Chelsea defender Marcos Alonso has warned the leaders to beware of a Manchester United backlash, while Mauricio Pochettino believes Tottenham can provide a dramatic finale to the title race.
With just seven games remaining, Chelsea are looking to land the knockout blow as they slug it out with second-placed Tottenham in the fight for Premier League supremacy.
Antonio Conte’s side hold a seven-point lead at the top, but Tottenham can temporarily trim the gap to four if they beat Bournemouth at White Hart Lane in Saturday’s (Sunday in Manila) early kick-off.
Alonso admits that would pile the pressure back on Chelsea, who face a tricky trip to Old Trafford to face a United team fuelled by a revenge mission on Sunday.
Managed by former Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho, United have already endured a humiliating 4-0 thrashing at Chelsea in October and an acrimonious 1-0 loss on their return to Stamford Bridge in the FA Cup quarter-finals in March.
But Mourinho’s fifth-placed team, four points behind fourth placed Manchester City in the Champions League qualification scrap, are unbeaten in their 21 league matches since that first painful loss to Chelsea this season.
“It will be tougher this time around. They are one of the best teams in England, no doubt,” Alonso said.
Mourinho would surely love to derail Chelsea’s title ambitions, but publicly he is adamant the match carries no extra significance.
Chelsea, unbeaten in their last 12 meetings with United, have won back-to-back matches since their shock defeat against Crystal Palace, but Tottenham remain hot on their heels.
Pochettino’s side have reeled off six successive victories, sparking dreams of winning the club’s first English title since 1961 and finishing above bitter rivals Arsenal for the first time since 1995.
They currently sit 14 points clear of Arsenal, but Pochettino is understandably more concerned about catching Chelsea than earning north London bragging rights.
“I think we’re playing and fighting for bigger things,” said Pochettino, who may hand a first start to Harry Kane since the striker’s ankle injury five weeks ago.
“If we look at the bigger picture it’s to try to reduce the gap with Chelsea. I think today it’s not important the gap we have with Arsenal.
“The most important thing is to do our job, try to win games and try to reduce the gap with Chelsea.”