London (AFP) – Chelsea playmaker Eden Hazard believes to win the Premier League title his side need to win five of their remaining six games beginning with Southampton on Tuesday.
The 26-year-old Belgian and his teammates will have to refocus after the delight of beating main title rivals Tottenham 4-2 in their FA Cup semi-final on Saturday, perhaps at the same time landing a psychological blow.
However, having seen a commanding 10-point lead eroded to just four, Antonio Conte’s players cannot afford a slip-up at home to Southampton.
Tottenham, though, face a tough challenge on Wednesday when they travel to fellow London club Crystal Palace who have in recent weeks seen off Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool.
Hazard, who came off the bench to score a superb goal for Chelsea on Saturday, said the FA Cup win could be just the boost they needed after a galling defeat in the league against Manchester United the week before.
“This win maybe gives us more confidence for the rest of the season,” Hazard told the club website.
“We have six games to play in the league and we need to win five if Tottenham win all of theirs, so we will see.”
The message from Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino was very much shrug off the FA Cup disappointment and move on.
His message was echoed by England international Eric Dier, who said the Palace game was a huge challenge towards their title ambitions.
Their task may be made easier as Palace manager Sam Allardyce said he would have to leave out some first choice players to give them a rest after their 2-1 win over Liverpool on Sunday.
“We have to move on, there is nothing we can do about it and we have a massive game on Wednesday,” Dier told the club website.
“We’ll put all our attention onto that now. We have to get this out of our heads and carry on -– I’m sure we will.
“I don’t think anyone expected this team to be where it is now – look at the last three years and look at where Tottenham are now.
“We’re getting closer and closer and I have no doubt that if we keep working, we’ll get our luck on these occasions,” added the 23-year-old.
Wednesday also sees a crucial relegation clash between north-east neighbours, bottom side Sunderland and Middlesbrough, who are just a place above them.
Sunderland’s experienced midfielder Lee Cattermole says it is a shame that both sides are in such a parlous state but he has not given up hope of a miraculous escape — something the weary Black Cats fans have got used to in recent years.
“It would be nice for both teams to be in a better position but we are where we are and we need to focus on getting a win which will give us some big momentum,” Cattermole told the Sunderland website.
The battle for the minor placings — third and fourth place which carries the lucrative Champions League place as a reward — also may become clearer with the Manchester derby on Thursday.
Pep Guardiola is already resigned to finishing trophyless for the first time in his stellar managerial career and will not want fourth-placed Manchester City to give ground to Manchester United, who are now just a point behind them.
Arsenal’s hopes of maintaining Arsene Wenger’s perfect record in qualifying for the Champions League are slim — seven points adrift of City but with a game in hand.
They host Leicester on Wednesday but at least they have an FA Cup final on the horizon.
Chelsea v Southampton
Wednesday (1845GMT unless stated):
Arsenal v Leicester, Crystal Palace v Tottenham (1900), Middlesbrough v Sunderland.
Manchester City v Manchester United