Relentless Chelsea edge closer to title

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 25: Cesc Fabregas of Chelsea (R) celebrates scoring his sides first goal during the Premier League match between Chelsea and Swansea City at Stamford Bridge on February 25, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

LONDON – Chelsea’s processional march towards the Premier League title continued at Swansea City’s expense on Saturday as last season’s champions Leicester City dropped into the bottom three.

Cesc Fabregas marked his 300th Premier League appearance with the opening goal, which was cancelled out by an equaliser from Fernando Llorente on the stroke of halftime at Stamford Bridge.

Antonio Conte’s side were not firing on all cylinders against a resolute Swansea side managed by their former assistant manager Paul Clement, but second-half goals by Pedro and Diego Costa made sure of a 3-1 victory.

They are now 11 points ahead of Manchester City, who have 13 games left to play and while Italian Conte is too cagey to start proclaiming his side yet, only a monumental loss of form can deny them the title.

Chelsea’s victory made it mathematically impossible for Leicester to catch them as they are 42 points behind the leaders going into their home clash with Liverpool on Monday – their first fixture since the sacking of manager Claudio Ranieri.

Leicester will start that game third bottom after Crystal Palace’s 1-0 victory over Middlesbrough at Selhurst Park on Saturday took them out of the relegation zone.

Patrick van Aanholt’s 34th-minute goal was enough to take Palace to 17th place with 22 points, one ahead of Leicester and Hull City, who drew 1-1 at home with Burnley.

Boro also have 22 points, but are sliding towards the drop zone after nine league games without a win.

Bournemouth are another side being sucked into the relegation battle after a 2-1 defeat at West Bromwich Albion, despite taking a fourth-minute lead through Josh King’s penalty. Craig Dawson and Gareth McAuley replied for West Brom, who are clear in eighth place.

In-form Everton continue to harbour hopes of catching the top four and beat bottom club Sunderland 2-0 to move within six points of fourth-placed Arsenal.

Romelu Lukaku made the points safe for Everton with 10 minutes remaining, taking his tally for the season to 17, level at the top of the scoring charts with Arsenal’s Alexis Sanchez.

Sunderland’s fourth defeat in six games left them on 19 points.

Watford host West Ham United in the day’s late kickoff, while on Sunday, Tottenham Hotspur can trim Chelsea’s lead by a point if they win at home to Stoke City.

Reuters, AFP

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