Chelsea must raise game to retain title edge, says Terry

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The Independent Football

John Terry has urged Chelsea to take advantage of recent slip-ups by their title rivals and restore their once healthy lead at the top of the Premier League. But the England captain also warned that they cannot afford any more blips of their own when they return to top-flight action against Sunderland on Saturday.

Manchester United and Arsenal both failed to win last weekend, but still closed to within one and three points respectively of Chelsea. The London side boasted an 11-point lead over Arsenal after beating them at the Emirates Stadium at the end of November, while United trailed Carlo Ancelotti's team by four points, and Terry warned: "We cannot afford any more slip-ups.

"Thankfully the teams in and around us have been slipping up as well, but Arsenal are right back in the frame again. When we beat them 3-0 I thought they were out of it to be honest. We need to concentrate on ourselves because apart from the Watford game, when we were brilliant albeit against a lesser side, we haven't been playing as well. Hopefully that game will give us a boost and we can kick on now, and pull away when the other teams are slipping up."

The defender also revealed how Ancelotti has helped improve their team spirit further by taking the squad and coaching staff out for dinner last week.

"It's the first time since I have been playing that a manager has taken everyone out and paid for it as well," Terry told Chelsea TV.

"It was a little bit of team bonding. We are with each other 24 hours a day and in each other's pockets, but everyone enjoyed it and had a good meal."

Meanwhile, Chelsea have been boosted by the return to fitness of the Portugal midfielder Deco, but the 32-year-old is unlikely to be match fit to face Sunderland this weekend. Ancelotti is more likely to give Deco a recall to the side for the FA Cup fourth-round tie at Preston North End a week later.

The snow and cold weather have disrupted Ancelotti's training plans, with the players given two days off after the postponement of their game at Hull City last Saturday.

The squad were back in training yesterday morning despite snow still covering much of their Surrey training ground. It was the first involvement for Deco after a hamstring injury had kept him out of action since he played against Portsmouth on 16 December.

The Cobham ground staff worked hard to make the training surface playable so the squad could train outside instead of inside the all-weather dome.