Chelsea are answering every test of their credentials, manager Antonio Conte said as their seemingly unstoppable march towards the Premier League title continued with a 3-1 win against Bournemouth on Saturday.
After London rivals Tottenham Hotspur thumped Watford 4-0 to cut their lead to four points, Chelsea faced a potentially difficult visit to the sun-drenched south coast.
Yet an Adam Smith own goal, and further efforts from Eden Hazard and Marcos Alonso ensured they comfortably beat the hosts to regain their seven-point advantage.
“When you have this type of opponent (Tottenham) who is in good form and wants to catch you, it is important to have a good answer. This is a good answer,” Conte told the BBC.
“There are seven games to go and in England it is not easy, there is a lot of pressure. It’s normal to have a good pressure (after Spurs won).”
Consistency has been crucial for the Blues and manager Conte, who won three league titles while manager of Juventus.
Thibaut Courtois is one of the world’s best goalkeepers and is playing behind a defensive trio of Gary Cahill, David Luiz and Cesar Azpilicueta who have conceded just 25 goals — the league’s second tightest defence.
Wing backs Victor Moses and Alonso have provided energy, width and a constant attacking threat while N’Golo Kante and Nemanja Matic have formed the most dominant midfield pairing in the league.
They have provided the platform from which Hazard, who added Chelsea’s second at Bournemouth, top-scorer Diego Costa and Spain forward Pedro have flourished.
The trio have scored 38 league goals between them with a combination of strength, skill and guile to spearhead their title challenge.
“We started the game very well with great attention and focus,” Conte said. “Then we conceded the goal and we lost a bit of confidence. In the second half we managed the game and scored another goal, then the free kick from Marcos Alonso.
“Our reaction was good, we played in the right way at a time of the season with a lot of pressure. When we conceded the goal we lost a bit of confidence but we managed the game and deserved to win.”
Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe told the BBC: “I have to compliment Chelsea, they’re an outstanding team and their system works very well for them. In the end Chelsea were too strong.”
Chelsea face the next test of their credentials at Manchester United next Sunday.