Lampard believes Chelsea's best form is still to come

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Midfielder Frank Lampard insists Chelsea can fend off any new year title push from Manchester United after the Blues halted their mini-crisis with a hard-earned victory over bottom club Portsmouth.

Chelsea overcame a spirited performance from Pompey thanks to a 79th-minute spot-kick from Lampard. The Blues remain three points clear at the top but United boss Sir Alex Ferguson believes his side will emerge triumphant in the title race because they are traditionally stronger after Christmas. Lampard, however, disagrees.

"United have a history of doing it but we've had a history of doing it as well," declared Lampard. "We're very determined."

He added: "We had a really bad time around this time last year but when Guus Hiddink came in we were in the best form by far of anyone in the league. We can do that again."

But Chelsea will have to undertake more work on set-pieces after conceding from a dead-ball situation yet again against Portsmouth.

It is an area Lampard accepts needs to be addressed sooner rather than later, with 12 of the 14 goals conceded by Carlo Ancelotti's side coming from set-plays.

"We're having a patch at the moment where we're not pulling away from teams when we might do and every free-kick and corner seems to drop to them in a funny way," added Lampard.

"We are being punished every time and it is just a phase we're in. We're going 1-0 up and then not pushing on like we were a few games ago. It's a problem at the moment.

"We have to be a bit more careful when the ball is in our half even if the opposition are playing a bit deep because teams like Portsmouth can load players into the box at free-kicks.

"It's important to try and stay on your feet. Some fouls you can't help because you've mistimed the tackle but we don't want to be too clumsy and let people keep launching it in the box."

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