CHELSEA boss Carlo Ancelotti has challenged his side to surge clear of their title rivals after a Frank Lampard brace sent them back to the top of the table.
Winger Florent Malouda also netted as the Blues went one point ahead of Manchester United and two of Arsenal, with a game in hand on both teams.
Their rivals will collide at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday, giving Chelsea the chance to increase their lead over the weekend – and Ancelotti wants them to be ruthless.
“It’s good we are back at the top,” said the Italian. “We have one more point with a game in hand on United and two points more than Arsenal. That’s important because on Sunday United play Arsenal. Maybe we can improve our position on Saturday.”
Birmingham arrived at Stamford Bridge with a 15-match unbeaten run but that was in serious doubt as early as the fifth minute, when Malouda headed home from Joe Cole’s cross.
Ricardo Carvalho nodded against the post as the home side bombarded Birmingham, and Lampard added the inevitable second just after the half-hour, the England midfielder finding the far corner from the edge of the penalty area.
James McFadden and Keith Fahey both went close as the visitors enjoyed a brief period of dominance. But that only sparked Chelsea into action again, and Malouda set up Lampard to fire his second in the 89th minute.
• On-loan Landon Donovan scored his first Everton goal and Tim Cahill notched the other as the Toffees continued their resurgence by beating off-form Sunderland 2-0.
Blackburn striker Nikola Kalinic headed a late winner as Rovers beat Wigan 2-1. Gary Caldwell cancelled out Morten Gamst Pedersen’s opener for Blackburn, who have signed Turkish midfielder Yildiray Basturk on loan from Stuttgart.
TEAM PLD W D L F A PTS
Chelsea 22 16 3 3 55 18 51
Man Utd 23 16 2 5 53 19 50
Arsenal 23 15 4 4 59 25 49
Tottenham 23 12 5 6 44 24 41
Liverpool 23 11 5 7 40 26 38
Man City 21 10 8 3 42 30 38