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Saturday, 08 August 2015, 17:30

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Blues the best?

Tim Clement asks whether Chelsea deserve to now be considered the Premier League's leading force.

Last Updated: 30/10/13 at 16:05

Juan Mata: Fires Chelsea to victory over Arsenal after being bench at the weeken

Juan Mata: Fires Chelsea to victory over Arsenal after being bench at the weeken

They say a week is a long time in football, and that certainly appears to be the case for Chelsea, who have seemingly emerged from the last seven days as the leading force in English football.

Rewind a week, and the Blues were facing a crucial Champions League clash with Group E leaders Schalke, knowing defeat would all but end their chances of securing top spot in the pool and the probability of a favourable draw in the last 16.

Chelsea were then to be tasked with halting Premier League favourites Manchester City, a side ominously clicking into gear with three successive wins and a knack of getting the better of their hosts, winning four of their previous five meetings, creditably drawing the other at Stamford Bridge.

Up next awaited Arsenal, league leaders with a renewed intent of ending their trophy drought as Arsene Wenger broke with tradition in fielding the likes of Santi Cazorla, Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere for their Capital One Cup tie.

These were three of the Blues' biggest tests of the season: and they passed them all with flying colours.

The bookmakers have certainly taken notice, with Sky Bet making Jose Mourinho's men favourites to win each of the three domestic competitions and considering them the most realistic contenders of the British clubs to lift the Champions League trophy in Lisbon next May.

Mourinho: Eyes on the prize

Chelsea were cut from 16/1 to 12/1 for Europe's most prized crown last week, leapfrogged City in the Premier League betting at the weekend and were then halved from 6/1 to 3/1 for the Capital One Cup after beating the Gunners 2-0.

It suddenly seems a long time since those back-to-back defeats to Everton and Basel in early September left some wondering whether Roman Abramovich should've paid heed to the old premise of 'never go back'.

However, Mourinho knows that this is only the start of his second Stamford Bridge project, with his side yet to discover the "identity" he clearly craves.

Last season's star Juan Mata was once again untrusted for the clash with City, forced to watch on as an unused substitute as his side battled for their late winner, while Fernando Torres' late strike was his first in the Premier League this season.

The adage 'one swallow doesn't make a summer' leaps to mind, especially with loanee Romelu Lukaku notching his fifth in as many games for Everton at the weekend.

So, are Chelsea really the mighty force of British football again or just the latest to find some decent form from the Premier League's inconsistent elite?

The recent Ballon d'Or shortlist spoke volumes about the state of play, with none of the Premier League's four nominees considered realistic contenders, while the Bundesliga (five nominations) and the Primera Liga (six) boasted the leading candidates.

The Blues have certainly enjoyed a fine week, giving Mourinho motives to try some of his finer wines and Newcastle plenty of reasons for being fearful on Saturday.

However, the champagne is far from on ice as the Blues endeavour to avoid the sort of complacency they showed in their last trip to St James' Park, when they allowed the Magpies to come from behind to triumph 3-2.

The fixture list in the run-up to Christmas does look relatively kind for Chelsea, however. Of the seven fixtures between now and the return to the Emirates for Monday Night Football on December 23, six are against teams in the bottom half of the table.

It's therefore likely that the odds on a Chelsea end-of-season celebration will shorten further - especially as each of their prospective title rivals faces at least two fixtures against another before the roast turkey is served up.

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