As Chelsea have surged clear of a pack of faltering rivals at the top of the Premier League and the likes of Pep Guardiola, Jose Mourinh...
As Chelsea have surged clear of a pack of faltering rivals at the top of the Premier League and the likes of Pep Guardiola, Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger have taken turns to proclaim them champions-in-waiting, the zeal of Antonio Conte's pleas for concentration has increased.
On this evidence, his players are listening. Despite being caused considerable discomfort by a resurgent Swansea City side at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea continue to stave off the twin vices of anxiety and complacency that can plague so many teams that lead from the front.
The omnipresent N'Golo Kante ensured that Swansea barely escaped their own half in the early moments and when Cesc Fabregas broke the deadlock on 19 minutes, darting into the penalty area to control Pedro Rodriguez's pass and poke the ball into the far corner, a 12th home win of the season felt inevitable.
Kante summed up in 24 seconds. Unreal. This guy is not human. pic.twitter.com/ZeycaCeQOX— Mr.BlueGuy (@ItsMrBlueGuy) February 26, 2017
Fernando Llorente's header on the stroke of halftime was the kind of sucker-punch Chelsea have more regularly doled out to opponents since September, but the sense of deflation around Stamford Bridge was immediately remedied by the scheduled appearance of Frank Lampard on the pitch at the interval.
Swansea showed greater ambition after halftime and, for a spell, roars of belief were displaced by groans of exasperation around the stands as the visitors gained a foothold. As so often in recent weeks, however, Pedro was the man to settle the nerves and switch the momentum.
Receiving a pass from Fabregas, the winger turned infield and hit a curling, bouncing shot from 25 yards that fooled Lukasz Fabianski and nestled in the far corner. Pedro now has 11 goals in 19 matches since derailing Mourinho's game plan inside 30 seconds on this ground in October, many of them crucial.
Conte, in a pragmatic frame of mind, quickly replaced Pedro with Nemanja Matic but Chelsea didn't stop attacking and, as legs tired and spaces opened, Eden Hazard crossed for Diego Costa to hammer in his 16th Premier League goal of the season.
Few teams have played as well at Stamford Bridge this season as Swansea, but Chelsea continue to dispatch capable Premier League opponents convincingly even when below their best. The gap is 11 points now and the chasing pack have no cause for optimism.