Chelsea ease past Blackpool
Blackpool - A double for Frank Lampard and a header by John Terry helped Chelsea to a comfortable 3-1 victory over relegation-threatened Blackpool on Monday.
This could have been a tricky encounter for Carlo Ancelotti's side but Chelsea's old guard showed their qualities to earn three points and underline that the Premier League title race is very much alive.
They are nine points behind leaders Manchester United with a game in hand.
Chelsea went into this contest in buoyant mood following their comeback victory against Manchester United six days ago which ensured they kept in touch with the trio of sides above them.
Arsenal drew against Sunderland on Saturday and United lost again to Liverpool so this encounter gave Ancelotti's men ample opportunity to maintain the pressure on those sides, and also Manchester City.
However, Blackpool have been the definition of consistent inconsistency this term as they are capable of beating Liverpool (twice) - and also Tottenham Hotspur in their last home game - but their recent 4-0 loss to Wolves underlines that manager Ian Holloway's task in avoiding relegation looks set to be a difficult one.
That task was made harder for Blackpool in this contest because key players Charlie Adam and DJ Campbell were both suspended and that meant the Seasiders were missing their creative lynchpin and their most productive striker.
Ancelotti also had changes to make and played 4-4-2 as he paired ?50million Fernando Torres with Didier Drogba up front in a clear sign of intent against their north-west opposition.
Neither side wrested control of the game until Chelsea took the lead after 20 minutes through Terry as he headed home from Lampard's corner.
Jose Bosingwa then forced Richard Kingson into a blinder of a top-corner save as Chelsea went for the kill against the side they beat 4-0 at Stamford Bridge back in September.
Blackpool would not surrender as meekly this time around though as Jason Puncheons low effort hit the post after 33 minutes after Petr Cech let the effort slip through his grasp.
However, the Chelsea keeper did show his undoubted class a minute later as Blackpool poured forward again and Ian Evatt's fine effort forced him into a brilliant fingertip save.
After the break, Drogba's recent barren spell continued as he made way within 10 minutes of the restart for Salomon Kalou after another performance that suggested he and Torres have an awful lot of work to do if they are to build a profitable attacking relationship.
In fact, Kalou showed Ancelotti more than enough after coming on to underline that he deserves more of a chance at Stamford Bridge as he had a hand in both of the goals Chelsea scored in quickfire succession.
Firstly, he was fouled in the area by Evatt which allowed Lampard to convert from 12 yards out before Kalou played Lampard through on goal four minutes later and the Chelsea midfielder calmly slotted past Kingson to make it 3-0.
Blackpool tried manfully to give their fans something to smile about and Puncheon did just that with five minutes left as he grabbed one back with a fine left foot shot but it was too little too late.