Following his side's important 3-1 victory over Sunderland this weekend, Chelsea manager Rafa Benitez has spoken out about his side's chances in the Premier League this year—stating that he believes the West London club are definitely still in the title race.
A brace from Fernando Torres gave the Blues a commanding lead heading into the halftime interval with Juan Mata adding a third to give Benitez his first Premier League victory since taking over the club when Roberto Di Matteo was fired.
And whilst the Spaniard knows there is still serious work to be done with the reigning European champions, he also believes that they are still definitely in contention for the Premier League crown this season and cannot be counted out of any title discussions.
When being told that bookmakers had the West London club at 16/1 of becoming champions, Benitez simply smiled and replied (per the Guardian):
I think those odds will be reduced now—maybe to around 5/1.
If we play at this level, at this intensity and with this confidence we'll win a few games in a row and hopefully we'll be back up there. If you win two or three games, you get closer. If we can play like today I'm sure our fans will appreciate the job we're trying to do.
In January everyone was saying Manchester City would win the title easily. And yet at the end, on the last day, they could have lost it; they had to score in the last minute to win it [against Queens Park Rangers].
The win could not have come at a more opportune time for the Blues, who were bundled out of the UEFA Champions League group stage during the week—becoming the first defending champions to be eliminated before the knockout rounds.
And with the club winless through their past seven Premier League matches, Chelsea were in a serious slump and heading the wrong way on the league ladder going into their clash against the Martin O'Neill Black Cats.
That's not to suggest that the Blues are instantly out of their rut because they beat Sunderland. On any given weekend, you'd have thought that a team with the talent that Chelsea has should beat the Black Cats—even on the road—so the win doesn't change a whole lot on that level.
But in terms of the title race, Benitez definitely still has a point in that the West London club are nowhere near finished in the league this season.
With just one win in their past eight matches, Chelsea still sit in third position—a full win off fourth—and close enough to both Manchester clubs at the top of the table to make a serious challenge throughout the remainder of the year.
We must also recognize something else.
We're not even halfway through the season.
And if Chelsea can play as bad as they have done through the past two months and still sit in third place—ahead of the likes of Everton, Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal—then why shouldn't they be considered in discussions as to who will be holding the trophy in May?
After all, they did go undefeated through their opening eight matches this year, and Fernando Torres has scored four goals in his past two matches.
And if that can happen, then surely anything can happen.
Should Chelsea still be considered an EPL title threat this year?
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