Points off rivals key for Babel

Chelsea and Liverpool go into today's matches six points clear at the top of the table.

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Chelsea and Liverpool go into today's matches six points clear at the top of the table. The Reds have the chance to take the outright lead, at least for a few hours, if they take a point from a tricky away trip to Bolton in the lunchtime kick-off. But Liverpool forward Ryan Babel believes form against their main rivals will ultimately decide whether or not they can win the title. Rafa Benitez's side have so far defeated Manchester United at home and Chelsea away with a trip to Arsenal awaiting on Dec 21.

"At the end of the season I think the difference will be the games we play against the top sides," said Babel. "We have already beaten Manchester United and Chelsea so hopefully we can take points from Arsenal as well now. "But we try not to look at the others and focus on ourselves. "It's clear that these next few months will be very important." Chelsea, like Liverpool, have six victories in their last seven league games with their only defeat coming against the Reds. They travel to bottom-placed West Brom who have not beaten Chelsea in the league since 1979.

Manchester United play Stoke City in a league match for the first time in 23 years. The champions, who are eight points off the top, lost 2-1 to Arsenal last Saturday - a side Stoke beat 2-1 the weekend before. The Premier League newcomers have enjoyed great success from Rory delap's long throws, but the United assistant manager Mike Phelan said the Red Devils are prepared for an aerial onsalught.

"Those throw-ins are a powerful weapon for Stoke. But our central defenders are not scared to put their head in where it might hurt," he said. akunawicz@thenational.ae