Matic eyes Chelsea push for top four finish

Guus Hiddink's team are undeniably on the rise and remain unbeaten in domestic competition since December.

Friday March 4 2016

Norwich City's English midfielder Nathan Redmond (left) is challenged by Chelsea's Serbian midfielder Nemanja Matic during their English Premier League match at Carrow Road in Norwich, eastern England, on March 1, 2016. PHOTO | BEN STANSALL |

Norwich City's English midfielder Nathan Redmond (left) is challenged by Chelsea's Serbian midfielder Nemanja Matic during their English Premier League match at Carrow Road in Norwich, eastern England, on March 1, 2016. PHOTO | BEN STANSALL |  AFP

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LONDON

Nemanja Matic claims Chelsea can still secure a top four finish if they can secure a fourth successive Premier League win when Stoke visit Stamford Bridge on Saturday.

The Blues' win at Norwich this week moved last season's champions into the top half of the table for the first time since August and within eight points of fourth placed Manchester City.

While their progress may look modest when measured in league places, Guus Hiddink's team are undeniably on the rise and remain unbeaten in domestic competition since December.

The manner of recent performances has drawn comparisons to some of last season's better displays and with the second leg of the Champions League last 16 tie with Paris Saint Germain to come next week, they have hit form at exactly the right time.

Chelsea interim manager Hiddink is remaining guarded about his side's Premier League ambitions.

Blues midfielder Matic, though, believes that with the side now lying 10th, they can close the gap to the Champions League places if they can win all of their remaining 10 league games.

"It is very important to win games. We are a big team and have to keep doing this if we are to get closer to the first four," Matic said.

"I know it's very difficult to catch them but we will give our best to win every game from now on.

"I know that is very hard, maybe impossible, but in football anything can happen."

Chelsea will undoubtedly have one eye on the meeting with PSG when they will attempt to overturn a one-goal first leg deficit.

BIG GAMES

But centre-back Gary Cahill insists the impressive form of striker Diego Costa since Hiddink took charge means the club is more than capable of competing on all fronts.

"It is perfect timing to have Costa back to his very best with the big games we have coming up. He's scoring goals and long may that continue," Cahill said.

"I'm sure for a striker if you start scoring goals, you think you will score every time you get on the pitch. He is in that mind-set now.

"People aren't talking about him not scoring for three-four games or whatever any more like earlier in the season. His record is great at the minute, so he feels confident.

"Ultimately for us if we have Diego in form and scoring goals, it's great for the team."

Stoke arrive at Stamford Bridge in confident mood, having moved above Chelsea and up to seventh by beating Newcastle 1-0 on Wednesday.

That was a third successive victory for Mark Hughes' side, who are only five points outside the Champions League positions.

Hughes spent three years at Chelsea as a player, and actually featured the last time they lost at home to Stoke, in a 1995 League Cup tie.

The Potters have not won a league match at Stamford Bridge since 1974, and their manager is keen to put that right.

"I had a great time as a player there when they were a mid-table team. You could see things were starting to roll in the right direction as I left," Hughes said.

"Going back there, we haven't had the best of times. We're looking to change that. It will be a good match up.

"We've gone there in recent seasons and really haven't tested them enough."

Stoke are stretched defensively as Phil Bardsley faces several weeks out with a calf injury, Geoff Cameron has an ankle problem and Ryan Shawcross is in Germany seeing a specialist about his back injury.

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