• 'We have players who have played in big games'
• Goalkeeper bemoans schedule around Champions League
Petr Cech has warned Liverpool their sternest tests lie ahead as expectation steadily builds on the league leaders, with Chelsea, Champions League semi-finalists and a team with top-flight winners in their midst, hovering unnervingly at their backs.
Chelsea's narrow success at Swansea City on Sunday left José Mourinho's side two points adrift of Liverpool with a potentially decisive trip to Anfield to follow on 27 April. Should Chelsea muster a repeat of their eye-catching triumph at Manchester City this season and win on Merseyside, then a first league title since 2010 would remain a distinct possibility, even if that would actually allow City a route back into the race.
Cech, one of six first-team regulars still at Stamford Bridge who secured the title under Carlo Ancelotti four years ago, has been impressed with the renaissance at Liverpool, with Brendan Rodgers's team having now won 10 successive league games, but there is a sense the leaders are now entering unknown territory.
"We have players who have played in big games," said the Chelsea goalkeeper. "Is that going to be a help for the next games? I don't know. In football you never know but sometimes, when you have a young team, they often don't feel any pressure. They just play and you have it like that.
"No one expected anything from Liverpool and that is why they have played without pressure so far but they are in contention now, and let's see how they are going to cope when it comes to the last hurdle. They have been doing remarkably well but they will have to jump over it. We have things in our hands. We need to wait for one slip up from Manchester City but if we win our games we have a chance."
The focus has been drawn to Chelsea's slips in recent weeks, with sloppy defeats at Aston Villa and Crystal Palace, and the continued distraction of European competition. They must travel to Anfield in between the first and second legs of their Champions League semi-final against Atlético Madrid. Yet the defeats at Villa Park and Selhurst Park remain their only losses in 19 league matches, that consistency having ensured they are in serious contention going into their four-game domestic run-in, with fringe players making their presence felt.
Demba Ba has scored the decisive goals against Paris Saint-Germain and Swansea in the past week after a season spent largely on the sidelines. The Senegalese offered Chelsea more physical threat as a targetman at the Liberty Stadium, with confidence flowing back into his game.
"Demba always scores important goals, never easy goals," said Cech. "He scores an absolutely impossible goal or a priceless goal. Let's see how priceless the one at Swansea will be."
The ability to use Nemanja Matic and Mohamed Salah in the Premier League – the pair are cup-tied in Europe – has also ensured fresh players are involved in the domestic programme, while Eden Hazard is expected to be in contention for next week's first leg in Madrid after a calf strain.
Chelsea confront Sunderland at Stamford Bridge on Saturday, the game having been moved forward 24 hours, with the European semi-final in mind. That has helped ease the schedule marginally, although Mourinho and Cech would have preferred an approach more aligned to that adopted in the Bundesliga and La Liga.
"Generally, in the last few years, we have been saving the English coefficient in the Champions League and we never get any help in terms of the schedule from the FA [or Premier League], while the Germans always play on a Friday and the Italians always play on a Friday," said the goalkeeper.
"Atlético will play on Thursday, I think, just to make sure that they are ready to keep the glory of La Liga in the Champions League, so I think the governing bodies in this country should do the same. We need to make sure we are ready for every game. We have two huge matches in the Champions League but it is always good to be in a position where you play for everything when it comes to April and May.
"That's what makes it exciting. Everything is possible. In the Champions League you don't have to win both games. You just need to make sure that, over the two legs, you are better.
"It is very tough to play three huge games like that in a row but you have that at top clubs and, as a player, you come to places like this club to have opportunities to play these huge games. We're happy to be in this situation."