MUMBAI (Reuters) - Champions Chelsea can make up for their slow start in the Premier League provided they can keep Spain forward Alvaro Morata fit, former club striker Tore Andre Flo said in an interview.
The London club are currently nine points behind leaders Manchester City after eight matches, prompting fans to wonder if they have already fallen behind in the title race.
Former Norway striker Flo believes Chelsea could still mount a title charge and pointed to last season when they went on a 13-match winning streak after dropping seven points in the first six.
“It’s been a bit up and down. Much of it has been very, very good but surprisingly we have also dropped some points,” Flo, who scored 50 goals in 163 appearances for Chelsea, told Reuters.
“We knew it would be difficult to have the same season as last year. But last year at the beginning Chelsea dropped some points too but then went on to win a lot of consecutive matches.
“It’s still possible to end at the top of the table at the end of the season. But it’s difficult, the Manchester teams are doing very well.”
Manchester United are currently second, two points behind neighbours City, with Tottenham Hotspur making up the top three in the league.
Chelsea suffered a shock 2-1 defeat at Crystal Palace on Saturday, their third loss in the league and only two less than the whole of the last campaign when Italian manager Antonio Conte took them to the title in his first year in west London.
“Obviously we would like to lead the table at the moment but we saw it last year, we can still catch up and do well,” Flo said.
“Chelsea are in the Champions League this season and as a club we will really want to do well in that one. We weren’t in the Champions League last year.”
Flo, who was in Mumbai as part of Chelsea’s trophy tour and a club foundation programme, blamed injuries for the club’s poor start.
Morata, who left Real Madrid for Chelsea in the off-season, has already scored seven goals but missed the Palace defeat through a hamstring injury. N’Golo Kante and Victor Moses are also out with similar problems.
The 24-year-old Morata is expected to return from injury and lead the attack against AS Roma in the Champions League later on Wednesday.
“Morata is a very good striker and the challenge for Chelsea is to keep him fit. Chelsea will definitely miss him when he’s not playing, when he’s injured,” Flo, who works as a coach for Chelsea’s youth teams, said.
Compared to City’s 29 goals, Chelsea have managed 13 and six of them from the 58-million pound ($76.45 million) striker.
“If we can keep him fit and he can play a lot of matches then he will score a lot of goals,” Flo said.
Belgian Michy Batshuayi has failed to impress as a back-up to Morata but Flo pleaded for more time for Chelsea’s new signings.
“Chelsea got quite a few players but if you look at some of the other clubs too that have bought a lot of players,” he said.
“If we give little bit of time, I think the players that Chelsea bought will start doing a good job for the team.
“I don’t think Chelsea have a problem in front of goal. Batshuayi has shown he can score goals and Chelsea can use him a back-up for Morata.”
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Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly; editing by Amlan Chakraborty