English Soccer: Chelsea is back in the title race

Grant's men visit Sunderland after Wednesday's 6-1 thrashing of Derby.

chelsea 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
chelsea 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
LONDON (AP) - Chelsea's FA Cup upset by Barnsley is all but forgotten. After emphatically beating last-place Derby 6-1 on Wednesday with Frank Lampard scoring four goals, the Blues served notice on Arsenal and second-place Manchester United that it is still in the Premier League title race, five points behind the leader with a game in hand. "I think we have won more than 80 percent of the games in the league since I came," said manager Avram Grant, who replaced Jose Mourinho in September. "It is enough to be close to the top two and maybe the right time to be there. "But we need to continue to play like we have played most of the league games and then who knows? Anything can happen. I can tell you that we will fight until the end. I never give in and I will not start now." Lampard was left out of last Saturday's embarrassing 1-0 FA Cup quarterfinal loss to League Championship Barnsley and made an immediate impact on his return with a penalty and three more goals. Chelsea is also one of an unprecedented four Premier League clubs in Friday's draw for the last eight of the Champions League - Arsenal, Man United and Liverpool are the other three. Although Arsenal appears to be getting stronger in the Champions League, the Gunners' grip on top place in the Premiership is slipping. After impressively knocking defending champion AC Milan out of European soccer's biggest club competition, the Gunners have played three draws in a row from Premier League games they should have won, allowing United and Chelsea to get back in contention. With United and Chelsea both losing in the FA Cup, the Gunners had a great chance to heap more misery on the Red Devils and the Blues last weekend by beating Wigan in the Premier League. But a 0-0 draw left Arsene Wenger's team only two points ahead of United instead of four and, like Chelsea, Alex Ferguson's team has a game in hand. Arsenal should collect three points at home to Middlesbrough on Saturday but this is the sort of game the Gunners have recently found difficult to win. Wenger's team was held 2-2 by Birmingham City, needed a late equalizer against Aston Villa and then failed to score at lowly Wigan. Another Arsenal slip-up and defending champion United, which goes to last-place Derby, could go top, especially as the Red Devils have a far better goal differential. Meanwhile, there is a scramble down at the bottom to avoid relegation with nine clubs in danger of going down. Derby is almost certainly down with only 10 points from 29 games. That's half the total next-to-last Fulham has and the Cottagers, who are six points away from safety, are also strong favorites for the drop. That leaves one more and seven clubs are striving to avoid it - from 18th-place Bolton, which has 25 points with a game in hand, up to 12th-place Middlesbrough, which has 30 after Wednesday's 1-1 draw at Aston Villa. Birmingham, lying 17th after a 4-2 loss at Portsmouth, has 26, Sunderland has 27 and Newcastle, Reading and Wigan have 28. While Derby hosts Manchester United on Saturday, Reading has a tough game at Liverpool and Sunderland hosts Chelsea.