By Ian Chadband
Chelsea will begin 2015 protecting a three-point lead in the Premier League title race but will heed the words of their grand old striker Didier Drogba who warns that it is simply not enough.
“We start again a new championship,” boomed the Ivorian, as Chelsea prepared to visit their fierce London rivals Tottenham on New Year’s Day, with champions Manchester City, at home against Sunderland, still snapping at their heels.
Everything bodes well for Jose Mourinho’s soaring side, not least the fact that on the seven previous occasions his teams have been leading their respective leagues at Christmas, they have always gone on to take the title.
Mourinho’s faithful old lieutenant Drogba, though, believes it will have to be a particularly special achievement for the ‘Special One’ to maintain that extraordinary sequence.
“I think it’s going to be tough,” Drogba said, reflecting on how Chelsea’s one-time eight-point lead has been whittled down.
Indeed, if City had not blown a 2-0 lead on Boxing Day to draw with Burnley, there would have now been only one point separating the leaders.
“We knew it was not over. A few years ago, I think we were 11 or 12 points in front of Man United and then they won the league,” Drogba said.
“So eight points or nine points – I don’t know how many points we had on top of Man City – I think it is not enough.
“I think now we start again a new championship. I think the game is on.”
Mourinho, happy to play up any conspiracy theory if it helps strengthen his players’ indignation, claimed after the draw at Southampton that a campaign to portray his team as divers was costing them crucial points.
Still, he could hardly be starting the year at a happier hunting ground, Chelsea’s domination over Spurs having been so pronounced in the Premier League era that their fans like to think of Tottenham’s White Hart Lane home as ‘Three Point Lane’.
Against Sunderland, City manager Manuel Pellegrini will be looking to avoid a repeat of what he felt was complacency in the Burnley slip-up.
Manchester United, seven points behind their city neighbours in third place, visit Stoke City while the New Year match of the day could be at St Mary’s where Southampton and Arsenal, fourth and fifth respectively on 33 points, lock horns.