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Swansea City manager Paul Clement, formerly assistant manager to Carlo Ancelotti during his two seasons in charge of Chelsea. PICTURE: ACTION IMAGES


Tim Harrison

By Tim Harrison

The mouth-watering prospect of an FA Cup quarter-final fixture against the Once-Special One at the Bridge can wait.

First and foremost, Chelsea have to negotiate a disarmingly straightforward league game against Swansea City this weekend.

While victory against Wolves gave several members of the second-string squad a welcome boost, and provided Diego Costa with a much-needed reminder that he is the Blues' No1 front man, the cup chatter has to be bottled.

An eight-point cushion at the top of the Premier League table is a terrific margin to have achieved as February grinds to a chilly close, but it could turn into a five-point gap and then a two-point gap if Chelsea lose focus.

Tony Conte will be putting out maximum strength teams for the rest of the season - in keeping with his go-for-it-all policy, knowing that a win would (at least for a day) put 11 points between the leaders and the nearest rival.

Although the Swans are down among the dead men, and fighting for their top-flight lives, they have experienced something of a renaissance lately, taking nine points from a possible 12.

And if anyone knows Chelsea, it's Paul Clement, the new manager who has far better knowledge of his way around Stamford Bridge than Conte, having once coached the juniors.

Clement, appointed at the Liberty last month, will be given a returning favourite's welcome to SW6... but will also know that such a reception is deliberately designed to wrong-foot him.

Deservedly a manager of the month, Clement is regularly mentioned as a possible Chelsea boss (if and when a vacancy ever arises), and he knows the spotlight will be on him, and his tactics, this weekend.

If the Blues stick to their guns, it should be three more points on the road to glory. But if there is any sense of distraction...

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and unless specifically stated are not necessarily those of Hammersmith & Fulham Council.

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