LONDON (Reuters) - Having helped Chelsea to win the Premier League as assistant to Carlo Ancelotti, Paul Clement will be looking to put a dent in their title hopes this season when he takes his resurgent Swansea City side to Stamford Bridge on Saturday.
Clement, who had two spells at Chelsea, was Ancelotti’s right-hand man when they won the double in 2010, and will return for the first time this weekend having departed the following year.
A trip to face the runaway league leaders would be an unenviable task for most teams fighting relegation, but Clement’s Swansea will head to West London fuelled with confidence.
Having taken charge at the start of January with Swansea rock bottom of the Premier League, Clement has overseen a superb turnaround, lifting them four points clear of the relegation zone.
Perhaps the biggest testament to the work Clement has done is that his side have collected more points (12) in 2017 than his former employers (11), who hold an imposing eight-point lead at the top of the table.
Swansea have also shown that they are not intimidated by away games against the Premier League’s big guns, having stunned Liverpool 3-2 at Anfield and come within moments of escaping the Etihad Stadium with a point before Gabriel Jesus’s stoppage-time winner for Manchester City.
Despite those positive performances, Clement is wary of Chelsea and understands the enormity of the job at hand.
“It is a big task for us,” he said on Tuesday.
“We went to Liverpool with a very positive attitude and also Manchester City, where we were very close to getting something as well. We will approach this with the same mentality and try and execute the plan on Saturday.”
With Manchester City, Arsenal and Manchester United not in Premier League action this week, due to fixture clashes created by Sunday’s League Cup final, Chelsea have a great chance to stretch their lead and put further pressure on the chasing pack.
Fifth-placed Liverpool, who visit Leicester City on Monday, and third-placed Tottenham Hotspur, who host Stoke City on Sunday, will both hope to strike blows in an increasingly congested battle for a top-four finish and Champions League qualification.
Only four points separate Chelsea’s five nearest challengers with 13 games of the campaign remaining.
The last time Liverpool visited the King Power Stadium, Leicester were flying high at the top of the table and put in a performance worthy of their eventual title success.
Yet Claudio Ranieri’s side, who lost 2-1 to Sevilla in their Champions League last-16 first-leg game on Wednesday, are now in real trouble, sitting one point and one place above the relegation zone having lost five of their last six league games.
Editing by Clare Fallon