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Record-chasing Chelsea out to stoke title dreams

 Agencies |  2016-12-31 23:30:06.0  |  London

Record-chasing Chelsea out to stoke title dreams

Chelsea can take another step towards English football history when they host Stoke City on Saturday, as the Premier League’s jam-packed festive schedule rumbles into 2017.

Chelsea’s 3-0 win over Bournemouth on Boxing Day was their 12th in succession, leaving them two wins short of Arsenal’s overall top-flight record of 14, set over two seasons in 2002.

With each win, Antonio Conte’s side have looked more and more like champions-in-waiting, but with half the season still to go, Chelsea’s players are desperately trying to ignore the hype.

Goalkeeper Thibault Courtois has been one of the main reasons for their resurgence having conceded just two goals in the 12-match run -- something he puts down to skills honed in Spain with Atletico Madrid.

“Concentration is a big factor,” he told the club website.

“If you keep on shouting and being busy with the game you are always staying in it, and I think that is one of my strong points, focus and concentration during the game.

“I learned a lot of it when I was at Atletico.”

Pedro, scorer of two goals against Bournemouth, will be suspended, but top scorer Diego Costa – banned on Boxing Day – should return to the starting XI.

Midfield lynchpin N’Golo Kante is also available again after suspension.

Stoke fell to a 4-1 defeat at Liverpool on Tuesday, having gone ahead through Jonathan Walters, and lie 13th in the table.

Liverpool’s victory took them back to second place, six points below Chelsea, and they will stage the biggest game of the New Year weekend when third-place Manchester City visit Anfield on Saturday.

City trail Liverpool by a point, having won their last three matches, and manager Pep Guardiola was in attendance to watch Jurgen Klopp’s team overcome Stoke.

“It’s a very big game for both sides,” said Klopp.

“When you have a look at the table and see that six clubs fight for (fourth) or (first) it’s a really interesting position,” added Klopp, who sparred with Guardiola’s Bayern Munich during his successful spell as Borussia Dortmund coach.

Klopp is wary too of a City side that will be boosted by the return from suspension of Argentinian striker Sergio Aguero.

“He is back and a good striker, obviously,” said Klopp.

“I always thought that he is quite a talented boy. I never made a secret of it, and now he is back in the team with a lot of other really good players, that makes life not easier for us.”

Arsenal, two points below City in fourth place, will look to build on Monday’s last-gasp 1-0 win over West Bromwich Albion when they host Sam Allardyce’s Crystal Palace on New Year’s Day. 

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