Chelsea eye consecutive wins record to cement title bid

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Chelsea will look to end the year on a high and start 2017 with a record as they continue to set the pace at the top of the Premier League.

Victories at home to Stoke and away to Tottenham in their next two matches would make it 14 wins in a row, equalling the record held by Arsenal across two seasons in 2002.

Chelsea have conceded just two goals since back to back defeats by Liverpool and Arsenal in September, putting them six points clear of Liverpool at the top.

A change in formation by manager Antonio Conte from 4-4-2 to 4-3-3 has worked wonders and goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois has been an integral figure in their transformation.

“Letting in only two goals is amazing,” Courtois told Chelsea’s website.

“After that Arsenal game we had to build a new thing and we did it well, and there is a lot of hard work in training. It was not just that we did a new formation and it will work.”

“Some other teams tried to defeat us as well with that formation but if it is well-worked like we do it, it is hard to break down and every day in training we do it a lot.”

Stoke are the visitors to Stamford Bridge on New Year’s Eve, with Diego Costa and Ngolo Kante available again after suspension.

Courtois said Chelsea had to avoid any kind of complacency.

“Stoke at home will be hard and then we go to Tottenham, to Leicester, they are all tough games, and after we have Hull, Liverpool and Arsenal,” he said.

“So it is an important moment for us and then we will see where we stand in February. If we keep our concentration on doing what we have to do then we can keep the run going.”

Second-placed Liverpool take on third-placed Manchester City in the big match of the weekend, with both sides desperate to avoid dropping points.

Daniel Sturridge put himself in the hunt for a starting spot with his first league goal of the season in the win over Stoke on Tuesday.

Sturridge has found himself used as a substitute in recent games after recovering from injury but says he is ready to answer the call whenever needed.

“It’s a team game at the end of the day (and) everyone is going to be needed in the squad,” he said. “I’ve not had any issues or problems within the camp.

“I’m enjoying my football and when I get my minutes I focus myself and if I’m not in the team I stay positive and give my input when I can.”

City will welcome back Sergio Aguero from suspension for the trip to Liverpool and midfielder Yaya Toure believes the match will be intense, from the start.

“It’s almost a final of the Premier League because I think it’s going to be a similar kind of football,” he said.

“I think for the fans it’s going to be fantastic, and we have to be ready. We will try to get one point or three points. We have to continue because the Premier League is very tough.”

Fourth-placed Arsenal host Crystal Palace and their new manager Sam Allardyce, before going to Bournemouth while Tottenham, a point behind in fifth, travel to Watford before hosting Chelsea.

At the other end of the table, bottom side Hull welcome Everton on Friday night before playing West Brom.

Second-bottom Swansea – looking for a new manager after the sacking of Bob Bradley, play Bournemouth and Crystal Palace.

Sunderland, the other side in the bottom three, are away to Burnley before their trip to Liverpool.

Manchester United play Middlesbrough and West Ham while champions Leicester, just three points above the relegation zone, play West Ham and then Middlesbrough.