Belfast Telegraph

John Terry tipping title rivals to keep pressure on

By Phil Medlicott

Chelsea captain John Terry is refusing to read too much into being top of the table at Christmas after the Blues secured that position with a 2-0 win at Stoke.

The skipper opened the scoring early on and a second from Cesc Fabregas sealed the win as Chelsea moved three points clear of closest rivals Manchester City ahead of the Boxing Day programme.

The Blues have gone on to win the title the three times they have been top of the Premier League tree on December 25 but Terry is reluctant to focus too much on history.

"You look at City, they've kind of come from nowhere really. Man United are back in the fold as well," he admitted.

"With the good teams around us, they can put a run of five or seven games together and all of a sudden they're back in it.

"It was an important win for us to secure that top spot for Christmas but it's a long way to go.

"We've got a tough game at home against West Ham (on Boxing Day) which was difficult last year

"It's game by game at the moment."

Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho agreed with his captain and stressed that he felt his team had been the best so far this season ahead of the festive rush.

"What we did in the past is not important," he said. "What's important is this season and this season we are top of the league since day one and we are there because we are playing really well.

"In my opinion we are the best team, we were the best team until this day. That's why we are top of the league.

"We start this period of Christmas knowing our fixtures are more difficult than any other ones. Three matches away - Stoke, Southampton and Tottenham. One match at home against West Ham because Big Sam (Allardyce)... they are doing amazingly well this season."

Mourinho was delighted with his team's performance on the night and felt they showed good spirit at the traditionally hostile Britannia.

"Fantastic performance," he added. "I think these are the matches where the victory means a bit more than three points.

"It means the three points but it means also: feel the right spirit, feel the team, feel the atmosphere, feel what the players are ready to do to try to win the championship.

"I'm really pleased with the victory because we won for sure in one of the most difficult places to win."

Stoke boss Mark Hughes felt Terry's early goal was key although he was pleased with the way his team applied themselves.

"That's the one thing you want to avoid because you know that Chelsea can play the counter-attack, they've done it for many years, they're very adept at it, they can kill the game, keep the ball away from you and it's difficult," he said.

"In fairness I thought we gave it a real go under difficult circumstances - the worst case scenario from our point of view conceding so early but we still got on the ball, asked questions of them.

"For 50, 60, 70-odd minutes I think we gave a good account of ourselves."

He added: "All in all we gave it a go against a team I think that many feel will win the league this year and we've given a good account of ourselves."

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