Eden Hazard believes Chelsea are “nearly there” in their bid to win the title after he scored twice against Manchester City to ensure Antonio Conte’s side remain seven points clear at the top of the table.
Chelsea seemed to have one hand on the trophy until Tottenham’s dramatic late comeback at Swansea meant Conte’s team still need to win six of their last eight games to be mathematically sure of finishing top of the pile.
But Hazard, who scored an early deflected effort before firing home the rebound after his penalty was saved, believes Chelsea are closing in on their second title in three years as they recovered from Saturday’s shock defeat to Crystal Palace.
"We are nearly there but there is a long way to go,” said the Belgian. “We have some difficult games but we are ready for everything.
“We have eight games to play. We want to finish top. That's the target.
"I don't know if the way we played was beautiful but the most important thing is to win games. I think the way we played we can do better but after a defeat it's good to come back here and win three points.”
Conte, meanwhile, has told his players he expects Tottenham to win every one of their remaining eight games, meaning Chelsea are unable to afford more than two defeats if they are to “write history” as he looks for the right words to motivate his side.
“The message I sent them [his players] is they must think Tottenham will win eight games and for this reason we must be focussed to win six games,” said the Italian, whose side travel to Bournemouth on Saturday. “If we are going to do this we win the title. Otherwise it will be a good season but not a great season.
“For all my players, for me, we will remember this season if we win. Because when you don’t win [it is] a good season, a good job but usually I like to tell that only winners write the history.
“For this reason to win the title we need 18 points but I think that is the best way for us.
“In Italy for me honestly was easy to find the right word to motivate my players. Here I am studying English but I am not at a great level to give a great motivation but I try to push sometimes with words and with my hands and numbers. Six wins.” There were suggestions that Diego Costa may face disciplinary action for an alleged off the ball confrontation with City captain Vincent Kompany but both Conte and Pep Guardiola played down the incident.
“Did I see it? No but during the game is very difficult,” said Conte. “You see this type of contact but it is impossible to tell and judge this type of contact.”
City manager Guardiola, meanwhile, felt his side were the better team despite Conte becoming the first manager to beat him twice in a league season in his career.
It also marked the first time Guardiola has lost six league games in a single season and the Spaniard officially conceded defeat in the title race as he focusses on qualifying for the Champions League by finishing in the top four.
Asked whether he felt City were the better team, as he had said they were when Chelsea won at the Etihad Stadium in December, Guardiola replied: “Absolutely, but they got six points and we have zero. Football has results but the way we play today I am happier than the Arsenal game [on Sunday] but then we have one point and today we have none.
1 - This is the first time that Pep Guardiola has lost both home & away against the same opponent in a single league season as a boss. Blue. pic.twitter.com/Z95c4PK8uT— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) April 5, 2017
“We created enough, more than them, to win the game. Of course the last five or 10 minutes the game was more open, but we pressed really well, high pressing, and won the ball many times. They scored and won.
“Today the Premier League has gone. Now we have to think about qualifying for the Champions League and finishing in the top four.
“I'd have liked to have taken one or three points, but hopefully next season we'll be stronger to do that.”