MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) - If Chelsea needed any reminder that there is still work to be done to secure a second title in three years, the Premier League schedule should ensure there is no complacency in Antonio Conte’s squad.
Second-placed Tottenham visit West Ham United on Friday and a win for Mauricio Pochettino’s team would cut the gap to leaders Chelsea to just one point ahead of the Blues’ Monday game against relegation-threatened Middlesbrough.
Both the title-chasers are in buoyant mood after crucial wins last weekend with Spurs triumphing over Arsenal in the North London derby and Chelsea winning 3-0 against Everton at Goodison Park in the toughest game on paper of their run-in.
“We keep going, it’s hard to do anything else. We can’t control what Chelsea do, we just have to keep winning our games,” said Spurs forward Harry Kane, who scored in the 2-0 win over Arsenal to take his league tally to 21 for the season.
“We have another London derby on Friday night and hopefully we can win that, drop it down to one point and see what happens... We’re playing as well as we ever have done in the Premier League.”
Tottenham have won nine consecutive league games but West Ham will remember that they were only minutes away from doing what no team has managed this season -- beating Spurs at White Hart Lane.
Spurs fought back from 2-1 down in stoppage time, with two Kane goals, to claim a 3-2 win in November and Hammers defender Winston Reid knows the England forward will be a threat again.
“When we played them at White Hart Lane, he didn’t have a shot on target for 89 minutes, then out of nowhere he had scored a penalty and another goal from open play and they had won the game,” he said.
Chelsea start as clear favourites against second-bottom Middlesbrough but they will have noted the fighting spirit shown by Boro in their 2-2 draw with fourth-placed Manchester City on Sunday.
In the battle for Champions League qualification, third-placed Liverpool are at home on Sunday to Southampton -- a club they have raided for several players in recent seasons -- while fifth-placed Manchester United take on Arsenal, in sixth.
Manchester City will expect to get back to winning ways, after three games without a victory, when they host Crystal Palace on Saturday.
Sam Allardyce’s team, however, are unlikely to roll over as they still need points to secure their safety after their home loss to Burnley last Saturday.
At the bottom of the table, Hull City will be hoping to pull further away from the drop zone when they face already-relegated Sunderland, while Swansea, in 18th and two points adrift of the safety zone, face a tough home game against Everton.
Editing by Toby Davis