Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti has warned his players that they will have to stop taking their foot off the accelerator during games if they are to successfully retain their Premier League crown.
Chelsea have taken advantage of a number of slip-ups by their rivals to establish a five-point gap at the top of the table with almost a quarter of the season gone.
Yet the Blues boss, who clinched the title last season in his first year in charge, has voiced his concerns recently that his team are not performing to their potential.
The Londoners had to rely on a late goal from Salomon Kalou to seal a 2-0 victory over Wolves last week and have been guilty of easing off on their opponents at times this season — most notably against Stoke and Blackpool.
Ancelotti thinks his team will have to be more ruthless in closing out matches if they are to claim victory in the key battles against Liverpool, Tottenham, Manchester United and Arsenal that lie ahead.
“We have started the season well but I think we can play better because we played very well in some parts of some games but not continuously,” the Italian said.
“We have to play 90 minutes how we want to play. We have to improve our play and our intensity. We can't just play for 45 minutes like we did against Wolves.
“We want to play well for the whole of the match and we haven't been able to do that so far this season.”
Ancelotti takes his team to Blackburn today knowing that his team have under-performed in their last two league matches away from home.
Defeat at title rivals Manchester City was followed by a goalless draw at Aston Villa, where they could have lost all three points had Nigel Reo-Coker not squandered a golden chance in the dying minutes.
Although Ancelotti's team swept aside Wigan and West Ham in their other two away league games, the former AC Milan boss admits his side must do better on the road if they are to hold on to their title.
“In the last two games away we didn't score against Man City and against Aston Villa,” said the 51-year-old boss.
“We had a good away game in the Champions League at Spartak Moscow but it is strange for us not to score away in two consecutive games in the Premier League.
“We had a fantastic performance when we won at Wigan 6-0 but we have to be better away.”
Alex will return to the heart of the Chelsea defence today after recovering from a thigh injury but Ramires (ankle), Frank Lampard (hernia) and Yossi Benayoun (Achilles) remain sidelined.
Chelsea will be clear favourites to take all three points and maintain their grip on the title against Blackburn but Ancelotti expects the game to be one of the toughest of the season.
He said: “Man City, Man Utd and Arsenal are interested in our results and they would like us to lose some points. For this reason it will be an important game.
“If we are able to win this game I think that we can improve our confidence and we can give disappointment to the other teams.”