Lampard refuses to concede title race is over

LONDON, April 19, 2011 (AFP) - Frank Lampard refuses to concede the title race but Chelsea's more realistic target against Birmingham on Tuesday is to step up their challenge to finish in second spot.

Carlo Ancelotti's side shrugged off the disappointment of exiting the Champions League at the hands of Manchester United with an impressive win at West Bromwich Albion.

Chelsea's Yossi Benayoun (2nd R) comes on as a substitute for as West Bromwich Albion's Manager Roy Hodgson (R) looks on during the game on April 16, 2011. AFP

That victory helped stem the criticism that has been directed at Ancelotti and his players and, with Arsenal failing to beat Liverpool, moved Chelsea to within two points of the second-placed Gunners.

Leaders Manchester United ended the weekend a further six points clear and with games fast running out, it would take an astonishing collapse on the part of Sir Alex Ferguson's side to allow either of their main rivals back into the hunt.

Not that Lampard will allow statistics to dent his belief that anything can still happen, especially as Chelsea have still to travel to Old Trafford.

"I wouldn't like to say they are out of reach," said the England midfielder.

"It's going to be very difficult.

"We need to win our games and for them to lose a couple before we go there to play them. Stranger things have happened."

Salomon Kalou set a more realistic target.

"We know it is not in our hands and if Man U play well and win their games it is over, so we have to continue to win and look forward at the top of the table," Kalou said.

"We want to be in the top three because it's very important to finish there.

"When a team plays with confidence it can change a lot of things. We need confidence right now and we got it back playing together.

"At this difficult time we have to stick together and play hard for the club. We lose together and we win together, and that's the spirit we showed."

Chelsea's confidence received a timely lift at the Hawthorns where Ancelotti dropped Fernando Torres to the bench and restored the 4-3-3 formation adopted during the double-winning campaign last season.

Drogba was outstanding, scoring Chelsea's opening goal while Torres again failed to find the net during a brief, eight-minute appearance.

All eyes will once again be on Ancelotti's selection for the visit of Alex McLeish's side but, without the need to rest players to meet the extra demands of the cup competitions, a clearer picture might emerge of the strikers' pecking order at Stamford Bridge.

Birmingham will arrive in West London targeting a top half finish having put clear water between themselves and the bottom three following the weekend victory over Sunderland.

McLeish's League Cup winners now lie five points clear of the bottom three and with mid-table proving to be exceptionally congested, a run of form in their final six games could see them achieve that goal.

Following the Chelsea clash, they face the equally daunting trip to face Liverpool but McLeish believes his side are capable of getting something from the two games.

"The pressure was on us in a home game and we responded to that and we know we've got two hard games coming up which we won't be expected to take any points from," he said.

"But there have been other games this season where that's been the case but we have surprised people."

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