Chelsea keep up the chase
Carlo Ancelotti's decision to leave out Fernando Torres paid off as Florent Malouda and Salomon Kalou fired Chelsea up to second in the Barclays Premier League with a 3-1 win over Birmingham.
The champions became Manchester United's closest challengers, moving to within six points of the leaders and giving themselves a glimmer of hope of retaining their crown.
Once again looking far more comfortable in their tried-and-trusted 4-3-3 formation, Malouda and Kalou scored impressive first-half goals and the former struck again before Sebastian Larsson netted a consolation from the penalty spot.
It took Chelsea less than three minutes to unlock Birmingham. John Terry sprayed the ball wide to the recalled Paulo Ferreira, whose cross was flicked on by Drogba for Malouda to crash home.
Birmingham goalkeeper Ben Foster, who had proven unbeatable in the reverse fixture at St Andrew's, almost fumbled Drogba's 25-yarder into his own net and was nearly chipped by the Ivory Coast striker.
Kalou was also not afraid to try his luck and produced a magnificent second goal in the 26th minute, turning away from Roger Johnson, side-stepping Stuart Parnaby and unleashing an unstoppable 20-yard shot into the corner.
Birmingham's first-half chances fell to Cameron Jerome, whose Premier League goal drought stretches back to November. The striker had one effort tipped wide by Petr Cech and also saw a shot on the turn blocked.
Chelsea began to get sloppy and Johnson headed a corner just wide before Ashley Cole was replaced by Ryan Bertrand. The newcomer took less than six minutes to make an impact, Malouda rising to head home his 62nd-minute cross unchallenged.
Birmingham got a goal thanks to the latest in what is becoming an alarming collection of rash challenges from David Luiz.
The Brazilian clearly tripped substitute Matt Derbyshire and, after snatching the ball from team-mate Craig Gardner, Larsson stepped up to score.