Striker Salomon Kalou admits Chelsea cannot afford to lose to Manchester United in Sunday's Barclays League showdown at Old Trafford.
Kalou, who opened the scoring for the Blues in Saturday's disappointing 1-1 FA Cup third-round draw with Coca-Cola League One Southend, insists they must keep Sir Alex Ferguson's champions behind them in the title race.
"This game is crucial because if they win on Sunday they have the chance to build a lead over us as they have two games in hand as well," said Kalou. "It is important to keep the gap because if you allow United to get in front it's always difficult to catch them."
He added: "Last year we were always running after them and so far this season they have been the ones behind us - we want to keep it that way.
"We are still hoping to win the title and we are going to Manchester to show them that we are still Chelsea and we want to win the League.
"People on the outside seem to think it's all doom and gloom here at the moment but we are still second in the League, we are still in the FA Cup and Champions League.
"I don't think we are underperforming. We have had some bad results but that happens at a big club, you can have moments when you don't do well."
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