Paul Parker

Advantage Chelsea

Paul Parker

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United may have beaten Bolton 4-0 to preserve their lead at the top of the
Premier League but the advantage lies with Chelsea.

7-1 drubbing of Aston Villa will have given Carlo Ancelotti's side a huge lift
after the disappointment of being bounced out of the Champions League.

That defeat
to Jose Mourinho's Internazionale had threatened to derail Chelsea's season
after they followed it up with a drab draw at Blackburn.

But their
midweek thumping of Portsmouth and the incredible scoreline against Villa have
served to silence those beginning to doubt their title credentials.

Not only
are Chelsea playing fantastic football at the moment but with one less
competition to worry about, they are now able to focus all their efforts on winning
the league.

about the FA Cup - I don't consider that to be too much of a distraction for
Chelsea. The way they have breezed through the competition so far and
considering how they brushed aside Villa at the weekend suggests they will walk
into the final. And there are only two more games to play, maximum.

United, on
the other hand, have the small matter of two games against Bayern Munich to
contend with and possibly even more should they progress.

Ferguson's team selection ahead of the Bolton game was influenced by the upcoming game
in Bavaria - he left out Wayne Rooney and Rio Ferdinand - and this time his
decision was justified.

But with the
Bayern games sandwiching next weekend's Chelsea clash, it is impossible for
Ferguson to rest his players in that way again - and that may give him a
headache he could do without.

United have the points on the board in the league, but they have some tricky fixtures coming
up and if their involvement in Europe is prolonged, juggling two major
campaigns will prove a huge test of his squad's depth.

That is one
asset Chelsea certainly have. Remember Didier Drogba's disappearance to
the African Cup of Nations in January and how badly Chelsea would miss him? It
never happened.

appearance on the Chelsea bench on Saturday raised a few eyebrows at kick-off,
but again Chelsea did not need him. Under Jose Mourinho, Chelsea were a bit too
reliant on their big names, but now they have more strings to their bow and can
turn to any number of players to see them through.

On Saturday
that man was Frank Lampard who provided four goals. The haul was hugely impressive
for a midfield player, and indicative of just how much the England midfielder
has improved this season.

But Lampard
is not just about goals any more. Under previous manager he employed a
shoot-on-sight policy - and it worked for him. But now he is a far more
complete midfielder.  Not only is he
performing better defensively and tracking back more but has also become a
better passer of the ball. He used to be seen as a player who just picked up
second balls and knock-downs from Drogba, but that perception has changed with
his role.

can take credit for the transformation. The Italian was played with and managed
some world class midfielders in his time with Milan in Serie A, so he knows how
to get the best out of quality players.

form may not prove decisive in the title race, but it will certainly help
Chelsea's cause. And with Drogba to come back into the side, Chelsea certainly
look well equipped to overhaul United at the top of the table.

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