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Chelsea chasing 12th-straight win in EPL

AAP logoAAP 24/12/2016 Bob Bensch

Chelsea have given manager Antonio Conte an unexpected Christmas present - the top spot in the Premier League.

The surging Blues seek a 12th-straight league win when they host Bournemouth on Monday, part of the traditional Boxing Day fare in England.

The run has lifted them six points clear of Liverpool, a fact that comes as a bit of surprise to Conte.

"To arrive at Christmas and open the newspaper and see you are top of the table is fantastic," he told a news conference.

"If you asked me this before, I must be honest, it was a bit difficult to trust to be top of the table at Christmas, but the players deserve this."

Since a 3-0 loss at Arsenal on September 24, Chelsea have been almost impenetrable.

They've posted nine clean sheets and allowed just two goals during their run, a sign they've fully adjusted to Conte's 3-4-3 system.

"That defeat to Arsenal hurt us but we've come back stronger with the new tactics and system," goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois said.

"It works well, everybody is doing their job and we keep on winning."

Conte's side will be without two key players as Diego Costa, the league's top scorer, and midfielder N'Golo Kante are both suspended, with Michy Batshuayi and Cesc Fabregas likely to deputise.

"Yes Chelsea have a few suspended, but they have a very good squad and players of equal ability will come in," Bournemouth boss Eddie Howe said.

"I saw Cesc Fabregas come on against Crystal Palace and he was excellent, so it will be a very difficult game regardless of who plays."

Liverpool look to keep pace when they host Stoke on Tuesday.

The Reds have lost just one of 15 in the league and captain Jordan Henderson called on them to stay the course.

"I said at the start of the season that I had a lot of confidence and belief that we could be high up the table," he said.

"We have got to keep looking at the next challenge. If you take your eye off the ball, that is when you encounter problems.

"That is why we will just focus on the next performance and see where that takes us."

Third-placed Manchester City visit Hull City while fourth-placed Arsenal look to stop a two-game losing run against West Bromwich Albion.

"It's always lovely beating one of the top teams and it would be great if we could go to Arsenal on Boxing Day and do that," West Bromwich manager Tony Pulis said.

"It's always a really tough test going down to Arsenal. You have to be at your best and they have to have an off day."

Crystal Palace visit Watford for their first game since the sacking of manager Alan Pardew, Burnley host Middlesbrough, Everton are at Leicester, Manchester United play Sunderland and Swansea face West Ham in the other Monday matches, while Stoke and Tottenham wrap up the Christmas fixtures on Wednesday.

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