Petr: Blues can Cech United progress
Published 21/04/2011 | 15:25
Petr Cech has claimed Chelsea are now Manchester United's main Barclays Premier League title rivals because Arsenal have blown too many chances to catch them.
Cech helped the champions beat Birmingham 3-1 at Stamford Bridge last night, while the Gunners squandered yet another two-goal lead to draw the north London derby 3-3 at White Hart Lane.
Those results saw Chelsea edge above Arsenal into second place on goal difference and close to within six points of United.
Carlo Ancelotti's men are the form team in the Premier League, winning five and drawing one of their last six games, with Arsene Wenger's side drawing five and winning just one over the same period.
Chelsea also trump Arsenal in terms of title-winning experience, having won the league three times since the Gunners were last crowned champions seven years ago.
Blues goalkeeper Cech understandably questioned whether Wenger's men have what is takes to pounce on any United's slip-ups.
"Arsenal had a big game against Tottenham," he said.
"They were 3-1 up and threw it away. Now they are third for the first time in a long time so let's see how they cope with this new situation.
"They had plenty of chances this season to close the gap and haven't taken them yet."
Cech has no doubt about Chelsea's credentials to take advantage of any United meltdown during the final month of the season.
The champions have rediscovered the sort of form that saw them threaten to run away with the title back in October before they endured their worst run in the league for almost 15 years.
United are still heavy favourites to get over the line but, with Arsenal and Chelsea still to play, the London rivals could yet conspire to produce one of the great championship comebacks.
Cech said: "We've been saying for a long time we want to keep winning and maintain the pressure on everybody.
"Arsenal have difficult games and United have to play us and Arsenal so there could possibly be six points (dropped by them).
"We have two games at home against West Ham and Spurs to come and, if we win both, the situation could change again.
"Chelsea were one of the worst (teams in the form guide) a few months ago and now we're getting back to normal."
Chelsea's season looked to be over after they were knocked out of the Champions League by United last week.
That defeat seemed to seal Ancelotti's fate as manager, with the Italian appearing all but resigned to losing his job.
But retaining the title could yet make trigger-happy owner Roman Abramovich think again.
And Cech believes Chelsea's European exit to United could even give them the edge during the Premier League run-in.
"They have to play a semi-final, so let's see how they cope," he said.
"We have one competition to focus on which, is to our advantage because we can prepare all week and get more rest.
"Everything is close and it is important to score goals.
"We could end up with the same number of points, so goal difference will play a big part now."
Goal difference also looks certain to be crucial at the other end of the table and Birmingham, who are five points above the drop zone, would have been pleased therefore to grab a late consolation last night.
But manager Alex McLeish was not amused to see Sebastian Larsson and Craig Gardner squabbling over who took the 76th-minute penalty which kept the score respectable.
Larsson, who won the tussle, insisted afterwards there was no ill-feeling between the pair.
He said: "We always joke about it in training, that we're both the penalty takers, and I don't think any of us have missed this season.
"Obviously, both of us wanted to take it.
"I took this one and said 'Gards, you will have the next one', so next time I will step away."