Terry happy to set pace as Blues aim to stay on top

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Chelsea have their noses in front in the title race and currently look like champions in waiting. They can win playing well or playing badly, as in Sunday's 1-0 victory over Manchester United. Whichever way you look at it, in recent weeks Carlo Ancelotti's side have made a convincing case that the Premier League could be returning to Stamford Bridge after three years at Old Trafford.

After Sunday's victory, which gave Chelsea a five-point lead over United and Arsenal, captain John Terry spoke of a return to the dominance the club enjoyed in the days of Jose Mourinho, when the Blues won back-to-back titles having led from the front for most of the season.

Back then, Mourinho's unwavering self-belief filtered through to the players and Chelsea became a side who did not flinch once they had built up a lead over their rivals. Terry said: "It's encouraging to know that the two times we won the League we did it from the front. We got ahead and we led all the way. We have that confidence in the back of our minds. That could be key for us and fingers crossed we can do the same this time. We don't just want to maintain the five-point gap, we want to increase that lead."

Under Mourinho, Chelsea went top on 6 November, 2004 and stayed there until May, finishing champions by 12 points. A year later they went top on 24 August, 2005, and never let the lead slip. Their current lead is their best position since those days.

But Chelsea's recent defeats to Wigan and Aston Villa have convinced Terry that the task of leading from the front will be harder this time. "You can't say you're automatically going to win any game now," he said. "Two or three years ago we could go into certain games and say we were probably going to pick up three points. We can't do that any more."

According to Terry, the title is now a three-way race between Chelsea, United and Arsenal, after Liverpool lost ground last month.

Early pacesetters: Who ends up on top?

*Chelsea's five-point lead is an ominous sign. In their previous Premier League triumphs the Blues held onto top spot once they had seized it. Overall, the team top after 12 games has also ended up as Champions in five of the last 10 seasons.