In Brief

Why Chelsea are still title favourites despite Spurs defeat

Blues' run of 13 wins may be over but it has given the chasing pack a mighty target

Chelsea's defeat to Spurs has just ended their remarkable streak of 13 consecutive victories. While that run has helped them establish a five-point lead at the top of the table, defeat at White Hart Lane has "galvanised the chasing pack in the race for the Premier League title", says the Daily Mail.

How Chelsea react to defeat could be telling. They have two crunch games coming up in the next month that could go a long way to deciding if they can regain the Premier League crown.

After this weekend's FA Cup tie with Peterborough, the Blues face Leicester and then Hull. They will expect to beat them, before back-to-back clashes with title rivals.

On Tuesday 31 January they face Liverpool at Anfield and the following Saturday (4 February) they face Arsenal at Stamford Bridge. If those two games go badly their lead at the top of the table could vanish.

But if they win one or both then they will be clear favourites for the title, as they have a relatively easy run-in with only two more games against top six opposition remaining in the season.

The omens are encouraging says Oliver Kay in The Times. Spurs identified a "chink in Chelsea's armour"[3] he says. "But there should be no temptation to pronounce, on the basis of one defeat, that Conte's team are 'human after all'. They had looked formidable over recent months, but never indestructible."

Defeat is not the end for the Blues. They have "spirit and intensity... and it will be needed over the coming weeks if, like two seasons ago, defeat at White Hart Lane is to be only a brief setback en route to the title".

The Daily Telegraph also has them down as champions in waiting. "They have the points advantage and the quality to be crowned champions," writes Ben Bloom.

Even more encouraging for Chelsea is that their main rivals must all play each other before the end of the season and could end up killing each other off during the pursuit.

Liverpool, for example, who "appear to have the easiest task purely based on remaining fixtures" according to the Telegraph, face a huge game at Old Trafford next week. If they lose to Man United and Chelsea beat Leicester on 15 January the Blues will have an eight-point advantage at the top of the table and can then afford to lose to Jurgen Klopp's side.

Even worse for Liverpool is the fact that after their games against United and Chelsea, four of their next seven games are against Spurs, Arsenal, Man City and Everton.

It is a similar story for Man City, who face Spurs this month, Man United next month, Liverpool in March and then Arsenal and Chelsea.

Man United will be out of the title hunt if they fail to beat Liverpool next week. Even if they manage it they will surely have to win away against Manchester City, Spurs and Arsenal to mount a serious challenge.

As for Arsenal, few people expect the Gunners to last the pace. "There is a sense at the Emirates that lessons of previous seasons have not been learned, and the back-to-back defeats against Everton and Manchester City were worryingly insipid. Alexis Sanchez's rage during the draw at Bournemouth summarised how many fans are feeling right now," says the Telegraph.

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