LONDON // Chelsea’s vast experience of the Premier League title race could be the deciding factor as the London club try to overhaul leaders Liverpool, according to the club’s assistant manager Steve Holland.
Jose Mourinho’s side are two points behind Liverpool but, with a crucial trip to Anfield looming on April 27, the Blues have their destiny in their own hands.
If Chelsea win their last four matches, starting at home to bottom of the table Sunderland on Saturday, then they will be crowned champions for the fourth time in the Premier League era.
The west Londoners’ impressive pedigree means they know exactly what it takes to get over the finish line, while Mourinho has enjoyed title triumphs in several countries including England in his previous spell with Chelsea.
That wealth of experience is a stark contrast to Liverpool’s lack of prior knowledge of the unique demands of competing for the title.
Brendan Rodgers, the manager, and his players have so far dealt admirably with the pressure of trying to win Liverpool’s first league title since 1990, but Holland is confident the likes of John Terry, Frank Lampard and Petr Cech will use their experience to make a difference in the run-in.
“Experience is always vital in any competition and we have a good blend in our squad,” Holland said.
“We have some players that haven’t been in this situation before, but also a good group that have.
“We also have a very experienced manager who has been in this situation before, and it’s good to have that experience at this stage.
“It’s a really challenging period emotionally; you’ve got to have experienced it to appreciate what it takes out of the players.
“It’s something we’ve done before, we’ve got a good squad and we’ve got to do it again.”
Chelsea will go back to the top if they win, heaping the pressure on Liverpool ahead of their visit to Norwich City on Sunday.
Last weekend’s pulsating 3-2 defeat of title rivals Manchester City was Liverpool’s 10th successive win and the thrilling nature of their late-season burst, coupled with the emotion generated by the 25th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster, has seen them cast as the neutrals’ favourites.
Following the win over City, captain Steven Gerrard was adamant Liverpool must not underestimate Norwich, but their recent record against Neil Adams’s men augurs well.
Liverpool have scored 18 times in the last four meetings between the teams, with Luis Suarez helping himself to four goals in a 5-1 win when the teams last met in December.
Norwich are in desperate need of points, however, as they are only two points above the relegation places and play Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal in their final three fixtures.
While Suarez is aware of the clamour to see Liverpool return to the summit of the English game after 24 years, he says that his team-mates cannot afford to be distracted by speculation about the destination of the title.
“It’s normal for the supporters to get excited and be discussing our chances,” he told the Liverpool website.
“When I’m out shopping or out with my family, I bump into fans who mention it to me. I’ve told them to stay calm and not to worry. We’ll be trying our best.
“Winning the title would be very special, but we can’t think about that yet. For us it’s always about the next game.”
City, who now trail Liverpool by six points but retain a game in hand, host fifth-bottom West Bromwich Albion in the Monday night game.
Like City, Everton suffered a mid-week setback when they lost 3-2 at home to Crystal Palace, which enabled Arsenal to preserve their hold on fourth place, one point above Roberto Martinez’s side.
Arsenal visit Hull City on Sunday in a dress rehearsal for next month’s FA Cup final, with Everton welcoming Manchester United to Goodison Park later the same day.
United’s own Champions League hopes have been all but extinguished as they lie 10 points below the top four, but manager David Moyes will be desperate to avoid embarrassment on his return to his former club.
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