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Heavy schedule taking its toll as top EPL teams start to drop points

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Chelsea and Manchester City were in Champions League action last week before domestic fixtures on Saturday and then a quick turnaround for Tuesday’s games.

Sergio Aguero of Manchester City sits on the pitch during the English Premier League match against Burnley earlier this year. Picture: EPA, Martin Rickett, NMC, Pool

THE GRUELLING schedule for the Premier League’s top clubs is taking its toll, but that is leaving the title race wide open.

Chelsea, whose early season form suggested they could be in the thick of the battle, lost 2-1 at 10th-placed Wolverhampton Wanderers on Tuesday – meaning back-to-back defeats for Frank Lampard’s team, who lost at Everton on Saturday.

Manchester City, who drew in their local derby at Manchester United on Saturday, were left frustrated after being held to a 1-1 draw at home to 19th-placed West Bromwich Albion.

Chelsea and City were in Champions League action last week before domestic fixtures on Saturday and then a quick turnaround for Tuesday’s games, and Lampard said he felt tiredness had been a factor in his team’s lacklustre second-half display.

“There could be some fatigue,” said Lampard, whose side have already played five games in 15 days this month. “I hate to say it after a defeat because it feels like an excuse, but even in the first 60 minutes when we were the better team, we didn’t have a zip about us.

“We’ve travelled up to Everton, came back and then travelled to Wolves, but everyone is in the same boat. We have a couple of injuries in areas, which means I can’t make too many changes, so I understand that side of it.”

City midfielder Ilkay Gundogan, who put his side ahead with a first-half goal before West Brom fought back and held on for a point, said consistency was proving elusive for many teams.

“It’s nearly impossible to have just one team that’s on top and dominating anything, especially with the schedule coming up,” he said. “All teams in Europe are struggling to win games in a row. But we have responsibilities and we should win these kinds of games, especially at home.”

Reuters