Antonio Conte jokes: ‘For me Gary can play also as a centre

I do think Stoke will make a good game of it but am backing Conte’s men to secure a hard fought 2-1 victory to tighten their grip at the top.

It must have felt like a defining triumph for Conte because, on a day when he was without his injured talisman Eden Hazard, Chelsea, while not at their scintillating best, dug in to prevail in a mental and physical battle at the home of feisty opponents.

After having a goal ruled out for Saido Berahino’s shove on Cesar Azpilicueta, Stoke were awarded a soft penalty when Cahill pushed Johnathan Walters to ground – the forward slamming the spot-kick beyond Thibaut Courtois.

And as Stoke headed for defeat, they had Phil Bardsley sent off deep into injury time.

“This season is very important because my players are understanding my idea of football”, Conte said. We are happy with the game – it is always hard but we played a good game, kept calm and had the opportunity to score the second goal. “We have to look at ourselves”.

Second-placed Barcelona, who have played the same amount of games as Real, host Valencia tomorrow.

The crossbar prevented Arsenal levelling again through Danny Welbeck’s header before the unmarked Dawson sealed the win in the 75th minute with his third goal in four games. “We started really well and got the goals, but it was backs to the wall at the end”, Shakespeare told the BBC.

Crystal Palace moved closer to preserving their Premier League status by earning their third successive victory with 1-0 home win over Watford.

The Blues claimed a hard-fought 2-1 victory at Stoke on Saturday that maintained their double-figure cushion at the top of the table ahead of the worldwide break, though it was Costa who once again took centre stage. “We can recharge the batteries now”.

“When you want to win the league it’s important not to drop points – above all when you play against not top teams, but medium or bottom teams”.

Everton dominated but Hull stayed in the game until 15 minutes from time when midfielder Tom Huddlestone was shown a straight red card for a foul on Idrissa Gueye. When they lost 2-0 at Swansea last month, it seemed nearly equally inconceivable that they might ever win away from home again.

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