London (AFP) – Chelsea will require 18 more points to win the Premier League title, manager Antonio Conte told his players after their 2-1 victory over Manchester City at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea’s lead was cut to seven points after they lost 2-1 at home to Crystal Palace at the weekend, but they preserved their 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 says his side must win six of their remaining 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 Manchester 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.
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.
Hazard has now scored 13 goals in all competitions and Conte said: “He’s an important player. He’s growing in his mentality and I think he’s playing a really good season.”
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.
– City ‘1,000 miles better’ –
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 — Guardiola knows they face a scrap for a top-four finish.
“Today the Premier League has gone,” Guardiola said.
“We have to think about the last seven, eight games left to get in the Champions League.”
Despite the result, Guardiola professed himself “honoured” to be in charge of City’s players and said quality “in the boxes” had been the only difference between the two teams.
In what could have been construed as a dig at Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho, who played with six at the back against Chelsea in the FA Cup last month, Guardiola hailed his team’s positivity.
“I’m a lucky guy to be the manager of this club and especially these players,” said the Catalan, whose side drew 2-2 at Arsenal last Sunday.
“We played with huge personality and not waiting. I saw many teams play here with six at the back.”
He added: “I like to convince our players to play in that way. You can win, you can lose. I will continue to the last day.
“When I’m a spectator, I can see when one team is afraid, just waiting for one action to win the game.
“I don’t like to be reactive. I like my teams to be proactive. I like to have the main role in the game. It’s not easy.
“Our performance was 1,000 miles better than the Arsenal game. Much, much better.
“I would have liked to take points, one or three, to be there. But it was not possible. Hopefully next season we’ll be stronger.”
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