Chelsea can seal title Sunday
MANCHESTER, England (AP):
By mixing attacking verve with defensive resilience, Chelsea have been a class apart in the Premier League and can win the title Sunday with three games to spare.
A victory over Crystal Palace at Stamford Bridge will seal the title for Chelsea, who have lost only two games and are on course to register the second-highest points total in the 23-year history of the Premier League.
A 13-point lead demonstrates Chelsea's supremacy this season.
"I think we are what every team would like to be," said manager JosÈ Mourinho, who is on the brink of winning his third English league title with Chelsea - but his first since returning for a second spell at the club in 2013.
Chelsea have also won the League Cup this season.
Mourinho has moulded an almost complete line-up, with the off-season additions of striker Diego Costa and central midfielder Cesc Fabregas filling the most vulnerable areas of the team.
Chelsea blew opponents away with their attacking brilliance in the first half of the season. With injuries and fatigue creeping in, the Blues have been more pragmatic in the second half but the results haven't dipped - they are unbeaten since January 1.
"This was the month when people were waiting for Chelsea to slip up, to lose one game or draw," Mourinho said after Wednesday's 3-1 win at Leicester. "We were phenomenal tactically, with team spirit, the way we defended, the way we were clinical with our goal and the stability we showed in every game."
Chelsea have 80 points and can achieve a maximum of 92, which would be second to the league-high of 95 - set by Mourinho's title-winning Chelsea team of 2004-05.
Crystal Palace would seem like the ideal opponents for Chelsea - a mid-table side that has lost its last two games and has little to play for.
Palace, though, have been one of the most dangerous teams away from home in recent months, winning five of their last six games on their travels thanks to an attractive counter-attacking style.
If Chelsea do slip up, the title can still be secured this round if Arsenal - the only other team mathematically capable of winning the trophy - lose at Hull on Monday.
FIGHT FOR SECOND
Liverpool's slump in form has virtually guaranteed that Manchester City, Arsenal and Manchester United will fill the remaining three Champions League qualification berths behind Chelsea. But the order in which they'll finish could go down to the final day.
City have climbed back to second place after winning two straight home matches and are ahead of Arsenal on goal difference going into Sunday's match at Tottenham.
United, two points behind City and Arsenal, are at home to West Brom and are looking to bounce back from a 3-0 loss at Everton - their biggest league defeat under manager Louis van Gaal.