelsea will attempt to tighten their stranglehold on the Premier League title race when they visit West Ham United in mid-week.
Chelsea beat Tottenham Hotspur 2-0 at Wembley on Sunday to lift the League Cup and they were given double cause for celebration by Manchester City`s 2-1 defeat at Liverpool earlier in the day.
Chelsea now lead second-place City by five points with a game in hand, leaving manager Jose Mourinho well placed to repeat the feat from his first season at the club, 10 years ago, when his side followed up success in the League Cup by romping to the title by a 12-point margin.
But Mourinho, who had gone two and a half years without winning a trophy, said that it was too early to declare the title race over, and pointed to the form of Manchester United and a resurgent Liverpool as proof.
"It`s in the hands of everyone," he said.
"We have lots of difficult matches to play. City have difficult matches. United are third (actually fourth), right? They are in the title race, too. Liverpool, I predicted that."
Chelsea won 3-0 on their last visit to Upton Park last season and would appear to have little to fear from a West Ham team who have slipped to ninth place in the table after a run of one win in 10 games.
Bottom club Leicester City are the visitors to the Etihad Stadium and City could scarcely have asked for more suitable opposition in the wake of their loss at Anfield, but with last week`s Champions League defeat by Barcelona also fresh in the memory, manager Manuel Pellegrini has urged his team to hit back.
"We will see in the reaction in the next game," said the Chilean. "The only way to see is the way we play again on Wednesday.
"I hope that the team will recover and we can win on Wednesday. Every point we drop is more difficult."
City`s defeat at Liverpool, who won courtesy of a sensational late goal by Philippe Coutinho, left the champions at risk of being dragged into the scrap for Champions League qualification below them.Arsenal, who beat Everton 2-0 on Sunday, are now only four points behind City in third place, with Manchester United a point further back in fourth and Liverpool another two points back in fifth.
Arsenal visit fourth-bottom Queens Park Rangers on Wednesday, while United travel to Newcastle United and Liverpool host third-bottom Burnley.
United laboured to a 2-0 win at home to Sunderland on Saturday that saw record signing Angel di Maria substituted at half-time after a poor first-half display, but captain Wayne Rooney has backed the Argentina winger to prove his class over the season`s closing weeks.
"It was one of those days that every footballer has," said Rooney, who scored both of United`s goals.
"He`s a great player. You don`t lose your talent overnight. Hopefully he`ll get back to his best and start giving some great performances.
"I think he will figure it out. We all have to do that sometimes. You have to come to it in your own way and I am sure he will be a big player for us between now and the end of the season."
Southampton`s 1-0 defeat at West Bromwich Albion left them four points below the top four ahead of a home game with Crystal Palace.
Tottenham are two points further back, with a game in hand, and head coach Mauricio Pochettino called on his players to put their League Cup disappointment behind them as they prepare to host Swansea City.
"The challenge, now, is the next game," said the Argentine. "We can speak about the top four at the end of the season, but we must concentrate on Swansea.
"We need to move forward, forget the final, refresh legs and minds. But we need to take positives. We have more positives than negatives in this final."
Tim Sherwood`s bid to end second-bottom Aston Villa`s run of seven consecutive defeats continues with a home game against West Brom, in a dress rehearsal for Saturday`s FA Cup quarter-final.
Fixtures (1945 GMT unless otherwise stated)
Aston Villa v West Bromwich Albion, Hull City v Sunderland, Southampton v Crystal Palace
Liverpool v Burnley (2000 GMT), Manchester City v Leicester City, Newcastle United v Manchester United, Queens Park Rangers v Arsenal, Stoke City v Everton, Tottenham Hotspur v Swansea City, West Ham United v Chelsea