Chelsea boss Carlo Ancelotti today cranked up the pressure on Manchester United and Arsenal by insisting neither of them could afford to make another mistake this season.
In what some might construe as the beginning of the managerial mind games for the Barclays Premier League run-in, Ancelotti reiterated his own side needed to win their nine remaining matches to stand any chance of completing one of the great title comebacks.
But the Italian also claimed any further mistakes by United and Arsenal would see the top two pay the ultimate price and miss out on the championship.
“To make a mistake now is very dangerous,” said Ancelotti, whose side will take to the field at Stoke today looking to pounce on any United slip-up at West Ham.
“Make a mistake here you can lose your possibility to win something.
“It's not just for us. Also Manchester United, also Arsenal. They cannot make a mistake either.”
Chelsea are nine points behind United with a game in hand and four adrift of Arsenal.
The champions retaining their title looked unthinkable a month ago as they languished 15 points off top spot.
But a perfect March, which coincided with a serious blip by their rivals, resurrected their hopes ahead of what will be a season-defining month. And on May 8 they have to visit Old Trafford in the Premier League.
“Always, in April, at the end of the season, you have to play calmly,” said Ancelotti.
“For me, we are ready to play.
“Three months ago, November or December, it would have felt like a dream to arrive in this situation now.
“I don't know what we will achieve in the end, but we have a possibility to fight.”
The fact Chelsea have managed to haul themselves back into the title race is all the more astonishing considering their strikers have failed to score in the league since Fernando Torres was signed two months ago.
“Fortunately, we didn't need their goals,” said Ancelotti.
“In April, they'll come back to score. You can't lose that ability.
“If you are a top scorer, you'll stay like that until the end of your career.”
It could be argued Ancelotti rotating his strikers has not helped any of them end their droughts.
But the Chelsea boss revealed he would persist with the policy and insisted he did not have a preferred forward partnership.
“The choices I make on it are down to the players' physical condition and the tactics,” he said, declining to reveal who he had in mind for a Stoke team he refused to underestimate.
“If we want to play on the counter-attack, we'll use Anelka and Torres, players who can move quickly in front.
“When we need more power, we'll use Drogba.”