Frank Lampard has warned his Chelsea team-mates they must not let their standards slip if they are to end the season as Premier League champions.
The Blues currently lead the title race by one point from Manchester United and have a game in hand over Sir Alex Ferguson's side. Many had predicted Chelsea would go on to establish a significant lead following an impressive start to the season, which culminated in a 3-0 win at Arsenal in November.
Carlo Ancelotti's side followed up that win with three disappointing draws and a defeat at Manchester City, however, which allowed United and Arsenal back into the hunt.
The Blues looked back to their best on Saturday, though, when they registered their third straight win with a 7-2 demolition of Sunderland at Stamford Bridge.
Lampard, who has been an ever-present in Ancelotti's side this term, thinks Chelsea will only be able to win their first title since 2006 if they maintain their current high standards.
"We are confident of winning the title but we are realists," the 31-year-old said. "Arsenal won at the weekend and Manchester United are on our tails so we know that if we lose the standards that we have at the moment then we could lose everything.
"But we believe in ourselves, we have the right attitude and if we continue to play as we did against Sunderland then we have a very good chance of winning the league."
Chelsea face Hull City, Burnley and Birmingham City over the course of the next month and Lampard believes those games could prove even more decisive in the title race than those against the other "big four" sides. "For me winning the title is always about those bread and butter games," said Lampard, who was speaking after winning the Football Writers' Association's annual tribute award on Sunday.
"In December we dropped points against teams that we really should have beaten. Everton at home was down to sloppiness and we weren't at our best against West Ham and it's very important that we win those kind of games. No disrespect to them but they are the big games. Beating the top teams is what has kept us at the top this season but we have to make sure that we just keep beating the mid-table teams as well."
Much of Chelsea's success has been put down to Ancelotti's introduction as Blues manager during the summer. Guus Hiddink was installed as temporary manager following the sacking of Luiz Felipe Scolari last year – many players had been keen to see the Dutchman stay at the club, but he chose to return to Russia instead.
Lampard believes the two managers are very similar in their approach and reckons that is one of the reasons for Chelsea's successful first half of the campaign. "Ancelotti and Hiddink are similar. They are very easy to work for. He [Ancelotti] is very relaxed around the training ground and on matchdays even," the former West Ham United midfielder said.
"They are very tactically aware. They are both very enjoyable to work for. The transition has been seamless. He has changed the formation and the way we play but the way he has worked with the players has left everyone comfortable and with the squad we have if everyone is comfortable then we are going to play our best football."Reuse content