BY PAUL EREWUBA
League leaders, Chelsea are now the team to beat as the English Premier League title chase gets hotter by the day.
The first game of the weekend sees Liverpool face Swansea, while Manchester United are also in action today, travelling to Stoke.
There will be three matches tomorrow, with Chelsea and Arsenal both at home.
Chelsea have 52 points from 21 matches and lead the pack with a goal difference of seven.
Indeed, Chelsea’s Premier League title rivals thought the door had been pushed open after a run on 13 straight wins ended at Tottenham and the new harmony under manager Antonio Conte was disturbed by Diego Costa.
But Chelsea gave their answer with an impressive 3-0 win at Leicester City which put them firmly back in control of their Premier League title chase.
On Sunday at the Stanford Bridge, the Antonio Conte- managed side would attempt to extend their lead when they host visiting Hull City. If that can be done, then Chelsea can look back and beat their chest of a possible title win.
The big match today is the encounter between Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspurs at the Etihad Stadium.
Indeed, there will be no hiding place for Pep Guardiola as his struggling side face an in-form Tottenham Hotspurs.
Spurs have won their last six games, while City have lost two of their last three – including a thumping against Everton last Sunday.
Spurs coach, Mauricio Pochettino’s side is a growing force in this title race and the 4-0 demolition of West Bromwich Albion was further evidence of their growing authority.
It was their sixth straight league wins since their loss at Manchester United in December – and they have only lost two games out of 21.
Their able striker, Harry Kane is firing on all cylinders, and this is evident on his hat-trick against West Brom, and with Dele Alli scoring seven goals in his last five league games Spurs are starting to look like a strong title challenger.
They ran out of steam towards the end of last season, but Pochettino surely must have learnt his lesson and tailored his team’s intense style accordingly.
The Argentine will still hope to avoid injuries and there is a real worry over influential defender Jan Vertonghen, who Pochettino fears has suffered a “bad” ankle injury.
City Manager Pep Guardiola has effectively written off Manchester City’s title challenge after they were beaten 4-0 at Everton.
City now face a fight to finish in the top four with a side seemingly physically weak, riddled with defensive frailty and a goalkeeper in Claudio Bravo who hardly ever seems to save a shot.
Liverpool will be up in arms against Swansea today.
They were disappointed they could not hold on to victory at Manchester United last Sunday.
They were within six minutes of securing a win that would not only have inflicted even more damage on United, but also would have sent a strong message to those nearer the top of the table.
It is to the Reds’ credit that they came so close to victory despite key men such as Philippe Coutinho still not fit enough to start, Nathaniel Clyne out with a rib injury and Joel Matip sidelined because of confusion surrounding his absence from Cameroon’s Africa Cup of Nations squad.
However, Manager Jurgen Klopp still believes they are still in a strong position to contest for the title.
A lot of fans have told the Special One, Jose Mourinho to forget the title, but the Portuguese still believes the title is within their reach if they keep winning.
Manchester United are sixth on the leader with 40 points to show for their effort after 21 games.
And today, their striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, with 14 Premiership goals, leads the squad to Stoke in a winner takes all game.
No doubt, Manchester United are showing definite signs of improvement under manager Jose Mourinho, but like neighbours Manchester City their fight is now for the top four rather than the title.
They could have closed to within two points of Liverpool with victory at Old Trafford last Sunday, but 12 points is surely an impossible gap to breach between Man United and Chelsea.
United have drawn seven league games – including five at home – and the simple fact is they have squandered too many points to make up the deficit.
Mourinho is definitely moving United forward, but not fast enough to make them title contenders this season.
If Chelsea win against Hull City and get past Liverpool next match, they could be thinking of winning the title.