Belfast Telegraph

World Cup 2018

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Thibaut Courtois: Chelsea must beat Manchester United to remain in title race

Thibaut Courtois says Chelsea must beat Manchester United on Sunday to have any chance of retaining the Premier League title.

The Blues are nine points adrift of leaders Manchester City and four behind second-placed United after 10 games, struggling for consistency on their return to Europe.

"This is a must-win game," Courtois said. "Manchester City are already nine points ahead of us, Manchester United four and Tottenham one.

"We must win games like these to remain at the top and close to the other ones.

"We will try to get the three points and will give our lives for it on Sunday."

Jose Mourinho would surely relish doling out a heavy blow on his former club after Chelsea beat his United side twice at Stamford Bridge last term.

Former Blues Nemanja Matic, Romelu Lukaku and Juan Mata will be in opposition when United visit.

Midfielder Matic was considered pivotal in Chelsea's title win last term, Antonio Conte's first as head coach when the Blues were absent from Europe due to the capitulation the previous season under Mourinho.

But Matic's departure has left Chelsea vulnerable, especially in the absence of N'Golo Kante.

Roma seized upon Chelsea's fragility at Stadio Olimpico in Tuesday night's 3-0 win which saw the Italian side take the lead in Champions League Group C.

Chelsea need three points in the trip to Azerbaijan's Qarabag later this month to qualify ahead of the December clash with Atletico Madrid.

Conte criticised Chelsea's second-half performance in the Eternal City and Courtois called on the Blues not to surrender so meekly again.

"After the third goal arrived, we lost a bit of spirit and mentality and maybe that is not a good image of ourselves," the Belgium goalkeeper added.

"If we're down, we have to keep on fighting until the last minute. We will try to do our best to fight again and show the fans that this was just an off day and that we can continue."

Midfielder Kante has missed the last six games with a hamstring injury and was not risked at Roma.

The Frenchman indicated afterwards he was uncertain if he would be fit to face United, but Chelsea will hope to have him back as Kante provides balance with his athleticism and intelligence.

But Kante alone cannot solve all of Chelsea's issues. And Courtois suggested the Blues should go back to basics to find solutions.

"I think we have to start again, maybe have the balance like last season, try to defend first and then look to score goals," Courtois said.

"Obviously it is different to last season. Injuries have been coming and not at a good time.

"We know how important N'Golo is for us, he is the guy that brings a lot of balance into the team. But we can't push him to play if he doesn't feel ready."

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